Archimedes

Archimedes was killed by soldier when another country invaded his own.

His work was lost for ages, and his tomb went abandoned and disheveled.

Welcome new reader, the Kaplan University crew!

I just got two visits from

http://kaplan-degrees.info/blogmonitoring/reviewResults.aspx

I do not know why they are 'blog monitoring' my blog. Is it because of my discussing Steve Eisman (of Michael Lewis' "The Big Short") and his massive shorting of the entire for-profit educational industry?

I really have no idea.

I hope they like my other articles, though.

Wild Oats

There was a store called Wild Oats. It is a grocery store. It sells a lot of organic food and hippy products.

It's founder today was arrested for child prostitution.


Over in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation for hiring an 'underage prostitute'. I guess it sounds better to say you 'hired an underage prostitute', than 'being arrested for child prostitution'.

Both of those sound better than 'being a child molester'. Which is the truth.

Dave Attel once had a comedy bit about this. "I guess if you watch barely-legal porno, it means you are barely a pedophile".

Berlusconi's friend in his government made a statement. He said that Hitler did not drink or smoke, and Winston Churchill was a hard partier. I assume that we are supposed to think of Berlusconi as being Winston Churchill. I have heard of spin, but spinning child molestation into saving civilization from the Nazis is pretty much as fur as I think you can stretch something before it breaks.

Of course, Mr Berlusconi also helped Mr Bush in the PR spin for the Iraq War.

Lorella Zanardo has been trying to tell us, for years, that there was something wrong with this man. A video, translated into English by Serena Povia: Il Corpo Delle Donne.



I do not know what to make of the Wild Oats man. His main competitor, from Whole Foods, is a union-buster who would post anti-Wild-Oats rants anonymously on a investment-message-board. At least he wasn't a child molester.

I am glad, though, that they catch these people. The titans of industry, leaders of the community, all that shit, can be pictured as having to "take a seat there", and listen to Chris Hansen ask them questions on "To Catch a Predator", of NBC. I wonder if they have "To Catch a Predator" in Italy, on any of the TV stations that are owned by Mr Berlusconi and his associates?

free lancer

"How would your business change if you had virtually unlimited labor at next to no cost?"

This is a quote from freelancer.com.

I don't know the answer to this question. Does anyone?

The Time magazine subscription

There is one, and only one, reason that I have a paper copy of Time Magazine arriving in my mailbox.

I was at 'Books-A-Million', and the cashier asked me if I wanted to subscribe to a magazine. I felt sorry for her, because I know that cashiers are graded by their management on how much stuff they 'upsell'. I was transported out of the realm of logic and reason for a few moments, and a 'yes' slipped out of my mouth. It was all downhill from there.

Today's magazine struck me as particularly bizarre.

Cover: Some article about how we are becoming the Matrix.

Page one: a two-page advertisement for 'organic cigarettes'. They are "100% US Grown . . . to support our communities and the environment." I guess my dead relatives who spent years on oxygen with emphysema would be glad to know they were supporting the environment. The people I know at work who can't climb a flight of stairs, the people with heart disease, I guess they are happy to know their death is supporting the community.

Next page.

"All natural" Frito-Lay chips. The funniest thing about 'all natural' is that these are all made with Genetically Modified Corn. The 'Made with All Natural ingredients' label they use even apes the 'Non-GMO' label used on hippie brands in Whole Foods. Compare:



gmo


nat


One of these things is not like the other.

Of course, the Miracle-Gro people sued Terracycle because their packaging was vaguely similar, involving concepts like having too much green. I can only speculate that this GMO label thing is OK because the first one was a simple collection of geometric shapes and letters, which AFAIK cannot be copyrighted . I guess if they had been trademarked it would be a different story, because copyright law and trademark law are two different animals.

A couple pages later:

"Interview" with a guy from a sitcom/movie.

Viagra advertisement.
Important facts about viagra.
An article about the struggles of small-time miners in Chile.
A book lauding Ronald Reagan.

A two page spread. Two page spread. That is an advertisement for magazines.

"We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines"

Yes, I feel as though I am swimming through a toxic sludge soup of Viagra, Tobacco, and 'all natural' genetically modified corn mush.

Next page:

A pill that helps you if you have "Too much fat in your blood". How did you get too much fat in your blood? Maybe it was from scarfing down 3 bags of 'all natural' fried genetically modified corn product? While smoking 5 packs a day of 'organic cigarettes'?


Next page:

Factoids

An iPhone 'App' for the "Carb Lover's Diet". No comment.

Microarticles

Couple pages later: iPhone ad.

Farther: Lipitor ad.

Opinion page.

Another opinion page.

Many pages of very interesting, in depth article writing. Very valuable information here.

More ads... for more drugs. A Capella university, for-profit college that is (like many other for-profits) being investigated by the government

Wells Fargo, telling us that it cares about Black History month. Funny that because it's deep and wide involvement in the subprime mortgage market wound up hurting a lot of minorities. In fact, one former Wells Fargo manager, claims they specifically targeted African American people to put borrowers who qualified for prime loans, instead into subprime loans. Of course, free-market true believers will tell you that fraud doesn't exist, and that predatory lending doesn't exist, etc etc.

American Airlines, a taxpayer bailed-out corporation.

Ads from car dealers. Ads from automobile tire producers.

I almost didn't notice. All of this is inside a 'Special Advertising Section' sponsored by the National Urban League. It is several pages, that look just like an article (save for the 'Special Advertising Section' text at top), of what in fact amounts to an advertisement for the National Urban League. It is hard to tell it's an ad, because there are other ads interspersed with it. There are 10 pages of advertising in a row, but to the casual flipper-through it looks like 5 pages of ads and 5 pages of article text, charts, graphs, etc. But if you read it, every paragraph is about how the NUL is fighting foreclosure, NUL is fighting this and that. In between these pages, is the Wells Fargo ad about how much they love Black History, and the Capella University ad.

Next ad: hot chick advertising Sports Illustrated. Interesting thing to me is that one company can get other companies to 'sponsor' it's own product. Here it is the Las Vegas tourism people, SoBe lifewater, Nissan, and HTC.

Next: a bunch of writing about movie stars.

Articles about film stars are, essentially, advertising for movies. Movie stars go on talk shows, and do interviews, because they are plugging a product. It is, basically, advertising. If you watch Letterman and his guests are two movie stars, that is basically a 55+ minute commerical.

Ad: turbotax

Ad: Western International University, which is owned by the same company that owns University of Phoenix, which is, you know. Controversial

Last page: Toyota, Louis Vitton.




What are these advertisements? They are to make you fatter, make you sicker, make you go further into debt, etc. They also make our government go into debt as well.

What are the articles in Time about? They are often about "Why are we so fat, sick, and debt laden?" And "why is our national debt is so high?" And, of course, the possible solutions.

For me, part of the reason is simple. I felt sorry for the checkout girl.

I guess my 'solution' would be to stop feeling sorry for checkout girls.

Or, maybe, to avoid stores that upsell subscriptions to magazines that I do not want or need.

Lastly, I must confess to my own hypocrisy here. For I am having this blog, here, with advertising below. The vast profits I make, that sustain my lifestyle, are possible only because of google adsense and amazon affiliates programs. The $2.30 that I garnered in ad clicks in the past 3 months, has obviously corrupted my sense of morality to the point I cannot put the beam out of my own eye, before I cast the speck out of anothers. Ah well. What can I say? I am a weak, weak person.

Swingsets

This polish artist hung a swingset off of a war statue:

http://www.colectiva.tv/wordpress/lang/en-us/2008/11/page/2/

http://kamilaszejnoch.vizz.pl/

I thought it was funny at first.

Looking back now, I see the flowers.

I am wondering if it is really that funny.

Why are housing additions (editions) named like they are?

I drove by WoodCreek II today. It has been a question for a long time, a long long time. Why are these places named like they are named?

It is always some bland, generic name, completely unrelated to the place where the addition is created. Why is that, exactly?

I did not have an answer, until this past year when many reporters started describing the Collateralized Debt Obligation in their reports.

If you dig long enough, you will find lists of CDOs. The lists are of names, names that are generic, and names that have a lot of roman numerals in them. Names like South Beach II, Adirondack, Belle Haven XVIII, Buckingham, Davis Square VI, and so forth and so on. 

Why are these CDOs named such generic, bullshit names? One group, called the 'Constellation' program, was named after various astronomical entities, because the hedge fund that was an imprimateur of the deals was run by a man who was fascinated with astronomy.

That's it. Hundreds of billions of dollars of deals, named after the whim of the CEO of a hedge fund that very few people had ever heard of.

So what, right? CDOs are financial instruments (that were) traded by a few dozen traders. Well, wrong. CDOs were made of the debts of the planet. And a lot of those debts were Residentail Mortgage Backed Securities.

Residential Mortgage Backed Securities also have names. Their names, as you might have guessed by now, are also generic, corporate, meaningless nonsense. Here are some examples:

HarborView Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-1

GSAMP 2005-HE5

Fannie Mae REMIC Trust 2001-8

So. Here is the theory. Houses are bought with loans (mortgages). The loans are resold to these trusts. The trusts (used to) get sold to CDOs. The CDOs (used to) get sold to investors all over the world. Does anyone in this chain care what the name is?

No. It is like naming variables in computer programming; naming is considered an annoyance that is better left to some automated system. The only reason they care about it is because they can package it, sell it, take their fee, and move it on to the buyer.


It would be like asking Duff Soda to give a name to each can of drink
they produce. No! They stick the same name on every can, Duff, and then
they print a serial number on the bottom somewhere. That is pretty much
the level that it got to at Freddie Mac, where they named their
securities as follows:


FREDDIE MAC REMIC, SERIES 3379


FREDDIE MAC REMIC, SERIES 3380


FREDDIE MAC REMIC, SERIES 3381


Now, the developers are part of this chain. Do they care what the
housing edition (housing addition?) is named? No. They throw up the
plots, from pre-build plans, sell it to whoever, and move on to the next
one.


Now, ask yourself this. Do people buying the houses care? Many of them,
obviously, do not. For a lot of folks, the house is just as much a
commodity as the soda can. However it is a soda can that might increase
in value in 3 years and make them $30,000 of profit when they resell
it.


A lot of things can melt away from your vision when you are looking at
$30,000 dollars potential profit. The name of the edition, for example.
Or the lack of walkability. Or the lack of parks.


There are luddites, of course. To them, the Sycamore tree standing in
the field, for 80 years, and the two oaks off down towards the edge of
the lot... these are things of beauty. They are works of art. They are,
perhaps, sacred. At the very least, they were harmless. Along with the
wildlife that lived in the woods, that ducked in and out of the stream
bed and that foraged along the edge of the woods.


None of this means anything, to the people building WoodCreek III,
RedBud VIII, or PineRidge XVII. They could care less whether there is a
pine, a wood, a creek or a redbud within half a mile, or whether they
bulldozed them all down to plant sod, 1/2 acre lots with 10,000 square
foot houses, no public parks, no sidewalks, giant gates and fences, and
trees imported from a tree farm to stick in people's front yards.


It is a product. The landscape, as it was, was in the way of the
product. The product was created, in an act that capitalist devotees
would call 'creative destruction', where profits were made from what
before, was an empty, wild field, which was doing noone any good.


In The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Daniel Day Lewis' character
describes like this: It's really just a matter of taste, isn't it? A
matter of aesthetics. Some people believe the tree at the edge of the
field is beautiful. Other people would rather have a perfectly, uniform
green lawn and a 10,000 square foot house, that looks like every
other house, helicoptered in and dropped brand new on the spot, after
the dirt has been denuded and sterilized of anything native. Anything
that might harm profit. Anything that wouldn't fit on the store
shelf.

And so. That, IMHO, is where the names on housing editions come from.
Because who would want to live in one called, you know, buy a house in
an edition named something like Purple Dead Nettle Hill? The resale
value on that, well, it would be atrocious!

The Sahkarov Drive

There is a film entitled "2010: Odyssey Two". It is a sequel to the film "2001, a Space Odyssey". Both are based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke.


I watched it as a kid. I was fascinated. Being brought up to think we were going to have a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a strange thing. I don't know if there is an equivalent today for kids. But back then, it was the thing, at least for some of us.

Today I learned something. Mr Clarke put into his work the names of several Soviet dissidents. Dissident is an interesting word, not used so much nowdays. However, dissidents do still exist; for example see wikipedia (an article to which I have made a small contribution).

And so, when they said on the screen, the 'Sakharov drive', Clarke was tweaking the Soviet state power that had pushed Sakharov into the shadows.

Sakharov, who was this man?

Sakharov is like a combination of Einstein and Teller. He was a brilliant person, a physicist. He basically invented the Soviet H-bomb, independently. What is an H-bomb? It is a very, very powerful atomic bomb, bigger than the ordinary atomic bombs. If the atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed, say, a couple of square miles of a city, down to rubble, then an H-bomb could have destroyed, well, a couple of dozen square miles of a city.

The largest bomb ever created, that we know of, was the 'Tsar Bomba', tested in the Soviet Union. It is rather curious, for the avowed defenders of Marxism and equality of all the workers, to adopt the name of the system which they died, by the hundreds of thousands, starving in the snow, to overthrow in the young days of the Twentieth Century. How could they use the word 'Tsar' when they throw people in jail for writing poetry and novels?

Mr Sakharov, with his H-Bomb, was a very important person in Soviet society. He could not, however, be confined to his research. His mind expanded, branched out, somehow. He could not help but apply this machinery of the mind, of logic, reason, curiosity, intellectual exploration, to the society he lived in, to the government he worked for, and to the bureaucracy that enveloped him.

He was, almost, a living example of D-503, the protagonist of the famous novel "We", by Yvgeny Zamyatin. D-503 is an engineer on the Integral, the great technological acheivement of the One State. But Mr Sakharov did not go insane or become lobotomized as D-503. He managed to become what they call a dissident. He wrote books, he said things, things that needed to be said.

But for Mr. Clarke, to sprinkle his science fiction with the names of real dissidents, well, this was a stroke from a man who was interested in more than gizmodics and technicalities. It reminds me of Ray Bradbury, another science fiction writer, whose stories were about human beings, and not about gadgets.

And yet, as a young person, I had no idea that he had done it. "The Sakharov Drive", was to me a thing of fantasy, of mystery. Sakharov, who was he? As the 'dark man', hidden in Silhouette in 'The Right Stuff', was mysterious. Was he evil? Was he good? Was he real? Was he fake? Perhaps I had even mixed up these two men in my mind. "Something-ov" would run around in my young brain, and wither, soon distracted by a comic book or video game.

We would learn only later, that one these men, had a real name and real life to go with the dark silhouette and shadowy portrayal in 'The Right Stuff'. The Chief Designer, Korolev, was himself thrown in prison by his own government. He was a space dreamer, compromised in a military bureaucracy of a closed state. It is a complicated story. Perhaps the closest thing to understanding we could acheive was by reading The First Circle, by Solzhenytsin, which is a book about the 'Sharashkas', or prisons for engineers and scientists in the Soviet State.

Sakharov's story came out much sooner than Korolevs, because he did not die prematurely, and because he told it himself. And yet, I did not hear it. I did not know it. I was trapped in Castle Greskull, in Hyrule, in Gi Joe's base, the dome of the Justice League, in the grid of Pac-Man and the imaginary worlds of flight simulators. Later on it was other things. Certainly not long books on Soviet history. I did not actually read The Right Stuff until college.

What was the difference between these two men? What were their stories? What were their lives?

Only when I was much older did I even learn the basics of these two men. Why?