March 27, 2007
(I don’t normally venture into the world of fiction, but I’ve been mulling this one over for a while. Let me know what you think.)
Lieutenant Hernandez— known more readily as Mr. Hernandez these days— squatted behind an azalea bush outside a rather nice home. Something didnâ€™t seem right. The house was oddly quiet, as if nobody was home, but he could see a flicker of a television screen inside. Relaxing before he made an entrance in the fading light of dusk, he sensed heâ€™d reached his destination. He also sensed something elseâ€¦
Luis Hernandez was on the edge in his youth. He was one of those â€˜tweeners, a kid who was bright enough to do whatever he chose in life, but had a heart for adventure that always seemed to get him into trouble. He never seemed to do well in school, a fact that befuddled his teachers, who saw him accomplish great things when he put his mind to it, but never seemed to apply himself. Only one of his teachers really got him motivated, his history teacher, Mr. Thompson.
Everyone hated Thompson. He was a gruff, demanding man, who was quick to tell you when you were wrong, and wasnâ€™t quick to congratulate you when you were right. He was a fair teacher, willing to improve your grade if you could coherently argue your wrong answer, but if he argued back and you faltered, you were out of luck. Thompson was known for kids transferring out of his class early in a semester. He had a knack for making the weak-willed students cry. Only a few people could possibly excel in a class like his; it took an iron will, a relentless work ethic, and an ability to think on your feet that few possessed. Most of Luisâ€™ other teachers thought he would get skewered by Thompson, instead Luis was his favorite student.
It was Thompson who convinced Luis to join the service. In the barrio where Luis grew up, Thompson knew heâ€™d end up turning to gangs, and probably sell drugs. Of course, it wasnâ€™t Luisâ€™ safety that Thompson was worried about, as he knew Luis had a knack for leadership and guile that would keep him safe. But he knew that Luis wanted more, and made sure that he joined the Marines right out of school, in 1979.
It was a culture shock, of course. Luis had been able to scrape by doing what he wanted when he wanted, and those first few days of boot camp saw him doing push-ups until he thought his arms would give out. Luis made the mistake early of talking back to his drill sergeant, and that meant that Luis was made an example of. Quickly he got to know the bad side of his superiors, but his brash behavior made him some quick friends among his unit. It only took two weeks, though. Once he realized he didnâ€™t have a choice, he sunk back under the radar and moved his way through the rest of basic without much incident.
He thought he was under the radar, of course. Ever since the early days, his sergeant had pegged him as a leader. He would take some molding, of course, but he had a way with his fellow soldiers that the sergeant had seen before. He was going to go places.
Luis was always at the head of the line for promotions. After he had learned the discipline of the Marines, and accepted that he wasnâ€™t getting out of it, he started to excel. He quickly saw that if he could get enough time to get himself a college degree, heâ€™d be a shoo-in for OCS. When his superiors saw him in action in Grenada, they decided to support his ambitions. They thought he was likely to stick around the Corps for a while, so he was selected for MECEP, the program which would allow him to complete a degree and become an officer. He— greatly surprising himself— took extra classes to complete his Bachelors Degree in Political Science in only three years, finishing in May 1987.
He had barely gotten the ink dry on his commission when he saw action in Panama, but he proved himself worthy. The ability to speak Spanish from his childhood came in handy, and he was a major asset on the ground. After Grenada, he saw some more action in the First Gulf War, where he was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant. But then the military changed. He wanted to stay in, but the military started cutting their headcount, and in early 2004, Luis Hernandez found himself out of a job.
He tried the corporate world for a while, and it seemed like he was back in high school. He didnâ€™t have any high aspirations, didnâ€™t really care about what he was doing, and although he did enough to get by, never really excelled. Of course, going from combat to corporate will take the wind out of anyoneâ€™s sails. He spent three years working in an office, before he decided he needed out.
He went into business for himself. Did some security consulting, some personal protection jobs, but eventually started getting into corporate espionage. He soon realized that he was doing something he loved, he was great at it, and he was making more money than heâ€™d ever imagined. If only that old man Thompson could see him now!
He got a reputation as a man who would deliver the goods when asked. Nobody really questioned his methods, only that he could deliver. Itâ€™s not that his methods were unethical, per se, but a man in Luisâ€™ position quickly learns that traditional ethics donâ€™t apply, and had constructed his own moral code. It got him into trouble a few times, and he had to turn down or cancel a few jobs mid-stream that he found objectionable, but he was more than solid enough otherwise to ensure repeat business.
His resume grew. Intel, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer. Occasionally some off-the-books government work. He managed to find what he needed to find. When rumors surfaced of production problems at overseas facilities, he was there. When the financial guys wanted to make sure the companies they gave â€œBuyâ€ recommendations to werenâ€™t cooking the books, he was there. When the drug companies wanted evidence to file patent infringement lawsuits, they sent Luis.
This was why he found it very odd when he received a call in 2003 from Hanes. After all, thereâ€™s not a lot of corporate espionage in the underwear world. It was even more bizarre when they scheduled to meet him at corporate HQ. Why would they want someone who so often acted in anonymity to pull into their parking lot and sign in with a receptionist?
He was intrigued, but decided to check things out. When he walked into a boardroom full of bigwigs, complete with a projector set up and â€œWelcome, Luis!â€ as the first slide of a Powerpoint presentation, he started to worry someone had set him up. At the very least, it was clear that these people had no understanding of operational security. IF they wanted him to engage in corporate espionage, it would have been insane to meet him under these circumstances. Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth. The rest of the meeting set into action a chain of events that he never could have expected.
â€œLuis,â€ they asked him, â€œhave you ever lost a sock?â€ Of course he had, Luis responded.
â€œDid you ever joke that maybe those socks were stolen?â€ Again, Luis responded in the affirmative, as he had often joked with his family that some monster came in late at night to steal the missing socks.
The bigwigs from Hanes continued to tell a tale that Luis thought could only be a joke. Stories abounded of young children seeing an â€œanimalâ€ scurrying off in the night in a blur with their socks. Babies with bite marks all over their feet when the beast would grow bold enough to remove their socks while they were wearing them. Only a few stories came from adults, as the beast was known for avoiding adults, but those few were from sources credible enough to be trusted. Stories existed from every continent of sightings, but nothing conclusive enough to locate the beast.
It wasnâ€™t a joke after all, and they were going to pay him enough money to buy the island of Grenada to capture that beast! Even if he couldnâ€™t manage to lure it out and trap it, theyâ€™d pay dearly for pictures to prove it exists.
Luis left the meeting in a daze, with a check in his pocket and a couple of leads to get him started. Could this beast really exist? What sort of creature would hoard socks? Luis still didnâ€™t quite believe it, but he had negotiated a contract lucrative enough that even if he never found this mythical creature, he would still be well-paid for the search. Given that he was starting to tire of the monotony of corporate espionage, something new might be a welcome change.
His first leads took him down to South America, where his heritage and command of the language already made him feel at home. While most of the legends of the Chupacabra involved the destruction of livestock, a few also included the disappearance of socks. These stories emerged from all over South America, in little towns where there seemed no chance that the legends could have spread between these towns by chance.
Mexico, Nicaragua, all the way down to Argentina and Peru. He kept hearing stories, but they all seemed to be dead ends. It became increasingly apparent that the beast he was after wasnâ€™t the Chupacabra. Sightings of both had occurred, and he pieced together the accounts to determine that the beast who stole socks was not the same who destroyed livestock.
Seeing that his search would be fruitless in South America, he moved on. He next flew to the Himalayas, as the stories of the mythical Yeti were also accompanied, like the Chupacabra, with lost socks. Again he found that sightings of the Yeti and the beast who steals socks were certainly not the same.
He was beginning to see a pattern. While often there were reports of a beast who steals socks in the same location as the stories of other mythical creatures, it was clear that the two were not the same. Further research uncovered a startling fact: while the stories of a Yeti or Chupacabra were found only in certain regions, the stories of the sock-stealing monster were global!
Luis realized that he was on the track of something truly groundbreaking. He knew that the capture of this beast would result not only in him being paid unreal sums of money, but that it would include tremendous fame as well.
Luis tracked the stories of the creature for three more years. It seemed that everywhere he went, he would encounter stories of the beast. Occasionally he would also encounter some who had seen the beast. It was a small, dark creature, four-legged. It moved quickly but with stealth. But the most universal report was the creatureâ€™s eyes. They glowed red like nothing people had ever seen. It was consistent with nearly every sighting. The eyes were always remembered, always brought up, even when the other details didnâ€™t entirely match. Luis started to understand that he wasnâ€™t trailing a mythical beast, but something that must be real.
In late 2006, Luis decided to try a different approach. He knew he was getting close to the nature of the myth, but locating the beast was another matter entirely. He decided to scour the worldwide news articles for mentions of socks. It sounded like a long shot, but he was getting desperate, and Hanes was getting mighty tired of paying down his expense account.
What he found was intriguing. Judging from news stories, it was clear that there were reports worldwide of piles of socks being found all over the world, but with no explanation. Luis surmised that this must mean only one thing: when the beast is frightened, it tends to save itself rather than the socks. Nobody had ever delved into these reports, though. Occasionally it was nothing more than a local quirk that some hiker had found. On some occasions there were searches to see if they were socks from people who might have met an ill fate. But nobody had ever asked why these socks had shown up when the trails ran cold. Furthermore, nobody had ever analyzed these stories to see where they were most common.
It was here that Luis made his breakthrough. The stories of found socks were worldwide, but they werenâ€™t equally distributed. The stories were most prevalent in America, and in the American Southeast. Luis knew where to focus his search!
It was that chain of events that placed Luis behind an azalea bush in the Atlanta suburbs. With the sun going down, he picked the lock and entered the house.
Greeted by a little barking dog, he realized he must be in the wrong place. After all, this beast wouldnâ€™t allow a little yapping creature like this to live here, would it? He must be in the wrong house.
He followed the dog around a corner— and stopped short. The sight before him, of a mound of socks up to the ceiling, left him breathless. He WAS in the right place! But where was the beast? Nothing was here but a small dog, and that dog most certainly didnâ€™t have glowing red eyes.
The dog, as if it were supposed to be there guarding socks, sat down on a few. Luis decided to get a photo. Heâ€™d figure out this beast yet, but it must be gone finding more socks at the moment, so he was sure he had a few minutes to spare.
As he crouched next to the floor to get a photo, he heard the dog start to growl. Such a guttural growl from such a small dog, he had never heard before.
He aimed his camera, and as he was about to press the button, he realized his mistake. The dog’s eyes were glowing red like candles!
When the authorities arrived two days later, they didnâ€™t find a dog, nor did they find any socks. They found Luisâ€™ body in a pool of blood, his jugular severed by a bite from an unknown creature. His shoes were in tatters, and his feet— bare.
But they did find one other thing at the scene: his camera.
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Book Review — Mean Martin Manning, by Scott Stein
March 26, 2007
Got Problems? Blame Californians! [Everybody's doin' it!]
Sure, itâ€™s been 30 years since Oregonians first slapped â€œDonâ€™t Californicate Oregonâ€ bumper stickers on their cars, but, like the song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, â€œCalifornicationâ€ is still alive and well.
â€œI think itâ€™s just such a common desire to say things were really calm and great here and then these people came in,â€ said Patty Limerick, history professor and faculty director of the University of Coloradoâ€™s Center of the American West.
Since 1991, the number of Californians moving out topped the number of people moving in to the state. And where do they go? The top five states Californians moved to between 2000 and 2005 were Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Washington and Oregon, according to William Frey, population expert for the Brookings Institution.
For many Californians, they want what eludes them in their state â€” open space, clean air and not so much traffic. So they sell their houses for a chunk of change, move somewhere else in the West, buy a bigger house and start driving up the housing prices, much to the dismay of locals.
Sherrie Watson has lived in Coeur dâ€™Alene, Idaho, since she was 16 and is quite fed up with Californians.
â€œThey complain how cold it is. And they just moved here because it is cheaper and to â€™get away,â€™ but then they keep saying things like, â€˜We did it in California this way, so why donâ€™t you change?â€™ â€
â€œThey came here because they liked it the way it was when they visited, but then they want to change it. I donâ€™t get it,â€ she said.
I’m reminded of the quote from The Matrix:
I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify
your speciesCalifornians and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humansCalifornians do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beingsCalifornians are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.
Ahh, California. Two major cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles. If I believed in God, I’d be decrying them as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah (the exercise of determining which is which is left to the reader, natch!). What can you do with California?
In all honesty, California is a wonderful place. The weather is about as close as I can imagine to being absolutely perfect. The scenery is gorgeous. And you’re right next to the big Pacific Ocean. Something about sitting there on the beach and knowing there’s no people for thousands of miles off to the west is comforting.
If it weren’t for the damn Californians, California would be a really nice place!
March 25, 2007
Go Lady Boilers!
UPDATE: Oops… I could have sworn this win put us in the final four, not the elite eight. One more to go, against #1 seed North Carolina.
I realize I’ve left my beer-blogging in the lurch for a while. Over the holidays, I was extremely busy (as was my neighbor, who I brew with), and the pipeline started to empty out. We brewed in February, though, and I finally got a beer into the keg. It’s a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone.
Thankfully, it doesn’t even have a hint of the strange off-flavor we’d been running into. The guy at the homebrew store said it might be due to the SafAle US-56 yeast I’ve used several times, but I’m not too sure. Instead, though, we used California Ale (WLP001), and made a starter two days before brewing. It definitely was clean, and didn’t have any of the off taste, so I’m happy about that.
In general it’s a good beer. It seems a bit lighter-bodied than intended, though. I credit that to the fact that we broke a thermometer a while ago, and the new one is less accurate. Thus, my mash temp wasn’t what the thermometer said it was, and that affected the end product. Definitely need a new thermometer.
As for the recipe, I stuck with the same rough grain bill as a Sierra Nevada, but a little higher gravity. As I mentioned, though, the low mash temp cut out a bit of the maltiness. As for hops, I went a little higher-hopped, using an ounce of Magnum for bittering. That gives it a nice bite, but I find that Magnum isn’t too harsh as a bittering hop, so it is pretty good. Keeping with the spirit of Sierra, I’m using 2 ounces of Cascade as flavor/aroma hop, and then dry-hopped for 2 weeks with another 2 ounces of Cascade in secondary. So it’s got a nice citrus floral aroma and taste.
Good stuff. I’m starting to get a little more control and consistency in this process, and that’s working wonders for the consistency of the final product.
March 24, 2007
An interesting piece of satire by the Scott Stein, about the pill that makes you taller. Well, not really, the pill that makes you THINK you’re taller.
The pill didnâ€™t take immediate effect. For about 10 minutes you felt nothing. Then you were taller. That is, you believed you were. The drug convinced its user, whatever his height, that he was three inches taller. It was a new technology, and its power was limited, if perfect in its simplicity and specificity. Three inches was all it added. Gargantuanx could not alter the physical world–boxes of pasta on supermarket shelves which were out of reach before taking the pill did not get any closer after a dose. But under its influence, one was certain that the shelf of pasta was three inches higher than it had been, so the illusion that one was three inches taller was intact.
Heading down the proverbial rabbit hole [which seems an apt analogy when "one pill makes you larger"], the questions comes up: should Gargantuanx be prohibited? Thus, the name of the piece, Garghibition.
Check it out. If you have the same sort of bizarre sense of humor as I do– and you probably wouldn’t be here if you didn’t– you’ll like it.
This week, as the story broke about poisoned dog food, concerned pet owners scrambled to determine whether there was any risk in what they were feeding their dogs.
One of the advantages of small dogs, however, is that I have a lot more leeway what I feed them. We buy them Nature’s Variety, which I once calculated to be about 4 times as expensive by weight than a lot of commercial food. It’s the sort of expensive “gourmet” dog food, grown in “sustainable agriculture” farms, etc… In fact, it’s probably grown in a more environmentally-friendly and natural way than the food that I eat.
But when you have two dogs weighing a combined 17 pounds, the cost becomes pretty much a non-factor. If the difference between expensive food and cheap food is $4 a month vs. $16 a month, I’m willing to pay more. If I had two dogs eating enough food to make the difference between $30 a month and $120 a month, the cost/benefit analysis might change a bit.
This might be something to consider when you’re trying to determine whether to get a Yorkie or a Great Dane as your next best friend.
March 19, 2007
In the 55 days since that occurred, we racked up another hundred thou, and we just crossed the 200,000 mark.
I doubt that many of you who used to read this blog for political reasons haven’t found your way over there. But if you haven’t, or if you’re politically minded and would like to check it out, head on over. The site is updated more often, and there are quite a lot of good conversations in the comments.
(Note: To give a sense of perspective, The Unrepentant Individual has had about 80,000 unique visitors in the 29 months I’ve had it open. If The Liberty Papers has a couple more good days, it will get close to that number THIS MONTH).
March 17, 2007
“Lace wasn’t selling in the quantities it once did, and the tradition was starting to slowly disappear,” says Malgorzata Stanaszek, co-owner of KONI-art, the company that stitches the lingerie. “Our friend then said, as a half-joke, ‘Why don’t you make thongs? They’re popular now.’”
Stanaszek, 32, recruited her mother and two sisters into the business, and they started stitching the thongs and selling them on the Internet in 2004. Now Stanaszek says she employs 65 women who work from home churning out lace panties, G-strings, thongs and bras for customers around the world. Orders come from across Europe and as far away as Japan, China, New Zealand and the United States; a Koniakow thong sells for about $20.
“Our company has a global reach,” Stanaszek says from her tiny office at the main crossroads in Koniakow’s sister village Istebna, a smattering of wooden houses lining the road that snakes along the mountain’s crest.
Yep. So much for the typical jokes about Poles. In a competitive environment, they adjust to changing desires and adapt to the times. As a descendent of Polish immigrants* to the US, fixing our reputation as dullards comes as a welcome change.
Of course, if they had it their way, the moralists in Koniakow would ensure the lace industry simply dies:
“It’s really not beautiful at all what they’re doing,” said Joanna Pielka, an elderly woman on her way to church in Istebna. “Do there have to be so many holes?”
Stanaszek says some older lace makers remain opposed. “There is a small group of people that is against the underwear, and they will remain that way,” she said.
Of course, they are fighting against this development even though it’s increasing their own sales of non-sexy lace:
Publicity about the thongs has benefited older lace makers too, says Tadeusz Ludzki, who owns a gift shop in Koniakow.
“Some older woman are happy too … because the traditional lace items are also selling better,” Ludzki says. “More tourists come and so more of the traditional items also sell.”
The undie-makers are undeterred, though. In a quote sure to make a libertarian’s heart all a’flutter:
“There’s no shame in doing this. Shame would be stealing,” she said. “This is work.”
Amen. Voluntary exchange of goods for money. Good for you.
(To support these brave women, you can find them at Koni-Art USA.)
* Warbiany is a Polish name, albeit heavily butchered by Ellis Island. I think nobody knows the exact original spelling, but discussions within my family have suggested it might be near to Vrbjanj. Either way, it has blessed me with a truly unique name. I know that I’m related to every Warbiany in the world. That’s a lot cooler than being named “Smith”!
March 14, 2007
As I pointed out a while back, the wife is off in California for a month and a half in advance of her sister’s wedding, and so I’m living the bachelor life. There will potentially be a lot of travel coming up, so she even has the dogs. And I sold my TV (it’s getting time to upgrade). So I’m living a bit of a quiet, reserved, bachelor’s life right now.
How do you think I’m doing with it?
Hmm… Peppercorn marinated pork tenderloin with steamed asparagus…
I’m doin’ alright.
March 12, 2007
Back when I was living in Lake Forest, California, right around the corner was a place called Club Aficionado (caution on the link, it doesn’t like Firefox. Jerks). I went in there one day to check them out, and realized it wasn’t only a cigar store, it was a private club. In the back, they had a full bar, tables, big-screen TV, etc. They were telling me all about the local big-wigs who were members. I thought about it, figured out how much it cost to be a member, and decided I could make much better use of the money.
Since then, I’ve visited another local cigar club called Red Cloud. My future brother-in-law is a member, so the last time I was in California we stopped off for a smoke and a couple games of chess in the lounge. At the time, I started wondering if a business like this would make sense here in Georgia. After all, I’m in a relatively affluent area where something like this might give big-wigs a chance to hobnob with each other.
But then I realized a crucial difference between Georgia and California. In Georgia, it’s not illegal to smoke in public establishments. Thus, for California to even have a cigar bar, they must create a private club in which to enclose it.
Now, as my brother-in-law pointed out, they’re not just selling a place to smoke a cigar. They’re selling a bit of exclusivity. After all, we were there on a Saturday night at 9 PM, and the place was only mildly crowded. If you’re like me, and you like to sit at a bar and have a drink without the constant smash of people running into you, reaching over you, and generally invading your personal space, it makes a lot of sense. And because it’s a paid membership, there is a vested interest in making sure that your needs are catered to. Which is nice.
But when I had thought initially about the idea of a place like this opening in Georgia, I thought only of the benefits of private membership. I hadn’t considered the fact that private membership would be a legal necessity for the place to even exist. Could a place like this live outside of the legal constructs that California imposed? After all, I might be willing to spend a few hundred bucks a year for a membership to a nice private cigar bar, if it was the only place I could smoke a cigar. But I wouldn’t be willing to do so if there were free cigar bars around, which is something that doesn’t exist in California.
What this brings up is a nice example of the Bootlegger and the Baptist (also see this excellent Econtalk podcast with Bruce). This economic theory described by Bruce Yandle suggests that while a southern Baptist might fight to stop Sunday sales of alcohol in order to assuage his conscience, there is an economic benefit to the bootlegger who fills the market niche of selling alcohol illegally on Sundays at a very high profit. The bootlegger and the baptist aren’t working together, but they exist in a mutually beneficial arrangement (hurting only the consumer).
I think this is the same situation. In California, the nanny statists have decided that private property is public, and thus they can stop us from smoking to protect us from ourselves. This, though, hasn’t stopped the desire of individuals to go out and have a drink and a cigar. So a secondary industry springs up, charging people membership fees in order to legitimize their right to have a cigar in “public”. The nanny statists are happy (well, not as happy as they would be if they stopped it completely). The owners of the cigar clubs are happy, because they’re charging several hundred of dollars a year (over a thousand for a storage locker for your smokes) in order for the privilege of smoking in their establishment. The only people hurt, as is usually the case, is the consumer, who ends up spending a lot of money or losing his freedom.
The cigar club that we went to was a very nice place. I got to sit in a nice, comfy, high-backed leather chair, and proceed to beat the pants off my brother-in-law in chess (twice, actually). All the while I was smoking a very fine cigar and drinking an Arrogant Bastard. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable hour as we killed time before heading to a poker game. In fact, it’s someplace that I might consider joining if I lived there and thought I’d use it enough. But let’s remember exactly why it exists: because government took away freedom.
Well, March Madness is just about upon us. Purdue managed to squeak into the Tourney, but has a tough road as a 9 seed. Assuming they can beat 8-seeded Arizona, they’ll walk into #1 seed Florida in the second round. There’s no shame in losing to the #1 seed, though. Purdue has a relatively new coach and a young team, so that would provide something to build on next year. Considering how unlikely we all thought before the season that we’d even make it to the dance, that’s not bad.
I know everyone probably has constant offers of bracket competitions, I’d suggest heading over to Coyote Blog to join in his now annual tournament. I participated last year and it was a good time.
Got this in an email this morning:
You guessed it ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ IS GONE!!!
Who originally put ‘In God We Trust’ onto our currency?
My bet is that it was one of the Presidents on these coins.
All our U.S. Government has done is Dishonor them, and disgust me!!!
If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!!
DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE
Together we can force them out of circulation.
Please send to all on you mail list !!!
Ugh. I normally don’t give much attention to email forwards, but this one takes the cake. They show a picture of the front of a coin, casually leaving off the fact that the “In God We Trust” is printed on the edge. And, of course, they suggest that “one of these presidents” put the motto on the currency, leaving off that it was first done during the Civil War, so 15 presidents saw a currency without this, and that it wasn’t officially done until 1957, in the height of the fight against “godless communism”. But I guess the facts are but a distraction when you’re trying to whip people into a frenzy.
It’s made even worse when understanding that the US Mint recently mis-struck a quantity of coins that went through the QA process without these edge markings, so a portion of these coins were released without this motto or “E Pluribus Unum” appearing at all.
What does this mean? Well, not a whole lot, really. As with most email forwards, getting careless with the facts allows someone out there to sit around and laugh about how many people forwarded his lie. He’ll see who ends up eventually sending the message back to him, and what an uproar it might cause as millions of unthinking netizens have taken his email at face value.
And even more people will believe that there’s a sinister plot out there to remove religion from the public square.
I had to respond to this everyone on this email, to set the record straight. But as I’m known to do, I put a little spin on it with this quote from Napoleon.
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
Government is, and always has been, incompetent. Now, that’s not to say that the people within government are incompetent, only that the system itself produces worthless and counterproductive outcomes. Our government “forgets” to stamp the edge of coins and lets it through their QA process because there’s no incentive for them not to. Outside of a boycott, those coins are becoming collector’s items, and once the readers of this email forward see the properly-produced coins and read the edge, any potential boycott will evaporate.
If you’re going to boycott this currency due to some worries about a motto, you’re wasting your time. However, there is a very good reason to boycott the government. After all, would you normally patronize a business who has shown anywhere near as much of both incompetence and malice as the government does? Of course, it’s tough to boycott an entity with a gun to your head and its hand in your wallet…
March 7, 2007
I wrote a piece over at The Liberty Papers about the potential destruction/decline of the American economic empire.
Basically I look at it this way: The housing meltdown, coupled with a recession and the bursting of an enormous mortgage-backed securities and derivatives markets, will make our economy take a serious hit. That, coupled with the inability to cut taxes further, a government in major deficit, and a tight credit market, and the situation will be nearly impossible to get out of for a while. Further, our government will attempt to provide liquidity by printing dollars, inflating away the housing crunch, and inflating away a lot of actual wealth at the same time.
Further, with the news that Venezuela is looking to divest the dollar as a reserve currency (worried about inflation), and the implicit assumption that a quickly-inflating dollar will cause more countries to do the same, and America could hit a level of hyperinflation worse than we’ve ever known here.
Bad, bad stuff.
So I’m wondering how to protect myself against it, and potentially reap some profit off the situation. Right now, the wife and I have a decent modest sum (at least considering our age) in 401k and Roth IRA, currently in vanilla mutual funds (decent risk for hers, S&P-based index funds for mine). I’m looking at the idea of rolling my 401k over into an IRA, where I have more ability to place it in investments I can control.
I think right now seems like a great time to jump out of the broader stock market and get into commodities (probably precious metals) and energy. After all, we’ve done fairly well in our generic stock market holdings over the past few years. But the market seems to be dropping out of a period of stable growth (as was evidenced in last Tuesday’s 400-point drop in the Dow), and that will destroy leveraged positions. Precious metals should do very well in an inflationary environment, and I think energy will carry some stability in an economic downturn, as energy usage is somewhat inelastic.
I was thinking about taking my wife’s holdings (about 33% of our total position) and splitting it between gold/silver directly and gold/silver mining stocks. I was then thinking of taking my holdings, and putting about half of it into the energy sector, and the other half in foreign holdings (if I can get them somewhere I think will avoid following America’s economic meltdown).
For those of you who understand investing a little better than I do, what do you think?
March 6, 2007
…who said I’d never amount to anything.
March 2, 2007
I think it’s already starting…
One thing that I had requested for a gift with the news of the pregnancy was a “BabyPlus Prenatal Education System”. It’s a system which plays varying tempos of a sound similar to a heartbeat to a child in the womb. Starting at 18 weeks or so, it goes through various “lesson” of increasing complexity, which is supposed to help the baby’s brain develop a better abilities of “distinction”.
Now, I’m already an overprotective father who is willing to do anything I can to make sure that my son has every possible advantage in the world. If he’s smarter, taller, more athletic, and better looking than his peers, I’ll be pretty happy. With my wife’s instruction, he may even be well-dressed and socially adept (two things I still haven’t mastered)! This is just one option to get started early.
The only question, though, is whether it works. The site contains glowing testimonials, but that doesn’t mean a thing. If smart people who desire to be good parents buy this and end up with smart kids, is it the Babyplus or the parenting skills that made the kid smart? Correlation doesn’t equal causation, right? Well, week 18 is quickly coming up, so the wife will be starting this program, so we’ll have to see how it goes.
What do you guys think? Am I being obsessive?