Saturday, October 03, 2009

2610 The ant and the grasshopper.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"The rich get rich because they keep doing the things that make them rich.
The poor get poorer, or stay poor, because they keep doing the things
that make them poor."
The above quote was found in a comment on Scott Adams' blog.  The commenter didn't remember where he got it, and it doesn't turn up anywhere else in a Google search.

It's absolutely true in my experience.  As others have pointed out, there seems to be a rich-mentality and a poor-mentality.  People with a poor-mentality who get windfalls spend or lose it within a few years.  They make short-term decisions, and pretty soon it's all gone, frittered away.  People with a rich-mentality make long-term decisions.  They develope a habit of using what they have to grow more. 

It's not a matter of where we start out.  Wealth inherited is often gone within two generations.  It has more to do with a frugal mindset, living within one's means, planning for the future, and/or not having a sense of entitlement.  It's tied up in our definition of what makes us happy, and whether we need immediate gratification, or whether we are willing to accept a lower level of happiness over a longer term.

It's the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.

If you give a man with a poor-mentality enough money to buy thirty steaks, he'll buy thirty steaks and eat like a king for a month, and then have nothing but a memory of short-term comfort and happiness.  If you give a man with a rich-mentality enough money for thirty steaks, he'll buy chicken, ground beef, four steaks (one a week), a few shares in a mutual fund, and put the rest in an education fund or toward purchasing a rental property.  Building long-term comfort and happiness.

I've confessed to liking to look in people's windows as I drive past houses at night.  I am often amazed at the number of huge flat screen TVs dominating the living rooms of modest cottages.  I don't understand that.  Who needs something that big and expensive, that isn't going to do anything but depreciate?  I have friends who spend every penny they get with no apparent thought of the future.  Two weeks ago I had a small spat with a dear friend over his frittering away a windfall.  You can't have champagne tastes on a beer budget, or pretty soon you won't be able to afford beer (and don't expect me to feel sorry for you when it happens).


My father was career Air Force, an officer.  He got flight pay beyond his regular salary, but my parents never had any savings to speak of.  The money came in, and the money went out.  After retirement, my mother marveled at other military friends who bought nice retirement houses in nice places.  She didn't understand how they could afford it.

The other folks moved every few years, just as we did, but when they moved, they sold the old house and bought a new one, always at a profit.  My parents always rented.

Renting is easy and convenient, but rent money is lost money.

Friday, October 02, 2009

2609 YouTube thinks I'm weird

Friday, October 1, 2009

Scott Adams, in "Dilbert": There's no reason to waste a creative thinker
on an implementation task.


I watch clips on YouTube a lot.  I use it like a TIVO, catching TV shows I missed.  I watch cute beastie videos, dance clips, and how-to videos.  Yesterday I watched a subtitled Mongolian movie, "The Story of the Weeping Camel", in nine parts.

You know how when you sign in, YouTube offers a selection of videos "Recommended for You"?

Today's recommendation for me, things that my past viewing history would indicate I would like, is six belly dance videos, and two clips from movies about girls' boarding schools, both of which are scenes of caning.



Last night I joined the southern Mensa subgroup for dinner at a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant.  There were thirteen at table, some of whom agreed to a photo:

I don't know whose hand that is on my waist.  I hope it's the lady in the blue jacket.  That's my hand on her son's shoulder.  [Later - I peered at the enlarged photo.  It's probably the clasped hands of the guy in the black shirt, just showing through between my waist and arm.  I feel better.]

Tonight I'm going to a Phoenician restaurant in Colonie.  Phoenician?  I hear the beef shawarma "is divine", and the decor is colorful.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2608 Ketsana, from

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Me:  How "good one is in bed" has more to do with the combination
than with any skill.


Typhoon Ketsana has caused devastating flash floods in the Philippines and Vietnam.  I thought I knew what "flash flood" meant, but when I look at the photos at, I realize that I didn't really understand how fast it must have been.  There are people climbing electric wires, clinging in neck-high water to the sides of buildings.  It looks like they had no warning at all.  As to how strong, see the photo above.  Those cars were lifted and thrown before they had enough time to fill and sink.

2607 Hips

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter in Mensa Bulletin: If you take the "id" out of "intimidate",
you get "intimate".


Some dance videos. Please do watch them.  They are all amazing.

Hula. This literally made me cry:

The woman FLOATS!



Free-form, 7-year-old.  She's very good once she gets going, has apparently no bones (but in my opinion a bit too sexy for one so young):


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2606 Flu shots etc.

 Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Me: Virginity is important only to men who fear comparison.


I saw "O'  Horten", a Norwegian movie with subtitles, at Proctor's in Schenectady this evening.  It was about a train engineer's retirement.  The trains were his whole life, and the day he is to drive his last route, he misses the train.  From then on, he discovers retirement is what the internet reviewers describe as "a precise, deadpan drama of slapstick existentialism".  I enjoyed it.

For most of the movie I wondered if they had "smell-o-vision".  Horten smoked a pipe, and every time he lit up I could swear I smelled the pipe tobacco.  Later I noticed that the woman next to me was holding a large container of hazelnut Starbucks brew.


Will someone please explain to me why Roman Polanski is suddenly the victim?  I understand the arguments for and against his extradition.  I understand that the woman doesn't want to get involved.  But this isn't a civil case, where she is allowed to drop it.  It's crimes against the state, and the specific victim can't drop it.  And although she's adult now, at the time she was thirteen years old!  And it's not like she was a Lolita, who welcomed his advances.  Even drugged she said no multiple times, and begged to go home, and he raped her multiple times in one day.

So how the blazes is he now the victim?


I listened to NPR on the way to Schenectady this evening.  Alan Chartock was interviewing some woman in the health field about the H1N1 virus and immunizations, and an interesting but unpublished Canadian study.  The study found that people who got last year's  seasonal flu shot were more likely to come down with H1N1 than people who didn't get last year's shot.


None of the investigators can explain it.  They went on for some time about how everyone is so confused by the statistics.  The woman said that people are making decisions based on the study, a study which a) none of them have read, since it's unpublished, and b) even those who have read it can't understand it.

I don't understand why they don't understand.  It seems pretty simple to me.

Last year's shot was voluntary.  So the people who got it (let's call them Group 1) were those who felt they were most likely to be exposed to seasonal flu by nature of their jobs or contacts, or those who go to their doctors a lot, or those who were at risk because of other chronic illnesses.   People who didn't get the shot (Group 2, which includes me) were those who didn't feel they were likely to catch it, or rarely go to the doctor, or who are very healthy.

So it's reasonable to assume that Group 1 people would be more likely to pick up H1N1 by nature of their jobs or contacts, and more likely to be diagnosed because they see their doctors a lot, or because they get more seriously ill because of pre-existing conditions.   Group 2 people might catch it just as often, but remain undiagnosed as H1N1 because they didn't bother going to the doctor, and were never tested.

I know several people who were very ill over the past few weeks (The Man, a few others), and not one of them were tested for H1N1.  They just suffered and then got better.  They'd be solidly in Group 2, and would show up in the report as not having got last year's shot, and not having caught H1N1.

It's exactly the same problem as with self-selected surveys, where only the people who have something outrageous to say bother to answer, giving skewed results.

The majority of people counted as having H1N1 are those who were and are concerned about the flu enough to get the seasonal shot, and who go to the doctor when they get sick.  The rest simply "didn't answer".  We really don't know about them.  There may be not greater succeptability among those who got last year's seasonal flu shot.  Maybe it just looks that way. 

Making decisions based on this study is akin to making decisions based on a Playboy write-in survey.

2605 Plastic expectations

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trevanian, Shibumi: “[Consider] the error of the artisan who boasts of
twenty years experience in his craft while in fact he has
only one year of experience - twenty times.”


Observation - I have to be very careful when I walk in crowds with an umbrella.  The ends of my spokes are at eye level on most other people.  I wonder, if someone turns suddenly and my spoke hits his eye, would I lose the lawsuit?


My daughter will be 34 next month, and I have as yet no grandchildren, and I'm starting to think that's ok.  I'm not sure I'd want a child to have to live up to the next generation's expectations.

Some of us are born with big noses, or small breasts, short legs, or flat or well-rounded behinds, teeth that are naturally less than sparkling white.  The "wrong" eye color or shape, or too high or too low a weight set-point.  Hair of the "wrong" texture or in the "wrong" places on our bodies.  As we grow older, our hair grays, or thins, or disappears altogether, our skin loosens, wrinkles, gets spotty, and that's natural and normal, but suddenly since it's no longer necessary, it's "wrong".

Somehow we've bought into someone else's definitions of "wrong".

With plastic surgery, botox, silicon injections, liposuction, teeth whitening and capping, laser treatments, contact lenses, hormone replacement and augmentation, growth hormones for children who aren't going to be "tall enough", waxing, dying, reshaping, hair removal and implantation, the whole panoply of products and services that Madison Avenue has convinced us we need, it will soon get to the point where a natural person will be accused of "not taking care of" herself or himself.  "With all she could do, why does she walk around looking like that?"  I can foresee people being offended by imperfection.  I can foresee people being shamed into "correction".

It's already normal for girls in their mid to late teens to get breast implants.  It's already normal for young women to expect their men to remove all their fur.  It's already normal for young men to be turned off by female pubic hair - somehow it is has become "unhygienic".  Everybody has to have perfect teeth.  Everybody will soon be expected to have thick long eyelashes.

Where did this attitude come from?  I know who's selling it, and I know why - because they have it to offer and want our money for it.  But why have we bought into it?  What happened to skepticism?   Remember when the fake existed, but the real was vastly preferred over fake, even if it was less perfect?  Remember when we sneered at fake breasts?  And now young women brag about getting them, and it seems like everyone wants them.

I'm afraid that by the time my grandchild grows up, all people would be all plastic, and all look alike (or like one of four prototypes).  There will be great pressure to conform.   Independent spirits who refuse to conform will be ostracized, and since the pressure will be mainly on children, teens, and young adults, resistance would only be at the expense of mental and social health.

But, I suspect the appearance of health will be much more important than actual health.

The latest is drugs to enhance mental abilities and awareness.  Drugs to help one stay awake and alert  longer without subsequent crashes.  Drugs that allow revolving shift work without the drag.  Drugs that improve memory.  Drugs that enhance mental speed and agility.  Right now most are prescription only, and are being used off-label.  But new drugs are being developed every day specifically for those purposes, and pretty soon they'll be available over (or under) the counter.  Advertising will make them seem needed.  You are not doing your best if you don't have them.  You'll have no choice when you're competing for grades, jobs, and opportunities against people who are using them.

I'm afraid my daughter's generation will be the last where natural appearance and abilities are valued.  Mine will be the last where natural aging is accepted.

Monday, September 28, 2009

2604 Science Club American

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction:  "My admiration for you has found new limits."

I love that!  The best part is that the person to whom you would say it probably won't get it.

While in the doctor's waiting room last Friday I picked up a Scientific American to peruse.  Jay'd had a subscription, which I had allowed to lapse after  he died, so I hadn't seen a copy in several years.

I was shocked! 

I am aware that everything, it seems, has been "dumbed down"**, but I never expected that the dumbing down of America would extend all the way to Scientific American.  It literally turned my stomach.  I hyperventilated.

S.A. used to be full of chemical and mathematical formulae, diagrams, and facts.  Now it's all puff pieces.  No depth, no detail, nothing esoteric.  It looks like they want to appeal to the people who read People in private, but who will pretend to read S.A. to look smart in public.

I Googled "Scientific American" dumbed and found several people who share my opinion and distress.  The magazine has new owners.  Articles that had once been written by the scientists who did the work are now written by staff writers, with a populist slant.  Welcome to the idiocracy, S.A.


**I don't like the use of "dumb" to mean "stupid".  "Dumb" means "cannot speak", and has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence.

2603 Moral questions

Monday, September 28, 2009

My mother (circa 1974): "If the Democrats are in, you get a war.
If the Republicans are in, you get a recession.
The only choice you have in the voting booth is whether you'd prefer to starve or get shot."

Until recently it was pretty true.

The old Princeton moral questions are turning up again, notably in a PBS lecture, and in an online legal discussion.  I first heard them a good twenty years ago, in a company seminar.  The two questions that you start with go like this:
1. You are driving a trolley car, and your brakes have given out.  You see five men working on the track ahead of you.  (Or in some versions you are standing next to a mechanical switch.)  If the trolley continues on the current path it will hit and kill the five men.  However, there is a side track ahead.  You can switch to that track, and spare the five men.  However, there is one man working on the side track, who would then be killed.
Do you switch to the side track or not, and why?
Almost everyone says they will switch tracks, because sacrificing one man is better than killing five, and they are very sure of their decision. It's rare to get a "no" here.
2.  Same runaway trolley and five workmen, except that you are now standing on a bridge over the track, between the trolley and the men.  Standing next to you is a stranger.  He is a big fat man, and he's leaning over the railing, so far that he is almost off balance.  It would take no more than a tap to send him over.  You can save the five men by pushing the fat man over the railing onto the tracks.  He will get hit and die, but he will also stop or derail the trolley, saving the five men.
Do you push the stranger or not, and why?
The situation is similar, in that it's one death against five.  And yet almost no one will push the stranger, for varied reasons, most of which boil down to having to actually touch him.  It's too overt an act.  It's rare to get a "yes", and most people don't want to associate with anyone who would answer "yes".  They will vociferously defend what they see as the difference between the two situations - "direct responsibility" versus "indirect responsibility".

Take a moment to decide what you would do, and why.

I'd answer "no" to the first question.  I would not switch tracks.

It's hard to explain, but it's kind of like "who am I to decide that the single man is of less importance than the five?"  Perhaps the one man would be mourned by a widow and six orphans, while all five men would be briefly mourned by only the town prostitutes, bookies, fences, and bartenders.  Who am I to judge the value of a life?  A simple one for five is not a valid comparison.  

Also, I'd figure that Fate had set the scenario up, and Fate had a purpose in mind.  I'd let Fate handle it, without meddling by me.  Besides, it was Fate that put me at the switch, knowing what I would do, so Fate already had it all planned out.

However, in the second scenario, I have to confess I'd be strongly tempted to push the stranger.  Not for any silly one-for-five justification, but out of simple curiosity and yielding to temptation.  As far as Fate is concerned, if the stranger were not meant to die, he'd land on top of the trolley and suffer no more than bruises. I probably wouldn't push him for the same reasons as for the first question.  He's already off balance, and if he were meant to fall he would without my help, but man, the temptation!  I might tap him just to see if that little tap was enough.

The moral of this story:  Don't stand next to me on an overpass.

2602 Rainy Sunday with garlic

Monday, September 28, 2009

We see the world not as it is, but as we are.


The above is so true.  We interpret the world not as it is, but as we expect it to be, which can reveal a lot about a person.  I often wonder if I can trust a person who is suspicious of the motives of others.  But I am very trusting, so knowing intellectually that perhaps I shouldn't trust someone does not result in my not trusting him.  Quite often the opposite, in fact.


I put in my volunteer hour at the Garlic Festival on Sunday.  I had been given a worker parking pass, which got me into the lot directly across from the grounds.  I think next time I'll know better than to use it.  If I'd parked in one of the far lots, I'd have walked only a short way, then taken a shuttle bus to the gates.  But in the "close" lot, I had to walk almost a half mile to the gate, which I wouldn't normally mind, except that it was raining.

There was a steady fine but heavy drizzle all day.  I heard the festival was very crowded on sunny Saturday.  This is the crowd on rainy Sunday:

I wondered why there were straw bales lined up in the middle of the promenade, and then realized that if they were not soaked, they'd have made great seats.

Most of the hundred or more tent booths were food or food related, and someone said all the food was required to use garlic in some way.  I actually saw garlic ice cream, chocolate covered garlic, and jars of garlic honey.  One aisle was all garlic farmers, selling fresh garlic, garlic plant sets, garlic decorated do-dads, and so on.  That aisle was pretty much deserted.  I guess it's all about food, eh?

There were some craft booths, too, and again the garlic theme was required.  Which meant that folks selling jewelry had a few sets of garlic bulb-shaped earrings among their usual wares.  (I suspect they bring back the exact same garlic items year after year.  Admission ticket.)

I bought some inexpensive but nice jewelry (not garlic-related), and a packable sunhat.