2012-12-31

This is how I lose weight

This is how I lose (and maintain) weight.


Advantages:
  • If you stick to it, it works. Reliably.
  • Spreadsheet tells me when I can eat, how much I can eat, and how much protein I should get in the near future.
  • It helps me follow a nutrition plan where I eat 20 or more grams of protein in every 3 hour window, and 130-160 grams of protein every day. This means I actually lose fat, instead of muscle, and keep most of my muscle mass.

Disadvantages:
  • Requires an aptitude for numbers.
  • Requires food with nutritional information, and/or constant look-ups on a site like TheCalorieCounter.com.
  • Requires weighing most items you consume, i.e. all items where the nutritional information is not framed for a practical, reliable serving.
  • For meals consisting of multiple ingredients, requires a cook willing to weigh every single ingredient, as well as the end result.
  • Some exercise is still necessary. You don't get any protein while you sleep. Muscle will atrophy if unused.

I've been using this system for 6 years. It has evolved from pen and paper to the spreadsheet on the screenshot.

It's a demanding system. However, if you aren't genetically gifted, in my opinion it's the only way to reliably lose weight, short of surgery.

My natural appetite is high; I'm attracted to low protein food high in sugar. If I stop sticking to the system for a period of several months, I lose all sense of how much calories is what, and find myself eating servings double the size I should be.

If you want to lose weight, hit the gym, lift weights, build muscle, and stick to this system.

2012-12-20

AA sells impossible connection, blames gov't, declines responsibility

So I needed to go to St. Kitts, and purchased a return ticket on American Airlines from Costa Rica to St. Kitts, via Miami.

It turned out the return connection didn't have enough time to make it through immigration in Miami. I was not unusually held up in any way - I even ran from the airplane to immigration. It's just that the lines this time of year are so long, by the time I was through, I missed the connection to Costa Rica.

The surprising part is, American Airlines declined responsibility. "We have no control over immigration," they said. Yes, but you put millions of passengers through Miami every year. You know how long the lines are. Why do you sell tickets for connections which you know a person can't possibly make?

"We won't pay for your hotel if you were delayed at immigration," they said. But I wasn't delayed - not compared to any other passenger. I just went through the normal process.

"The connection time is legal, you had one and a half hours to get through immigration." What does that mean, legal? "It means that you had enough time." But I didn't have enough time. I went through the process I had to go. I even ran from the airplane to immigration. How could I have possibly done anything more?

"We spoke to the government numerous times, it's not our fault they don't have enough agents. It's always going to be like this when government is involved." But you sold me a ticket knowing full well how long the lines are going to be this time of year. And if your argument is that government is bad at planning, how come I needed to stand in line another hour, to have this conversation with you?

"Best we can do is a discounted rate at a shitty hotel so you pay $80. Also your next flight is 24 hours from now, and we will give you a discounted rate for only a day. You can also spend this time at the airport."

American Airlines. "Responsibility. We've heard of it."

2012-12-14

People will lie for no reason

People will lie for no reason, and keep it up for years:


The overall percentage of people who are driven to keep up a lie for no reason is probably small. But sadly, this needs to be considered every time we hear an anecdote.

"What possible motivation could they have to lie about it?", I would ask myself, when I would hear an incredible story.

Well, there you go. No motivation needed.

2012-12-13

Condominium for sale in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts

St. Kitts is a small, green, sunny island in the Caribbean. It's part of a two-island federation, St. Kitts and Nevis, located about an hour's flight east of Puerto Rico. The islands are an independent nation, part of the Eastern Caribbean Community, and part of the British Commonwealth.

We moved to St. Kitts in May 2007; we are originally from Slovenia. Living on the island has had its benefits and shortcomings. For my part, the shortcomings were largely outweighed by the warm, all-year-round sunny weather. I just love that about living on the island. My wife, however, prefers more of a city environment. After 5+ years on St. Kitts, we are looking to make a new home in Costa Rica, and to sell our condominium in St. Kitts.

Price

I'm looking for something in the range of USD 525,000. That's about $150k less than what it cost me 5 years ago, even before inflation, and less than its recent appraiser's valuation, which is $595 - $640k.

The reason I'm pricing it like that is, we used the Citizenship by Investment opportunity that came with buying the condominium. It is therefore no longer of interest to those who seek to invest to obtain a citizenship. However, it is of interest to buyers who would buy it for the place it is.

Location

The condominium is located in Frigate Bay, in one of the most attractive areas of the island, where many expatriates live, and most leisure activity takes place.

It is located 100 yards from the Atlantic beach, and 500 yards from the Caribbean beach. You can see the exact location on Google maps, here.

The development is 10 minutes by foot from the Marriott Resort, a nice hotel where you can find a spa, some shopping, a well-equipped gym, and a collection of restaurants. The Marriott golf course is right in front.

The Caribbean beach nearby has a promenade of open-air restaurants and bars where beach volleyball, water sports, and night life happen.

A neighborhood convenience store, a coffee shop, and several restaurants are within walking distance, 5 minutes away.

For bigger needs, the main town on the island, Basseterre, is 5 minutes away by car. A majority of the large stores on the island, from groceries to home improvement, are on the side of town that's easily accessible from Frigate Bay.

The international airport, with daily connections to Miami, neighboring islands, and elsewhere, is less than 10 minutes away.

Size and Layout

The condominium occupies the top two floors, 3 and 4, of a residential building that has 5 other condominiums sharing the same stairwell.

The condominium is rectangular in shape, with an inside floor area measuring about 55' x 30', totaling about 2870 square feet with both floors (265 square meters). There are additionally two balconies, one on each side of the building, bringing the total area to about 3500 square feet (325 square meters).

Downstairs, there is a large kitchen that extends into a large dining and living area, surrounded by 3 rooms, a utility room, and 2 bathrooms. There are views of both the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

The kitchen is Italian, by Aran, and has many cabinets, large working space, and an island. It is one of the nicest parts of the house.

Upstairs, there is a large living area, surrounded by 2 rooms and 1 bathroom. One of those rooms is our master bedroom, which includes a walk-in closet. The living area upstairs has a view of the Caribbean.

Infrastructure

The condominium has cable TV and internet access via The Cable, as well as a phone line and internet access via LIME. In our experience, internet access is reliable - surprisingly, better than in Costa Rica.

The electricity comes from SKELEC, the government electrical company. There are outages from time to time. Sometimes all is good for a few months, and sometimes the power is out every other day, a few hours at a time. I include a couple small generators with the unit; you could have a larger one installed.

All windows in the condominium have hurricane shutters, which are motorized, operated with a switch, and have a manual backup. By closing shutters, it is possible to make all rooms completely dark.

Every room has a separate air conditioning unit; if one fails, the rest can be kept air conditioned.

Photos

You can also find photos of St. Kitts I took in past years, here.

Access and parking:


Entrance stairwell:


Kitchen:


Stairs:


Upstairs living area:


Upstairs bedroom:


Upstairs bathroom:


One of the downstairs bedrooms:


One downstairs bathroom:


Other downstairs bathroom:


Utility room:


View from north balcony:



View from south balcony:

2012-11-15

The libertarian dream

To people like me, libertarianism is an attractive ideal. This is, to people who are self-motivated, who value reason, and who just want to live life without being bothered, and without bothering anyone else. This leads to a conviction that we need minimal government, that most everything possible needs to be private, and then it will be easy for everyone to take care of themselves.

The unfortunate thing about this ideal is that it assumes a world where everyone is like the libertarian. If we, indeed, had a world consisting of rational, well-meaning, capable, self-motivated people, libertarianism would be ideal. But we do not.

Instead, our world is chock full of people who fall short of this ideal, in ways that cause libertarianism to fail in practice. The instinctive reaction of libertarians is, why can't other people just become like that? Why can't they be capable, self-motivated, well-meaning, and rational? Why don't we just set up libertarian rules, and wait for people to adopt them? Surely people will improve, and things will evolve into harmony.

Except, most likely, they will not. Consider the following.

  • A large proportion of parents are incapable of teaching their children skills and habits they would need to be productive and self-sufficient members of society. If children of such parents are left to their own devices, they do not develop such skills, and then you have three options: (1) teach them at everyone else's expense, (2) imprison them at everyone else's expense, (3) kill them.

    Public education is necessary.
  •  
  • A large proportion of parents will teach their children irrational, usually religious, counter-freedom ideas. Combined with rule by majority, this will wreck a freedom-based society in the long run, unless society counters this tendency, by schooling the children.

    Public education needs to start at an early age, and must teach a pro-reason value system.
  •  
  • The IQ spectrum in humans is very broad. The brightest and the sharpest are many times more intelligent than those from the other end of the spectrum. Many of the brightest are well-meaning, while many others are happy to abuse their smarts for their own benefit at the expense of others, and can be considered selfishly evil. The large IQ discrepancy provides enormous quantities of people of whom to take advantage. The dull masses have nothing with which to defend themselves against the selfish smart, unless the well-meaning smart people step in.

    We need a government that can protect the stupid from the smart and evil.
  •  
  • The free market fails in some areas; specifically, medicine. When the wealthier part of the population is given the freedom to pay anything they want, for any medical service they want, this drives up the cost of medical services to such an extent that poorer people can't even afford preventive care. This leads to poor people more frequently developing serious problems, and then you have the following two options: (1) make everyone else pay to treat the now expensive problem, or (2) let the person die, losing everything valuable that person could have contributed if they lived. In the US, this predicament seems to happen a lot - simply because the poor are being priced out of access to preventive medicine.

    We can't allow the wealthier part of the population to price others out of access to preventive care needed to avoid problems that cost everyone more in the long run.

These are only a few problems that are most effectively solved through government; i.e., through restrictions of freedom.

There is much wrong with a bloated government. The US federal tax system now consists of 70,000+ pages. Other federal laws and regulations are similarly gargantuan. Such incredible bloat is untenable, and is a sign of bad governance running amok.

But that doesn't mean that government doesn't have a function and a place. Not every country is as dysfunctional as the US. The ideal is a state that ensures most of its people as many freedoms as possible, as long as they don't involve harming others. But this is much more complex than assumed by libertarianism, because the world is more complex than assumed; largely because most people don't, and can't, live up to the libertarian ideal.

In a lot of ways, libertarianism is "let them eat cake". It's smart people refusing an implied responsibility for people who aren't, and expecting they should "just be smart", instead.

2012-09-20

Letter to a friend

It took me a while. But, I finally came around to writing this letter to an acquaintance with significant economic power. Insignificant compared to the US President; but significant compared to mine.

The thoughts in this letter are very general. The questions could be addressed to any person of his class. So, I see no harm in publishing it. I'm interested in what people of power think of these questions.

 

[Dear powerful/influential friend:]

I'm wondering about your thoughts on life extension, artificial intelligence, human-machine integration, and the future of the human species (assuming there's going to be any).

I don't generally have this kind of conversation with people of your generation, largely because they seem to not be interested in this topic. Most people appear to assume that the way things have been for ourselves, our fathers and grandfathers are how things are going to continue, even in the face of compelling evidence that this is unlikely to be the case.

Chances are, humanity in 100 years is going to be very different from humanity today - if, indeed, it continues to exist. I think the future is going to be greatly influenced by some or all of the advances mentioned above:


(1) Life extension. Half a century ago, we only first discovered DNA. A decade ago, we came up with a process to fully read it. Work is currently ongoing to understand it. In future decades, we will learn to manipulate it.

To a great extent, our first and foremost enemy is, and has always been, nature. We live comfortably because we've largely tamed it. We did botch a lot of the taming, did it the easy way rather than the right way; through issues such as climate change, it's going to cost us. But, the taming of nature is why most humans are currently alive.

To a great extent, the foremost natural enemy we haven't yet overcome is our own fragile, vulnerable, quirky, haphazardly built bodies. Yes, life is a miracle, and so on and so forth, but ultimately, we don't die because we need to. We die because our bodies are deteriorating crap, and our challenge is to figure out how to fix them before we expire.

Chances are, in the next several decades, we will learn how to fix our bodies. We will learn how to stop aging, and how to stop most diseases, including cancer.

My concern is, not enough is being done to speed up this development. We will get there eventually, but I would like to still be alive when cures for these problems are discovered. Yet, most everyone, rich and poor, seems to be blithely unaware of this. Most people are happily committed to wasting their ONE chance to live essentially forever, by fixing their bodies during the paltry 70-90 years before they expire.

Our countries invest trillions into warfare, and even more trillions into treatments for mere symptoms - just shepherding the walking dead, failing to cure anything - all while investing almost NOTHING into research that would fix mortality. Somehow, this seems fine to everyone - walking towards an unnecessary grave as we placate ourselves with belief about non-existent afterlife.


(2) Artificial intelligence. A decade ago, IBM built a computer that crushed the world's foremost chess masters. Recently, they built a computer that understood questions in English, and crushed human competitors in Jeopardy. These are types of specific intelligence. A general artificial intelligence has so far evaded researchers.

Computers grow more powerful, however. The supercomputer that crushed humans in Jeopardy will be a tablet computer in a decade. Algorithms will improve, and general artificial intelligence will be reachable.

We should pray (to, sadly, non-existent deities) that human-machine integration, and our understanding of our DNA, progress faster than development of general AI. When the first AI is created, it will be the first entity in our recorded history with access to blueprints of its own creation. It will be able to improve on those blueprints. It will be able to create a yet smarter AI. The next generation AI will be able to do the same to its own blueprints, until, after several generations, an AI arises that will vastly exceed humanity in its intelligence. What the AI proceeds to do after that is beyond our knowing.

If this happens, humans may be eclipsed by the AI, like chimpanzees are eclipsed by humans. We should hope that we will be able to make ourselves smarter - through integration with machines, through manipulation of our DNA - to be able to compete with an AI when it arises.


(3) Human-machine integration. One could argue we've already progressed a fair bit in this regard. Search engines have become extensions of our thought process. Computers and gadgets have become the way we communicate. In the interest of improving our ability to solve our problems, live more fulfilling lives, and stay competitive as an intelligent life form, in the presence of a possible AI, we should be working to integrate our minds with technology further.

This research, of course, is receiving the same pittance, in terms of investment, as research into anti-aging. We will eventually get there, but with little thanks to governments and philantropists, who could make the research happen much faster.

Bill Gates spends his fortune postponing the deaths of some Africans to 70 instead of 7. At a cosmic scale, these are not the investments that need to be made. We're spending our fortune to buy a fish, instead of a fishing pole. We have the opportunity in our hands to live till we are millions of years old, to travel to the stars, to learn the deepest mysteries of the universe. Each passing minute, we're letting this opportunity slip between our fingers, till we die simply because we did nothing. Our species may be conquered by an AI like the chimps we are, or the world might be conquered by people who were smart enough to invest into the problems that matter.


You're older than me; you have a bit less of a chance to see all this happen. But the chance is there. I know you try to live a healthy lifestyle, so you aren't planning on dying any time soon. Meanwhile, the number of discoveries in each decade will keep rising. We may well be able to extend lives in a couple of decades, and make people youthful not long after. If you live until 90, you might perhaps also live until 90 million. If that happens, most of your existence will be, from our current perspective, enhanced beyond recognition. Most of your experience might be as what we would now consider a demi-god.

Those are the stakes on the table.

My question is - have you considered this?

You are acquainted with a fair number of fairly influential people. Have they considered this? Is anyone thinking of this seriously?

Because evidence suggests that they have not.

Why are people whose main purpose in life seems to be to get ahead, not investing into possible immortality?

2012-09-19

There must always be... a Lich King

After having contemplated religion for a couple decades, I've come to a tentative conclusion about religion and the state. This conclusion may sound surprising.

I'll put it like this:
  • I'm atheist.
  • I think the overall effects of faith are harmful.
  • Separation of church and state makes the problem worse.
This is not to say I want religion to run countries. Not at all. Quite the opposite.

In order to control irrational and fundamentalist tendencies, countries have to run their religions.

Consider the following graphic:




Out of 11 countries in this graphic where support for evolution is over 75%, the following have, or have until recently had, a state religion:

CountryChurchOfficial Until
IcelandLutheran Evangelical Churchcontinuing
DenmarkChurch of Denmark (Lutheran)continuing
SwedenChurch of Sweden (Lutheran)2000
EnglandChurch of England (Anglican)continuing
NorwayChurch of Norway (Lutheran)2012

One could possibly also count the following as relatively recent departures:

ItalyRoman Catholic Church1984
SpainRoman Catholic Church1978

Altogether, from six to eight countries out of eleven with the highest support for evolution have recently had an official state religion; three of them continue to have one.

Contrast this with the United States, where there hasn't been an official state religion since colonial times. Yet, in this most advanced post-industrial economy, support for evolution is at a lackluster 50%, or worse.

Some years ago, in Warcraft, there was a villain named Arthas Menethil. He was a human prince from Lordaeron, who journeyed north to lead a war against the undead scourge. In the process, he was corrupted by the leader of the undead, the Lich King Ner'Zhul. He became a death knight in his service, returned to Lordaeron with an undead army, slew his father - the human king - and eventually fused with Ner'Zhul, becoming the new Lich King.

In World of Warcraft, a group of players defeats this Lich King - Arthas, at which point the ghost of Arthas's father warns about the following:

Terenas Menethil II:

Without its master's command, the restless Scourge will become an even greater threat to this world.

Control must be maintained. There must always be... a Lich King.

Or, for a shorter version:





In the most successful cases - in the countries enumerated above - a state religion can be the control that's needed.

State religion can also be very harmful. In the case of oppressive theocracies, such as Iran, religion is everywhere. No one can escape the Supreme Leader's doctrines. There can be no dancing, no music, and no playing most video games, either.

However, in many successful countries, a state religion contributes to checks and balances that can keep religious people reasonably sane, and prevent fundamentalism from running rampant. There's an "official insanity", a relatively mild one, which prevents more harmful insanities from taking root.

The US, with its separation of church and state, has no such checks and balances. Separation prevents the state from reigning in religion. But religious voters, and their leaders, are free to exert control over the state. Extremist religious beliefs in the US are rampant, and represent a mighty and destructive force in politics.

Over the past 60 years, the situation in the US has become worse in this regard, not better. In the past 12 years, religious extremism has played a crucial role in events that are coming closer and closer to destroying the country, and have inflicted damage on the world.

Being religious is a form of willful partial insanity. People who are partially insane need guidance from people who appear religious, and might well be, but are also responsible and sane. Without such guidance, they receive it from people who are not. Insanity runs rampant, until it becomes a threat to peace, prosperity, and progress.

That's what's happening to the US. Religious sentiment is being used by the selfish and unscrupulous as a political tool, with devastating consequences. Meanwhile, separation of church and state is preventing sane, responsible people from acting.

2012-09-05

7.6 earthquake in Costa Rica

Damn this earthquake! My shower gel fell off the windowsill. Fortunately, my shampoo was unaffected.

Seriously, though - our building shook a lot. It was pretty scary. We're grateful to the scientists, engineers and construction crews whose work allowed us to survive this with (so far) no visible damage. If we lived in Haiti, we would not have been so fortunate.

Thank you.

2012-08-06

Monogamy and polyamory in our culture

I know people who are innately polyamorous, and people who are innately monogamous.

The innately polyamorous people don't feel like they can be restricted to one partner, but they don't feel the need to restrict their partners either.

The innately monogamous people can't imagine their partner being with others, but they don't feel the slightest desire to be with others, either.

I believe, however, that many people - perhaps most - are neither the former or the latter, but are, instead, born hypocrites. We would like to screw around, but we don't want the same freedom for our partner.

Our education, therefore, needs to consist either of:

(A) reinforcing the idea that we shouldn't screw around because we don't want our partner to do so - therefore, monogamy;

or,

(B) reinforcing the idea that, since we want to screw around, our partner should be able to, as well - therefore, polyamory.

The thing is that neither approach works best for all people.

The innately monogamous have no desire to screw around. They only ever want one partner. So option A is natural for them, and forcing them into option B is awkward.

The innately polyamorous don't want to limit themselves, and have no desire to limit their partner. They're totally fine with freedom for everyone. So option B is natural for them, and forcing them into option A is awkward.

For the rest of us, however - who are born between the two extremes - I think it would be much better to coax us into option B, rather than option A. It's more constructive, and subject to less potential disaster.

What if monogamy wasn't default?

I think it's a tragedy that our society tries to encourage option A as the default, rather than option B. If we grew up with polyamory as default, that would encourage more fulfilling relationships, and a more developed ability to handle relationships, for most people.

In response to this, I've seen arguments that option B is too complicated for the average person to deal with; that it's easier for most people to stifle their own desires, rather than accept the desires of their partner.

But I would argue that:
  • This difficulty is perceived only because monogamy is the cultural default. What's pervasive in the environment always comes easier.
  • What's easier: making yourself into something you're not; or accepting a person the way they are? Isn't stifling your desires more of a violation of your identity, and more unrealistic to expect, than accepting someone else's?
  • If you fail at stifling your desires, or never intended to in the first place, this is much easier to hide than if you fail at accepting your partner's.
Reality has a way of confronting us with situations, and many can't handle them, because their whole lives have been built on avoiding that type of situation. Every divorce that happens because someone cheated - not because the partners agreed they're best off not remaining together - is a catastrophic failure brought about because we have monogamy as the cultural default.

Which is the real extreme requirement?

Consensual non-monogamy tends to be considered as something out of the ordinary; something that weird, unusual people do. There's also the perception that non-monogamy implies people who are extremely promiscuous.

There are, indeed, some people who have many different partners on a regular basis. However, I would argue that they are dwarfed by the number of people who engage in serial monogamy, without admitting they're promiscuous.

There are also people who have successful, simultaneous, committed relationships with two or three others - and no more.

However, many people who are consensually non-monogamous are in couples; and for many, non-monogamy means nothing more than one or two adventures in a year. If you're in a couple like that, of every 100 times you have intercourse, some 98-99 will be with your partner; and perhaps 1 or 2 will be with someone else.

Which is more extreme to expect of your partner? That they have sex with you a majority of the time? Or that they have sex only with you, 100% of the time, ever?

How many more relationships would last if it were more commonly accepted that, sometimes - perhaps a small percentage of the time - it's reasonable for a person to have sex with someone else; without having to hide it, and lie?

What if polyamory was the norm?

This is hard to imagine so long as monogamy is so pervasive. But there are parts of our lives where being poly is already the norm.

Take friendship, for example. Suppose you take friend A to lunch one day. The next day, friend A is occupied with work, so you take friend B to a stroll in the park. There's no sex or romance involved; suppose you're all hetero and the same gender.

Suppose, then, that friend A throws a tantrum about you going out with friend B. He says things like "you disrespect me in the worst way possible" - not because he has an issue with friend B specifically, but because you chose to spend time with someone else. He says what you should do instead is be alone, as a sign of respect for your relationship with A, when friend A was working.

Is it not reasonable to say that most people, given this situation, would assume that friend A has some serious issues, and needs to see a psychiatrist?

We don't tolerate this type of behavior from non-romantic, non-sexual friends. Yet, when it comes to romance and sex, we suddenly tolerate all sorts of psychopathic tendencies. We tolerate it because everyone does, because it's considered normal.

But is it normal, really? Is it sane?

2012-07-26

Study finds fluoride in water is neurotoxic, lowers IQ

Alarming and very important news. Apparently, fluoride in water is neurotoxic, and lowers IQ. Children, unborn children, and heavy water drinkers may be among the most affected.

Other studies have previously found that IQs of breastfed babies are 10 points higher on average than IQs of newborns fed formula milk. Could neurotoxicity of fluoride in tap water, mixed with formula, be another factor in that?

Harvard Study Finds Fluoride Lowers IQ


[...]

After reviewing fluoride toxicological data, the NRC reported in 2006, "It's apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain."

Choi's team writes, "Fluoride readily crosses the placenta. Fluoride exposure to the developing brain, which is much more susceptible to injury caused by toxicants than is the mature brain, may possibly lead to damage of a permanent nature."

Fluoride accumulates in the body. Even low doses are harmful to babies, the thyroid, kidney patients and heavy water-drinkers. There are even doubts about fluoridation's effectiveness. New York City Legislation is pending to stop fluoridation. Many communities have already stopped.

Infant formula when mixed with fluoridated water delivers 100-200 times more fluoride than breastmilk.
Update: arguments on Reddit point out that:
  • this is a press release merely being conveyed by Reuters, who disclaims responsibility for the content;
  • the study is flawed because it "relies almost exclusively on Chinese studies of fluorosis in high-fluoride areas", and "Asian drinking water is often extensively contaminated with fluoride concentrations above 4 mg/L". In contrast, "civil fluoridation is optimally .6-1.2 mg/L - the high levels in the study were 2.5 to 7 times that".
I'm not sure about you, but a safety margin of only a factor of 3.5 does not inspire me with confidence. If the margin is this low, it's easy to drink enough water to exceed the "safe" intake, and put you firmly in the fluoride intake levels of those populations where the study found children had lower IQs.

It's also easy to occasionally dump enough fluoride in the water to exceed the safe values. I've had water with an obvious severe overdose of fluoride in first world cities such as Miami and Vegas.

(I have a sensitivity to fluoride, which is why I use a non-fluoride toothpaste. When there's a lot of fluoride, I notice. In these cases, the water stank of it, and I felt the same adverse effects as from fluoride toothpaste.)

2012-07-23

Surrogacy should be more common

Consider this.

Pregnancy and childbirth involves unavoidable and irreversible aesthetic damage to the mother's body. Some people argue this is not "damage", but "change", and that it's "natural", and therefore ought to be appreciated.

I believe there's nothing about "natural" that necessarily implies "desirable", and that these changes to the mother's body are about as equally desirable as disease and death.

In addition, childbirth involves a good chance of functional damage:

Fifteen percent of women become incontinent, to some degree, of stool or
urine after normal delivery, this number rising considerably after these
women reach menopause. Vaginal birth injury is a necessary, but not
sufficient, cause of all non hysterectomy related prolapse in later life.

You can avoid functional damage by opting for a Caesarean Section, and you can mitigate some of the aesthetic impact through plastic surgery. But this is risky, and is inferior to avoiding the damage altogether. Abdominoplasty has a 5% complication rate, including a chance of lethal blood clots. Even in the optimal outcome, results involve large scars. And bolted-on boobs usually don't look right.

Depending on how you looked before, naked, you may look better after all these procedures. But if you looked great before, you're not likely to look as good. Not to mention the risks of the surgery going wrong.

Many women suffer during pregnancy, experiencing nausea, depression, or an inability to take prescription medication which they need for normal functioning. Some women, however, have few problems, or no problems at all. Their pregnancies are easy, and they experience no complications during labor.

Currently, most jurisdictions require a doctor to certify a "medical necessity" in order to use a surrogate mother.

But wouldn't it make sense for women who have already given birth, and have not experienced problems, to be surrogates for those who haven't?

The risks of functional damage are lower for someone who has already given birth, than they are for someone who has not. The aesthetic impact is also lower for someone who has already accepted changes related to pregnancy in previous child births.

Surrogates are compensated, of course. In the US, they receive between USD 20,000 and USD 50,000 for each pregnancy.

So why require a medical necessity, when both parties are willing, and it makes sense to assign the pregnancy to someone who has already done it?

2012-07-07

The doghouse: Cabletica

If you find yourself in Costa Rica, looking for a home internet provider - pick ICE.

I signed up for internet with both ICE (the phone company) and Cabletica (cable), because I want a backup connection in case the primary is down.

The ICE technician arrived the next day, installed the phone line, installed the modem, and everything worked.

But Cabletica... oh boy.
  • The Cabletica technician first came around a few days after ICE (the companies were contacted at the same time).
  • When Cabletica first came around, there wasn't a computer or a TV in the apartment, so they said they can't install, because they have no way of testing the connection. Apparently, the company doesn't entrust their technicians with equipment they need to test.
  • When Cabletica came around the second time, the technician messed with the phone cables for no reason, disabling our ICE connection temporarily. The modem had to be restarted twice to bring the ICE connection back online.
  • The Cabletica technician left us a modem and an activation code. Before he left, he said I should use the activation code in a browser when the modem gets a connection.
  • Once the modem was online, trying to activate using the provided activation code resulted in an error. At the time of this writing, it still doesn't work.
  • Our landlord contacted Cabletica several times for us. A technician was supposed to visit us again, but didn't.
  • Cabletica said they would call us, but didn't.
  • I sent Cabletica an email, but so far, all I got was an automated reply.
  • Cabletica pointed us to their online chat function on their website - which I was only able to access because we have a working connection from ICE. I tried accessing the chat function on two separate days mid-day (11 am and 1 pm, respectively). Both times, I was told no operators were available, and I should try again "during working hours".
To summarize - Cabletica is a mess. In addition, I was told by people who use it that they've recently experienced as much as 12 hours of uninterrupted down time.

Except strictly as a backup connection, I wouldn't recommend Cabletica to anyone.

2012-06-14

Lessons from games

I recently exchanged thoughts about World War II with a pacifist - someone who believes the deaths from the atomic bombs could have been avoided through negotiation. (Typical of people with nebulous idealism, he also said that everyone with a different opinion is a monster, and should never have public office.)

At this point, I realized an important lesson I learned in player vs. player games.

Someone who has won and lost many matches against other players knows that, in war, every hesitation is an advantage to the opponent, means more losses for your side, and a smaller chance of victory. You can afford to be infinitely patient only if you are infinitely strong. When the stakes are high and your advantage marginal, you must act decisively. Hesitation is commitment to failure, and is very hard to recover from. The penalty is death.

2012-06-12

Well put.

This is all that needs to be said.

2012-06-06

"You can never repay all the interest"

The upside of commenting on Reddit is that, every once in a while, you get an insightful reply.

A common complaint about our monetary and banking systems is that "you can never repay all the interest".

The argument goes like this.

Suppose you have a barter society, and someone - representing a central bank - introduces money. But he doesn't just give people money; instead, he loans it. He loans a total of 100 pieces to everyone, at 5% annual interest. The community starts using money to trade, it's convenient, and everyone is happy. But then, after a year, the money issuer comes back, and asks everyone to repay him the money. The total amount due is 105 pieces, but there's only 100 pieces to go around. Someone won't be able to repay. The system forces someone to go bankrupt!

Except, not. The system doesn't force everyone to return all the money all at once, and the same money can be used over and over again to repay debts and interest. Here's an example from Reddit user "selven":
Imagine a 2-person world with just me and a bank, and we're also each other's employers. Only $100 cash exists in the world, at the start all owned by the bank. I want to upgrade my farm equipment, so I borrow $100 from the bank. I have $100, the bank has $0, I'm $100 in debt, with 1% interest owed every month. Now, I go and actually buy said farm equipment from the bank. I have $0, the bank has $100, I'm $100 in debt. Now, let's say that I want to renovate my farm some more. I take out another $100 loan and buy the goods, so I have $0, the bank has $100 and I'm $200 in debt.

What do I do now? I work for the bank. Let's say that I'm not expecting returns for many years, so for now every year I'll just pay interest. I sell my goods for the bank. I go sell him some of the fruit that my farm produces and get paid $2 for it. I immediately pay $2 back in interest. Next month, same thing. Sell fruit, get $2, pay interest, lose $2. Let's say that this happens for ten years, and then my farm finally gets more productive and I pay off the loan. What just happened is that I took out a $200 loan and paid $200 principal and $240 interest all on a $100 money supply. How is this possible? Because the same money circulates between the two of us alternately as payment for goods and as interest many times. The real world is an expansion of this two-person farmer and banker, where the employers and customers and banks are different people, but the same principle applies, just more indirectly.

Extinction risk: Mad scientists

I came across this captivating article about a teenager who attempted to build a nuclear breeder reactor in the vicinity of Detroit. The most fascinating part of the story is how far he got, with very few resources other than ingenuity, determination, and a complete disregard for safety.

As technology progresses, this is our major extinction risk.

In the 1990s, this kid was able to obtain dangerous quantities of radioactive materials by laboriously extracting small amounts from readily available equipment.

In several more decades, some similarly ingenious, short-sighted kid is going to synthesize a virus that ends up killing most humans. Not because he intends that result, but in a blind attempt to do good, or to compensate for social maladjustment by showing off his prowess.

Our Earth is a single system where everything is interrelated. A monkey could destroy the planet if she knew what actions to take, and what order to perform them in. Increasingly, our knowledge is bringing us closer to the point where a single person, or group, will be able to connect the dots and unleash the destruction. People with both the brilliance to give them the ability, and the maladjustment to give them the will, may be few and far between; but it's only going to take that one person in 10 billion.

I wrote about this back in 2006, and years before that. We need self-sustaining colonies in space so that a mishap in one ecosystem doesn't end up killing us all.

2012-05-13

If you're ever in Vegas, looking for entertainment...

... think at least twice before you see the Blue Man Group.

I hereby submit some of the worst money I've ever spent on entertainment:


First of all, this show is expensive. It's going to cost you $75 per person for an obstructed view. That's sort of in line with other shows in Vegas, perhaps a bit pricier. But that brings me to my second point:

It's not comparable to other shows in Vegas.

You're going to have a better time going to a movie theater. You don't even have to check what movie is playing. If you're in Vegas, just buy tickets to any movie playing at Rave Motion Pictures Town Square, and you're going to have a better time. Guaranteed. Unless the movie is Jack & Jill. And perhaps even then, maybe.

If you don't feel compelled to see Blue Man Group:
  • You could use the same money to see ten movies with your mate.
  • You could have a more than delicious dinner for two at Sushi Samba.
  • You could take your significant other to Spearmint Rhino, and have 5 lap dances, each.
  • You could bet it all on roulette and maybe double your money. Even if you lose, you still win - by not having to endure the Blue Man Group.
All of these would be better uses for $250.

Let me put it yet another way:
  • I've seen the Penn & Teller show in Rio twice. If someone gave me tickets, I would go see it again. Penn & Teller are genius.
  • I've seen Mystère at TI. If someone gave me tickets, I would go see it again. Mystère is a showcase of human athleticism in performance.
  • I've seen Zumanity at New York, New York. If someone gave me tickets, I would go see it again. It's trashy and crude and not as good as Mystère; but hey, free show.
  • If someone gave me tickets to Blue Man Group, I would bail.
  • In fact, if someone paid me $100 to see Blue Man group again, I would bail.
  • I would maybe see Blue Man Group again for $1,000. But I'm not sure about that.

If you do feel compelled to see the Blue Man Group, then let me go ahead and tell you what you're going to witness.
  • You're going to see 3 guys wearing blue latex pretend they're stupid while beating melodies on cheap plastic pipe instruments, usually accompanied with a rock band.
  • The most sophisticated talent you're going to see in the entire performance will be a guy catching thrown marshmallows with his mouth. He catches approximately 75%, and attempts to play it off when he doesn't.
  • The music isn't that good, and the performance isn't impressive.
  • There are no feats of athleticism that you might see in Cirque du Soleil.
  • There are no impressive sleights of hand, nor witty comedy you might expect from Penn & Teller. The performers don't attempt any difficult tricks. What they do attempt is cheap and easy, and they are slightly clumsy. They don't speak.
  • Not most, but all of the comedy comes from the blue guys looking at everything like they're stupid, attempting to imitate autism on stage.
  • While there are laughs to be had from silent comedy based on actions and movements, this show doesn't provide many. To be fun to watch, performers would have to be fast, precise, and unpredictable. But they're slow, clumsy and boring.
  • For most of the show, you're going to sit there and expect that whatever is going on - for example, blue guys strutting around, peering absentmindedly into the audience - is a clever setup for some gag. Time after time, it will peter out and transform into something unrelated, but stupid.
  • Parts of the show are dominated by uncomfortably bright strobe lights that make it painful to keep your eyes open. The good part is that not much is happening, so you don't have to watch.
  • The grand finale of the show consists of extremely long rolls of white toilet paper being unrolled from the ceiling onto the audience in the back. The audience is expected to pass the bulky unrolled toilet paper onto the people in front of them, who continue to pass it on until all of the toilet paper is picked up from the front row. There is no point to it, and it's not a setup for a gag. The gag is that you're helping convey unrolled toilet paper.

We did observe that some people enjoyed the show. Their enthusiasm escalated markedly after the final act of passing toilet paper down the rows.

We think you're going to enjoy this show if you're the following type of person:
  • You enjoy people pretending to be stupid, and silently looking dumb.
  • You have a strong crowd instinct, so that any group activity, such as passing toilet paper over your head, makes you happy.
  • You enter the theater while drunk or stoned.

Which brings me to...


This is probably the first show ever where I was compelled to go back to the ticket box to complain about the quality of the show. It went something like this - from memory:

Me:Well... I just got out of this performance, and I have to say that... "disappointed"... would be an understatement.
Salesman:I'm sorry to hear that.
Me:I understand you don't offer refunds for people who want to change tickets or miss the show, but - I'm wondering if you offer refunds in case of complaints about the quality of the show. Such as, the show being really, really bad.
Salesman:We don't offer any such refunds, no. Can I see your tickets?
Me:Here you go.
Salesman:If you just saw this show, why do your tickets still have the stubs?
Me:They just scanned them. The bar code here. They didn't take the stubs.
Salesman:Oh, I see.
Me:So, are there any refunds for people who are very disappointed with the show?
Salesman:Did you stay in the theater until the end?
Me:Sigh... Yes. I kept hoping it would get better. But it only got worse.
Salesman:Well, since you saw the show in its entirety, we can't give you a refund, no.
Me:I see. You know - I don't even want a refund to save money. It's to make a point. This show is so bad - you should put a warning on it.
Salesman:[shrugs]

And so went my $250.

Why is Blue Man Group so bad?


Blue Man Group shows every sign of being a corporate show: built to make money first, and entertain second, rather than than the other way around.

Can you name anyone whose reputation is tied to whether this is a good show?

I can't think of a single person. Performers are intentionally anonymous. The blue latex makes the three main performers indistinguishable from replacements. Their roles are designed to not require special talents or abilities - athletic or otherwise. The main roles of the show are designed for performers who are easily replaceable; just the opposite of superstars, who are expensive, talented, and irreplaceable.

The background of the show consists of one or two dozen musicians, who have even less identity, and are even more expendable. The stage is cheap. The props consist of paint, marshmallows, and lots of recycled paper.

This show is built like a Toyota. It's reliable, it's reproducible, and it consists of cheap parts. It's not inspired; it's not stunning.

And that's fine. It's okay to be cheap, reliable, and reproducible, if you're passing the savings to the consumer. I.e., you would expect the tickets to be $10.

What you don't expect is to see a show like this, and pay for it like it's the pinnacle of entertainment, in one of the best known hotels in a city renowned for its entertainment.

The Blue Man Group, as presented at the Venetian, is like a regular Big Mac, produced by regular minimum wage employees, served in a regular fast food environment, stiff chairs and plastic trays and all; but sold at the price of a gourmet Kobe Beef steak in a high-end restaurant.

The only quality this show has is that it's profitable - at the expense of guests who expect that a $100 show at the Venetian might actually contain something worth seeing.

2012-05-10

Economic woes of the US middle and low classes

My previous post was about religion and its scary effects on a powerful democracy such as the US. However, I started the post by saying good things about the US economic system. This attracted some comments, pointing out the growing income inequality in the US, the unemployment and the lack of income growth for middle and low classes.

I'm not decided on whether that trend is as grim as commonly assumed. For the time being, I think it's plausible to say that employee wages aren't growing, because employees have to compete with products and services provided by developing countries. That's harsh on US employees because they live in a first world country with first world costs, but they have to compete with third world workers who live on third world costs.

From a global perspective, someone who earns a minimum wage of $7.50 per hour, or whatever it is, is still vastly overpaid compared to a Chinese guy earning a few dollars a day. The only competitive advantage of the American person is that he's living in the US, not in China. He doesn't work harder or smarter, he just benefits from being born in the US.

Over time, this situation will normalize such that the Chinese will be richer. Their incomes are growing fast, and will catch up with the developed world. Then, they will no longer exert downward pressure on wages in the US and elsewhere.

The situation in the meanwhile is that those who can benefit from the new markets, can benefit tremendously. Those who can offer a globally attractive competitive advantage, those whose talents are in scarce supply, are rewarded richly. But those who don't have a competitive advantage suffer stagnating wages. That sucks for employees in the US, and elsewhere, who want wages that are globally high, but can't offer commensurate value, other than that they were born there. But on the other hand, the process is a boon for hundreds of millions of Chinese, and other truly poor people in developing nations, whose incomes are growing fast, and lifting them out of poverty for the first time in history.

Overall, US workers have had it great in the decades since WW2, and their standard of living improved to much higher levels than the standard of living of most people on Earth. Now it's time to let the rest of the world play catch up. That, of course, is the part that hurts.

2012-05-09

Yes, we are afraid

Let me tell you a few facts, some of them scary.

The United States is the world's largest economy according to nominal GDP. It's the world's largest democracy, and by far, the world's largest military force. It is capable of destroying the world many times over, but it thinks of itself as the world's protector; a beacon of prosperity, democracy, and liberty.

To a large extent, the US is those things. US citizens are prosperous, not because the country would sit on an abundance of natural resources, sell them to the rest of the world, and do nothing else; but because the country employs an economic system its participants can depend upon - a system that emphasizes honesty, consistency, dependability, and responsibility. As opposed to many places, the US system creates an environment where risk-taking is possible, and rewarded generously. The result has been a prosperous economy that makes even poor US people richer than middle-income people in many countries.

The US is also relatively free. It might not be, socially, the free-est country anywhere in the world; but it's up there. It's large enough, and free enough, that if you dislike social mores in your environment, you can move across the continent to a state that's more to your liking.

The US has issues on which there's polarizing public discourse; such as the role of money in politics, military adventurism, the health care system, and others.

But what I want to talk about is this.


Evolution is the only accepted scientific theory about how humans came to be. It implies that human biological lineage is hundreds of millions of years old, and dates back to very simple organisms in ancient oceans. Its main opponent is the creationist hypothesis, which implies that the Universe was created as recently as 6,000 years ago. This hypothesis is believed largely by people who subscribe to an Abrahamic religion, and is spread mainly by them.

Now, religion specializes in claims that are unverifiable on purpose. But over time, the domain of science expands, and it becomes possible to disprove some religious claims. Religious beliefs are benign as long as they remain restricted to claims that can't be verified. But the problem is, they don't remain so restricted. The inclination towards blind faith is harmful when it encourages belief in claims that have been conclusively disproved.

The problem, then, is that up to 60% of the US population are being incapacitated by religion to such an extent that they reject, or do not accept, one of the most important bodies of scientific knowledge, backed by mountains of empirical evidence, which anyone who sets their mind to it can validate and reproduce.

So why is this worrying?

Well, it's worrying because it's a departure from reality; and when the human mind departs from reality, reality does not follow with it. When your behavior and expectations are at odds with how nature works, you're going to be surprised in all sorts of unexpected and undesirable ways. The people who believe these things also believe in restrictive social mores which are not founded in evidence, make little to no sense, and tend to punish draconically for harmless transgressions.

When a plurality, perhaps even the majority, of population are this unreasonable, the very fact that they have voting control over the world's largest democracy, it's largest economy, and it's largest military, is worrying.

In United Arab Emirates, today, kissing in a taxi can get you a year in prison. The US is already not far from that. Possession of a harmless plant lands you in jail. Many people with largely innocent transgressions are being added to sex offender registries for life. Religion is the main uniting force through which this intolerance spreads, and disbelief in evolution is the dead canary in the coal mine.

Religious belief is not harmless. Reasonable people need to fight against it, or else that's the end of liberty, for everyone.

2012-05-02

WoW: Solving the Blizzard raid frame problem

If you play World of Warcraft as a healer, and you use the default Blizzard raid frames that were introduced in Cataclysm, you may have experienced a common problem where the raid frames become corrupted.

This problem manifests in the following ways: whenever a person enters or leaves the raid or battleground; or when anything else happens that would cause the frames to rearrange; some or all of the frames stop functioning correctly. The names on frames no longer properly correspond to the players these frames target. A single player's name may appear on multiple frames, but only one of those frames actually targets the right person.

The reason this problem occurs is because of an unfortunate and subtle interaction between Blizzard raid frames and third-party add-ons. The default raid frames expect to execute with privileges that WoW reserves only for trusted, Blizzard-provided UI code. When the frames work correctly, the buttons that correspond to individual players will adjust when a person enters or exits the raid while you're in combat. This in-combat adjustment of frames is a feature that's available only to trusted, Blizzard-provided code, but is not available to third-party add-ons.

Before the ability to move frames while in combat was removed from third-party add-ons, there were healing add-ons which sorted raid frames automatically by health percentage. This made it possible to heal with relative effectiveness by just repeatedly clicking the same button, which made manual healing boring, and made it easy to fully automate healing.

So how do the raid frames stop working?

Since secure code and insecure code in WoW can interact, Blizzard implements a "tainting" mechanism, which tracks how the insecure code is executed, and may cause a previously secure component to be labeled "insecure" if it is influenced, even in a very subtle manner, by code that is insecure. This, in a nutshell, is how the raid frames stop working. Another add-on - quite frequently an add-on that's completely unrelated to raid frames - causes the raid frames to become "tainted". This, in turn, causes WoW to start treating raid frames as insecure code, which means that the raid frames can no longer adjust while in combat. When the code that implements the raid frames tries to adjust to a person entering or leaving, the internal WoW security mechanisms prevent that from working properly, and the raid frames end up being corrupted.

If you're like me, you run WoW with something like 15 different add-ons. You're willing to give up some of them, but not others. So how do you determine which add-on is causing the problem?

Fortunately, there's an easy way. Create a macro with the following contents:

/run print(issecurevariable("CompactRaidFrame1"))

Give it a name like "Taint", and bind it to a key so you can execute it easily, at any time.

When you execute this macro, it will print to your chat log either the following:

1 nil

indicating that the raid frames are secure and untainted; or, it will output the following:

nil NameOfAddOn

indicating that the raid frames are tainted, and the listed add-on was involved.

Not all the add-ons involved in the tainting will be shown at once. However, the name of one add-on is enough to disable it, and then you can repeat the process until your raid frames are no longer being corrupted.

In my case, using WoW patch 4.3.4.15595, the offending add-on was Altoholic, and its component, DataStore. In your case, the offending add-on might be something different.

2012-04-25

The fallacy of cheap foreign aid

I watched the video to Sarah McLachlan's World on Fire - a nice, likeable song. The video makes claims such as the following:
  • "$150,000 could make a difference to over 1,000,000 people"
  • "$200 [pays for a] Production Assistant in LA for 1 day, or 100 children's school fees for 1 term in Ethiopia"
  • "$10,200 = 2 hours of film stock, or 6 wells built in 6 different countries"
I will trust Sarah McLachlan that these claims are technically correct - "the best kind of correct".

The problem with these statements is that they stop being correct when applied at a meaningful scale.

I would hazard a guess that a well would cost a lot more than $1,700 to build, if you build it in the US.

In the US, $2 is obviously not enough to pay for a child's school fees for one term, regardless of how poor the quality.

The reason these costs are "lower" in places like Ethiopia is not because it takes less work to do them. In fact, building a well, or providing education, may well require more work in Ethiopia, than it does in the US.

The reason the costs seem "lower" is that the US dollar has tremendous purchasing power there. However, the only reason the US dollar has such purchasing power is because they have access to few of them.

When you send a gift of US dollars to a person to Ethiopia, you are blessing that person with a token of exchange, which they can use to obtain services from other people in Ethiopia; they can command local work that would otherwise be used for something else.

When you send an Ethiopian 10 US dollars, you are not, somehow, magically, sending to that country assistance that would be worth $10,000 in the US. You are only sending foreign aid that's worth those same $10. However, because US dollars in Ethiopia are scarce, the recipient can use them to command the local economy to redirect local goods and services disproportionately to him, instead of to people who would otherwise receive them. He can outcompete other local people with his 10 US dollars.

What would happen, then, if every person in North America and Europe sent 10 US dollars to Ethiopia?

If that happened, Ethiopia would be flooded with about $10 billion US dollars, which is about 1/3 of their recent annual GDP.

With such an infusion of US dollars, the local value of a USD would plummet. Ethiopia has 83 million people; assuming no immigration, the work force available locally would remain the same. If the US dollars were distributed across the population uniformly, expenses like school fees would jump in price radically. The country as a whole would be able to use the money to import $10 billion worth of material goods. But those $10 billion wouldn't buy a single bit more imported goods than they can buy in the US or Europe.

Arguments like in Sarah McLachlan's video are a fallacy, because the only reason $2 pays for 1 term of schooling in Ethiopia is because scarce US dollars act as an economic lever which redirects consumption from one set of poor people to another set of poor people.

On balance, sending them $2 isn't help in any way substantially greater than what $2 would buy in a developed country.

If we wanted to help all of them, it would cost us dearly. It cannot be done cheaply in any way. The world population is over 7 billion, and the world GDP is $63 trillion. If we distributed that equally to every person, everyone would get USD 750 per month. If this money was spread globally, a dollar wouldn't buy a single iota more elsewhere, than it does in the US.

2012-03-03

On feminism

I recently observed the following conversation:

Muslim Female: I have nothing whatsoever against gays, but I do despise feminists.
Other Person: So you believe that women are inherently inferior to men? That's a fascinating thing for me to try to understand; that people would willingly regard themselves as inferior. I just can't comprehend that attitude.

Of course she didn't think women are inferior to men, and she explained so.

However, one way of looking at it is that males and females are biologically different. Women menstruate and carry children; men do not. There are consequences that arise from these small biological differences.

For example, some households may prefer for one parent to stay at home. Given the biology, it may be more convenient for that person to be female.

In today's western societies, both men and women are expected to work full time jobs. Unfortunately, this leaves families scarcely better off today, than they were in the 1950s.

When families have dual incomes, they can afford to pay more for housing. Since housing is largely a competitive good, the price of housing has grown, inflation-adjusted, in tandem with women entering the work force. It has grown over time by about a factor of two. What used to be an advantage - a family having two incomes could afford more - is now a necessity: both parents have to work in order to keep food on the table. Few people can afford to stay at home all day to take care of the house, and watch over the kids.

While the liberation of women who wish to pursue jobs and careers is welcome from a humanistic standpoint, this may be an example of how something that starts out as an optional opportunity for some, ends up being compulsory for everyone.

Feminism has largely destroyed the traditional model of a male provider, female housekeeper that many, many people - not just men - were comfortable with, and regret losing.

If you're a woman who cherishes her career, that's great.

If you're in one of the many middle income families where the mother must work full time to help pay a mortgage, even though she'd rather stay at home and take care of the home and kids, it's not so great.

Stay-at-home moms have become a luxury of the well-off.

2012-01-30

UPS Delivery Fail

I live in St. Kitts, in the Caribbean. I usually prefer to send and receive packages using FedEx, because I've never seen them fail.

A month ago, I ordered a package which was sent by UPS. The package's due day arrives. I check its status using online tracking: it says they attempted delivery, but no one was present.

We were, in fact, at home. We live in a condo building with the number clearly marked. The address was correct on the package. No one knocked, at all.

So I jump into my car and head to the local UPS office. I find the delivery guy right there with my package. He says he didn't deliver because the shipper didn't put my phone number on the package, and he found our building complex "too confusing".

Our building complex isn't confusing. FedEx has no problem finding our condo, and always knocks on our door. The guy just didn't feel like putting in the effort to find our condo, at all.