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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

In Defense of Voting Fraud

Indiana's recently-passed voter ID law, which I strongly support, is being challenged in the Supreme Court. Those who oppose the law brought out two older women, to try to show disparate impact for older Hoosiers. There's just one little problem.

One of the women is registered to vote in two different states.

Faye Buis-Ewing, a snowbird, probably did not vote twice, in two different locations. No, this situation has a monetary explanation. For a short time, she double-dipped on the state homestead tax exemptions. Being registered to vote was a requirement for claiming homestead status in Florida.

So, tell me, what is stopping a person like this from casting two ballots? Or, even if casting one ballot, choosing which one she wants to cast, based on where the vote is going to be more important?

(Via Don Surber)


Magic: the Delicious

Here, we have the results of a Magic: the Gathering Christmas cookie competition!

My favorite is the Nativity:

When Wolves Attack

A British Columbia hunting forum has an account of a wolf attack:

So, yesterday a friend an I took our families out sliding and ended up having a little more excitement than we had anticipated.

There we were having a good time......Rod was towing 3 of the kids (2 four yr olds and a 3 yr old) on a tobogan behind the quad, at the bottom of the hill. I was in the Argo with my 3 month old at the other end of the hill. Rods wife was warming up in the truck with there 2 yr old and my wife was at the top of the hill with our dog...........we had no idea that all hell was about to break loose.........

Two wolves appear out of nowere............and they are heading toward the kids dragging behind the quad.... at first I had no idea what was up, but I heard my wife start yelling. I look up at her and see the dog break out of her arms and start running like mad, diagonally down the hill toward the truck (the direction Rod was heading with the kids). Rod sees the wolves coming, just as he is getting close to the truck, he speeds up a little, but can't go too hard for fear that one of the kids might fall off. As he gets to the truck the wolves are about 20 feet from the kids, on the tobogan. Rod bolts back toward the kids, just as my dog "Shadow" intercepts the lead wolf. Teeth flash and the battle is started............

Fortunately, no humans were seriously hurt, and the dog is okay, too. Fortunately, the humans involved had guns.

Read the forum for the full story, including pictures.

Wild animals are dangerous, and represent a threat to humans at the fringes of civilization. But some humans are afraid to restrict these predators.

Some animal rights activists ask, what is it that really separates us from animals? Other than the Terminator reason (humans are self-aware), there's also this: Humans are the only species that will hurt themselves for the benefit of another species.

Found via the Actuarial Outpost, where the discussion is also interesting.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

One-Lakh Car

In India one lakh means 100,000, and Tata will sell the most basic version of its new car at 100,000 rupees, or $2,500 (not including taxes and the cost of transporting it to the showrooms). This is roughly half the price of its nearest rival, and little more than the cost of a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw. But the “NANO”, as the car is called, is no rickshaw. Apart from the fourth wheel and the doors, it has a 623cc engine that will muster 33 brake horsepower. The car should eke out 50 miles to the gallon, Mr Tata says. It complies with the “Euro III” pollution standards that prevail in India and should meet the tougher Euro IV standards with a bit of tweaking.

Liberals in Europe and America will probably be unhappy at seeing more people driving cars. But look at how people are often transported in India:

Commuting in India's cities can be both cosy and deadly. Children squeeze snugly between father at the handlebars of a motorcycle, while mother rides side-saddle at the back. This precarious balancing act, says Mr Tata was the “visual target” he had in mind when he first conceived of the need “to create another form of transport”. About 1,800 people die on Delhi's roads each year, perhaps one-third of them on two-wheelers. Only 5% die in cars. Tata's project may pose risks for investors, but it promises unaccustomed safety for its customers.

Traditionally, liberals see saving the environment as of utmost importance, while they enjoy the comforts and luxuries of the first world. For all those people at risk in the developing world? They're not as important, obviously.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Unintented consequences

Coyote Blog shows how our current focus on ethanol is destroying the Amazon rainforest.

Of course, the title isn't accurate, since as he pointed out,

I don't think one should be able to call this an unintended consequence of US biofuel and corn subsidies when 1) the results are utterly predictable and 2) folks like myself publicly predicted it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1 vs. 100 = 1,000,000

Just watched last Friday's episode of 1 vs. 100. It was billed as a battle of the sexes, with a female contestant playing against an all-male mob, and a male contestant playing against an all-female mob.

The female contestant, Katherine Kazorla, lost embarrassingly early, after saying 4 was a prime number. (Seriously?)

On the other hand, the male contestant, 21 year old Jason Luna, was the show's first $1 million winner!

I was surprised to see anyone win the top prize on that show. It has an all-or-nothing prize structure, the kind I hate to see in game shows. With the prospect of losing everything, instead of just dropping to $32,000 (as in Millionaire), you're foolish not to bow out at some point. Even though the show recently changed the prize structure, they still kept the all-or-nothing format.

In this recent episode, the contestant won because every member of the mob left at that point (15) answered the question wrong:

According to Hallmark, what is the biggest card-giving holiday of the year?

Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day

Is that question so hard? Were the women distracted by their own perception of the latter two holidays? Because think of it this way: ask any man if he's ever received a card for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Or, to look at it from the other end, you probably only send out one Mother's Day card (unless you have a blended family), one Valentine's Day card (unless you're a bigamist or adulterer), but any number of Christmas cards. How many people and families do you contact only once a year, with a Christmas card?

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

The writers' strike

Honest Partisan has a brief post on the writers' strike, and the money at stake.

I haven't commented on the writers' strike yet, but it seems like they're getting a raw deal. My understanding is that the studios are trying to deny writers revenues from online showings of their products, arguing that such online showings are merely "promotional." Funny, I bet the studios don't have so much equanimity about online content when it comes to piracy of it.

Of course, there is a clear and obvious difference between piracy and promotion. It's the difference between an intellectual property owner showcasing said a property in a medium like YouTube, and a random person doing it.

But on to the topic at hand. Online showings are obviously promotional in nature. To the extent they earn less than broadcasts, the foregone revenue is promotional. AOL probably pays a token amount, and revenue from hosting on the network's own site? Banner ads?

(Comic from Kevin and Kell)

Plus, it is the network who foots the expenses involved in coordinating the showing of online streams.

There's also the reality that the more revenue one expects, the more you want to charge for your intellectual property. If a series is struggling, you're more willing to accept promotion. If you don't know if the series will succeed or fail, you'll accept one price, but if it's a successful series, suddenly you want a lot mroe. Look at the problems in releasing DVDs of WKRP in Cincinnati with all its music intact.

There's a reason why the back side of a badge to attend GenCon or the like has legalese as follows:

In accepting this badge and in consideration for being admitted to the Event, the holder consents to being recorded (by audio and/or visual means) for exhibition and exploitation by any means in all media, including without limitation the Internet, worldwide in perpetuity. Holder also hereby: (1) releases Gen Con LLC from any liability for loss or damage to persons or property, infringement of any right, or any other claim or course of action of any kind; (2) authorizes and permits Gen Con LLC and its designees which include but is not limited to all sponsors, exhibitors and contractors to use and authorize the use of his/her name, voice, likeness, and all reproductions thereof by any means and in all media, now and hereafter known, including without limitation the Internet, for all purposes worldwide in perpetuity; and (3) agrees to comply with all the rules and regulations of the Event.


I suggest the entertainment industry could use a standard model. The total revenue stream can be divided up in percentages between the intellectual property owners (for a TV series, writers, actors, licensed music intellectual property owners, etc.) and the financial risktakers (the networks). It would be X% until fixed costs are met, then Y>X% afterwards. Each time a new revenue stream arises, the same calculations can done.

I think people would be shocked as to what the proper share for the networks would be under this model. Either their share, or the fixed cost duration, would be rather large, to account for the many failures. NBC made a lot from St. Elsewhere, but rather less from Manimal.

Of course, my proposal is a pipe dream until entertainment accounting is seriously reformed. Only government accounting is more screwed up. Sarbanes-Oxley clearly targeted the wrong industry.

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