Monday, January 31, 2005

Morality versus Income

Now that slavery is universally seen as a bad thing, enslaving the poor is going to have to be done on the sly.

SBC to Purchase AT&T for $16 billion

My employer is being purchased. I'm sure today will be one of the lowest productivity days of the whole year while everyone runs around worried for their job.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Google Video

It's still in beta, but Google has unveiled Google Video, which allows you to search the closed captioning text from TV shows. Imagine being able to read an entire show that you've missed! Right now, it only gives you snippets of text surrounding the word or phrase you searched for, but if properly embraced, this could become a very powerful alternative to sitting in front of the TV for hours. Now you can just sit in front of the computer and read for hours instead.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Taxation without Ability

Everything You Know About Taxes is Wrong

This article is an interview with a journalist who has some rather important things to say about America's tax code. It appeared in my local free newspaper, City Pages, which keeps me entertained and somewhat informed every Wednesday.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Did you know...

That the distance between the North and South poles is only 7900 miles if you travel through the center of the Earth?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Metro Area Fun

Last Saturday, I took my first ride on the LRT to the Mall of America. The route finally opened all the way to the mall in December. Even though it was a Saturday night, the trains were only two cars long, which meant almost half of the riders had to stand. There was time when I'd vist the mall on a weekly basis, but now it's more like every few months. I rode Timberland Twister, which is a great rollercoaster that always keeps you guessing as to which way your car is going to dive.

On Sunday, I visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. You can check out some of the pictures I took there. It amazes me that admission to their main collection is free, and you only have to pay for special exhibits. I spent three and a half hours there and only got about halfway through. My interests tend toward the ancient Chinese and Indian rooms, and sculpture more than paintings. I guess the modern European stuff is more familiar. I had a similar experience at the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York, where the room with Thai sculptures really made an impression on me.

Riding the LRT and the Timberland Twister and visiting the MIA are activities that I had been meaning to try, but never got around to doing before. I decided to try to do something new around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area each week.

LRT - 2 stars - too crowded, and not very fast
Timberland Twister - 3 stars - fun, but costs nearly $5 for one ride
MIA - 4 stars - free, and chock full of beauty and history

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Marriage and Kids

The third and final rant from my Writing class:

People often say the greatest days of their lives are their wedding days and the days their children were born. There is an attitude that the right way to live life is to grow up, get married and have kids. Any deviation from this path is seen as selfish, a result of poor planning or something to be pitied. The prevailing assumption that everyone wants to get married and that most people want kids is just not true. Marriage and kids are not for everyone, and even if you want one of them, you don’t necessarily want them both.

I love spending time with the children of my friends and family, but I don’t want any of my own. I am busy enough without having to take care of another person. I enjoy being able to do things on the spur of the moment and the freedom from responsibility that I experience by not having children of my own. Constantly taking care of another human being is a huge responsibility and takes a lot of energy. I choose to put my energy into bettering the world in other ways.

Not having children is beneficial to the planet, since there are far too many people in the world already. I don’t want to be responsible for adding to the excessive population. Estimates of the world’s population in my lifetime are as high as 9 billion people! Where exactly are we going to put them all, Antarctica? Seriously, we are running out of room and resources and we don’t even have 7 billion people yet. Our effect on this planet is not limited to our own over-consumption, but includes the consumption of our progeny as well.

The pressure that society puts on its twenty-something members to have children can actually result in a bad parent-child relationship. Consider those who don’t have a strong desire for children but are socialized to believe that it’s the right thing to do. They may have children and be neglectful because they never really wanted them to begin with. Lack of desire can equal lack of concern. In a more extreme situation, they may even end up resenting the children because of the things they had to sacrifice in order to raise them. Unwanted or resented children will often grow up to be a blight on society.

Speaking of society and its well being, let’s look at the divorce rate in America. I have heard recently that it hovers around fifty percent and also that such a figure is overstated. I am not against marriage, far from it, but it is not the ideal situation for every person. Many a divorce has occurred because the couple got married too quickly or felt outside pressure to just find someone and settle down, already. Divorces can have a high cost to both parties involved both financially and emotionally. While pairing off and procreation are necessities for a species as a whole, they are not necessary for every individual. It is wrong to make people feel as if they are required to have kids or that it is selfish not to have them. There are other valid contributions that people make to the world. Examples of people who contributed to the world and yet never had children include Jesus Christ, Plato, and Frida Kahlo.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Top Ten of 2004

Aviator, The
Before Sunset
Garden State
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Incredibles, The
Motorcycle Diaries, The

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Again, a rant/writing assignment:

America has an ever widening-wealth gap in which a family of four with two incomes cannot always afford to buy a house. The costs of things like education, health care and housing are increasing at a rate that outpaces inflation and wage increases. Americans see wealth as an accomplishment and afford more privilege and opportunity to the rich simply because of their wealth.

Contrary to popular belief, America is not a meritocracy. People are not always rewarded according to their talents and how hard they work. There is so much built into the socio-economic structure of our society that keeps the “wrong kind of people” from getting ahead, or even being able to earn a decent living. Discrimination is big part of this system. People like to think that racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are all in the past. They even hold up examples of minorities that have been successful and hold positions of power. They do not notice the multitudes of poor people of color that are forced to live in dangerous housing projects and afforded little opportunity for a better life. They do not notice the woman that is looked over for the promotion because she’s not part of the Good Ol Boys’ club. They do not notice the immigrant that is branded a terrorist out of fear and misunderstanding. They do not notice the disabled man that isn’t able to get a job or even run his errands due to lack of mass transportation in his city.

Wealth often brings about power, which in turn brings about even more wealth. It’s a classic case of the rich getting richer. When a family can’t even earn enough to make ends meet, they certainly don’t have money left over to put into savings. They are not able to purchase a house or help finance their children’s education. This is where the poor get poorer. Compound interest works for those who have money and against those who don’t. This trend carries over into the next generation. Wealthy people leave their excess to their children, who have already grown up with privileges, while the poor have not been able to send their kids to college and have no savings for their own retirement, much less anything to pass on to their children.

There are many obstacles to obtaining wealth and there are also many ways that people obtain wealth they did not rightfully earn. When you take these two ideas together, it becomes ridiculous to judge a person’s intrinsic value based on their net worth. Celebrities are a prime example of people judged superior to the average citizen because of their wealth. Some would argue they usually have talent that sets them apart, but I beg to differ. The number of people famous because of their parents is growing by the week, i.e. Paris and Nicole. Most celebrities do have acting or musical ability, but something else happened to catapult them from being the good singer or great chef into celebrity status. They got paid a ridiculous amount of money to star in a movie or they opened a chain of restaurants that are the height of popularity. Most of the time, they had rich parents to support them while they went to acting school and then spent years auditioning, or they were able to ask a wealthy family member to finance their first album as well as the promotion necessary to become a well-known recording artist.

The effects of such a wealth-obsessed society are many. When people think that everyone with money is a worthy person, it follows that those without money are lacking in skills, talent or morality. People get caught up in the trap of believing that they must provide luxuries for themselves and their families, and that they are bad people if they can’t make the money required to do that. This leads to epidemics of low self-esteem and even depression among the working class, which puts them even further behind the elite. All of this adds up to a society where the few people that are lucky enough to be wealthy are looked up to by the masses of people that aren’t that lucky. Children get the wrong message as they grow up and see how much easier life is when your parents have money and/or power. Unconsciously, they begin to place an inordinate value on wealth just like those around them and the cycle continues.

When a society becomes competitive instead of cooperative, some people get left behind. It gets harder and harder for them to catch up, since few people will take the time to stop and help someone when they feel they are losing the race as well. It seems to me there will become a time when the race will not become worth running if too many people are unable to reach the finish line.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Did you know...

That retailers report more than $800 million of missing carts in the U.S. alone each year?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Coin Operated Boy - Dresden Dolls

This one has many layers of meaning:

coin operated boy
sitting on the shelf he is just a toy
but I turn him on and he comes to life
automatic joy
that is why I want a coin operated boy

made of plastic and elastic
he is rugged and long-lasting
who could ever ever ask for more
love without complications galore
many shapes and weights to choose from
I will never leave my bedroom
I will never cry at night again
wrap my arms around him and pretend....

coin operated boy
all the other real ones that I destroy
cannot hold a candle to my new boy and i'll
never let him go and I'll never be alone
not with my coin operated boy......

this bridge was written to make you feel smittener
with my sad picture of girl getting bitterer
can you extract me from my plastic fantasy
I didn't think so but I'm still convinceable
will you persist even after I bet you
a billion dollars that I'll never love you
will you persist even after I kiss you
goodbye for the last time
will you keep on trying to prove it?
I'm dying to lose it...
I want it
I want you
I want a coin operated boy.

and if I had a star to wish on
for my life I can't imagine
any flesh and blood could be his match
I can even take him in the bath

coin operated boy
he may not be real experienced with girls
but I know he feels like a boy should feel
isn't that the point that is why I want a
coin operated boy
with his pretty coin operated voice
saying that he loves me that he's thinking of me
straight and to the point
that is why I want
a coin operated boy.

copyright 2002 amanda palmer

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Game of Life

The following is one of the papers I wrote for my Writing class this past summer. They all fall under the category of Rantings.

This paper had a different introduction, but it is essentially life lessons I wish I could teach everyone:

Know who you are both physically and mentally, which will enable you to behave properly and avoid danger. You need an abiding knowledge of your mind and personality and the ways in which they affect your life. Self-knowledge is essential to making important life choices, such as career or marriage. The best way of getting to know yourself is to spend time in solitude. People enjoy different amounts of alone time, but you must be comfortable enough with your own thoughts to spend time alone. It’s easy to get caught up in the roles we take on when others are around, so it is useful to step outside those roles for a short time. Being able to spend time alone implies maturity, as Einstein once said, “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.”

While comfort with being alone is necessary, you must also learn to work as part of a team. In working with others, you learn to deal with problems and that differing points of view can both be correct. The strengths of some members can make up for the weaknesses of others. It is important that all team members exert the right amount of influence on the team. So while there may be a leader, all members still need to have input and decision-making ability.

Cultivate the discipline to set meaningful goals and the creativity and resourcefulness to find a way to reach those goals. When you set, strive for and reach a goal, you have not only accomplished what you set out to do, but gained some pride and self-assuredness along the way.
Keep your common sense, street smarts and critical thinking skills in shape. All the factual knowledge in the world is not useful unless it can be applied to the real world and used to solve problems. We have computers to calculate, record and sort information for us. We need people to utilize this information in new and innovative ways. Being able to think this way will help you discern what you can believe and what you should skeptical about.

Know that you are self-reliant and have an independent sense of responsibility. Being able to take care of yourself and maintain your own household is remarkably empowering. Knowing that you don’t have to rely on someone else to take care of you will prevent you from having to compromise your self-worth or values to keep the relationship intact.

Appreciate the accomplishments of others. It’s almost the opposite of jealousy, which puts us at odds with another person because they have something we do not. If we can step back and realize they are successful for many different reasons, it’s easy to see how we can reach success as well. Luck, skill and determination all play a part in accomplishment, although many people see just one of these as the reason that others are more successful.

Respect those with other points of view and tolerate people who are profoundly different from you. People often feel threatened by those who are different because they see them as competition, or they think only one way, race or religion can be the right way. There is no need to compete with everyone, since someone else’s gain is not always your loss. For the most part, we have evolved beyond ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and live in a semi-cooperative society.

Find and nurture your creative abilities and also your sense of humor, especially if it is unique. These are some of the most diverse qualities of the Earth’s population. Some of the most highly prized items in the world come from someone’s creativity, sense of humor or both.

Have the humility to recognize your own weaknesses and room for growth. Humility is often underrated or misinterpreted as a weakness. Actually, it is the stronger person who can recognize their flaws, because only then can true improvement begin. Posturing and intimidation work well in the animal kingdom, but not when dealing with people. Humility is also the lack of selfishness, realizing that there is a greater good to be served than oneself.

I suppose we all have life lessons we wish we could impart to others. But usually, people can’t learn a meaningful lesson without having a difficult experience themselves.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Grown-Up Version of Legos

They're called PixelBlocks. "The unique shape allows PixelBlocks to be connected in three versatile ways that enable you to build effortlessly in 2-D or 3-D." And check out the rest of Think Geek while you're there.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Eat your veggies, and your fish, too!

Because red meat causes cancer. But you already knew that.
"Colette Heimowitz, vice president of education and research at Atkins Nutritionals, says low-carb diets don't have to include a lot of red meat. Many low-carb dieters opt for poultry, fish, nuts and tofu instead of beef. To reduce the risk of cancer, she recommends that dieters choose hormone-free meat that has not been charred."

A $330 million Demolition Derby

Around 30 minutes ago, NASA launched Deep Impact, a spacecraft that carries an impactor and a telescope. It is scheduled to meet up with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4th and smash a hole in it to examine the comet's insides. Yahoo News has more.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


I saw the first disc of Firefly, with the Pilot episode, The Train Job and Bushwhacked. I'm no Joss Whedon fan, but this series is great so far. It's wonderful that FOX saw fit to cancel it mid-season. At least there is a movie coming out.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Idle Chatter

I eat my cereal with chocolate milk on it, which is apparently sick and wrong to some people.

I work downtown and it gets so windy outside my building that it sometimes looks like it's snowing upwards.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I Resolve...

To keep a list of all movies I see this year.
To read more and post reviews of all books that I read this year.
To get more organized and stay on top of the mundane details of life.
To travel more this year.
To post more often and look into new blogging software.
To get my Explorer working or reinstall Windows.
To clean my desk at work and both my work and home computers.

These are just the ones I feel like sharing.