Monday, March 26, 2007

Turning Kids Into Communists

We promise to share. We promise to care. All together as a team!!!

Same agitprop, different kids' show (The Doodlebops).

There's nothing compassionate about creating wholesale dependencies...

And there's nothing funny about the corporate sponsorship of statism.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Greg Mankiw Disemboweled

I can't believe it took me a month to come across this gem.

Here is the link.

81,000 hits and counting.

Rich ≠ Smart

For you mathematically illiterate, that title means "rich does not equal smart".

I grew up in a working class family. My mother taught high school and my father worked for the State of Massachusetts as a social worker.

Conceptions of wealth are always relative. As a child I didn't think I was poor probably because a third of my classmates lived in housing projects. A friend of mine once told me that his dad earned seventy grand per year (1992); from my parochial perspective, his family was "rich".

Since I've entered the real world, worked for a living, and traveled more broadly, my understanding of wealth has naturally evolved.

But for more than half of my life, I didn't know any really wealthy people, so I could only presume what they were like.

I always figured that rich people were smart and educated (and had class). They had to be, right? Where else could the money come from?

Boy, has my experience disabused me of that notion! I have seen so many Morons swimming in money that I have been tempted to conclude that rich people are categorically stupid. (I am not quite there).

Here is today's example:

A friend of my wife's recently sent out an email announcement that her husband had gotten a new job out-of-state, he was starting very soon, and they'd obviously be selling the house that they paid $1.3 million for just last year.

By chance, my wife happens to have a co-worker looking to buy a house in that very neighborhood. She put 2 and 2 together and emails her friend,

I know somebody looking to buy in your neighborhood. Can I give him your phone number or have you email him some pics. This way you might be able to save the real estate commission...

My wife's friend responded thusly to the kind gesture,

...well, we are going to list it with a broker in two weeks.

My wife was absolutely flabbergasted. Why wouldn't her friend want to circumvent a broker, if possible, and save a 5%-6% real estate commission? On a $1.3 million dollar house, that is anywhere from $65,000 to $78,000.

That's not funny money. It's cold hard cash. It's equity from post tax dollars. For a top tax bracket earner, that would be like losing near 150k worth of gross income.

On the other hand, I was not surprised one bit. In my limited interaction with this particular friend, I found out that she buys "organic" foods and religiously watches The View. Case closed - Automatic Moron, with the only question as to what degree.

This young lady grew up very wealthy; her dad was a big shot on Wall Street. Furthermore, her husband makes some healthy coin himself. Obviously, she doesn't understand the slightest thing about real estate or money.

For a brief moment, my wife and I thought about calling her and her husband up and explaining why they should try to sell the house on their own, if only for two weeks. But we immediately withdrew that consideration, not just because they are Marginal friends, but because fools like them totally deserved to be separated from their money.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Jurassic Butterfly Effect

Technically, the butterfly effect describes an outcome or process that is highly sensitive to initial conditions.

Metaphorically, it's been sold as a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia and causing a tornado here in the United States.

(Actually, there's also a pretty decent movie titled The Butterfly Effect, starring that mimbo Ashton Kutcher.)

The Jurassic Butterfly Effect is when one of your older relatives or friends does one little stupid or idiosyncratic thing that spirals into a much larger drama or crisis.

Take this weekend for example. I have been trying for years to persuade my parents to do numerous life-enhancing, labor-saving things: get an electronic transponder to pay auto tolls, get broadband internet (that took years), actually turn their cell phones on, get caller ID, get call-waiting,...

For a while now, I have been trying to get my parents to ante up the $9 per month for a DVR. They won't even contemplate it because, "The cable bill is already too high". That's it. There's not even a superficial consideration of weighing the tiny cost versus the considerable benefits.

So Friday, the weather forecast couldn't have been clearer. Massachusetts was going to have a lot of snow then it would turn to sleet and ice late at night and continue through the early morning. So twice that night, I went out and shoveled/snowplowed my driveway. Regular snow is easy to manage; icy snow is not.

Meanwhile, my father is sitting at his house watching the NCAA basketball games. Without a DVR, he was disinclined to step away from the TV and make a dent in his snow-filled driveway. The games ended around midnight, so he went to bed.

It just so happens that I had to drive out to my parents' house the next day. So after I spend all of ten minutes pushing the residual icy slush off my driveway, I ventured out to see my folks. As I pull up, I find my father at the end of his very large, unshoveled driveway.

CaptiousNut - Dad, why aren't you using the snowblower?

Dad - It broke.

CaptiousNut - How did it break?

Dad - [incoherent mumbling]

CaptiousNut - HOW DID IT BREAK?

Dad - [more incoherent mumbling]

I looked down, there was at least a foot of snow clear across his driveway; there was an inch of ice on top of it; and of course there were a couple of feet of compacted snow at the edge from the city's street snowplow. The snowblower broke because my father tried to use it on a mound of slushy, compacted, and ice-crusted snow.

My Dad has lived in this horrible state for over sixty years. He knows the drill. You clear the snow when it's light and fluffy - before the wet stuff. Wet snow of that magnitude is a disaster even when it doesn't break a snowblower. It's so heavy that each scoop of the shovel can only handle 6 inches of depth; it's really hard to throw the white stuff; AND the snow annoyingly sticks to the shovel. One has to bang it against a tree or something to release the slush.

So after clearing my own driveway (albeit the night before) and trekking the 50 miles out to my parents' house, I had to spend almost two hours helping my father dig out their extremely large driveway in my sneakers. My fragile back was shot two minutes into the drudgery.

In this case, the butterfly wing-flap is the boneheaded DVR cheapness. Not only would a mere $9 per month have enhanced their television viewing, it would have spared the $700 snowblower, not to mention both my physical and mental health (the real tornado).

My otherwise wonderful parents also have to bear in mind that the next time I am bringing their grandchildren out for a visit, if it snows the night before, I'll probably find some excuse to cancel the trip.

The Jurassic Butterfly Effect is a brilliant societal insight (if I do say so myself). I doubt there's ever been a meeting within my peerage, where the conversation hasn't turned to a narrative starting with, "You wouldn't believe what my Moronic parents did the other day..." Conforming to the theory, one little snowball always sets off an avalanche of inanity. During these sessions, nods of empathy abound; and most definitely someone will succeed in one-upping the story with a yarn of their own.

Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish could also pass as a title befitting this post but I prefer the fossil bashing angle.

My most recent indictment of the jurassic, Marginalizing Reflexive 'Old Coots', was a big driver of web traffic to my site.

I may have found my elusive niche!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Marginalizing Reflexive 'Old Coots'

As predicted, six inches (now nine) of snow have fallen today here in Boston - so what did every 'old' person in the Northeast do last night?

Well, they ran out and bought milk, bread, and eggs of course!

If you have never lived up here, you're probably not acquainted with this phenomenon. Every time snow is forecasted, everyone over the age of sixty dashes out to the supermarket to buy milk, bread, and eggs. I should have brought my camera last night to the store because I could have taken a pic of a completely empty bread isle. It looked like it had been looted by a bunch of high-carb dieting Katrina victims. Nonetheless, I found this illustrative pic on the web,

From whence did this custom emerge?

Apparently it was from the Blizzard of '78.

From Wikipedia,

The Blizzard of '78 eventually gave birth to a tradition in Southern New England known as the "bread and milk runs". This was because when frantic people went to the supermarket, all the bread and milk that the markets had were gone in a flash. Thus, some of the injuries incurred because there was a shortage of bread and milk.[citation needed] In one situation, a plane had to carry supplies of milk to Providence College because all the roads to Providence College (which also services Rhode Island College and La Salle Academy, a Catholic high school in the vicinity) were blocked by the snowfall. After the Blizzard of '78, it became a custom in regions of Massachusetts and Rhode Island that whenever a severe storm approached, such as a hurricane or a blizzard, most Bay Staters and Rhode Islanders jammed supermarkets to buy bread and milk, while the markets tried to keep up with demand.

God forbid we go a couple of days without milk, bread, and eggs!!!

Could we not just drink water and eat Spaghetti'Os for a day or two?

One issue I take with the Wiki entry is that the "bread and milk" run is not limited to Southern New England. I regularly saw decimated bread aisles when I lived in Center City, Philadelphia. Also my mother-in-law in New York needs to be counted among the afflicted; in fact her unapologetic bread run last night was the catalyst for this very post.

It's bad enough having to listen to weathermen hyperventilate about every impending snowstorm; as if March 2007 was the first time humanity was ever dealt a few snowflakes. These robotic, Pavlovian shopping trips only aggravate the inane alarmism. Guess what they are going to be eating all week?

French toast!!!

If the supermarkets were savvy, for each storm, they'd move a maple syrup display right next to the dairy or bread aisle.

Running to the store before a storm doesn't automatically make one a two-digit IQ-ed Moron, but it minimally exposes a person as a slave to custom and/or groupthink. It's been almost three decades since the Blizzard of 1978. Fifty-four deaths were blamed on that storm but I'll wager that since then, over the course of thirty years, even more people have died in car accidents on "bread and milk" runs.

Phenomena like this always remind me of what Seve Ballesteros said of his mother.

Seve, who has made millions playing professional golf, lamented that his poor mother, "...still lived in the past. All she does is run around the house turning lights off."

Devil's Advocate - Why are you always picking on the older folk; or as you call them 'fossils' and 'old coots'?

First of all, I Marginalize plenty of dumb kids as well. So you DA, and the hypersensitive dinosaurs need to relax.

Secondly, I have to pander to my base.

I know. Soon enough I too will become a jurassic old coot; my learning curve will inflect; and I'll also mutate into an incorrigible creature of habit.

But until then, I've got some Marginalizing to do.


After conversing with several geriatric members of my family, they all proudly confirmed that their "milk, bread, and eggs" runs have been a tradition since they were kids (1940s and 50s) So, as I suspected, Wikipedia is wrong in stating that the Blizzard of 1978 birthed the inanity.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Delray Beach Anecdotage

I took my family down to balmy Florida last week to visit friends.

We were talking about illegal immigration briefly and my wife proclaimed that she wouldn't want to have a business that was levered to illegal labor because obviously, any crackdown would imperil the business. A friend of ours responded,

I wouldn't worry about that ever happening in this country...

[his company employs around 150 people]

When our supervisor hands out the paychecks, he'll yell out "JOSE RODRIGUEZ",

They'll be no answer.


[no answer]


[no answer]


And finally some guy will remember that is his alias and come up and grab the check.

Furthermore, this is what the government does. They notify us that we are employing too many illegals. We ask, who are they? Which ones? We'll get rid of them all. But they won't even tell us the names. Apparently, there's some vague quota system on how many you can employ.

I also ran into some guy on the beach, a loosely connected friend-of-a-friend.

CaptiousNut - What do you do down here?

Guy - I am a prosecutor for the Palm Beach County District Attorney.

CaptiousNut - So was that you guys that hassled Rush Limbaugh over his Viagra?

Guy - Yeah. [giggle, giggle] That was us. That was a lot of fun. [giggle, giggle]

CaptiousNut - I don't know. You guys don't check the pills of every rock star and celebrity that flies down here. What you did to Limbaugh is prosecutorial abuse.

Guy - [silence]

If you don't know the background on Limbaugh and Viagra, click here. The crux is that Palm Beach politicians (read: District Attorney's office) harassed Limbaugh at the airport and leaked it immediately to the press to embarrass the guy - simply because they don't like him. Palm Beach County is, let's just say, by no means a bastion of conservative Republicans. I could be wrong, but it seems more like a locus of extremely wealthy, Democrats from New York. Every single person we met was a displaced or vacationing New Yorker.

I really hate talking about what others refer to as "politics" but it's become increasingly clear to me that today's Democratic Party is really anchored by the richest people around. Just list all of the wealth centers of the country: Manhattan, Boston, Malibu, Beverly Hills, the Hamptons, Palm Beach County, etc - they are all Democratic enclaves.

Forget the BS politics. In this Rush Limbaugh incident, I am not defending a thrice-divorced, drug-addicted, pervert; I am defending the rule of law. This is what I should have said to the giggling Palm Beach prosecutor,

"How would you like it if one day you drive through some rural town, grapple with a local, and then have some corrupt sheriff or prosecutor hold your feet to the coals on a contrived or trumped up charge?"

I didn't say it, because I had just met the guy not five minutes beforehand; also because I was on vacation. Anyway, that is the type of line I save for more opportune moments. I would ideally unleash it on him in a larger group of mixed company to maximize his embarrassment. I don't believe in the persuasion of willful idiots; I opt to Marginalize them both for sport and to enhance society.

In another, more virtuous world, selective application of the law would make prosecutors shudder, not giggle.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Excuses, Excuses...

Sorry about the dearth of posts lately. My landlord just told us he would not renew our lease this summer so we've been scrambling to find our new home.

Yes, I have been looking at homes to buy but before anyone calls me a hypocrite, bear in mind two things. One, my wife has a say in where we live. And two, we haven't bought anything yet!!!

She is sick of moving and so am I. It will be my fourth move in six years.

If it were completely up to me, I'd have already signed a lease on a nice beach house that I found in Quincy (view pictured above)...

Speaking of the beach, I am about to jump on a plane to Florida so my blog hiatus isn't over. Maybe I will go back to Tramonti; that post has actually directed a ton of traffic to my blog.

Of course I have a post almost ready to publish, titled Marginalizing My Landlord.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It's Not Just A Trend?

Here's an excerpt I just read from Will Durant's The Story of Civilization - Our Oriental Heritage,

If the sense of beauty is not strong in primitive society it may be because the lack of delay between sexual desire and fulfillment gives no time for that imaginative enhancement of the object which makes so much of the object’s beauty. Primitive man seldom thinks of selecting women because of what we should call their beauty; he thinks rather of their usefulness, and never dreams of rejecting a strong-armed bride because of her ugliness. The Indian chief, being asked which of his wives was loveliest, apologized for never having thought of the matter. “Their faces,” he said, with the mature wisdom of a Franklin, “might be more or less handsome, but in other respects women are all the same.” Where a sense of beauty is present in primitive man it sometimes eludes us by being so different from our own. “All Negro races that I know,” says Reichard, “account woman beautiful who is not constricted at the waist, and when the body from the arm-pits to the hips is the same breadth – ‘like a ladder,’ says the Coast Negro.” Elephantine ears and an overhanging stomach are feminine charms to some African males; and throughout Africa it is the fat woman who is accounted loveliest. In Nigeria, says Mungo Park, “corpulence and beauty seem to be terms nearly synonymous. A woman of even moderate pretensions must be one who cannot walk without a slave under each arm to support her; and a perfect beauty is a load for a camel.” “Most savages,” says Briffault, “have a preference for what we should regard as one of the most unsightly features in a woman’s form, namely, long, hanging breasts.” It is well known,” says Darwin, “that with many Hottentot women the posterior part of the body projects in a wonderful manner…; and Sir Andrew Smith is certain that this peculiarity is greatly admired by the men. He once saw a woman who was considered a beauty, and she was so immensely developed behind that when seated on level ground she could not rise, and had to push herself along until she came to a slope… According to Burton the Somali men are said to choose their wives by ranging them in a line, and by picking her out who projects furthest a tergo. Nothing can be more hateful to a Negro then the opposite form.”

Line them up and choose a tergo?

Boy, talk about a "meat market"!!!

A tergo is Latin for "at or toward the back; from behind; in the rear."

Will Durant wrote this book in 1935 and of course he sourced others from preceding centuries. All along my untutored mind figured that Sir Mix-a-Lot had started a trend!!!