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Monday, Sep 04, 2006 - 01:41 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

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Been some time, this will be fragmented.

Despite my life's ambition to one day own a bunny, I've settled for this for now. Yes, quite far off course already.

Yah, no fight
(From cuteoverload.com)

Coincidence: Of Needs, And Wants

More or less abandoned the POEMS Stock Challenge. Didn't even feel like treating it as a no-loss lucky draw. This is one field I definitely need to delve deeper into. In macroeconomics, stocks are supposed to be a martingale - i.e. the best predictor of their future value, is their current value. For all that fancy equilibrium, there is still profit to be made at the margins, which is where "economic agents" come in.

Which makes for a slightly unsettling realization - is engaging in speculation any way productive? It certainly manufactures no tangible goods, and does not appear to have the traditional pluses of investment, that of providing long-term capital to firms with a concept/product but no wherewithal to start off. Looking further, the commodity market is zero-sum, so for one person to earn a dollar, another must lose one. Of course, to producers who want to hedge as a form of insurance, it does serve a purpose.

The business of money itself has long been regarded dirty. In ancient China, merchants were the second lowest of the low, barely above soldiers, the base metal among men. (It happens that I think I came across a Greek work lamenting the exchange of [some city's] sons of gold and silver... for men of base metal. If anyone comes across something familar, please inform me. It may have been from a novel even) Islamic banking prohibits even the collection of interest, which may be a bit hard to swallow in an inflationary world. And lest we forget, the past restriction of the Jews to moneylending and assorted usury was one of the key reasons why they were so disliked.

But on slightly further thought, humans now need not be productive in the same sense as the past. For the vast majority of our history, existence could best be described as based on subsistence. Men and women worked, and if they were fortunate, set aside extra grain; The best that could be expected was not much more than one-to-one, that is, one worker to support himself with a bit left over.

Today, take America. Two percent engaged in agriculture, and they can export surpluses. That's a 1:50 ratio. Interestingly, that most vital to us is often the least appreciated. Food may be a basic need, but at a stretch it can be done without for weeks on end. Water, not for more than a day or two, but as some food does grow on trees, water falls from the sky, and what are rivers but roads paved with water?

And air, that lowly gas we literally keep out of sight - ten, fifteen minutes without it (the record for holding one's breath underwater is 8 minutes 58 seconds, probably in a meditative trance with heavy preparation. David Blaine got just past seven minutes in his Drowned Alive stunt) and we are dead. But few have ever paid for the tiniest sniff (excluding pure oxygen)!

So, what do the (many) others who do not have to farm or weave do? Yes, there are all sorts of professions, but even in areas like manufacturing, it is becoming increasingly cheaper for robots to work. Thus, a lot of us will have to choose between working inefficiently when machinery can do a better job, or bow to the inevitable and dabble in the non-essential. Entertainment. Art. Sport. Play stocks. Blog. No need to feel bad about it.

Coincidence: Proper

Ever feel that some events in your life are connected, despite having precious little in common? I apologize if it sounds New-Ageish (as my blog colour scheme may come off as emo-ish, but I just like black. And white. And red. Oh, and green), but about every day, I notice links between the most unlikely material.

Wikipedia featured the Watchmen recently, and as is my habit I browsed through their front-page highlight. One of the members of that superhero band was Rorschach, which rang a bell. Wasn't some inkblot test named such? Sure enough, that was no coincidence; The character was modelled after it.

In his story, Rorschach encounters Kitty Genovese, a real-life person meshed into a fictional work, for her sad part in unearthing the bystander effect, i.e. if you are going to have a heart attack, please try to have it when there are few people around - or they will all look at each other and shrug and think some other bugger will help. AFAIK there is no direct linkage between blots and that effect in normal psychology texts, but there you have it.

And of Tom Hanks' famous volleyball "Wilson" in the movie Cast Away, my psychology textbook refers to it in the margin of page 344 as a "soccer ball". Even the Kingdom of Loathing webgame got that right (the "Blood-faced Volleyball" familiar), which only goes to show that one shouldn't always trust the professionals. On a sidenote, why didn't the producers use, say, a rugby ball? There was also a spelling error that I have to look out for again. If only authors were all like Knuth, who offered $2.56 to the first guy to spot each mistake in his The Art of Computer Programming!

Like, no contest?

Last example, I think it was edchong who used this in his MSN personal message once:

I'm only a man in a silly red sheet/Digging for kryptonite on this one way street

Not knowing where that came from, but thinking it evocative, I read the latest Alien Loves Predator strip and came across a reference to Five For Fighting, and guess whose lyrics for Superman (It's Not Easy) fit? I didn't google the lines straight out either...

Maybe it's just that I tend to remember these "matches", conveniently omitting the thousands of non-coincidences that do not make the grade. Kind of like horoscopes, where they throw in a little of everything for everyone, like P. T. Barnum did. Identifying the set of possible connections and determining what percentage is more than simple chance is hardly trivial!

Coincidence: None

Nothing to do with the theme, just some cleaning up. Yes, Chelski beat Blackburn 2-0, so I end up with $72.50 from the original $100 on my first week's simulation. This week's an international matchday week, so bets are off. Watched England stomp Andorra, but considering Andorra's population is like, below seventy thousand, 5-0 is not that bad an achievement. Small wonder England was listed at two cents for the win, and the half-goals option was set at +/-3.5.

Roy Keane became Sunderland manager, of all things. That drew some wisecracks from the United messageboard, and one in particular is worth repeating. Bemoaning Ferguson's inactivity in the transfer market, one wit remarked that Keane would have no such trouble, with his characteristic style of "negotiation": "£2 for Torres or a broken leg, do we have ourselves a deal? £4 for Mascherano and Tevez or two broken legs. Deal? I thought so." Hilarious.

Finally, some poetry appreciation, yarn of choice today was quoted on a Magic: The Gathering card. Wanted to add variety to the extract from Atalanta in Calydon at the top of the page, but thought better of it. I will add them to the bottom of blog posts instead. To paraphrase Captain Nemo, great art and great music lives forever.

by William Knox (1789-1825)

OH! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,--
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure,--her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
The scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died, aye! they died; and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

Supposedly Abe Lincoln's favourite.

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Next: All Crocs Go To Heaven

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1 comment

wenhoo said...

yay i love five for fighting

September 6, 2006 - 12:18 SGT     

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