One thing that's interesting to me is that yes, everything is super linear with development, but there's one major diversion : all the communist countries had far better health than their income would indicate. They're one of the very few consistent and strong deviations from the linear money-health correlation. Also, by pretty much all measures Cuba is doing better than any other country in Latin America, which seems to totally validate Castro's governance (!!).
The UI of the gapminder tool is just super awesome, it's fun to play with, but like most google tools it suffers from lack of help/tool-tips/labels or something to give you a clue about all the ways you can interact with it.
In the end it seems like there's primarily only one factor, though, which is something like "developedness" (degree of industrialization) and pretty much all the statistics have a linear+bias relationship to that. It would be interesting to do an SVD, the 1st component would surely be something like that, then it would be interesting to see what the next axes were, eg. what are the next most important factors in characterizing a population other than economic development.
On the other hand, there is another local squad right near me that's about my level (in fact I'd be a star, I think). The Fog , the gay rugby team. It would be like "Tootsie" - I spend an hour before each practice trying to look gay (gel in my hair, wax my anus, etc) so I can get on the team.
I'm quiting Ice Wind Dale 2 about 80% of the way through. The story gives me absolutely zero motivation to see how it ends, and the game play is just too tedious to bother with any more. Once again I am convinced that game developers don't actually play the games they make (I know from experience this is true, or if they do play it it's just to test things, not to experience what it's like to be in the game). I think I spend 80% of my time in this game picking up loot, organizing inventory, configuring spells and casting buffs. Wee what fun.
Altus on flickr has some sweet HDR tweaked photos. Remember to use the "All Sizes" button, he actually has some very high res originals posted.
Later on, I sewed the pockets of my jackets, all of which seem to have holes. I feel like a 19th century poor person, back when repairing was actually cheaper than replacing.
1) Never buy a new car. In general, avoid all things with huge markups, such as luxury items, CD's, etc. If possible avoid driving altogether; cars have tons of hidden costs in terms of maintenance, tickets, parking, gas, insurance, registration fees, etc. etc. OTOH buying a $500 car is a terrible idea because the downtime and service costs will make it more expensive than if you'd just bought a $4000 car to begin with.
2) Try to avoid renting. With most things, buying and reselling when you're done with it is a much much cheaper form of temporary ownership, and if you're a good purchaser/seller it can even be free to buy a car or trailer and resell it.
3) Avoid insurance / get lawyers. Once you have enough money to cover problems, you should have the minimum insurance possible. With car insurance, you should never ever get a point on your license - hire a lawyer & get the violation reduced to a no-points fine. The savings in insurance is much greater than the cost of the lawyer.
4) Cheat on your taxes. Even if you think you have no deductions, there are things a good CPA can do (eg. basically cheat), and he can advise you on investments to avoid taxes. Everyone does it, so if you don't you're just wasting a ton of money. If you've got some clout in your business, ask for payment forms that void taxes, such as "business expense" comps rather than salary.
So, I'm playing "Icewind Dale 2" because I wanted some retro RPG action (but not too retro). I know, I know, it's from 2002 (hard to believe it's that recent) you don't want to hear about it, but bear with me. (if you all stopped making games right now, I might catch up on the better games in about 1000 years)
It's hard to believe that games like this used to be mainstream, and this was considered high quality. It feels like one step away from "Adventure Construction Set"; the ground tiles are duplicated all over, then you fight the same duplicated monsters over and over; even the unique special guys just have a different name and stats. Everything is incredibly tedious (ZOMG I have to pick up every corpse's loot, arg!!). I think the total gameplay is probably like 100 hours if you do all the quests, but those aren't really quality fun-packed hours. Obviously the tastes of gamers haven't changed dramatically in the last 10 years. What's happened is the market has exploded from a tiny group of hard core gamers who liked this shit to a big pool of general population that won't stand for it.
Ok, so now on to some things that bug me. You start up the game and have to make a party before you play at all. Okay, this is already horrible design. One of Charles's Prime Rules of games is that right when you start you must be in play. How am I supposed to make a good party if I know nothing about how the game plays? So, anyway, to get in quicker I chose one of the pre-made parties. Fucking morons, the pre-made parties all really suck, they're like horribly set up, with Fighters with Str = 12 and shit like that, like if you use a pre-made party you're at a huge disadvantage to making your own. Of course, the beginner/casual types will use the pre-made parties and you gave them a huge penalty, smart move.
The pathing and AI is ridiculously bad. The PC AI will attack my own charmed PC's and shite like that, etc. etc. The insanely bad pathing is really inexclusable when A* in 2d is so easy and well known and fast.
Anyway, I discovered something quite interesting. In the Windows Device Manager on the poperties of the external disk, you can either enable or disable write caching! The default is disabled (safe), which is why writes to the external disk are so slow. Of course if you enable write caches you can get corrupted data if you ever flip it off with the computer on or have a power outage. Hmmm....
I was thinking that this cross of like political history with faery tale is very effective, and was wondering what other crosses might work. Perhaps a French new wave sarcastic roasting of the bourgeois, crossed with an ultra-violent crime spree flick? Maybe a heroin-addiction descent into misery crossed with a Will Ferrell-esque fake pompous comedy?
My health insurance is super minimal. That was a calculated risk I took, I'm pretty sure it was the right decision, but like every thing in my life I think I've made the right evaluation of the odds and the EV and gotten extremely unlucky. You have to have health insurance in the US, because you get the negotiated lower prices, and of course most doctors won't even see you without insurance. On the other hand, insurance is inherently -EV (unless you know yourself to be at higher risk that the insurance company thinks you are). If you have enough savings to cover health problems, you shouldn't have insurance. Of course this isn't completely true because our health system is so fucked, the establishment subsidizes some services (such as child birth) and makes up for it by raping people like me with ridiculous overcharges.
BTW the most awesome solution for your normal health care needs is something like Quick Health . $39 fixed fee in & out quickly, no muss, no fuss. Even if you have good insurance this is probably as cheap and much faster. Obviously you can't go for major problems, but to get antibiotics or immunizations or whatever its' the way to go.
My girlfriend and grandma and such are glad that I finally went to the doctor, but really it's a cop out, it's a failure, I didn't have enough confidence in my self diagnosis to be comfortable with my long treatment, so I went crying to the authority figure so I can be told what to do and not have to decide for myself. Yay me.
Talking to my brother the economist, & reading the NYT Business section & the Economist, it makes me realize how completely out of touch these business guys are with reality. They generally cling to this religious belief in efficient exchanges and the glory of capitalism, and fail to acknowledge the many severe ways in which real markets are not ideal. For example, they pretty much all believe that profit-taking does not drive up costs & hurt the lower class, which is insane.
Similarly, it's occurred to me that people starting business now are very different than they were 50 years ago. People starting businesses now want to "go big" and get out of the business in 2-5 years and have it run itself or sell it. They understand marketing and scale and buzz and all that. 50 years ago you would start a business with the minimum capital possible, and the idea was to work in it yourself and have it as your job for the rest of your life, and to pass it on to your family. I think mainly this change is a symptom of the growing gulf between the rich and poor (and also the propensity of dumb rich people to pay 5X what they should if something is branded cleverly; currently if you stamp "sustainable" on something morons will shell out).
A big problem with medical establishment is that they intentionally keep information from consumers. They hide complaints & suits against doctors so you can't really judge the performance of your doctor. They hide their costs, charging wildly different amounts to different people and never giving you estimates up front. If they fail to cure you or mess up in surgery, they generally try to keep it from you, and still charge you for the services. Worst of all, they intentionally keep information away from the consumer about how to treat things, what the right treatments are, what the side effects are, etc. It would be very easy to provide this information, and they intentionally don't, because you could easily know more than your doctor about your illness, and they don't want that. Basically if you imagine everything that crooked mechanics do that you hate, doctors do all those things and worse.
I got another scam letter that tries to look like an official Honda letter offering me a warranty extension, but it's some random company and clearly a rip off. I wondered, who decides to start a business running scams like this? And instantly realized it's really not very far off from almost every business which tries to dupe consumers and get them to overpay for things they don't need.
"SpinRite" is a nice product. You make a DOS boot disk and it can do all kinds of good low level hard drive maintenance & recovery stuff. I tried the free "Ultimate Boot CD" thing but I couldn't get it to work in any sort of decent way.
So, I need to buy a new external case to put my disk in. You can get them for $20 now (WOW), but I'd like to pay a bit more to make me feel more confident that the case won't crap out on me. It's hard to find one that's well rated and known to be solid. I think I'm going to go with the "Acomdata 509", which is generally high rated. I might go with the "Vantec Nexstar 3", though there's some indication that the Vantec doesn't take heat away from the drive very well. Of course spending a bit more for quality was the idea with the Lacie as well which didn't work. Lacie is the Mercedes of computer parts, it would seem. Vantec is the only one of the cheapo enclosures that is widely reviewed because they're the only ones who give out free hardware to reviewers, which of course totally skews the review portfolio.
All these cases use my old idea of making the case the heat sink. Dave Moore and I used to talk about how to make silent self-cooling computers. I had one idea to make a combine computer + meditation fountain thingy (for water cooling of course). The best idea was just to make the whole case of the computer out of copper or aluminum and have direct thermal contact between the hot things (CPU, etc.) and the case, so the whole case becomes a huge thermal disipator. In addition to being effective and silent, the case would look super cool. For extreme applications you can make the case like soft coral (corals "fans").
Conclusion : BOYCOTT LACIE , buy SpinRite.
Addendum : Lacie finally got back to me and they say the symptoms sound like power supply failure. I can buy a new power supply through them, but I think I'm just going to door-stop that thing.
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