that I find interesting

Categories: "Informative" or "Life" or "Programming" or "Religion"

Fraud, Deception And Lies: How Discovery’s Shark Week Became The Greatest Show On Earth

  07/19/14 21:10, by , Categories: Informative

Link: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2014/07/18/fraud-deception-lies-discoverys-shark-week-became-greatest-show-earth/#.U8sXArG4PN8

Their sensationalized programming, shoddy fact-checking, outright fictions and unethical PR have transformed them. Like P.T. Barnum and the showmen of old, they happily sacrifice the truth to draw a bigger crowd and do whatever it takes for money and fame. Discovery no longer seems to care about the ‘highest quality content’—so long as they can become The Greatest Show On Earth.

Election cycle advertising, casinos, and trickle down economics

  08/18/12 23:40, by , Categories: Informative

Link: http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/y7dyk/if_billions_if_not_trillions_of_dollars_are_being/

Reddit user Loanhighknight provides an insightful take on the economics of political ads, casinos, and trickle-down theory. It’s a long read, but I think it’s worth it.

Question: If billions of dollars are being spent on this election cycle for advertising, doesn’t that mean that all that money is getting injected into the economy? Shouldn’t that be helping at all?

Your question involves the economics of elections, which is actually not something we know all that much about since it changes election cycle to election cycle. But I’ll take a stab at answering you given what we know about economics generally and you can take it or leave it.

If you get nothing out of this answer but the second half of this sentence you’ll understand the issue rather well: Not all economic activity is equally stimulative. This is an extremely important point, not just in the context of campaign spending, but in ANYTHING involving economic stimulus. A dollar spent on anything, be it ditch-digging or groceries or on a new computer or on a campaign ad will create value in the economy because the guy you paid can now buy something with that dollar, but a dollar spent on Thing A was necessarily not used for Thing B–and not all Things produce the same amount of value. Therefore, there are some things that are better for the economy than others, and it turns out, campaign spending is less good for the economy than the things we would otherwise spend money on.

Okay, so let’s get more specific by starting with the act of donating to a campaign. Let’s say you give the maximum amount to a national campaign: $2500. That money goes to a campaign who will want to use it to advertise in a competitive district–these districts are usually cities and their surrounding suburbs (politically, they tend to be the swingiest districts so they get a lot of attention from campaigns). The campaign needs to spend your money on two things to advertise in these places: 1) they need to create a commercial and 2) they need to buy the air time.

1) When a campaign or PAC (super or otherwise) creates a commercial, it will use a few researchers and writers to get down what they want the commercial to say and look like, and then it’ll hire a firm that will in turn hire a few actors and a director. They are usually able to put a full 30-second commercial together in a day or two, so none of these people are getting paid much. The real cost of making an ad comes from buying the air time.

2) As I said, the campaign knows where they need to advertise. The broadcasters in that area will probably already know that their commercial slots are going to be valuable during the election season, so they will want to jack up their rates to get the most out of the increased volume of commercials (supply–as in, the number of commercial slots–stays constant but the demand increases because two parties of huge, competing advertisers will want to advertise on the same network). So on the surface, this seems like it would generate a lot of revenue for the networks, which seems stimulative, and it is. But there are a few other issues at play that will temper that effect. As I said, the supply remains constant so if campaigns are buying up these slots, that means that other, probably local, companies can’t have them. In short: campaign commercials eclipse commercials for businesses. In addition, by law, networks have to sell their slots to campaigns at the “most preferred rate,” meaning, they need to sell their slots to campaigns as though the campaigns were their best customer. So in order for networks to get the most out of this boost in business, they need to raise rates on everybody–including their usual best customers. This can and will force customers out of the market for ad-time, meaning they can’t reach their customers, meaning they will probably experience lower sales.

And of course, going back to your $2500 donation, that is $2500 you can’t spend on groceries, or fixing your car, or traveling, or eating out, or any of the other things that are generally seen as having very high value returns for the economy as a whole.

Now, all this–paying the makers of the commercials only a little bit and pricing out other ad-makers–would be fine if the products that the advertisements are selling produces more value in the economy than they eclipse. But political ads don’t produce value. All the campaign advertisers get is a vote, which has little to no economic value.

(Sure, you could make the argument that getting someone to vote Republican will pay off if you are in a certain demographic, or that getting someone to vote Democrat will pay off if you are in a certain other demographic, and so in that way the vote produces value, but that value is uncertain and extremely difficult to measure, and if you’re willing to bet on that sort of thing, you probably wouldn’t be worried about the comparative value of elections.)

All this leads me to say this totally unsolicited thing: Yes, campaigns probably cost the nation some money. But it’s probably something the American people are okay burning some money on, even if they do grumble about it every cycle. And finally, all of this election spending will be such a tiny percentage of the trillions of dollars in commerce Americans will do this year that we won’t really experience a difference.

TL;DR: Not all spending is the same. Campaign spending probably does not produce as much value as the spending that otherwise would take place, so it probably depresses the economy a little.

Question: What about the big spenders like the Koch brothers. Billionaires propping up entire superPACs are pumping out much more than the $2500 I could drop on an election. Does all that money have the same irrelevance to the economy of shmoes like me?

Depends on the investor, I would think.

The argument that these people are stimulating the economy more than normal because they’re calling up big sums of money from their trove of money that otherwise would be doing nothing is USUALLY false. See, the biggest misconception people on the left have–and I can say this, because I am on the left!–is that billionaires are just sitting on piles of money that aren’t producing anything. In truth, wealthy people rarely stockpile huge sums of wealth–they invest it.

The Koch family possesses an oil fortune, so presumably their fortune is invested in interests compatible with that business (manufacturers, refiners, etc.). And they probably have a large amount of money in securities and such that ultimately make loans for you and me possible. So in the case of the Koch brothers, I would feel comfortable assuming that my original “it’s totally irrelevant” thesis would stand.

But not for everyone. Sheldon Adelson (the guy who continually propped up Gingrich and is now promising to donate $100 million to Romney’s super PAC), unlike the Koch brothers, has a business which actually (at least arguably) pulls money OUT of the economy. He owns a casino business. Therefore, the case could be made that every dollar he doesn’t spend on improving that business helps you and me a little, but, still, ultimately, I don’t think it’d be measurable.

Question: Wait, but doesn’t the money that gets spent at casinos end up recirculating into the economy anyway? The casino pays its workers, buy food and supplies. At the end of the day, how is it different from, say, a movie theater?

Not to get too super-liberal or anything, but there is, I think, a compelling argument that the amount of opportunity and revenue generated by a casino is outpaced by their social impacts–namely that the costs associated with gambling (things like bankruptcies, need for more policing, creation of a bureaucracy to regulate the casinos) are socialized through the nearby community while the profits are privatized and whisked away, out of the community the gamblers live in.

I should have made it more clear that there isn’t a hard-and-fast agreement on either side. Obviously casinos argue that they act as a local stimulus; as somebody who lived fairly close to Atlantic City and saw the complications associated with the casinos, I do not find that argument particularly compelling.

Question: What you wrote above about the wealthy investing most of their money rather than sitting on it sounds like (if broadly applied) kind of a justification for trickle-down economics. I know it isn’t, because you said you’re from the left, so… could you fill in the gaps for me?

Good catch! Yeah, it sounds sort of like it could be advocating trickle-down, doesn’t it?

So I guess it’s worth saying where the left and the trickle-downers agree and then go from there: we all agree that investing in other people is a good thing for the whole economy. The plurality of economists agree with this, regardless of political affiliation. And both sides agree that it’s important to remember that we all give money to other people: if you’re poor, you help others run their businesses by buying their goods; if you’re middle-class, you do what the poor do AND you can save for retirement (which is really putting money in a 401k or a Roth IRA or some other managed savings account where an expert decides where would be a good place to put your money); if you’re wealthy, you do what the poor do AND what the middle-class does AND you also invest directly into businesses to accrue “capital gains” (which is just a fancy term for “my investment got more valuable").

The point where the left diverges from the trickle-downers (or the supply-siders, or the Romneynomics-folk, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) is where the trickle-downers begin to provide extra incentives (especially tax breaks) to those who invest in others in the “capital gains” way that only the wealthy have the resources to do. We oppose this, not because investment isn’t good for the economy, not because we think rich people are rich enough already, not because we think doing away with it will balance the budget, but because it does not actually make rich people more likely to invest their money. The wealthy were ALWAYS going to do it, because it’s a really sweet way to make more money.

The trickle-downers performed some sort of logical and economic acrobatics to make it seem like investments that produce “capital gains” are inherently different than the other methods of accruing wealth, and therefore should be taxed differently. Economically, it’s just a form of investment that is not intrinsically different than the investment other people do, and this differentiation is totally senseless.

But we, as a nation, do all sorts of economically senseless things–many of which the left love!–so the real metric we should use is “do they make people do more good?” And the answer is unequivocally “no.” The capital gains tax has no measurable impact on investment rates among the wealthy. In fact, in times when the wealthy were POURING money into investment markets, capital gains taxes were very high. Because it does not affect behavior and benefits the rich more than the poor, trickle-down ideology is referred to as “regressive.” And that’s what it is.

TL;DR: Investment helps everyone; trickle-down is regressive. That’s why you can support one and reject the other.

Using culture-sensitive C# dates with Javascript

  12/23/11 12:25, by , Categories: Informative, Programming

I was trying to create a javascript date object using a C# date in my view like this:

Code

var jsDate = new Date('<%=myDate.ToString("MM/dd/yyyy")%>');

It worked as expected when the culture was en-US, but not when the culture was fr-CA.

I figured out that C# was outputting the date with hyphens instead of slashes, even though I specified slashes in the format I passed to ToString().

Once I added quotes around the slashes, everything worked perfectly:

Code

var jsDate = new Date('<%=myDate.ToString("MM'/'dd'/'yyyy")%>');

***Update***

As per Jeff’s comment below, the following code also works:

Code

var jsDate = new Date('<%=myDate.ToString("MM/dd/yyyy", System.Globalization.CultureInfo.InvariantCulture)%>');

1 comment »

Procrastination

  09/21/11 12:34, by , Categories: Informative, Life

This video is very relevant to my blogging habits of late.

1 comment »

Reddit Interviews A 96 Year Old

  03/16/11 22:26, by , Categories: Informative, Life

Link: http://www.reddit.com/comments/g5gj3/iam_96_years_old_ama/

EDIT (4/25/2011): reddit admins have basically confirmed that this user was a fake. Sorry guys.


I really enjoyed this thread on reddit and decided it was worth preserving here in Q&A form.

Q: What are your strategies for coping with the inevitability of death?
A: I’m done with this life. The last words of François Rabelais were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” I am ready for my great perhaps.

Q: Do you believe in God/an afterlife?
A: I believe in God and I think that the afterlife will be so much more fulfilling than this life ever was.

Q: Why? What makes you believe that the next life will be any more fulfilling than this one?
A: Which is better–thinking that when we die, we go to the best place imaginable or that when we die we just rot in the ground? I prefer the former.

Q: General life advice?
A: Don’t take things too seriously when you’re young. Think “Am I going to care about this when I am 96?” You probably won’t.

Q: Did you have a sweetheart when you were young ? ( 14-18 )
A: I had a beau when I was 17 years old. My parents hated him because he was an Irish kid. He was dopey looking and had big ears. He was very sweet and funny and a gentleman. My mother said it would not work out and I married him and had four children.

Q: How many times have you truly been in love? Was the feeling the same every time?
A: I have only been in love once and only heartbroken once.

Q: How did he end up breaking your heart?
A: By dying.

Q: Do you believe that you’ll be reunited in the afterlife?
A: Yes. It will be perfect.

Q: Could you describe your wedding day to us?
A: My wedding was small. There was not much money, but it was beautiful. He looked at me like I was worth more than a million dollars when I walked down that aisle.

Q: How did you meet?
A: I was at the store getting some fabric for my mother. I was probably 15 or so. There was a long line, and the boy ahead me turned around, saw me standing there and let me go ahead of him in line. We started talking and I found out he was also getting fabric. Boys never picked up fabric, but he didn’t care. I thought it was a wonderful gesture. I was head over heels. That’s when I knew I wanted to marry a man who wasn’t embarrassed to do that for someone he loved.

Q: How did you stray married for so long?
A: I stayed married because it was real love. People take marriage too lightly these days. I knew my husband was the one for me. He respected me and I likewise which I think is the basis for a relationship.

Q: When you look back, what was life like? Was it everything you thought it would be?
A: I think my life has been basically good. It was not how I planned it out when I was young but I am content.

Q: What did you have planned?
A: I wanted like most naiive girls to be a star. I did become a star though–to my husband and children.

Q: What’s your opinion on homosexuality? Should they be allowed to marry?
A: I don’t think anyone should be allowed to tell someone who to love. Yes, they should be married.

Q: What was the first film you saw in a theatre?
A: I saw a Three Stooges film in I think it was 1935. I don’t like movies very much though. I do like westerns.

Q: What are your favorite westerns?
A: I liked The Last Outlaw with Harry Carey the best.

Q: What is the first major news-making/historical event that you remember?
A: I remember my mother being skeptical when they first discovered penicillin. She said it wouldn’t last. I also remember when the first Miss America competition started when I was about 5 or 6 or so and we all pretended to be beauty queens.

Q: As someone who has lived over nine decades which decade did you most enjoy, which decade did you see the world as you knew it change the most (whether that be in a positive or negative way) and finally which decade did you see humanity progress the most?
A: I enjoyed the 50s very much. Everything was so quiet and peaceful. The kids were older, so my husband and I could really spend time together without screaming children. I think the 60s were the most turbulent and the 80s were the most progressive with all the new technology.

Q: Could you expand on why the 60’s were so turbulent?
A: People had new ideas. Suddenly, women wore pants all the time and everyone was protesting something.

Q: How did you stay sharp at 96?
A: I do those puzzles in the paper. I’ve never been drunk or touched drugs. I think that helped.

Q: What is your opinion of marijuana and people who consume it recreationally?
A: I have read about marijuana and I suppose it is not as bad as a cigarette. It has many benefits, so personally I am okay with it.

Q: I know you’ve never been drunk, but have you ever had alcohol at all?
A: Yes I have had wine and a little beer but not in excess.

Q: Don’t you ever wonder what it’s like to be really really drunk?
A: No, from what I’ve seen it’s no fun. I’ve helped my husband through a few hangovers and I don’t want to try.

Q: What do you think was the greatest event the world experienced in your lifetime?
A: I think the greatest world event has been Mr. Obama being elected. I am so glad to see that we have moved past the color of someone’s skin. I am glad he is president.

Q: Any life lessons you think young women today could use?
A: Young ladies today don’t act like young ladies. I hate to hear a girl cuss. It makes you look like you aren’t eloquent enough to find another word. Don’t cuss.

Q: You mean you’ve never cursed, say, when you stubbed your toe? Sometimes there aren’t any better words to use other than an F bomb.
A: There are other words one can use that sound classier than curse words.

Q: Please teach us some!
A: Darn. Drat. Shoot. Shucks.

Q: I’m gonna try these out in front of my friends.
A: Good job maybe they will stop cursing too.

Q: What is the mental and/or physiological aspect of aging that was (or is) most surprising to you?
A: My body doesn’t do what my brain tells it to sometimes. It’s surprising to reach for a glass of water and not be able to grip it on the first try.

Q: Are we (as a human race in 2011) where they thought we were going to be 80 years ago?
A: The cars are crazy nowadays.

Q: Do you have any advice for the new generations?
A: Stop littering. Your world’s going to look awful. Slow down. Life is too short and with technology it seems like everyone is on the run.

Q: Any regrets? Particularly from your 20’s and 30’s?
A: I regret not having a career. I’m afraid I’m not much of a feminist. I should have taken more risks.

Q: How big of a role has religion played in your life?
A: I wish I was more religious. My mother was adamant about being Jewish growing up, and a lot of times I think religion is more trouble than it’s worth, but I try to stay right with God.

Q: What has been the most super, amazing and excellent food you have ever eaten?
A: The best food ever is fettuccine alfredo with the perfect seasoning.

Q: Is there some food that is your Achilles heel?
A: I do not like broccoli which is funny because I had to push it upon my children.

Q: Thinking back what pleasant memories stand out the most?
A: My wedding day and my childrens’ births.

Q: What annoys you the most about today’s pop culture?
A: The music. Shouting is not music, it’s just shouting.

Q: Is there anything you love about today’s generation that fascinates you?
A: I love the funny clothing kids these days wear. It’s so creative, but some of it is too revealing.

Q: What is your opinion on boys wearing skinny jeans?
A: As long as they are covered I am fine with it.

Q: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?
A: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Q: What would you consider to be the biggest risk you ever took? Did it “pay off"?
A: Marrying my husband despite my parents. Yes. It paid off in a big way.

Q: What has family and friends taught you over the years?
A: They’ve taught me blood is thicker than water, and a sense of work ethic. I have surrounded myself with hard workers who taught me to earn what I get.

Q: What do you think about technology becoming such a big part of younger people’s lives?
A: It will be the downfall of this generation I think. Some of it is handy, but kids are becoming to reliant.

Q: Can you elaborate on this? In which sense do you believe it will be our downfall, as in, how do you envision it might go bad?
A: No one will know how to do anything by themselves anymore.

Q: At this point in your life what fulfills you and brings you happiness?
A: Seeing my kids, grandkids, and greatgrandkids grow learn and achieve.

Q: During your lifetime, what is the greatest historical moment that you’ve experienced, in your opinion?
A: Either Mr. Obama being elected or women voting.

Q: What was your mothers reaction to finally being able to vote?
A: She thought it wasn’t right. She was very rooted in her ways. She refused to vote.

Q: Although the world must move forward in every facet of life imaginable, what’s the one thing you wish would’ve never been invented?
A: I wish the self checkout supermarket thing was never invented. When I get out, I feel like a robot is going to steal my groceries.

Q: Although it’s of no question that Americans [in general] have lost much of their morals and continually (and contiguously) partake in self-deprecating acts, what do you feel is the most loathsome and detrimental societal outbreak today?
A: Casual sex. The media has made it okay to has intercourse with any number of sexual partners. What happened to waiting until marriage?

Q: I wonder, at 96, what is the most prevalent memory you can think of you wish you could change?
A: I wish I could change the stock market crash. My father lose quite a bit in that.

Q: How bad was The Great Depression for you?
A: We were a well off family before the Depression, so when we lost it, the transition into poorness was very hard.

Q: Do you remember the Great Crash well?
A: The only thing I remember about the crash was that I was about 14 and mother was crying and father was pacing. He never paced so much. I kept asking what was wrong and they kept saying “nothing, nothing.” I didn’t figure it out until we had to move.

Q: What were you doing when you heard of Pearl Harbor and how did it affect your life?
A: I don’t remember exactly, but I had already had all four of my children at that time, so I suppose taking care of them. We were scared. We thought there would be a war any day, that we would wake up and a bomb would fall on us.

Q: Do you find people treat you differently because you’re older?
A: Yes, people are more careful around me.

Q: What has been the most frustrating thing about getting older?
A: It is frustrating when people call me honey or sweetie. I am old enough to know their great grandfather.

Q: What has been the best part of being older?
A: The best part is I never have to stand, ever. Anywhere. Someone always gets me a chair.

Q: Could you tell us how you feel about nursing homes? I know many older people hate them.
A: The best thing about nursing homes is that I’m not in them.

Q: If you could, would you prefer to have been born at a different time? (i.e. 20 years ago vs 96)
A: I have seen many things happen in my lifetime and I would not change it for the world.

Q: They say that your perception of time changes as you get older: Time moves slowly when you’re young, and speeds up the longer you’re alive. Have you experienced this phenomenon for yourself?
A: Disagree, it feels like I’ve been here forever.

Q: Who was your biggest crush when you were a teenager?
A: Clark Gable or Fred Astaire. I always wanted to be Greta Garbo.

Q: If you could go back and change one thing you did wrong/regret, what would it be?
A: I would try and be more independent. I was the youngest child, and I was married at 17, so I was never on my own.

Q: Ever travel? If so, what is your favourite country?
A: I have only been to Canada, so my favorite country is the United States.

Q: How do you feel our society has changed through all your years? For better or for worse?
A: Some ways it is better. We are more united as a country. Some of it is bad. The way kids act these days.

Q: Do you think the younger generation has changed in character? We’re all growing up in a world completely different from yours. Many things have changed around us, but did they actually make us different?
A: The younger generation lacks respect. That is an old person answer, I know, but it is true. On the positive side, this generation is curious and more actively seeking a better life.

Q: Any health tips to reach 96 years old?
A: Laugh a lot. You’ll live longer.

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