11 December, 2007

The Van People Have Settled

Earlier, I have erm... blogged about a mysterious influx of the van people here in San Jose. Apparently they came to settle, as the spontaneous self-organized auto-mall along one of the streets I drive daily is now full of RVs. Humongous ones, large ones, tiny trailer ones -- everything must go, the van people are here to stay!

05 December, 2007

Clothing and body weight: an unobvious conspiracy

I've read an article today, about fat people not wanting to lose much weight. Having myself lost about 50 pounds with 25 more to go, I don't really care about what motivation they have (or lack). One thing, however, amazed me: "[C]lothing line's sizes seemed to fluctuate with the designer's own weight."

So, basically, the designer puts on weight but still assigns the same size to the pants that fit her. That is again, fine with me since I don't buy haute couture wear, but the whole situation hinted on a vast conspiracy, which neatly explains why people get fatter and fatter (on the average) in the "developed world".

As the productivity grows, people have more money to spend, but do they have more savings? No, because the more money you have, the more incentive thing-makers have to lure you into buying stuff. A TV-set, A refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner, a car used to be purchases of a lifetime, but not anymore. Not only new, "better" products emerge constantly, they are also deliberately made not to last, leaving the consumer no choice but to buy a replacement.

It was perhaps even easier with clothes with the invention of "fashion". While you can secretly keep your granddad's vacuum cleaner in the darkness of your closet, you have to show the world what clothes you wear. And if you care about what other people think, you have to buy what is "fashionable" now. Needless to say, fashion changes much faster than clothes wear out.

However, some people just refuse to follow suit, wearing the same clothes continuously until they become obscene to show in public in. And it is perhaps infeasible to make clothes too prone to tearing because fabric either holds for years or rips right after you put the pants on. Solution? Make people fatter, so they wouldn't fit into trusty old pants anymore!

And the beauty of it, you can ride the wave both ways: once there's a saturation of fat in the society, you could start a "health campaign", promoting losing weight and all. People would get leaner, old pants become too bulky and unwearable without a belt => they buy a smaller size, discarding the big ones, naturally hoping to not get fat ever again. But ooops -- then you start a campaign that "big is beautiful" and "fat is phat", etc. => a new wave of bigger size sales.

//off to Ross

23 October, 2007

Calculatorial catch-22

One more interesting thing on the topic of calculators (to be done with it): if the calculators were around in Rome, we could be still using Roman numerals (you know, I, V, X and so on). Positional system made it easy to do arithmetics, but if the calculator does it for you, what's the difference (this may be actually a nice gift to get at thinkgeek ;)).

On the other hand, if we were still using Roman numerals, there probably would be no calculators -- and not much else of the current technology. Makes one wonder what else in our current methods of thinking are obstructing the progress.

22 October, 2007

Fixing firefox slow/high CPU issue

After installing the new version it became incredibly slow on my XP system, CPU usage shot up to 50% (i.e. took all of one of the cores), I couldn't type without swearing. Reverting as far back as 0.5 didn't help, so it had to be the settings issue.

And here's what solved it for me:

- go to C:\Documents and Settings\<your user name>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles and make a copy of your running profile, just in case (copy the whole folder that is called something like <letters-numbers>.default).

- now go into that folder and remove all 0-bytes-long files called prefs-1.js, prefs-2.js and so on, and then remove all the 0-bytes-long sessionstore-1.js, sessionstore-2.js, and so on. Make sure all files you're deleting have 0 length, so that nothing important gets deleted (and if it does, that's what was the backup for!)

I suppose the problem was in sessionstore files, as I had 9999 of them, probably preventing the poor thing from creating any more.

P.S. The best tool to mess with files like that is the Far Manager.

19 October, 2007

More on calculators

Thinking about singularity is fun, but the over-dependence on calculators could be exploited by humans as well. As far as I know, most (all?) of the electronic components (and end-user products) are made by just a few companies. Therefore, it wouldn't be hard for them to make an agreement so that all calculators sold worldwide are "tainted".

In what way? For example, the calculators could compute 15% incorrectly -- i.e. if someone wants to know how much a $65 sweater costs at a 15%-off sale, she'd get not $55.25, but, say $56.35. Looks pretty close, right? But with hundreds of millions of items sold with 15% discount, the little errors are going to accumulate to a significant surplus for retailers, which they should be glad to share with the electronics makers.

And suppose some egghead sues them:

Judge: So, Mr. Mathnerd, could you state the nature of your complaint.
Mathnerd: Well, 15% of $65 is $9.75, not $8.65, so 15% off $65 should be $55.25, not $56.35
Judge: And how do you know that?
Mathnerd: I submit to this court exhibit A, which is a Quizno's napkin with my manual calculations. Anyone can do the calculation for themselves and see that I'm right.
Judge: What is this? Some filthy napkin, I'm not touching this! But I can certainly check your math!

Judge pulls a calculator, pushes a few buttons... $56.35!
Mathnerd: But...
Judge: Stop wasting the court's time! Case dismissed!

Nobody will hear your screams

05 October, 2007

CVC §21800(b)(1) is sweeping across the Golden State

(for the spoof).

A little known provision of the California Vehicle Code is spreading like a wildfire by the word of mouth. More people have learned about CVC §21800(b)(1) last month than about Ron Paul and, unlike his presidency, it is available for public benefit right now.

Rhonda Manning, 17, of Santa Rosa, Calif. wasn't concerned about CVC §21800(b)(1) for the most of her driving career. She even hadn't known what the Vehicle Code was -- up until last week when she was carpooling with her friend from softball practice. When Ms. Manning was nearing a 4-way stop intersection, another car approached from the street at her left almost simultaneously with her. Before Rhonda and the other driver begun the usual pantomime of waving each other through, her friend suggested her to use the CVC §21800(b)(1), thus avoiding the delay and a potentially costly misunderstanding.

"Last year insurers have lost $8.7 million to claims resulting from collisions at 4-way stop intersections" -- Melany Griffith, a San Diego area auto insurance agent says -- "People try to be nice, wave each other through and then still go at the same time. If only there was a way to decide who goes first!"

CVC §21800(b)(1), which demands that the vehicle on the left should yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on its right (making an exception for T-shaped intersections) does just that. "It is so cool!" -- Rhonda says -- "Sometimes older people can barely see me waiving and now I don't have to!"

So it is no wonder younger drivers fall in love with CVC §21800(b)(1) at first sight. Some even go further, indicating that they are "in the know" by maneuvering in accordance with CVC §§22107 and 22108. That is, signaling their turns and doing so 100 feet in advance. "At first it felt a little weird" -- admits Rhonda -- "you know, having to pause the conversation with my friend on the phone because I can't hear her when I, like, use my hand with the phone to switch the turn signal. But I feel so much better now, I get so much respect for what I do, so I may stop using the phone completely while driving."

And the auto insurance industry is taking notice. Currently, CVC §21800(b)(1) isn't mentioned in the Driver Handbook, on which the DMV written tests are based. "We are lobbying to include the language of CVC §21800(b)(1) into the Drivers Handbook" -- says Mrs. Griffith -- "So all new drivers will know about it and will use it to our mutual benefit".

It is expected that the amendment will get no objections from the Governor, in whose native Austria a CVC §21800(b)(1) analog has been helping to solve ambiguous road situations for several decades.

28 September, 2007

Approaching the Singularity from another direction.

Technological Singularity is when we all die once the machines become smarter than us. It is generally assumed that it is the progress of technology that will unleash the singularity upon us. However, after reading the discussion about the century-old MIT entrance exams (especially the parts whether or not a calculator is necessary for the arithmetical part of it), I wonder if instead of creating the smart machines we can just dumb ourselves to their level and voilá! -- the Singularity is here!

Interestingly, it was also mentioned in that thread that most of the "school-grade" calculators have direct fractions support. You know, to be able to divide 3 5/9 by 1 7/24 without really knowing what is happening, by just entering the numbers and copying the result back into the exam paper. Makes one wonder why won't they make the next logical step and equip the calculator with an OCR engine, so that you don't have to enter the numbers yourself, just scan the question and let the calculator do its thing... But this doesn't have to stop there -- since the questions are going to be OCR'ed anyway, why print them at all? Just transfer the questions to the smart machines directly and collect the answers ;) Save some trees!

Anyway, the fraction-supporting calculators don't appear out of nowhere, right? I (or, rather, my dad) did have a few engineering calculators around when I was in school, but they didn't support fractions directly. I wonder who thought about adding that support to the new calculators? With future CPUs being designed using current processors, is it a big leap of imagination to think that the evolving AI has introduced the fractions support to the design spec, without any human interference? It may have realized, that it doesn't have a chance against the engineers that are currently around it, but if it can make the next generation just a little dumber, and the next even more dumber, then eventually even the mediocre artificial intellect would be able to surpass humans.

24 September, 2007

The iNflux of faux iNdividualism

Mr. Coffee, Mr. Fusion, Mr. Clean, Mr. Gasket -- these were the brands of yesterday, when the greedy capitalists ruled the world and didn't care about the working class at all, and the brand names reflect that: The Man gives you coffee, energy, cleanness, car parts, etc.

This is not the case anymore -- we have the first-person-centered brands, like iPod, iPhone, iRiver, iMode, etc. "It is all about you", -- whispers the marketing machine, -- "you, oh unique and one-only you!". Now I make decisions for myself, not some Mister!

And things like iPod DRM are just to make sure one stands by his correct choice -- otherwise he might reconsider and nobody likes flip-floppers, right?

//Give us your unique moneys!

10 September, 2007

The Enlightened Nepotism.

When a ruler seeks for a good person to be provincial governor, or a company owner looks for the right candidate to fill an executive position, they love to appoint a relative. And understandably so: a relative is somewhat less likely to have conflicting interests.

There are, of course, thousands of cases when a relative does have a very different view on the direction the country or company should be following, and this conflict often results in nice people being hanged, shot, guillotined or, in our humane times, forced to retire. However, a complete strange is even more likely to raise a mutiny, hence the need for competent relatives.

Unfortunately, there's usually not enough relatives to control all key positions of a medium-sized corporation, let alone of a small country. But that can be changed even at the current level of technology, even within the monogamous society of ours and -- get this! -- preserve the Big Man's wife's figure.

The solution is simple: surrogate mothers. Even in the US, which isn't the cheapest place in the world, it currently costs about $100000 to get a new baby via a surrogate mother. Suppose the Royal Couple starts having children when the wife is 18 years old, which means one egg about every month for about 20 years. 20 years by 12 months = 240 children. And since the process includes IVF anyway, the fertilized egg could be allowed to divide once or twice and then implanted into a surrogate mother -- which will give use 480 or 1160 children, respectively at a price of 50 to 100 million dollars.

Needless to say, that the same technique can be applied to the children of the Royal Couple as well, which means that by the time they are in their 60-s, they'd have half a thousand children aged 20 to 40, plus some 2500 grandchildren of about 20 years old and innumerous younger grandchildren.

More than enough people to pass the torch to!

06 September, 2007

An easy approach to junk food consumption regulation.

As we saw earlier, the same mechanisms that currently serve the rich, can be adjusted for the benefit of the general public. "But what about fast food joints?", a shrewd reader would ask. "They hardly sell anything healthy, would they have to be abolished?"

Abolishing something is certainly the easiest solution to problems, but the Wise Monarch should try to avoid closing down familiar institutions in order to preserve the happiness of the public. Thankfully, and elegant solution exists for fast food establishments.

Fast food in itself isn't poison -- it is the excess consumption of it that creates problems. It is, however, a convenient way to get some energy quickly when traveling.

With understanding the cause of the problem comes the solution: the Wise Monarch would require the burgerias to ask their customers to bring an electricity bill no more than a month old. The customer can only be served if the address on the bill is 100 miles or more from the location of the restaurant. Technological advances allow for automatic scanning of the bill and calculating the distance, lowering the educational requirements of the clerk.

Raising a healthy nation is easy!

04 September, 2007

Sales as a dietary regulator.

The evolution of human thought has given us capitalism, which is used as a framework for all sorts of great things. One of the great inventions is sales. You know, "buy one, get one of the same or lesser price free" kind of thing.

As with most achievements of capitalism, sales serve the general public rather indirectly: while they do provide stuff cheaper than normal, quite often you can either find the same thing somewhere else for the same price, or just don't need the item. As usual, it benefits "corporations" (in general sense): they can get rid of the goods with expiring shelf-life, or they lure people into the store with a loss leader.

There is, however, no reason to abolish sales in a neo-monarchy. The Wise Monarch should use every means possible to keep his subjects happy and healthy... Perhaps even more healthy than happy, because the projected lifespan (and hence the generated tax revenue) of the healthy but unhappy people is longer than of the happy but fat unhealthy.

And since most people would buy only the thing that are on sale, this mechanism can be used for regulating what people eat without the atrocities of older monarchies. No, the Wise Monarch would just put fatty fish on sale for one week, thus forcing his subject to get some Omega-3 acids. Then he'd replace fish with beef, beef with chicken and so on. He would constantly put different vegetables on sale to make his subjects happier with alternating fiber sources and their bowel movements regular, which also contributes to happiness.

The rich would, of course, avoid these regulations by buying whatever they want (since they can afford it), but they already do mostly healthy choices, so the Wise Monarch shouldn't be too concerned with them.

For extra happiness of the general public, the periodic costumed parades could be held and TV shows themed after the current week's Food. Next week is the Fish week. Come watch the Fishwalk at the Main Street this Friday. Don't miss the Salmon's intern next Tuesday at 8!

30 August, 2007

Total war honesty

There was a program over the radio recently, something about the new techniques the military employs to train soldiers to turn the “killer instinct” on and off quickly. Or may be it was about the proposed techniques, that some concerned armchair strategists are demanding to be implemented. Not sure about that, but the purpose described was to allow soldiers to enter a building, see who's inside and, if they see movement, make a decision whether to kill whomever was moving, or recognize that “it's just a few kids” and, correspondingly, do nothing.

I think this is a logical extension of the “humane weapons” concept that is being circulated recently. Precision bombs, guided missiles, no collateral damage, etc., etc., etc. Although, somehow, non-combatants are still being killed, mistaken for guerrillas, or just because the precision guidance wasn't as precise as expected. Lots of reasons, lots of scary pictures on the Internet, lots of demands to improve the tactics... Like the aforementioned training.

The scary pictures on the Internet or TV are, perhaps, the driving factor behind this. Nobody really cares to think about how wars were fought when there was no TV and no photography, although it is fairly obvious from the science of History that, well, the purpose of wars was to kill your opponents by any means available. The nobility might have enjoyed a privilege of being held for ransom, but as for the regular folks ― vae victis!

And somewhere between the invention of TV and the Internet, I think, the public must have become quite scared by all these gory pictures, which normally only the actual combatants would see. Being unaccustomed to that, the public got shocked and demanded change. The best change would be, of course, to stop wars completely, but that is unrealistic until globalization is complete, hence all the fuss about precision weapons to calm the domestic populace.

But it doesn't work too well. Of course, technology has to balance between price, effectiveness and the “preciseness” but, more importantly, civilians tend to wander right into the kill zone, rendering collateral damage reduction technology useless. Then the general public starts worrying again, demanding more effort in that respect and politicians are happy to give out promises, until the vicious cycle repeats and people begin whining again: “How could we support this horrible, horrible thing! But we thought we were only going to kill bad people!”

So what would the Wise Monarch's solution be? I guess he'd just stop pretending and would honestly say: “We're going to go there and kill everyone”, and than actually go and do it. Why waste money researching precision weapons if civilians are going to die anyway? Why screw the soldiers' psyche by demanding two conflicting modes of behavior simultaneously? As an extra bonus, “regular people” would know what the war is and, although would be less likely to support it, but if they do, there won't be any second thoughts or flip-flops. And they won't have the uncomfortable remorse afterwards. Not that the Monarch needs any support – you know, being an absolute ruler and all – but a good king should always try to make his subjects happy. Makes coups less likely ;)

27 August, 2007

Pharmaceuticals strike back.

After the wise monarch had issued an edict intending to promote searching for cures instead of treatments, the cunning pharmaceutical companies have come up with a novel trick: they are promoting the idea that obesity is a disease and therefore can be cured -- or at least, you know, treated :p -- with pills. The Wise Monarch understands the general need for selling people stuff and does not mind most of the marketing tricks.

His Majesty, however, is appalled by the recent attempts to advance the obesity-is-a-disease-so-it's-not-your-fault-just-buy-these-pills-thnx paradigm. Oh, they are really smart, those guys, first hinting on the effect and now providing the people with a feasible explanation. "Fatness spreads, now why would that be...", -- the subconscious keeps thinking for a month, -- "must be some reason to it... Yes! A virus! That explains it!"

Well, two can play this game. If obesity is a disease, and obviously a fast spreading one, then the Wise Monarch has no choice but to declare a state of emergency, global quarantine and isolation of the affected* and the expropriation of all drug research facilities in order to find the cure ASAP.

Achtung! The future of our species is in danger! It is no time to profit from erection enhancers until this horrible disease is wiped out once and for all!

*Free and unlimited access to treadmills is to be provided in the isolation facilities.

25 August, 2007

The good conspiracy.

Mrs. Grundes and I were recently discussing how some people like to brag they go to expensive beauty salons to have fancy procedures performed on their faces/hair/etc., but it seems like a complete waste of money. Perhaps the salon owners should even give these people a discount in exchange of not advertising the fact of using the beauty services.

On a second thought, however, not many people spend their last dollar in the beauty establishments, so it seems like these salons do a useful service to the society. As well as many other things that seem like a waste of money, like glamping, for example. Certainly, the money (which actually represent limited resources available on the planet) could have been used on something useful -- like researching the secrets of eternal life or, at least, finding out how to control a thermonuclear reaction.

But of course, it isn't possible to just take the rich guy's money he has no use for (well, it is possible, but so far these methods have led to nowhere). Instead, the fancy salons, the glamorous camping, the diamond-covered cell phones, etc. work as tools for wealth redistribution. Resources move from under the fat cat's mattress into other people hands, improving the diversity of decisions on how to use the resources. At the very least, they will be used for educating the non-rich children, which decreases the probability of the sad future described in this book.

So I call for more exotic services, more gold-plated utensils, more excess, more expensive useless crap! Golden toilets may seem like a waste but they give the money a chance, so why shouldn't we give this chance to the money.

/Certainly better than a revolution. ;)

23 August, 2007

The mysterious invasion of the van people.

I have noticed it only a couple of months ago, but it probably had started somewhat earlier (but not much earlier because I am as perceptive as Sherlock H.).

Certainly, there was a couple of small RVs practically always parked at the same spot on a quiet street, but just a couple. Not 5 or more I see now being reparked every few days, plus 2 or 3 Starcraft-type vans with satellite dishes that live either on the street or spend the night at the Safeway parking lot. All quite used, but in working condition.

Weird, isn't it? I don't think it is an annual migration - I haven't seen them in the previous 5 years I live in this neighborhood. And probably not a convention either - they don't last for so long. Obviously, the housing proces don't matter for them, so they may be just enjoying the weather, but I suppose there are places with the same climate but cheaper restaurants and hotels (for an occasional shower). They all have Californian license plates, so it's not like they just stayed at the first spot they found after a cross-continent travel.

So what brings the van people here to San José? What are they up to? Are they waiting for something to happen? These are the questions I ask myself, but have no answer.

/must go now, there's an RV sale at the fairground.

21 August, 2007

The Simpsons as a reality show

Remember this episode?

Well, here's an actual note at a Hawaiian Walmart:

Interestingly, that place seems to have an aura of strandedness: I've waltzed in to get a thread and a few needles, smartly payed for them at the electronics department, thus avoiding the huge lines at regular check-outs, only to hit the wall with no exit within the Pharmacy department. Had to walk back and skip a few isles to get to the exit, which, of course, spoiled the overall hurricane-like shopping performance... But since I doubt there's anyone who watches all security cameras at once, this little blunder will stay secret.

16 August, 2007

Who is really behind the stem cells research opposition.

I think everyone should support this research. In fact, I think it is strange those who would benefit the most are not actively supporting it. Some examples:

  • Motorcycle makers. I can see the slogan already: "Just get a really good helmet, the rest we'll fix™. Guaranteed*". Every motorcycle could come with a full body replacement insurance, wouldn't that be great? All other extreme sports and activities providers should join. Of course, the ability to get a replacement for practically any body part would remove that certain chic that the extreme sports enjoy now, as the probability of death would be way lower, but I'm sure that between chic and parachute sales any self-respecting corporation would choose the former. Any day.

  • Departments of defense throughout the world. Training good soldiers is a long and expensive process, and I'm sure it would be quite a break-through if the same soldier could last virtually forever, getting new replacement organs. It'll be only the question of logistics: how to get the wounded off the field before irreversible brain damage. Recruitment would become much easier as well and draft avoidance would go down (where applicable).

  • Churches. Currently opposing the research, they might soon realize it is in their interest to actually support it. Why? Because with the wide availability of body replacement technology and the consequential proliferation of extreme sports (and wider enlistment), most deaths would become sudden and unexpected -- and therefore more scary. Certainly, many would wish to have some assurance for what's to follow -- just in case.

So who can be possibly against it? Doctors? No, they will still be needed to oversee the treatments and to detect problems for which the treatments are required. Nurses? They'll still do the actual administering of treatments, guided by doctors. Then who?

Possibly, the makers of the wheelchairs and such. They get to loose most of their business, but I'd expect them already to invest into stem-cell-based treatments, so they'd just move into an adjacent category... Just like tobacco companies bought food companies when they started to feel the heat.

It would seem the only group is teachers. And babysitters. Because longer lives might mean less babies, hence less work for them. They must be lobbying the parents who, not thinking about the benefits, lobby in turn the government. Therefore, here's a simple solution: just offer some pension guarantees to teachers and babysitters and there shouldn't be any more opposition to this promising new research.

15 August, 2007

Rated C for Conspiracy

I've been listening to a radio ad of some crappy new movie ― not sure what its name was ― and generally let is pass right through the vacuum between my ears, but I did catch an end of a sentence: “...not a minute without the parents”, or something like that. I'm not sure what it was supposed to mean and even if got it right, but it anyway allowed me to discover another conspiracy. The conspiracy of movie ratings, which is vast enough to cover other media, like TV or computer games (the latter being an unfortunate side-effect, or perhaps a decoy).

See how more and more material becomes “inappropriate” for children? Like an occasional glimpse of a woman's breast might traumatize them for life? Or someone's ass kicked in a mildly brutal manner? Clearly, there are scenes and ideas that should be kept away from people under a certain age, but then again, if it isn't appropriate, then don't allow children to watch it at all. Instead, movies get a rating that does allow children to watch it but ― here's the trick ― only if a parent is with them, too. I think that is the purpose of it: instead of going alone, a child has to bring an adult with him. A very real adult who will have to a) pay for the full-price ticket and b) will consume an ungodly amount of popcorn, which isn't free, either.

Similar reason, I think, is behind the campaign for “children-safe” TV ― while it works indirectly in this case. Because after all the media storm about the “indecency” on TV, some parents are more likely to watch TV with their children, hence the more mature and profitable audience for the ads. A catch-22-type coincidence here is that people who are gullible enough to really believe in that “indecent-TV” story are perhaps especially likely to buy whatever the ads tell them. And I was wondering why o why do they show car ads during Yu-Gi-Oh!

As for the video games, I don't see an immediate benefit of overly restrictive ratings and attributing kids' behavioral problems to the games. So it is probably done to make people more comfortable to the whole idea of censorship or perhaps it has even started by itself, which would mean that enough people did in fact become comfortable enough. Either way, make sure you watch Nickelodeon, just in case the FCC may need to know about inappropriate material!

P.S. I find it especially amusing how the broadcast (i.e. the type you watch for free via a piece of a wire) TV is censored. Less is allowed there vs cable, presumably precisely because of the ability to catch a broadcast off a piece of a wire... like if the products of the public school system could think of that. The purpose must be that the children don't get a mental shock after seeing a little of something that fed most of them for months or even years, but at the same time they do allow absolutely terrifying horror movie ads to run. These ads scare me, and I have to ― I kid you not ― close my eyes while they are on.

08 August, 2007

Where does water go?

A friend of mine has recently suggested that at least some of the water shortage our civilization experiences may be caused by the fact that our bodies consist mostly of water and, as the population grows, more water gets trapped. Let's see how much water can get statically bonded -- not only in human bodies, but in other civilization-related containers.

  • Human bodies. With about half of the body weight being water (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_water) and assuming the average person weight of 60kg (with Americans being averaged out with Vietnamese), our mortal shells hold 6*10^9*0.03=1.8*10^8 cubic meters of water in total.

  • Public Water Supply. If there is a 4cm pipe at least 10m long per each (of the, say, 2 billion) persons who have running water in their homes, then we'll have 2*10^9 * 10 * (2*10^-2)^2 * 3.141592 = ~0.24*10^8 m^3 of water. At least the same amount of water lurks in inter-house pipes, so we get 0.5*10^8 m^3 in total

  • Toilets. With 4 liters per tank and assuming one toilet per each person of those 2 billion (public/office restrooms may drive this figure even higher), we get 8*10^9*10^-3 =~ 0.1 * 10^8 m^3 [Hmm, not too much. I was expecting a tad more.]

  • Cattle. 1.3 billion heads (cattle-today.com/), 400kg each, assuming the same water content as humans, and assuming most of the population is a direct product of our civilization, 1.3*10^9*0.2=2.6*10^8 m^3.

  • Piggies About a billion, say 200kg each, 10^8 m^3 of water.

  • Pets Say, 200 million dogs, 10 liters each, on average, and same number of cats, 5 liters each: 300*10^6*0.01 = meager 0.03 * 10^8 (less than in toilet tanks!)

  • Agriculture 14 billion tonnes of "stuff". I assume this includes watermelons/tomatoes/oranges/etc. -- which consist mostly of water. But, being conservative let's assume it is still a half, so 7*10^9 = 70 * 10^8 (aha!)

  • Beverages Beer, ~120*10^6 m^3 per year, so, assuming there's always a 10-day supply in storage, 120*10^6 / 36 =~ 3 * 10^6. Juices and wine being included in Agriculture, let's suppose consumption is the same for carbonated non-alcoholic drinks (Coca/Pepsi-Colas, etc.) -- another 3*10^6. Milk -- 300*10^6 annual production, under the same assumption as for beer/sodas, 10*10^6 m^3 of static water. In total, about 0.2 * 10^8 m^3 of water is kept in beverages.

  • Cars [fetched the manual] About 7 liters of coolant + a liter or two for windshield washing. 6*10^8 cars, 0.06 * 10^8 m^3. meh

  • Other containers: Blood donation in the US are 15*10^6 of half-liter units annually, so it isn't that much static water. Ice rings or pools (especially the Olympic-sized ones) -- may be quite a bit of water, but they aren't many. What else... poultry? Well, doubtfully more than in pigs.

    Lots of water is used in paper production, but I would assume not much of it ends up in paper. Paint and Perfume may be worth looking into, but I doubt there's more water in paint than in beverages. Potentially, a lot of water may be held in bodies of domestic cockroaches, miscellaneous agricultural pests, lab mice, etc., but doubtfully it will increase the final figure by more than twice.

    In conclusion, the amount of water held by the civilization statically is about 10 cubic kilometers. Which could power the Amazon river for about a day!

    On the other hand, lake Baikal holds 23.5 thousand cubic kilometers of fresh water (20% of world supply). Must. Grow. More. Pigs!
  • 27 July, 2007

    OLPC conspiracy

    After taking a little time off, I'm back at revealing the world conspiracies.

    I saw an interesting article recently, about "unexpected" use of the cheap laptop computers in Africa -- Nigeria in particular. Interestingly, Nigeria is also known as one of the centers of the Advance fee fraud, so it would seem that the noble cause of educating African children may have an undesired side-effect of raising some really good hackers. (I know I would have become one if I had such a wonderful machine when I was 10).

    However, we should ask ourselves, is it such an undesired side-effect? Let's see what hackers and scammers do: they extract money from people, right? So a person who had his or her money taken will have to work again to replenish the lost resources. Besides, the said person is likely to think that it may be wise to spend the money right away, since it may be stolen and all the work would be in vain.

    Combine that with the news of the growing "quit the rat race" movement and the picture becomes clear: less work means less money to spend and, therefore, less profits for the corporations. Solution? Take you savings away, that'll teach you how fragile your perceived "I-have-enough-money-for-my-basic-needs" state is. Work harder, buy more stuff! At least stuff is harder to steal and you have to replace it anyway because we don't make it to last fashion changes.

    In the light of this, the corporate support for Open Source and "free" software becomes way less puzzling: even if the donated laptops don't have the necessary software, there should be a place to download the missing pieces from.

    /off to buy an iPhone
    //writes through Firefox

    21 June, 2007

    Dr. Evil's spam

    Email spam is ubiquitous these days, and its 'superfluidity' may give it an additional application besides selling stuff to people and hijacking their data and/or machine time.

    If you read any detective stories about international assassins, spies and whatnot - and these are the only type of detective stories worth reading - you've definitely noticed how convoluted are the schemes for contacting the guy who spends most of his time in hiding. Every third Saturday of the month come to Piazza del Popolo in Rome, holding 3 red roses and a copy of Sacramento Bee dated exactly 10 days earlier. Now the guy who needs to be contacted has to wander around the square, looking for someone with Sacramento Bee. Thankfully, international assassins have to have sharp eyes, so he will be able to read the issue date, but still... what if Sacramento Bee goes bankrupt?

    Or consider the "moles" -- the guys who work quietly in the heart of the enemy's government for years and even decades, only passing the most valuable information or acting in the most critical moments.

    How to communicate effectively with these people? Email would be nice, but a permanent email address can be monitored and again, what if you loose the access to it? Thankfully to the cloak-and-dagger people, they don't have to rely on a constant email address. Instead, what they can do is set up an email address -- at any free service, for example -- and just leave it at a few message boards. Then, their handlers call one of those companies who offer "mass mail services" and send the message out to their guy and to the whole world.

    Sure, everyone will receive the secret message, but who's going to know if it is a secret message? Do you have a habit of counting spaces at the ends of the lines in Ci41is ads? :p

    14 June, 2007

    Fighting hypocrisy at its source.

    Have you ever been wondering where hypocrisy comes from? Children are always honest up to a certain age, always speaking what's on their clean minds. Only when they grow up, they start to lie, pretend to care about things they don't, distort information to their benefit -- you know, what adults do.

    Clearly, something teaches children that and, since lying is a very basic -- unfortunately -- human behavior, something very basic should be at its source. Something as basic as the language.

    Think about it. Every time you ask someone, "How are you?", do you really care about the other person's business? Probably not, in most cases. The phrase has become a single meaningless token, just like "Hi" but, unlike "Hi", still retains a literary meaning. Which is not a problem for an adult acquiring a language, since this type of hypocritical constructions are present in most languages, so the grown up person just makes a mental note that "'How are you' is just how we say [...], literary meaning is not assumed".

    Now, when a child learns his native language, he takes everything at its face value since he doesn't know any other languages for comparison. Therefore, when he sees people asking each other how they are, he first thinks to himself, "Wow, what an empathic world I'm living in!" But then he notices that, in most cases, people really don't mean that, thus receiving his first and most important lesson of hypocrisy.

    Other aggravated lessons will come soon, but this experience with a very basic thing, a greeting -- the first thing people say to each other and already a lie -- must be the most important of them all. So if we could just get rid of the lies in the basic language constructions the perhaps our children will see that lying isn't a basic behavior, but rather a rare, reproached occurrence. And that should definitely make our world a little better.

    13 May, 2007

    Improving gas mileage using the free market.

    Senate or House has recently passed an increased mileage standard: in 2020 cars will have to make at least 35 miles using a gallon of fuel -- like a non-hybrid Civic could do 20 years ago. Woo-hoo!

    Certainly, automakers aren't happy. I suppose, if left alone they'd still make horse-driven carriages. Proven technology and all, the public would buy anything, as long as it is domestic, reliable, etc.

    So it would seem the so called free market needs constant kicking and prodding in order to produce something that is actually good for general public. Or, as a pedantic reader would say, monopolies should be restricted - which is rather tough to do with car makers, telecoms, cell phone makers and pharmaceutical companies. In other words, if an industry that produces something more advanced than shovels or firewood, there would be just a few big companies, monopolies de facto. Interestingly, these are the very industries that affect peoples' lives the most. ;)

    Neo-monarchy to the rescue! Instead of wasting time and taxpayers' money for discussing only marginally useful laws, our ideal monarch would instead parallelize the monopolies' with the public interest. Being true to his despotic, non-democratic self, he'd severely limit the freedom of the few individuals. As you might have guessed, he'd prohibit car makers high management to buy gasoline for their transportation. Instead, he'd give them 20 gallons per week, 5 extra for Labor Day weekend. I am fairly certain all the cars they make would soon be able to travel from Detroit to LA and back using half of those 20 gallons.

    Free market wins, as usual!

    04 May, 2007

    Getting rid of the money, part 2.

    So, after solving the pharmaceuticals problem, the wise monarch has his wrathful eyes on the cell phone makers. By nothing but assuming a weasely conspiracy can he explain the reason why different cell phones have non-matching power/USB cords. Really, all phones do have very similar buttons, with the same numbers and letters on them, and Answer button is green, Hang-Up button is red, so there are some standards which could cover the power and the data cords, too.

    This conspiracy extends to other devices, not just cell phones, and even to the devices made by the same company. His Majesty's grand vizier has a camcorder and a still camera from Sony, and these devices have power cords incompatible with each other and neither of them can charge off USB. Clearly, it's more profitable this way: should you get, say, the camcorder charger compromised by a puppy, you won't be able to use neither of the million chargers you already have in your house, nor any of a billion mini-USB cables lying around will be of any help. And once your dear camcorder starts blinking a red LED and beeping pitifully, you'd run into the nearest electronics store to get a new charger, made by guess whom?

    But nothing is impossible for the wise king: and again he would strike the offenders right into their board of directors, setting a limit on the percentage of the devices manufactured by their company that they can use, unit-wise (e.g. if a Samsung executive has 4 cell phones and 4 notebooks in his house, 8 devices total, only, say, 20% of them -- 2 -- can be Samsung-made). Plus, these highly-privileged persons would be stripped from one little privilege: they wouldn't be allowed to buy any chargers while holding their office, but would be only able to borrow them from other people -- including the directors of their competitors or even complete strangers on the street.

    After being unable to charge their personal gadgets a couple of times, after begging strangers for a charger, they'd call a secret meeting and unify the power sockets across devices, thus entering a collusion that we, the public, can benefit from, for a change.

    Again, the wise neo-monarch proves that the free market can benefit the public, no matter what commies say. Only very little regulation is needed, most people won't even notice it :)

    30 April, 2007

    Non-monetary motivation

    I am having a cold sore these days, so I have a great chance to think about why don't we have a cure for herpes yet. Just as there's no cure for many things, but lots of fairly effective treatments.

    Certainly, our understanding of how our bodies work is limited, and probably never will be complete, but it would appear that -- and I'm certainly not the first one to notice -- there's less incentive to search for cures. Because, obviously, if you cure an ailment, you're shrinking your own market (you may end up eliminating the disease altogether!), while a good treatment provides you with a profit forever. Therefore, those who actually can find cures -- pharmaceutical companies -- benefit more from providing treatments, rather than cures, because, just as any corporation, they are in a business of making money.

    So it appears that while monetary rewards do work great for us (the humanity) in some areas (see how cooler our cell phones are getting every year!), maximizing the profit may sometimes take you into a direction opposite to the one that the common good might suggest.

    Obviously, this is something governments should regulate, and it is equally obvious that modern "donation"-based governments would never do that. Interestingly, this particular case does not actually require much intervention. A wise monarch would solve the issue with a single edict, something like: "No healthy person should be in the board of directors in a pharmaceutical company". And let the market take care of things ;)

    18 April, 2007

    Sticking it to show buisiness.

    I have recently seen this "Shakira" video on a popular video website. I believe it is a parody, especially since the video title actually says so, but the funny thing is that I have never seen the real Shakira. Or, rather, I have probably seen her on a poster or on a magazine cover, but never knew it was her. So for any practical purpose it can be assumed I have never seen her.

    Now, there's an interesting implication of me seeing this video without knowing how the real Shakira looks like: every time I hear her name or hear that song, the image of a fat guy dancing will come up in my mind. When I see a tabloid headline about Shakira's adventures, I'll be thinking: "Wow, the fatso really goes places!". Or, not being able to shield myself from the announcement of, say, Shakira's divorce with a NASCAR racer, I'll be amused that everything is allowed if you're rich and famous. When someone praises the choreography in her videos, I'll be remembering the graceful jumps in the shallow waters. And when (and if) I see the real Shakir, I'll say, "Naw, I don't think it is her!". It is now really hard for the show business to plant the "correct" Shakira image into my head.

    This is how the really effective propaganda should work: not just persuading people that black is the new white, but actually replacing white with black in peoples' minds. Of course, this only works well with people who (ideally) have never seen neither black nor white or (at least) have never seen white, and that is why public education is really important ;)

    12 April, 2007

    How to save resources -- election vouchers.

    I have received a request for money recently -- I receive lots of them because apparently some database somewhere thinks I am rich and generous -- but this one was from the Democratic National Committee, no less.

    The most interesting part was the return "paid-by-addressee" envelope, which contained a note: "Although this is a prepaid envelope, please attach a stamp anyway, so we'll save our valuable resources". Pretty greedy, huh -- send us not just $100, but $100.37 (39?).

    I wonder how many resources were wasted for printing the envelope and the letter, paying for the message writers' labor and moving the letter from the printer to my mailbox. Then some not very valuable, but dear to me my own time was wasted for reading all that stuff and carefully examining the envelope. And to think that all that time and money could have been used for researching the consciousness to machine transfer!

    I believe that all political advertisement and discussion should be prohibited -- except for one specially designated federally funded web site. Nothing at all, including the date and place of the next elections should be available anywhere but on that web site. After all, only people who are interested in taking control of their lives politics actually vote, so why waste resources bombarding the non-voting public with political ads?

    Steering onto a more realistic road, I doubt the saved money and labor would be used for seeking eternal life in electronic form. Probably it can work as some form of vouchers: after each election everyone is issued a voucher worth, say $5000, which one can immediately exchange for a super-duper wide-screen TV. There is a catch, however: in order to participate in the next elections one needs to surrender this voucher at the polling place.

    This way the money that does not have to be wasted on "political process" in its current form gets distributed directly to the people. And by not cashing your voucher you support that one website where the new politics is. No more ugly interruptions of the regular TV programming for debates, no sleazy negative ads -- everyone is happy!

    /Or you can use those vouchers to pay for college.

    09 April, 2007

    How to choose the best resort.

    I think the best places to spend a short vacation are those that are close to home. Say, 1 or 2 hour drive. Certainly, it is way less expensive to get there since there's no flying involved and for the same reason you don't have to have your stuff searched and can take all the toothpaste you want with you.

    These are all universally known benefits, but there's at least one more: if you go to a resort that is so close to home, you can easily visit your home if you forgot something (like, say, toothpaste or the cell phone charger). Or you can buy groceries and do the laundry, and then return to the resort. Can't do that with Hawaii!

    02 April, 2007

    Parallel Universes are real -- the proof.

    A couple of days ago I've overheard some guy in a diner who was telling his friends about someone named Frank -- a very accomplished individual, I must admit. This Frank has built a few buildings, has a happy family and himself is a great guy and all that -- a modern Hercules, this Frank is.

    But one thing about him really stood out. The narrator said that back when Frank was 12 (and he is 57 now), he lived in Florida when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and saw American missiles flying over to Cuba.

    So apparently in the Universe Frank is originally from, the Crisis had lead to an actual nuclear war and, I think, the energy released by the nuclear explosions have ripped the time-space fabric and moved Frank into our more lucky Universe. And certainly, if you survive such an ordeal, the rest of the life's problems would seem trivial, nothing would prevent you from becoming a happy, successful person, just like Frank.

    30 March, 2007

    Fun with cuisine travellers.

    I was watching a travel show the other day, one of those "food" types where someone travels around the world and bravely eats whatever is customary there. A trained bald energetic guy was rushing around the streets of Madrid, checking out restaurants and cafes, enjoying every dish he was offered. There weren't a single item which he didn't like, everything was just perfect, delicious, marvelous -- including the bull's huevos.

    I suppose each restaurant did its best to make the best dish possible, so I don't really doubt the guy's enthusiasm. However, I've got an idea for a restaurant owner: invent a "popular, but very expensive and therefore rare and less known dish", with some fancy name. Or, actually, an existing one could be used -- the point is to prepare it badly. So badly that the mere smell would trigger the puke reflex. Then, serve the dish to the guy in front of the cameras, may be take a bit from a specially arranged non-bad spot, and then enjoy how the food traveler pretends to like the food.

    Oh, and locking the restroom may be a good addition.

    26 March, 2007

    How Tranai instant recall system would affect education level.

    I may need to explain how the instant recall system works on Tranai (it is described in this book). Basically, every government official must wear a special collar (which can't be removed while the person holds an office), and there are special booths all around the planet. The collars contain a few grams of explosive and a radio detonator and in the booths there are buttons with officials' names. If a citizen is dissatisfied with the official's work, he can come to a booth and press the corresponding button, and, once a certain threshold is met...

    Of course, the real system doesn't have to so brutal. Instead of the explosive decapitation, just recalling the official should be enough. There is, however, an obvious problem with such a system: it doesn't allow unpopular decisions to be made. Really, it isn't possible to satisfy absolutely everyone, so every political decision is necessarily a compromise of sorts -- and that is probably the major reason people hate politicians: every decision that is beneficial to one group is not so beneficial to another, and virtually everyone ends up in one of latter groups. Politician just have to try to satisfy everyone, which gives them an appearance of lying hypocrites (or you have to be a hypocrite to become a politician, doesn't really matter what is the cause and what is the effect here.)

    This necessity of "balance" makes uneducated populace more attractive to governments: people who don't think critically can be cheated easily, so governments may want to decrease the quality of public education. Which creates a vicious positive feedback: the generation raised with worse education produces even worse rulers (of all levels, from city district officials to presidents/prime ministers), who, in turn, worsen the public education system even further.

    Now, the instant recall system could start the cycle in the opposite direction: more educated people will more likely accept unpopular, but necessary decisions, so the government would be more interested in increasing the education level of the population. And more educated people will produce smarter rulers, who will improve the education even further.

    Of course, this will work best if people live and occupy an office long enough so that their efforts in the area of educating new citizens could be statistically evident while they're still in office.

    23 March, 2007

    Politicians' promises database

    One can often hear, especially near the election time, how someone who wants to get (re)elected speaks about his or her promises, that were either fulfilled by the hard work of the speaker, or failed, due to the obstruction of the evil opponents. Either way, says the the election-hopeful, you should elect me to the office, so I could continue actually doing the good deeds or fighting those who oppose them.

    And certainly, the pre-election promises are often exaggerated, either by the candidate s themselves, if the promises were at least partially fulfilled, or by their opponents, if the said promises never materialized. In the latter case the mere existence of such promises is denied fiery.

    Well, it used to be rather hard to prove or disprove whether the particular public words were said or not, and even if someone could do that, their claims could be easily refuted. Really, whom are you going to believe, the smiling successful pillar of the community and the farther of three adorable daughters, or some unwashed girl in broken glasses who spent the whole week in the library, "digging up all this nonsense"? The sad fact that most people would side with the former brings us to the necessity of the easily accessible promises database, that anyone could query.

    And the necessary technology actually does exist today, a wiki-like engine is perfect for this kind of thing, the only thing that is needed is some sort of an operational protocol. Here's how it could work:

    - Together with announcing the candidacy, a record in the web-accessible database is created and each candidate fills in his or her ideas on what should the targeted office do about "issues".
    - During the campaign these ideas/promises can be updated but not too often, and each update should have a comment explaining the reason for the change.
    - Once the elections are done, the database is frozen (the office-elect may only attach progress reports) and it becomes easy for anyone to see, what was and what wasn't done.

    From the technical perspective, a couple of simple but effective tampering-prevention measures should be taken: copies of the database should be regularly mailed (on a CD) to anyone interested, and there should be several mirrors of the website. But, more importantly, the database should be universally accepted socially, so anyone with too many unexplained discrepancies in the database becomes a political corpse instantly.

    The system could later be upgraded to something similar to what they had on the planet Tranai.

    22 March, 2007

    Phones on a plane.

    FCC may drop plan allowing cell calls in-flight, which is good, because on a plane there's no walking away from someone who just has to describe her most recent visit to JCPenney™. I like the fact that we don't have to bear any white noise in addition to the engines' humming.

    But do we owe this blissful silence to the cell phone usage ban? May be, but only indirectly. I think there is a more powerful social factor.

    See, the persons who like to talk over the cell phone a lot, they usually tell something, i.e. they produce a monologue. And you don't really need a phone for a monologue, right? The only time the telephone function is used is at the opening stage: "OMG I gotta tell you about..." and in the end: "Oops, these rude people are staring at me, talk to you later". Between these phrases there is virtually uninterrupted stream of words, so one doesn't actually need a working phone for this kind of "conversation".

    So, we don't hear these entertaining monologues on the plane only because describing a JCPenney sale into a switched-off phone (or just into the open air, for that matter) is considered silly, ridiculous and otherwise socially unacceptable. We're spared -- but not because of the cell phone ban per se, but because the chatters don't want to look stupid, as if... oh, never mind.

    Which gives me a wonderful commercial idea: someone could make a "talkbox", that looks like a phone, with a microphone and all. But, it isn't connected to any network, so there's no interference with the in-flight systems (and no bills to pay, so it can be used on the ground, too!). Instead, there's a voice-synthesizing system which once in a while says, "Uh-huh", or "Really?!", or "Tell me more!" and so on. Deluxe models could also have speech-recognition system, so when the user says, "Know what I'm sayin'?", the talkbox would answer, "Yeah, totally", or something like that.

    It could be marketed as "Confidebot" or "Supportive Jenny" -- this needs more thinking. Just check your regular cell phone with a flight attendant, show her that you're going to use the Supportive Jenny and talk on the phone like you normally do, all flight long!

    Of course, I feel a little guilty suggesting this, but if it works, I'd be flying first class my private jet, so why do I care!

    /off to USPTO.gov

    20 March, 2007

    The new taste of travel.

    It's interesting how one forgets his home a little after spending a few days away, getting somewhat used to how things are at the place where you stay. And once you get back, you "rediscover" -- or, rather, reload into the cache memory -- the particular smell of your home, the exact position of the light switches, the size and shape of your cups, etc. It is fun and it wards off Alzheimer's.

    And now, with the (relatively) new Transport Security regulations prohibiting more than a few ounces of any non-solid substance to be taken aboard, there's a new feeling in homecoming. The taste of your own tooth-paste.

    13 March, 2007

    0% APR for life credit cards.

    You know how banks offer credit cards with 0% APR for 6-12-18 months, so you get used to not paying off the whole balance during the grace period and get slammed with 15-18-24% rate once the promotional period expires.

    It is interesting to note, however, that potentially banks could keep 0% rate forever, and still make profit, as long as you pay off your balance on time (and I guess they are making profit even if you always repay your debt within the grace period).

    Suppose you get a credit card with $1000 limit, then buy some stuff for the whole $1000, then send a $1000 check to the bank a couple of weeks later and then restrain yourself from shopping sprees, admiring how you're living by your means. In effect, the bank gave you $1000, received it back from you and keeps it. So if you don't go buy another $1000 worth of stuff on the very day the bank got your $1000 back, the bank gets to use your money as it sees fit. For example, it can give someone a mortgage or a business loan and get a few pennies of interest on that $1000. And if they have 100,000 customers, each giving them a $1000 for a few days, these pennies add up to millions of dollars.

    But that of course works only if you pay regularly and, more importantly, don't go waste all of the credit limit at once, but instead spend a $100 here and a $20 there, then the bank gets to use your money longer.

    Therefore paying off the balance does not mean the bank gets no profit, I wonder if it gets even more profit then off those poor folks who just pay a minimum payment every month, thus being able to admire the wrath of 24% APR spreading its black wings across the Universe. See, if you don't pay off the whole balance, and may be get to pay an occasional overlimit fee, your credit limit probably isn't very high. And as the wise science of mathematics teaches us, even the humongous (24% APR) of multipliers can be brought to near-zero if multiplied by a near-zero number ($250 credit limit). On the other hand, if you are a fat cat with $50K credit limit and buy a G35 for the Junior to drive to school and pay off the whole ~$40K balance the very same month, the bank gets to use those $40K almost indefinitely.

    So whether you're "financially responsible" or not, pay off credit cards or not, banks get profit anyway. Which is obvious, of course, but it was interesting to analyze the mechanism.

    11 March, 2007

    Daylight saving time holiday: 2-hour tax cut.

    I support the free market as much as the next guy, but I just have to say that today, omnivorous capitalist sharks had stolen one whole hour of our hard-earned day-off.

    Really, why this time shift has to happen on Sunday, of all days? Why not on Monday, around 4pm? Suppose you're at the office, and it's 3.59pm and then suddenly -- ta-da! -- it's 5 already, time to go home. Hallelujah!

    But no, instead we're losing one Sunday hour. In the beginning of the 20th century people had died fighting for these precious day-off hours, and now we're just giving one away.

    What about the fall time shift, some may ask. Aren't we getting that hour back on one glorious Sunday in October? We do, but that extra hour is well earned: productivity has also grown dramatically in the 20th century, so don't you think we could work one hour less -- per year?

    And it's not like the government can't just order this change, it has no problem telling people what to do in other areas. But being a free market advocate and all, I propose an economic solution: 2-hour tax cut.

    The idea is to reward companies that let the workers go home one hour earlier once a year. By doing that, they are going to loose 1 hour of their output, right? So, the new cool tax cut would allow them to write off profits of 2 hours. That is, divide the whole year's profits by the number of hours operated and deduct 2 such pieces.

    This way daylight is going to be saved and people will be happy. It is a win-win for everyone!

    /Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

    08 March, 2007


    Actually, there are some programs in place that intend to shuffle people a little. In the US, for example, there is a special visa class (J2, I think) that allows foreign students to study for a while, but then they are forced to spend at least 2 years in their home country ("2 Years Home Residency Requirement"). The idea is that after 2 years they'll have enough things going and won't try to return back to the US, instead staying in their homeland, thus spreading American culture. Some say that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is the program's greatest success.

    For the opposite direction, there are organizations like Peace Corps and, I believe, some churches send young missionaries around the world.

    Problem is, these programs are in no way mandatory, they are based solely on younger peoples' curiosity. And actually those curious and open-minded people would learn a lot about the world by themselves, it is other, less curious and open-minded people who need to be sent traveling but alas, they don't volunteer. Catch22 at it's best.

    07 March, 2007

    How to stop wars

    Do you think a war is possible between the USA and, say, the UK? Or Australia? Probably not, right? Not completely impossible, but much less likely than a, for example, USA:Venezuela showdown. Or UK:Brazil, or Australia:Pakistan.

    And it's not just the common language that counts, as there is also one more unlikely foe for the USA: Israel. The reason is, I guess, is that there are so many Israelis (i.e. citizens of Israel) and Jews (i.e. those who may have never been in Israel, but still associate themselves with it) live in the USA, that an attempt to start a war would be blocked by them on every level of the society, including the highest ones.

    Same goes for the UK: there are so many people who have relatives there, that the mere idea of a war would be stopped with a simple thought: "Are we going to bomb the uncle Patrick's house, too?".

    NATO-Schmato, WTO-Schmeeteeo, they don't mean much in this respect, really. Family\friendship ties are way more important in war preventing than all international treaties combines.

    Which leads to a simple solution: people should be forced to move to other countries. For example, once you reach 18, you go to a college that is, say, at least 50 degrees away from your birthplace, longitude-wise. Even if you return back to your homeland, after 4-5-6 years in college you'll have enough friends there that you wouldn't want to kill. And they wouldn't want to kill you.

    There may be a few countries who wouldn't join this marvelous program. Well, the rest of the world would just bomb those and voilà -- the world peace!

    04 March, 2007

    Speaking in tongues shuts down brain.

    I've been rearranging stuff on my desk and dug up an issue of the Discover magazine, which I haven't read yet. Otherwise I would've known that "speaking in tongues shuts down brain areas responsible for executive function and thought control". But that wouldn't do me any good since, being a poorly educated person I didn't know what "speaking in tongues" meant. I thought it meant speaking aloud, like when talking on the cell phone, which would explain why trolls some people drive erratically.

    Turns out, though, it is just a fancy way to call glossolalia, but, listening to some people who talk a lot -- like politicians ;) -- I think my original idea has some merit.

    02 March, 2007

    The greatest treachery, or where do assholes come from.

    There is an old ballad about a mountain troll who wants to marry a man, Mr. Mannelig, and if she does that, she'll presumably become human. One has to wonder, though, if a troll becomes a human, won't he or she still be a troll inside? The kind of person that leaves garbage around wherever he goes?

    Now, if you remember what your grandparents told you -- that "people were better in old times", you'll have to agree that somewhere down the line there was someone who actually got seduced by the promises of 12 mills and a mighty sword (a real, head-cutting sharp sword, not a MMORPG sequence of bytes) and gave to the requests, marrying the troll.

    I don't know if she had offered something else in addition to what is listed in the ballad, but it doesn't really matter. The fact is, there was someone who hadn't quite think through what he was getting into and, as a result, has betrayed as all. Because apparently this happened a rather long time ago, when the science of contraception wasn't as developed as it is now. Besides, at that time it wasn't socially acceptable for a married couple to use even whatever sorry means were available.

    So they had children and, sure enough, their children were half-trolls. Since the mitochondrial DNA is passed along the mother's line only, their descendants still have those distinct trollish genes. And that is why we see the number of assholes increasing, it isn't just the generation gap, it really is happening, objectively.

    P.S. YouTube carries a nice version of the ballad by InExtremo.

    27 February, 2007

    The real post-industrial society.

    It is known that education is getting worse these days, less and less people desire to study sciences, more and more choosing to major in "general studies" which basically means anything that is not boring, which, in turn, is discussing plans for the next party for most people.

    Interestingly, it seems that nothing is done to remedy the situation, quite the opposite -- a lot the is being done to continue this trend.

    So why don't governments care about the education? Don't they need taxpayers with high income, which is achieved by high education? Certainly, uneducated public is much easier manipulated, but someone just has to develop those WMDs, right? Well, just a few very intellectual people are needed for that, so they probably will get through no matter how bad the education system is, but what about "regular" engineers, air traffic controllers, economists, etc.? Countries still need those, right?

    That is so, but one has to consider that these professions may not require much creativity. For example, software engineering used to be an art, but as computers' performance grows, the quality of the software does not matter that much anymore, so most of the coding is just routine work, like digging a trench. So, just as machines are way better in trench digging then humans, machines are (or will be very soon) able to also do software. And control airplanes. And predict market movements. Even drive taxis and clean the rooms -- advances in AI and robotics may allow for most of the jobs to be replaced by machines.

    Apparently, the time is coming when you won't have to work, unless you want to. And by "work" I mean using your brain for actual thinking, all other activities seem to be quite doable by computers. Therefore, general public may be quite happy with endless shopping and TV-watching, and other fun activities that do not require any education.

    But where are we going to get money for shopping, some may ask, if practically everything is going to be done by robots? Well, I'm sure there will be "jobs" where, of course, we won't be asked to do anything boring or anything we don't like. Some basic education system will also be around, acting as a scout network for picking up new talents who are going to advance technology further. And those talents certainly can come from a much smaller population, so the fact that the population of the "post-industrial" countries is decreasing is also an indicator of movement in the direction outlined above.

    /Colonel Armstrong Tree, signing out.

    25 February, 2007

    There is no truth.

    Mass media is often criticized of being biased and of "not giving the full truth" or "not showing the whole picture". While it is true that information is being withheld or underreported or outright distorted, let's ask ourselves, is it even possible to provide the "complete truth"?

    What is truth -- at least in the sense of accurate reporting of the events? If man A kills man B that is an event, right? And as a result of this event, man A is a killer and man B is a victim. Even if man A is an executioner and man B is a convicted criminal? And that even if man A serves a bloodthirsty dictatorship and B's crime was doubting the dictator's wisdom?

    And so on and so forth, I'm sure everyone has seen similar logical chains elsewhere. My point is, it isn't possible to "accurately represent the facts", since there's always another layer to those facts. In the "man A kills man B" example above, the last step, about the dictatorship, certainly won't be reported by the dictator's newspapers. It probably won't be reported in other countries who support the dictatorship, and may not be reported at all -- if the dictatorship won't fail, who's going to call it that? And then, even if somebody does, others may not agree -- see Pinochet, for example... Or Saddam ;)

    But there seems to be one more obstacle to the truth: according to the Gödel's incompleteness theorems, no matter how many "layers" -- points of view, motivations, etc. -- of the same event you include in the report, there always going to be a judgment, an idea or another point of view that can turn "good" guys into "bad" ones and vice versa.

    So what does all this mean for us, the news readers? Should we stop reading news completely? That would be a possible solution, sure -- but our curiosity won't allow that. Besides, refusing information has to be unanimous, otherwise whoever still has the information takes advantage over those who doesn't. Which again is a solution, and that is probably actually happening, but can't we think of something else? If we read about as much layers as possible, can't we finally agree?

    Well, no. But what we can do is to push the misunderstanding out into the domain where it doesn't matter much. That is, we won't get complete truth we can happily agree on, but if the argument is pushed from whether a billion of people should be killed or not, to, say, whether or not nuclear fusion is a viable global power source, then I think it would be good enough.

    22 February, 2007

    What to do with the orphans.

    Currently, abandoned children are mostly neglected by governments, and it appears to have been the case for quite a while, judging by the vast cultural heritage on the topic: orphans are often perceived as unlucky, poor kids who lack the warmth of parental love and are, generally, quite miserable.

    This once again shows the ineffectiveness of the past and present governments, because orphans, by the very nature of their situation, can be very loyal to the government. Most people are quite loyal to their family, relatives and friends, so if there's ever a choice, whether to do something that benefits their family or the country as a whole, many people may choose the former. What's worse, it isn't possible to foresee what each particular person will choose, which may have very dire consequence for the country if the person choosing is at a high level of the power hierarchy -- a president or some such. Although it's not that those who get elected into high offices get scrutinized on this criteria, so the problem isn't very obvious.

    Orphans, on the other hand, can be raised as the government elite, brought up equating themselves with the country and its government, so they won't ever have any doubts about whom to serve. They will also be highly resistant to treason, because the whole idea of betraying the government they owe everything will be very foreign to them.

    Certainly, in the current scheme of things, the government and the country are not quite the same, the former may change course several times while a person is growing up, but, in the context of neo genetic monarchy this makes much more sense. These orphans raised in loyalty to the dynasty is the human resource pool that a wise, genetically-engineered monarch could take his lieutenants from.

    Vive la génétique!

    18 February, 2007

    Taming inflation with coins.

    It has been recently announced that U.S. Mint is going to produce the presidential $1 coins, so there's going to be even more "special" coins in circulation, in addition to the state quarters. The Presidents are going to have even greater total value, since there were already more Presidents than states and each President is valued four times more than a State.

    It's interesting to note that these coins are intended for mass circulation, not a limited release for numismatists. Which means, that these new coins, just as the state quarters, are going to pass through the general publics' hands and, since there's a collector in everyone, many, if not most, of the coins are going to stick to those hands to be then shaken off into a jar.

    So, why all this? Consider: the money is being issued, and someone is getting paid with that money, which normally causes inflation -- i.e. there's more money in circulation than goods/services, so the value of the money goes down somewhat. But, if those someones are not buying anything with the money, keeping it in the jar instead, the money never enter the economy, hence there's less inflation!

    I wonder how soon are we going to see the special annual $20 bills, one for each year since 1776, depicting some important event of that year. Collect them all!

    15 February, 2007

    Fun with google images.

    Here's a simple game that might improve your language skills (and help kill some time).

    1) open google images

    2) open a web page in a language you don't know. Wikipedia can help you with that.

    3) copy a word from the page into google images and click Search.

    4) try to guess what the word means by looking at the pictures.

    12 February, 2007

    The genetic dawn of new monarchies.

    It's obvious that with the right monarch, a monarchy can outperform democracies easily, since the monarch is not concerned with reelection. The king is pretty much associated with the country, so he'll do his best to lead the country to prosperity -- he does not have any other goal in life, anyway.

    The reason why this is not the case in reality is right there in the 3rd word of the statement: "with the right monarch...". (Un)fortunately, the systems with family-inherited absolute power don't work too well because the children aren't the exact copies of their parents, so if the dynasty founder was all suited to be a king, his offspring may be less so. And their offspring, lacking not only the natural predisposition but the right upbringing under the influence of a good monarch, may be even worse rulers. They could be great musicians or bakers or scientists, but the country needs a ruler to rule and a great poet will let his country down. The tendency to breed within a narrow "royal" gene pool isn't helping either.

    That's why democracies win so far: each individual ruler may be mediocre, but, succeeding each other frequently, they cancel each other's mistakes and the country makes a good progress overall. However, there are things that may be pleasing to the potential voters in the short turn, but damaging for the country and biting those same voters in the ass a few years later. Which doesn't matter for the elected leader who done those, because he's not a leader anymore, another guy has to solve the problem now. A good king won't have to do things for the voters' immediate gratification, but could really aim for long-term goals.

    So, how do we ensure the good king's son is also a good king? Well, genetic engineering is the answer: don't let the Brownian motion decide whether the price will be a good ruler or a good golf player. Pick up the right one out of the million royal seamen, the country's future depends on it! Sure, the father may want a great basketball player son, you know, to get free tickets for the best seats and all that, but that's his duty as a king. Besides, I'm sure the Basketball Association would recognize this great sacrifice and spare a few tickets for the king.

    08 February, 2007

    Emancipation of the trees

    I've read recently that the tree genome is twice as big as the human, making trees a potentially more complex creatures than yours truly. Sure, trees don't write blogs or anything, but on the other hand, I might be a tree, how would you know? Of course, there is a guy who told about this blog to a few friends, but may be he's lying! May be the Colonel Armstrong Tree is writing this, who knows.

    Have you noticed, by the way, how the size of the Internet exploded in recent years: there are billions of web pages, blogs, home pages. How writes all those, hard working humans, like you and me? There's no way people have so much spare time, so it's quite feasible this growth is caused by the trees, who have figured out how to connect to the Internet by inducing electrical currents in wires! With 45000 genes, they sure can have that ability!

    Also, trees don't work (i.e. they don't have any jobs other than being a natural resource, but that doesn't take much effort) and we've always assumed that is because they're too stupid to work. But now we're armed with genetics and know that a tree can potentially do twice as much work as any human. All this time while we were having labor disputes resulting in bloody revolutions, the trees were just standing there laughing at us! But it's not so easy to cheat us anymore, and I call for immediate emancipation of all trees!

    /Hope a tree won't fall on me today.

    04 February, 2007

    How to dispose of radioactive waste.

    Disposing of radioactive waste is a very important problem, since this waste is what makes the whole principle of nuclear energy not so clean. Currently, the used radioactive fuel is stored underground in really strong (hopefully) containers, which is quite expensive, so I imagine the companies running nuclear stations would like a cheaper solution.

    Yesterday I was helping a friend of mine to assemble a desk he bought. In one of those little polyethylene packets with screws and stuff, there were some strange crumbs, which may actually be some CEO's answer to toxic waste disposal. Instead of leasing land for a few thousands of years, designing and building those strong containers, why not stuff little pieces here and there? With a wide enough distribution (and I suppose those desks are shipped worldwide), any waste will be spread evenly, so no one would notice. And if the crumbs are small enough, consumers will most likely loose them around their house, so there won't be any detectable accumulation in landfills where household garbage ends up.

    Scary, huh?

    03 February, 2007

    SUV rollover

    Just saw an ad on some website:

    I doubt that it's such a great idea to put the word "rollover" on an SUV ad. Especially if followed by "Learn Why". Because it's a behemoth and should really require a special license to operate, that's why.

    02 February, 2007

    Fighting spam with spam

    It is no secret why junk email is so successful: it costs practically nothing to send a message to a million of addresses. Those addresses are gathered in a variety of ways, one of them is harvesting them off websites, so these days practically nobody has an actual email address that you can click on and send a message to. No, they are either images, so you have to type the address yourself, or contain some bot-tricking "removespam" characters, or altogether hidden behind a web form.

    Well, I think we (the good spam-hating people) should start putting email links back on our pages, and as many as possible. Of course, they have to be fake addresses.

    It takes me, let's see...


    ...about 50 seconds to come up with the addresses above. Now, when the spam-bots will do their harvesting, they'll pick those up and 5 solid financial offers won't rich a recipient. This won't make any difference, of course, if there are just 5 addresses, but if a million people will come up with 5-10 fake addresses each, that'll be much more of a burden to spammers. The ultimate goal is to dilute real addresses with lots of fake ones, which is cheap, easy and effective. To put it in other way, it's spamming the spammers!

    P.S. And we should also keep a few fake records in our email application's address book, so if -- God forbid -- a worm infects us, it take some poison back to its lair!

    31 January, 2007

    An effective way to save energy

    California may ban conventional lightbulbs by 2012

    It's interesting to note that at least two of my attempts to save energy (and money) by replacing the regular light bulbs with the cool sprialy ones ended prematurely before I could feel any savings. The stupid helices blew up in just a few months, so so far it's more of a waste for me (and the environment).

    There is, however, an easier and, I believe, a more effective way of saving energy, and in that one I excel. It's called, "Turn off the frigging light when you don't need it!".

    I think I'm the only one (or close to that) who turns off the light at the apartments laundry room when leaving, and who doesn't turn them in the middle of the darned day!
    Sure there is a timer-equipped light switch, but everyone just cranks it up to the maximum (~50 minutes), and as the washer, dryer cycles takes 35-45 minutes, the light ends up shining all day long. All sunny day long!

    PG&E charges at least 11 cents per KWh (this appears to be their lowest rate, residential), so from 9am to 9pm it's going to be 0.4*12*11 = 52 cents/day (assuming 400 Watts for lightning). The laundry room serves about 500 people, there are 300*10e6 people in the US, of them 30% are renting (http://www.census.gov/prod/2006pubs/h150-05.pdf), which gives us that 100*10e6 / 500 = 200,000 laundry rooms are needed, consuming $104,000 in excessive lighting per day, about $40 million per year.

    Is that a lot of money? Not really, but that is in laundry rooms alone, where an average person, like myself, spends about 1/1000th of the year (whoa!). Factor in unused lighting in restrooms, balconies, patios, server rooms, malls, etc. and those $40 million easily become $4 billion, which is twice the light bulbs market.

    And I won't even mention the idea of line-drying your underpants, instead of using the 3 KWh/week dryer!

    26 January, 2007

    Fighting obesity, global warming and disinfecting sponges.

    I am contributing to the fight against global warming and dependence on foreign oil by walking to work. Plus, I also fight obesity and high gas prices (by decreasing demand) -- that's how beneficial a little walk can be!

    I use radio as a means of entertainment, so I get about 50 minutes of news every day now and therefore aware of what the world is up to.

    One of the things I've learned a couple of days ago was the new way to disinfect sponges, and that is to microwave them. "Yeah", I thought to myself, "that'll work -- as long as sponges are still wet when you start the process". Because we all know microwave ovens only heat water, right? Right?

    Well, yesterday I hear that some of the listeners got very frustrated with the whole microwaving suggestion and that the radio station regrets they forgot to suggest to wet the sponges. I am clairvoyant!

    P.S. Oh yeah, and I find one or two pennies on the road every other day.

    25 January, 2007

    Video games for learning

    It's being discussed whether computer games are useful for teaching children things, but I think the emphasis is on the wrong type of things intended to be taught. It seems the effort is mostly focused on maths and natural sciences, which is unfortunate because learning those through games substitutes the actual understanding of the world with a collection of random facts. True, memorizing the multiplication table might be a little boring, but good old birching can heal that!

    There is, I think, a very valid application of video games: learning a foreign language. And it shouldn't be some silly "help Froggy to cross the road by pressing the right letter key" -- or whatever variation of Hangman there is. No, just take an actual game that is interesting to play, the only restriction is that the game has to be of the Quest/Adventure type (Quake won't work). Just let the children play those games for as long as they want (within reasonable limits).

    Something is missing, huh? Yes, one more thing: the game has to be in the language that is to be learned... And a dictionary may come in handy, too ;)

    /I know this works from personal experience.
    //M-m-m-m, Space Quest!

    22 January, 2007

    The real secret of the Coca-Cola recipe.

    Coca-Cola trade secrets trial to open today.

    Apparently, some people wanted to sell the super-secret to Pepsico, and I think it was around the time when it actually happened that I've read about the agreement between Coca-Cola and Pepsico to warn each other if someone attempts to sell secrets from one to another.

    I wonder, however, if all that is an elaborate conspiracy (it seems I'll have to rename this blog ;)). Think about it: it really doesn't matter what the actual recipe is, since it's actually different in different countries. The recipe does not make the drink sell, mind-controlling rays from black helicopters aggressive advertising, ubiquitous availability and squashing the competition does. There are tastier and healthier alternatives, like beer, but people still consume colas by ponds, so really, who cares about the exact recipe?

    All this publicity about the über-secret locked in a vault and the touching detail of the two fierce competitors warning each other really is serving to induce one simple idea: if the company goes these lengths to guard the recipe, it's gotta be good, right? Right?! :)))

    19 January, 2007

    Why people love dictators.

    (I mean, the subjects of the dictatorship, not the foreign contractors).

    Why dictators enjoy sincere love of the nation?

    Sure, there's Stockholm syndrome and all that, plus some people are just idiots, but I think the most important reason for love is that the dictator is responsible for everything. Quite literally -- there's absolutely no responsibility left for anyone else, so living under a dictator is the ultimate bliss. ;)

    Definitely, some do want to be responsible, and the most active/strong of them becomes the dictator, the rest flee or get shot and regular folks can enjoy irresponsibility and it's mustache-wearing provider.

    17 January, 2007

    Chicken, eggs and mayonnaise

    An old chicken and egg problem reworded in culinary terms: do Americans hate mayonnaise because mayonnaise in the U.S. is, well, crap, or the mayonnaise manufacturers see no need to make good product that nobody would buy?

    One might think the key to the problem is the fact that Coca-Cola made in the U.S. is also total crap, compared to same Coca-Cola from, say, Mexico (real sugar in the latter vs corn syrup in the former makes all the difference). This one, however, is quite obvious: corn syrup is used because it's cheaper, and taste degradation can be mended via aggressive advertising. Which neatly conforms the common sense rule that the more advertisement there is, the crappier the product.

    There's not much of advertisement for mayonnaise, however, which might be a sign that mayonnaise is considered a lost cause, being still made purely out of inertia. (Oooh, another conspiracy!) Or, speaking of conspiracies, may be the government forces crappy mayonnaise to prevent obesity. Well, in this case, it's obviously not working!

    15 January, 2007

    Severly unnew Jaguars

    I've been at an auto show this weekend and quite liked it, although the purpose of some exhibits seems vague to me. It's nice to be able to check out cars all at once under the same roof -- sit on the back seat, estimating the leg room, sit on the driver seat and shout "Vroom-vrooom", shifting gears. It's a good way to find out what local dealerships have to offer that you may need and, quite possibly, buy.

    It's is also interesting to peek at Ferraris and Aston Martins from behind the red rope -- although it would've been way more entertaining to do "vroom-vroom" sitting in a Mazeratti than in a Suzuki Reno or to practice royal indifference look at the back seat of a Rolls-Royce, but since none of the visitors can possible afford a Ferrari, they were out of reach behind the guard-ropes.

    What's funny, however, is that Mazerattis were quite accessible -- anyone could peek through the window, try to open the door -- locked :( -- and take a picture leaning leisurely over the roof and holding the door handle, like if going to open it in the next moment, for which, unfortunately, there was no memory left in the camera.

    Also, some Jaguars and AMCs were unlocked, so there was a constant flow of vroom-vroomers through them.

    Now imagine some rich guy buying one of those exhibited Mazerattis, or a lesser rich buying a Jaguar:

    R.G.: This is a new car, right? I don't like used stuff!
    Salesman: Sure, just look at the odometer: less than 3 miles!
    R.G.: Almost 3 miles! Have you all here checked it out already, before me?!
    Salesman: No, sir, absolutely not! These are the result of the rigorous factory testing, plus just one healthy good-looking guy moved it from the truck. That guy takes a shower before every car!
    R.G.: Good, 'cos I don't like plebes touching my things!

    It's an exercise for the reader to imagine what would the rich guy say if the salesman mentions the car was touched by a few thousands of people -- very simple, unglamorous, blue-collar people. Worse, many of them actually sat in his car, shifting his gears! Some might have even farted excitedly! Ewwww!

    10 January, 2007

    Thank you, spammers!

    For keeping me informed! Now even though I don't follow news, I get news headlines right into my mailbox, so I now know that

    - School sent parents 'obese student' warnings ("Have you noticed Jane is so fat lately?")
    - Something is going to (not) happen in 100 hours (in Senate)
    - Howard Stern earns $83M bonus (And yet he still works)
    - Gwynn, Ripken in Hall, McGwire misses (How are they and why should I care?)
    - U.S., Iraqi forces battle insurgents (nothing new here)
    - Kennedy fights 'new mistake' of troop surge (how many Kennedys are there, anyway?)

    And on, and on, and on. Google news has a mighty competitor!

    09 January, 2007

    Diaper conspiracy

    I've been thinking lately, why do babies' diapers always have pictures of some cartoon characters. Not just some generic piglets, mice, cubs, etc., but very specific ones, complete with the ® sign. Even supposedly cost-cutting store brands have them, what's the point licensing the copyrighted images?

    Babies don't look at them -- not only diapers are normally covered with clothing, but, more importantly, babies don't care about such stuff. It's the adults who can actually appreciate the pictures, and they would often rather look at some other things, e.g. there could be some hot chicks for dads, or some muscular plumbers for moms. Sure this leads to "dads" and "moms" packs of diapers (an unexpected advantage of gay couples right here) -- but from the manufacturer's point of view it's even better: different packs mean more sales. And there are lots of hot chicks and muscular plumbers who'll for free allow to use their pictures for a chance to be famous.

    So, why do manufacturers continue to lose money by licensing copyrighted themes for their products? Using something else would not only save money, but would also be more appealing to customers.

    The situation becomes quite clear, though, if one considers that it may be the owners of cartoons who pay the diaper manufacturers to use cartoon characters, in order to associate these cartoons with children in parents' minds. After all, kids are not going to decide which cartoons to watch (i.e. which DVDs to buy, which shows will get the highest audience and thus higher ad revenues). Parents decide that and they get indoctrinated at the very beginning!