Monday, December 3, 2012

Dealing With Debt Insolence

I don't make a point to respond to trolls on the internet, but recently I came across one arguing that the federal government is like a teenager given an allowance, and that it's finally time to stop "paying the irresponsible teenager" for "wasting" the money you've given him. This thoroughly Republican line of attack is aimed at discrediting the government while ignoring that the fundamental principles that underpin the process are publicly driven, and that the largest portion of voluntary spending is Conservative backed Defense funding.

Really? THAT'S your argument?

Imagine you had a teenager you gave $1,000 a month, and told him he was responsible for taking care of his younger siblings because you as parents were "too busy" to take care of them. Every month, he has to buy them food and cook for them, pay for their tuition, take them to school in the used car he bought, pay for gas, clean the dishes, mow the yard, etc.
But he constantly comes up short, because what you DEMAND of him isn't covered by what you PAY him to do. So he turns to credit cards. When those are maxed out, he requests a modest increase in his allowance, so he can try to somehow get all this organized, but you berate him as "irresponsible and wasteful" for doing the things you've DEMANDED of him to do.
"Why are you feeding your siblings any meat when you can just load them up on barley and corn, a la livestock?! You were doing just fine SEVEN YEARS AGO."

He apologizes, but explains that even with reducing them to a nutritionally poor diet that would be injurious to the children, he would STILL need those increases. You see, the price of food has risen in seven years. So has insurance costs, tuition, electricity, childcare fees, diapers, not to mention GAS.

But you don't care. In your mind, it's still 1955 where a gallon of gas can be had for a quarter, milk for a dollar, and a pound of meat for forty cents.

Hey, you haven't felt the squeeze because your income has skyrocketed over the last 60 years. No one else must be affected either...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Calling the Spade a Spade: Can we stop with the Fear-Mongering?

My father recently forwarded me an email for my consideration - it was excerpted from an article in the Las Vegas Review written by a fellow classmate who claims to "know Obama's master scheme." If you really think about what he says, it's both amusing and frightening - amusing that he get's things so terribly, terribly wrong, and frightening that his threats and fear-mongering are considered mainstream within certain sects of American voters.

The email closed with a link to, claiming that the "whole thing is true!" What follows is my discussion of the points made by Wayne Allyn Root:-

If you read the link, it is true in the sense that it is a correctly attributed OPINION PIECE in the Las Vegas Review by a regular commentator on FOX NEWS. Which means that it is clearly OPINION, BIASED, and CONSERVATIVE. Or, in this case, Libertarian, as the writer in question was the Libertarian candidate for the 2008 election.
In terms of the actual claims, let me gather things a bit and actually address them.
Preface - from the get go he admits that he is crafting a conspiracy theory. That doesn't make it wrong, but it is an admission that the whole article is based on supposition, not fact.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Killing My First Raid Boss: Why Forbes Got Their Analysis of Activision Completely Wrong

I grew up shouting spells in D&D instead of chanting "Defense!," playing multiple CCG's [Decipher, you will be missed] instead of collecting baseball cards, and ogling new computer parts instead of cars or bikini-clad models. The desire to "assimilate" all knowledge, the plumbing of rules for synergies and efficiencies, and the concepts of interactive roleplaying play a major role in my growth and development. In no small way, they are partially to blame for my present occupation as a data analyst/economist and my involvement with the theatre.
While I don't consider myself to be a "hardcore" gamer [cue the debate on that word] I am an avid fan of videogame culture. A large number of the sites and comics I read on a regular basis are invovled with this growing subset of our society in one fashion or another.

When I read about an analysis of Activision stock by, I was immediately hooked into reading it. After the relatively short article, I found myself rather disappointed that the guest-writers seem to be completely clueless on the socio-psychological mechanics of gaming and the industry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Project: Urban Poverty and a Community-Based Solution

Inner city Baltimore is characterized as an area of extreme poverty, crime, and a distinct lack of opportunity. More houses are condemned than inhabited, people live far below the poverty line, and many drop out of education and resort to crime due to a lack of other opportunities. Incarceration for minor offenses exacerbates this problem, as even after serving time they are unable to find useful work that pays a living wage. This cycle of poverty, under-education, crime, and violence undermines the thousands of underprivileged children, teenagers, and adults who are unable to extricate themselves from their situation.
Small businesses moving into the community often employ people from outside the community, and only serve to remove what little money there is from the local economy. Crime and other factors increase the cost of doing business locally, and solutions based on individuals outside the community quickly shutter in the face of these difficult challenges.
Here’s my proposal.
Community crowd-funded co-op Brewery

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reimagining Architecture in the Modern Age

As the boys of Monty Python are apt to say: "And Now for Something Completely Different!"
One of the joys of being a cenophile (using the greek root ceno = new, not the latin, though it is applicable for a foodie like me) is encountering new and interesting fields of study and integrating that information into new world constructs.
In college, people often questioned my choice of Economics and Theatre as a dual major. The general response I learned to provide was that between these two fields, you can include practically all genre of  information: Sociology, Antropology, History, Psychology, Art, Physiology, Political Science, Law, Mathematics and Analysis, ... Really, anything outside of the principal "hard sciences" of physics, chemistry, and bio, though recently I've begun to revisit and rethink the fundamental connections between perception and action.

As my wife is an architect and designer, her work affords me a glimpse into the philosophies of an entirely different realm of study - that of the designing and modulation of the very world around us. What follows is some introspection on how we craft our environments based on traditional structures, and a glimpse into a future in which we structure our living spaces more closely alligned with our own needs and behaviors rather than forcing them to conform to a standardized, outdated model.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Neuroeconomics: Introspection on Attention Surplus

Yesterday, I wrote a piece on how modern technology wasn't causing problems by decreasing our attention, but rather with increasing our capacity to handle data in our mundane environment. It occurred to me earlier today that things like meditation aren't about increasing attention, but rather narrowing focus on to a specific set of activities. Actively filtering our experience enables us to push past passive barriers from stimulation that might otherwise overwhelm us - think of tai chi or the intense focus during sports, acting, chess, or really any activity for an example.

This morning I read an excellently written article that provides a sort of counterpoint to my discussion - that the processing of so much data dampens the overall production of independent thought.
It's a worthwhile read, but I disagree with it's speculative conclusions.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Results from the Great Experiment

Well, what can I say...

The final results of our first experiment with Free, Good Will, and Marketing for a small business have finally come in. Overall, very few of the free tickets we offered were taken by the two organizations we worked with, and a third declined entirely for political reasons. Nevertheless, they expressed immense gratitude for our desire to give back to the community by bringing some happiness to those in need.

To simplify the numbers, our total sales topped $2,600.
Now, that doesn't sound like a large number overall, but consider:

  1. Our total budget for the show was minimal ($2,000 budgeted, <$1,700 used)
  2. Nearly a third of that was licensing fees.
  3. We only ran for four shows.  Everyone wanted us to put on additional performances, but any more would have caused both scheduling and licensing issues. 
  4. We came in at a quarter of our advertising budget with little to no manpower. Direct marketing WORKS.
This has been one of our top grossing shows. Overall, that's over a 50% profit for a short term project. Not too shabby. If we had the flexibility of managing our own space, we most likely would have been able to pull off more shows and attracted even larger crowds. As it is, we were sold out one of the nights and our overall audience matched our "better" advertised shows (read: paid adverts in local papers). For a nonprofit theatre group that's entirely volunteer owned and operated, that's not bad. Margins like this ensure we'll have ample cushion to operate shows with more elaborate needs. Our next two plays, a company produced children's play and a Shakespearean piece over the summer, won't have licensing fees at all.

Most importantly, we maintained ample contact with various organizations throughout the community. We are beginning to form connections to other groups which will, hopefully, bear even more fruit in the future. Working together with other social groups helps create that good will that's so critical in creating a successful bond with the public.

Lessons learned:
  • Personal contact is Key - everyone you talk to is an individual. Unique. Treat them that way, and they will happily respond to you 
  • Don't be Annoying, Don't be Ignored - make your message present and immediate, but not forceful - put yourself in their field of vision to grab their attention, but DON'T steal it, or they will feel cheated and resentful
  • Word of Mouth is King - yes, a few people heard about us from the radio spot we did, some came from  the writeups we got in a local paper, but most came from a primary or secondary contact - think the "Kevin Bacon" type connections.
  • You don't need a Big Budget to be a Big Success - what you need, to reiterate, is LOTS of energy put toward generating goodwill and personal connections within your community/audience
  • Don't be Afraid to Ask - people are more friendly than you give them credit for once you get to know them; that surly secretary might react nicer to someone else in your organization. Know your assets and use them.
If I think of anything I'm missing, I'll update this post later. Any thoughts?

Surplus in the Attention Economy

A little while back, I decided on a lark to count the various things I was doing simultaneously.
1) paying attention to a man reciting verse aloud
2) folding an item I was using to put it away
3) reciting a prayer by heart
4) scanning the room for an individual I was going to get a ride with
5) composing this list/blogpost
6) calculating the approximate time I would arrive at work and thereby the total number of hours I would be likely spending there
7) mentally engineering and designing a problem specific solution
8) contemplating the code that I was potentially going to work on that day

And probably a number of others, but these are the ones I remember as being directly conscious and deliberate of.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Innovation and an Apology - Feasibly Fixing the Patent System

Sorry I've been out the past couple weeks - real life has been a bit... hectic. I'm working on rebalancing my obligations, so while I might not post quite so frequently anymore (hey, I'm only one person), I should maintain more regular activity here and with my twitter account.
This was a comment I wrote on Techdirt on the unidirectional patent system. The idea has been fermenting and fomenting for quite some time, and it may be a feasible method of appealing to the base economic instincts of the organization in order to modernize and fix a number of issues with the patent process.
A way to help balance the USPTO while *ahem* preserving it's business model: create an adversarial patent system:
At present, individuals pay to file and refile and, once granted, hold the patent until it is challenged in court. Since, as has been pointed out several times before, their operating budget is predominantly (if not entirely) derived from their filing fees, the economic incentive is to encourage people to FILE AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE - they make it difficult by rejecting patents, but only artificially so, as you can simply refile a modified patent with a new fee for reconsideration. After a rejection or two, they are likely to approve, since they don't want to DISCOURAGE you from filing at all - that would take away a revenue stream!

What if they instituted the ability to file a counter "anti-patent" displaying prior art and obviousness? Such an system would essentially "crowd source" the entire patent approval process and shift the balance of their incentives. By allowing individuals to submit prior art and obviousness research for a small fee, they can streamline and speedup the entire patent review process (for both new and old patents), lower fees for filing while increasing their revenue, decrease their operating costs (thereby maximizing profits), AND present themselves as "open source, modern government" with maximum transparency!
With this new system, to maximize profit, they must ensure as ROBUST AND PUBLIC DEBATE AS POSSIBLE.
If people can present counter evidence to a patent, then the patent will be reject/'on-hold' by the "reviewer" until the patent seeker files their counter argument against said claim. If they can't, they've lost their bogus patent and no one is worse off (though they may be free to refile, and the process begins again, but with precident from the counter-patent filers...)
"But wait!" (I hear you cry) "If they essentially crowdsource patent applications for us to do THEIR work, why do we need USPTO in the first place?!?"

Patience, Grasshoper. For now, they still are needed to be arbiters of the evidence provided. But one day... One day...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Open Letter to Lamar Smith

Texas prides itself on the independence of its citizens. You should be ASHAMED that you are taking away civil liberties from people and handing them to private lobbyists that have you on their payroll. My right to privacy us no less sacred than my right to own a gun, so why are you pioneering unconstitutional government surveillance? I am sickened by the violations you made to your oath to protect the rights of US citizens. I will do everything in my power to encourage everyone I know to vote for sheriff Mack. Maybe he'll understand that he was elected BY the PEOPLE, and FOR the PEOPLE, not some wealthy Californian businesses trying to control the internet for their financial gain.

This country ALREADY had laws to deal with cyber crime and child pornography. The FBI and other agencies should be doing this as part of their JOB, not wasting government resources to help faceless corporations sue private citizens. Your sponsorship of both SOPA and HR.1981 have demonstrated that you don't care about the constitution OR the good of the people. I look forward to the day where I can say I helped get you voted out of office.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Response from Sarbanes on TPP Protest

Below is the email I got from Congressman Sarbanes as a response to my objections on the heinous TPP, the next vehicle for MAFIAA IP protectionism.
Based on his response, I probably won't be voting for him next election. Analysis to follow...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On the 'Moral Right' to Profit

This was written in response to Kevin Drum for an article in which he posited that " creators have a moral right to profit from their works."
And "I'd hate to live in a world in which authors found it nearly impossible to make money from their works."
Yes. Really a quote.
No. I will NOT justify his idiocy by linking his dogmatic rant.
Thanks to Mike Masnick and for the to to the article, though.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tax Code Revolution!

Taxes are tricky, messy, bastardized things. Their inherently mongreloid nature leaves them more misshapen than a Boris Karloff monster and more random than a platypus. So what happens when you start throwing different ideas around? My uncle pitched me his ideas for tax reform and asked for my opinion. We had the following exchange that I invite everyone to join in on.

(note: since my internet is down at the moment, copy pasta will have to do for now. I'll edit later for clarity, grammar, etc.)

(note the 2nd: though I am an analyst, I don't work with tax policy directly. Feel free to point out any errors, alternative theories, etc.)

Hi Isaac,
Listening to today's news, I realized that I have long been formulating my own ideas about taxes--so I decided to write them down. You're the economist in the family, so I'm sending you my tax plan. Are the attached ideas crazy?
Uncle Steve

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Great Experiment: Marketing for a Small Organization

I've been hard at work with our newest "experiment" for my non-profit. Below is a discussion on marketing strategy applicable to any small organization looking to get its voice heard in the larger community. In it, I've outlined a number of different tactics necessary to garner the two important aspects of a successful company: Word of Mouth advertising and Good Will.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Atheism and Agnosticism

Just read an interesting article by a favorite webcomic author of mine. In it, he deplores the false dichotomies of Gnosticism/Agnosticism and Theism/Atheism, the former concerning the "knowability" of the existence of a god, and the latter concerning whether god exists.
As Zack posits, the former question must be resolved before one can even move to the latter, and "If you believe knowledge of the “God question” is impossible, it doesn’t make sense to either join a church or an atheist society."
Just to point out - game theory has been used philosophically in the past to argue that even in the case of uncertainty, belief in god is a good bet to take.

Giving Away Scarcity: Free Tickets Aren't Cheap

I am presently engaged in a little experiment with a theatre company I help manage.
The nature of this group is such that our screwy demographic has a hard time finding us: to whit, many of the major social organizations that people participate in have actively rebuffed our attempts at advertising based on secondary considerations.

We exist entirely on a shoestring budget from year to year based on what little we gain from our performances and what we can scrape together as donations among the board members. With our ties to certain major organizations in the community, we are forbidden to directly fund raise to the public, though we may accept donations (and as we have just learned, money for advertising). As a result, we have little in the way of actual advertising within our community. As Marketing Director, I am doing my damnedest to change that, but with finances as a major issue, it's an uphill battle.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Laissez-Faire: Economics vs. Politics

Whew! Time to dust off my blog... Sorry. Life's been... life.

Tried to slide this one post in before the SOPA Blackout on the 18th...but I guess I failed. Whoops.
This is an important issue that's been percolating in my mind for some time now, and this will (in all likelihood) be an incomplete treatment of the subject.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Start of the MPAA Offensive

You gotta love people for bringing their newest article to show that "SEE! THIS COMMUNIST CANDIDATE REALLY WORSHIPS SATAN!!" or that the Liberals want to destroy the United States (uh, they live here, too...) or that the conservatives are capitalist money-draculas looking to suck the bones dry of the nations blue collar workers.

Below is an exchange that tipped off the fact that the Pro-SOPA/PIPA/ACTA crowd might be getting warmed up after the White House disowned the legislation (though 'dead,' we can still look forward to a vampiric or zombie resurrection in the near future). After leaving in a huff and taking all their toys home, it looks like the MAFIAA is deciding to press home field advantage through it's media outlets:

The email below was sent by my father - it's clearly a chain letter based on the specific alterations in formatting "for emphasis" that most people wouldn't bother with. One has to wonder who seeds this kind of stuff...
Anyhow, my edited response/analysis lies below that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Overly Responsible Journalism

This was an email I typed up a couple months ago but never sent - I had originally intended on throwing this to the Colbert Report, but never got around to it. It's a bit of lighter humor on the subject of journalism.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

UPDATE: More Congressional Responses

Coming in thick and fast! ... with all this pedaling, maybe we should hook up a generator to Congress and solve the energy crisis!
First an update from Mikulski where she claims that copyright still "needs to be strengthened" somehow... bunkum.
Sarbanes responded yesterday as well. As is typical with most members of the present government, they somehow feel the need to create a "regulatory framework" for everything to make sure that they can acquire some method of leverage or control.

First World Problems?

They run the whole gamut. Here's a few I cooked up that run from funny to thoughtful to frightening.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Letter from my senator in response

I received a reply today from one of the four congressmen I contacted yesterday. Analysis will follow shortly.

Explaining the Wireless to the Unwired

I had a very productive day without twitter I took a stand against SOPA and made my voice heard. What I didn't expect (and was enheartened to see) were people whom I emailed who weren't connectedto the tech interests of the day.
My own mother (god bless her) took the time to actually research and respond to my email, and engaged me in a dialogue about SOPA/PIPA and copyright. A fun time was had by all.
Except my wife - writing a 2,000 word detailed response takes a LONG time.
Below is a slightly edited transcript of the conversation - only certain personal responses have been omitted. If anyone sees any factual inaccuracies or logical fallacies, please don't hesitate to contact or correct me - it's the only way I'll ever learn! :-D

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Let's Get Politically Proactive!

For those of you residing in the state of Maryland, I am publishing the letters I have tailored to our individual Congressmen in opposition to SOPA. While they cover the same points, each is slightly different and tailored to the individual receiving it. They all end with the statement at the bottom. As with anything on this site, please feel free to reuse and remix to suit your needs!

An Open Letter Against SOPA and PIPA

Dear Friends and Family,
Most of you know that I am not one to engage in mass emails. They're unproductive, annoying, and rarely get paid attention to. There is, however, something going on right now that has frightening implications for all of us. If you are reading this on the 18th, please immediately open up a new tab (or tabs) and navigate to and/or google. For those of you who have received this email later, please use this link:
Notice anything?
This is not a virus, this is a part of a planned, national demonstration, orchestrated over the past several weeks.
There is legislation being pushed through Congress RIGHT NOW that gives large corporations the power to censor the internet.
I'll let that sink in a bit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Remixing: It's in our genes.

I found myself inspired by a recent attempt to describe life in three words and this creation myth from Kopimism. The three word description offered was "self-reproduction with variations," or, as I like to say "remixing matter." There. I did it in two. Behold this graphic!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Santorum Marital Algebra

Santorum equated homosexuality to having sex with a dog (or a Dogg?). He later compared polygamy to homosexuality which, as we all know, is really bestiality. But that then implies that monogamy, which is HALF of polygamy, is HALF bestiality as well. Based on Santorum's pro-monogamy message, I think we can safely conclude that he is a closet furry.
Here's a graphic representation of the mathematical equations:

G.O.P.olitical Landscaping

I had a rather difficult time falling asleep on Friday night. After a double dose of melatonin, a cup of tea, and several shots of Smirnoff 100 proof mixed with diet A&W, I still was wide awake. My kind just kept buzzing with the following post.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Economics of Attention

Earlier this morning, I was discussing the tendency of individuals to talk more when they know less. SMBC also brought this point up by planting the flag on the summit of Mt. Stupid. While it may seem like an obvious observation, why is it that the less you know, the more you talk?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the Primacy of Culture

I tweeted a thank you to the writer of a Techdirt article the other day by the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, and Rick Falkvinge was kind enough to respond and offer his encouragement.

Today I expound upon my first post - that culture is the natural right of man. In fact, much of this may be seen as related to the recent "creation myth" put forth by the newest recognized religion in Sweden - that sharing and copying are the foundations of life itself and, as I tweeted: "Remixing: it's in our genes."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Culture is the Natural Right of Man

It is a universally acknowledged principal that the fundamental characteristic of humanity is the ability to create and share knowledge, artistic expression, and culture.
We have only lately begun to understand how information is conveyed among members of the animal world. While individuals, remarkable ones, have been discovered with the ability to engage in artistic expression through encouragement and training, direct transmission of art, culture, and wisdom has so far remained absent despite all our observations of our more feral brethren. Humanity can then be summed as the production and perfection of wisdom, art, and culture.
This Trinity is holier than all else - it is the reason for the survival of humanity as a species, the demonstration of our worth, and the vehicle of our evolution. Without the sharing of knowledge, what value are the observations and musings of an Einstein? Absent common understanding, what use are prophecy and legend? With no soul to possess them, the Leonardo's and Picasso's revert to the dust of their pigments, and Shakespeare remains an echo in the cavern of an empty Globe. Without these, Life has no purpose, Liberty no meaning, and Happiness unattainable no matter the method of Pursuit. It is, therefore, imperative that we preserve our birthright to this sacred temple of the Mind and Soul and protect it's foundation.
The most beautiful and remarkable fact in the nature of these Fathers of our inalienable rights is the freedom they inherently possess. Though the body lies bound, a soul cannot be repressed, a thought remains unshackled, and an idea, immortal. The expressions of the soul and the wisdom of the mind are without bound or limit, and their greatest value only apparent when they are shared. I am never a poorer man for my neighbor feeling the world more deeply about himself. On the contrary, it is only by nourishing the root of our collective humanity that Mankind flourishes. As culture, art, and knowledge are elementally open to all who seek them, we claim these as the Natural Right of Man.