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Updated every MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, and FRIDAY.

2005 06 10

Oh my god. The entire fate of the universe rests on you reading this comic RIGHT NOW!!!

Also, there probably won't be comics next week because I will be taking a trip to Austin to look at condominiums. But there will be the following week!

I just finished reading a really excellent book. It's called Freakanomics, by Steven D. Levitt (economist and winner of the Bates Medal) and Stephen J. Dubner (journalist). The book applies the general stastical methods of economics to unusual economic problems. Here are some of the things they talk about in the book:
♦ Money does not win elections even though the candidate who spends the most money wins; the real reason these are correlated is that the candidate who is more appealing is able to raise (and therefore spend) more money.
♦ Cheating is rampant among the upper eschilons of the sumo wrestling universe.
♦ The decline in crime in the mid 90's can be explained by Roe vs. Wade; aborting fetuses is correlated with having likely criminals as children, so when those aborted children got to the age when they would start comitting crimes, they
♦ Baby names migrate from the rich to the poor.
♦ Real estate agents get better deals on homes when they sell their own homes than when they sell other peolpes'.
One particularly nice things about the book is that it explicitly states in the preface that understanding the nature of incentives is the key to explaining why groups of people behave certain ways in certain situations. A more careful statement on what one can conclude from the nature of incentives is, 'All things being equal, an increase in the incentive toward one sort of behavior causes an increase in the number of people engaging in that behavior.' Sometimes the issue can become confused; for example, in Freakanomics the authors consider a study in which a day-care center began fining parents who picked up their children late, and found that the number of late parents actually increased. However, this is explained by the fact that being fined aleviates the guilt of being late; the fine that the day-care center chose was not as bad as the guilt people felt when they were late and not fined. Incentives are the key to understanding one of the reasons socialism fails, so it's always nice when people teach others to look at incentives.

All in all, the book was tremendously amusing and I read the whole thing in one sitting in only about 4 hours. It's full of humorous facts and anecdotes. I enjoyed it beyond human comprehension! Also, the cover has an amusing image. One of the reviewers says that it's not as good as books by Hayek, but that's silly because Hayek is one of the best writers in history so it's an unrealistic standard.

GRAVE IMPORTANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is so important that I'm pooping my pants right now just thinking about it! A lot of politics is about saying the same thing over and over again until it magically becomes true. Here's a good example of this. A friend of mine showed me an essay referring to a leaked memo from 2002 that supposedly proves W. Bush manufactured evidence to go to war. However, if you read the actual document (which is 3 pages, so it's really hard), all it actually says is that Bush had already made his mind up by 2002 that he wanted to go to war. It doesn't actually quote Bush at all, or give any evidence of wrongdoing. The only sentence relevant to the charges on Bush is "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Since there's nothing else to say how anything was fixed or what exactly was fixed, that obviously does not constitute any real evidence. It's a completely unsubstantiated claim. It's even ambiguous as to whether this was deliberate or simply a systematic error. This friend of mine was shocked to see that because the interpretation of it is so rediculously overblown. Incedentally, given that Bush may be having an alcoholism relapse, it's entirely possible that he would lie to go to war, but by gut feeling is that this will lead nowhere.

Now, when I used to be a liberal, I did not want to think very hard about politics because I found it confusing, and consequently, I simply accepted the various liberal interpretations of whatever the news was without taking much of an interest in it. Professional politicians (of all parties) rely on people to act this way so that their trick of repeating lies over and over actually works. Therefore, don't do that.

2005 06 17

Aaaargh! I've been ultrabusy all week handling all the condo-buying stuff! It's awful! I spend all day on the phone, first with my real estate agent, then my lawyer, then the lending agent, and so on and so forth.

Earlier this week I was able to get a loan with one bank, and they offered me an interest rate of 5.83%, and that seemed like a pretty good deal, but then I found another bank, (through who offered me an interest rate of 5.375%, but then to get the loan I had to change the closing date on the contract, which had already been signed, and now I have to pay $350 to the original loan company to cancel the loan (but it's worth it), so that was a bit of a hastle, but I DO have the loan now. Next I have to find all sorts of incriminating tax statements, bank statements, pay stubs, etc, so that they can scrutinize my assets.

Amazingly enough, by the end of the week, interest rates had already gone up! So I happened to get a loan at a really good time. Next I have to start calling property inspectors, finding a roommates, getting buyer's remorse, etc. So what all this adds up to is that I didn't get to the damn comic this week! However, I did learn that investing and financial planning are lots of fun.

2005 07 08

And the comic for today is a tiny pixel version of Iris, sent to me by Celine! I emailed back to ask for more so that Iris could walk around in her own RPG or something, but as yet no reply has come for that!

To my left is a picture I drew of a cervine asura. She is named Eshana Quasar, and those are both Hindi names, I discovered. Asuras are Indian demons or demi-gods, often depicted with three faces on one head and six arms. Although this one, beeing very deer-like, has hooves instead of hands, so what normally would be an advantage becomes completely absurd and pointless. Just like LIFE!!!

To my right is a drawing sent to my from my friend Victoria. She started a new comic called Lola, and it's totally adorable so I'll link to it again.

Also, I read this fascinating article the other day about a proposed relationship between American innovation and entrepreneurship with hypomania, a personality trait that runs in families with manic-depressive disorder. Hypomania seems to be a bit like manic-depressive, except you're in the manic phase all the time. It is characterized by being full of ideas, feeling destined for greatness, irrational optimism, even euphoria, risk-taking, etc. The idea is, this trait seems very common among successful entrepreneurs. This is as one might expect since starting a business is a considerable risk, and one must usually fail several times at entrepreneurship before hitting on something big. Thus, one must be very prone to risk-taking to be successful. The article doesn't mention alcoholism, which would also be more common among entrepreneurs.

More importantly, the article draws a possible connection between hypomania and the basic individualism of American culture. America grew by immigration, and it is reasonable to think that hypomania would be more common among immigrants. This could explain why millionaires in America are more likely to be immigrants than the general population, why Americans have such a penchant for entrepreneurship (and consequently account for 31% of all economic activity with only 5% of the population), the idealism in so much of American history... anyway, it was a very interesting article.

Oh, and I suppose you're wondering when the next actual comic will be. Well. It won't be too long!

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