Debate Anyway!

If John McCain doesn’t show up to the debate tomorrow, Barack Obama will need someone to spar with.  He can’t do it alone!  I think it would be good for the country if he debated a few of the third party candidates: Baldwin, Barr, McKinney, and Nader.  I don’t know if it would be good or bad for him personally (and so I don’t know if he would agree to it) but it would be an interesting debate.

I think it would be good for Obama and he should agree to it.  I would wager each and every one of them would take it upon themselves to mention that John McCain was unable to fulfill his obligations as a presidential candidate.  Also, if the conventional wisdom holds, they’ll all come off as crazies leaving Obama standing as the only reasonable one.

In any case, it won’t happen.  The reason for this is that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a bi-partisan organization, when it should really be a non-partisan organization.  Bi-partisanship sounds great until you realize that the two main parties agree the vast majority of the time and both are committed to royally screwing up the country we live in.


Save Money, Help the Environment, Scare Away Buyers?

Lately the weather has been perfect for turning off my air conditioning and heating and just opening a few windows to let the house breathe.  I spent most of the spring in this state and enjoyed it immensely; I also saved quite a bit of money those two months.

I want to do it again this fall but I’m not sure whether it would hurt me when potential buyers come by to look at my house.  Would they think I don’t have a functioning air conditioner?  Will it not feel and smell as “fresh?”  Will it feel and smell fresher?  I’d ask my realtor but my communication with them is not so good.

So what do you think?

Money: It Ain’t Worth What It Usedta Be

Of late, I’ve been rereading the Neal Stephenson classic The System of the World, which is part of The Baroque Cycle trilogy (or octalogy, depending on how you count them).  This book of the series focuses a great deal on Isaac Newton’s attempts to refine and regulate the coinage of Britain: to make sure that each coin minted has the correct amount of metal in it and only that much, since that’s what coins used to be.  A “dollar” or a “pound” was a specific amount of gold or silver that was fixed by law.

These days, that’s no longer the case.  Our money is based on a fiat system and the least expensive possible metals are used to create our coins, which essentially means the government is creating value where there was none before, just by shaping that metal into certain shapes.

I had a grand plan to figure out what the various metals are that make up each kind of coin and then try to figure out what they’re worth in reality, but someone else on the internet already did it! has the “current melt value” of most U.S. coins.  This is a good thing because I can avoid work and my numbers would have been fixed (the site in question uses current prices for each kind of metal.)  I find all this very interesting: Pennies minted before 1982 are worth more than their face value and Nickels are holding their value rather well, but almost all other coins are worth a pittance compared to their face value.

I started thinking about this after obtaining some $1 coins out of the New York City subway system card vending machines.  These coins are cute and I am going to start asking after them at the bank like I do for $2 bills as well.  They look golden, but actually they’re made of mostly copper, with some manganese, zinc, and nickel.  They have some cool printing along the sides as well, instead of the normal grooved edges.  I hope to circulate as many as I possibly can, but that might involve buying some kind of coin purse.

Reading up on these coins on Wikipedia, I discovered that the mint is also offering some pure gold coins as companions to these coins: The First Spouse Program.  First ladies throughout history are being featured on these gold coins, which contain .5oz of gold.  While these coins are worth about $430 in fiat dollars, they are marked $10 on their face.  That’s because, when dollars were fixed to gold, one dollar was defined to be 1/20th of an ounce of gold.  Someone, somewhere at the mint must be nostalgic for those days, to be stamping these coins with that $10 number.

Gregorus Everywhere!

Inspired by Courtney’s post on her online shenanigans, I guess I’ll do one of my own.  If you want to get the full Gregorus experience online you have to visit all of these various venues:

Reddit Favorites:  This is one of two Gregorus-sources that just sort of springs out of my everyday activities: there’s no extra work involved at all.  The public news aggregator easily and succinctly tells you most of the interesting and funny random stuff I’d found that one day.  It even shows up on the front page of this blog, with just one click!

Google Reader Shares:  Also published on this blog’s front page, these tend to be a bit more serious.  Most of them are posts from the blogs I read every day and the shared posts are the ones I consider the very best.  It’s essentially a blog that I create just by reading what I read every day.  Also very cool!

Twitter: actually takes a little bit of work, but just a tiny bit.  I have to be inspired to microblog every now and then, and most of the people I know who do it do it much better than me.  Still, sometimes I post about things there that appear nowhere else.

Facebook: requires you to have an account to see, but I microblog there as well with my “status updates.”  Some people update twitter and facebook at the same time, but not me.  I try to consider my audience and the purpose of each tool and use them appropriately.

Grinnell Plans: I’m one of the few people I know who has their plan viewable by the whole wide world.  Hence, most of the people I’m responding to are unreadable, and responding is what I do there the majority of the time.  Still, though, sometimes I write updates about my feelings and doings there that I do nowhere else.

OKCupid: I rarely update this; I don’t think it’s been updated in months and months, but sometimes I do post there and it’s a factor in my online presence.

And then there’s this blog, of course.  If you’re absolutely obsessed with me, you’ll have to check all of these resources; sorry, but that’s the way it is.  I try to live in the future; all of you should too!  Join me in the Interwebs world!

Too Slow to Blog (and I Don’t Get Bailed Out)

I wanted to post yesterday about how when an industry is failing, the government seems to incentivize the biggest companies to fail the fastest.  That is, the first company to fail inevitably gets a bailout, but not everyone can get one, so later companies just have to work through their issues.

Sadly, I have been proven wrong, since I read over the shoulder of someone on the Metro that AIG has been bailed out by the government.  How do they make these decisions?  To shower some failing companies with money and security and leave others by the wayside?  It seems impenetrable to me.

I think my first point still stands, though.  If you know you’re going to fail, try to be the first.  That way there will still be some funds left to keep you afloat.  If that fails you, be the biggest in your field (even if you got that way by taking risks you shouldn’t have taken).

The City That Never Sleeps (which means I don’t either)

I just got back from New York City for a nice weekend trip staying at my friend Norman’s place.  Yes, that friend.  I had a really excellent time.  He lives in Queens, which I had never been to.  I’d been to Manhattan once before on a family trip when I was in high school, but this was my first time in another borough.

I rode the megabus, and met some nice people on the way up and the way down, which is unusual for me.  The megabus is a pretty good deal for getting from DC to NYC, most certainly the cheapest way to do it.  They have an interesting pricing scale:  The first seat on the trip gets sold for $1.  The price rises by what I believe is $1 each ticket until 25 are sold, and then the rest of the tickets are $25.  I got mine for $19 each way, which is about what you’d pay in tolls alone if you drove.  I might be wrong about this, but that seems to be how it works.

Interesting pricing schemes abounded this weekend.  I went to an excellent show in an independent theater called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.  I wholeheartedly recommend it, it was a great show where they try to do 30 plays in 60 minutes, most of them comedic, some serious and some just plain wacky.  Anyway, I was talking about pricing.  Their admission charge is $10+the roll of 1d6 (for non-nerds, the roll of a standard six-sided die.)  I rolled a one, which means I got in for the lowest price possible!  I don’t know why they do things this way, though I guess it means they can charge an average of $13 instead of ten.

It’s amazing to me how little things cost in Manhattan.  The two shows I went to, the restaurants I visited, and even the subway were reasonable.  I am very impressed with the city.

To get to the never sleeping part, we took a little walk in the wee hours of Sunday morning, from midnight ’til 3:30 AM.  Here’s my best estimate of the path we took from the village to central park:

The main goal was to hit up some of the smaller squares along broadway, then the Empire State Building and 30 Rock, then all the way to Columbus Circle.  I think it worked out.  We were actually at 30 Rock around 2AM, and if we’d been there an hour earlier we could have seen SNL getting out.  Sadly, I didn’t realize that SNL was live this week.  Oh well, it was still maximum fun!

Mushrooms in Dungeons…

My friend Nate dropped a link to this song on me.  He must know I have a penchant for songs where it’s just a guy and a piano.  Plus, the Nintendo theme linking back to my childhood ties it all together!

Sometimes I feel like I could write music like this.  I’ve never successfully done it, though.