Various and Sundry, 9/22/12

Because a Saturday is a fine time to talk about a number of things:

* Charlie Stross has an interesting post up about the diminishing marginal utility of stuff, in which among other things he speculates why people who have more money than is possible to spend in one lifetime still go out and try to get more of the stuff. My own thought about it, to use a video game term, is that we’re basically tuned and trained to level up all the time, and to keep grinding away until we do — “I’m only a 79th level rich guy! 80th level is the top!” — regardless of whether the payoff is worth the investment. Also, of course, as status seeking primates, when you stop grinding away, then you lose status, and that’s when all the other monkeys turn on you.

One thing I think a lot about these days, and which I think I’ll probably writer a longer piece on at some point, is the idea of sufficiency: Knowing when you have enough for yourself and learning to ask whether you need anything more, or even want it. This is something I have no big answers for yet, but it rolls about in my head a lot. Writing is often how I figure out what I’m thinking about something, so once I have my writing schedule clear, maybe I’ll give it a tackle.

* For those of you wondering: The writing on The Human Division is coming along nicely, and as with many things where you are trying to do something new (or at least new to you) it’s going off in interesting and surprising (but I think positive) ways. When it’s done I’ll do a post-mortem, as I often do at the end of a project, and talk a little more about it then.

* I had a lot of people ping me for my thoughts about the Amanda Palmer thing involving the volunteer musicians she asked for while on the road. Actually, my thoughts were along the line of “Oh, look, an Internet kerfuffle involving the wife of a friend of mine. I think I’ll stay out of this one.” And I think those were perfectly reasonable thoughts. I will say I approve of the way she decided to resolve the issue. I’ll also say, on a related topic, that her new album Theatre is Evil is excellent and I’m delighted it debuted on the Billboard Top 10 for last week.

* I also have been asked for thoughts on the fact that in the last week the polls seem to have swung Obama’s way, and what that means for the election. My thought on that is that it is September 22, the election is November 6 and there are six and a half weeks between now and then, so let’s not either panic or get complacent, depending on who you are and who you support (if you support Gary Johnson, dude, have another bowl and enjoy yourself, since you already know how your November 6 is going to go). There are still the presidential debates and a bunch of chances for both Romney and Obama to do well or screw up — or for news and events to take their toll or lift either of them. So please let’s not all lose our brains.

* Also, it’s my sister’s birthday today. Happy birthday, Heather!

* It’s also the first day of fall here, and this is what it looks like from my back deck:

Hope your first day of fall (or spring!) is equally pretty.

54 thoughts on “Various and Sundry, 9/22/12

  1. I really like the minimalist philosophy. Some of my favorite blogs are http://zenhabits.net/ and http://www.theminimalists.com/. I think as a society we’ve become enamored with “stuff” and it’s losing utility altogether. Take for example my book and music collections which were lovingly put together over thousands of hours. Now my music is all digitized and the CDs sit and I could re-build the book collection on my Kindle in an hour or two. Except for food and clothing, the rest of the “stuff” is becoming pretty much optional. This is going to be a huge shift for a culture which has been designed around people out styling each other.

  2. David Brin has written a lot about what he calls satiability.He considers a very important concept for a sustainable lifestyle, both for individuals and cultures.

    Also, you sister shares a birthday with Bilbo and Frodo. Happy birthday to her and them.

  3. I was going to say, are you going to have a long-expected party for your sister?

    In fact the Autumnal Equinox took place at 10:49 EDT. Now the days will be shorter than the nights, and that will change really fast for a while, then slow down coming into the solstice.

  4. The first day of fall is very gray here in Seattle, just the way it’s supposed to be. It’s been hot and dry too long. Parts of the state really need some rain to help with wildfires too.

    I’m glad to see Obama has widened his lead lately. I hope it holds.

    I’ve been happy to see your reports of how many thousands of words you’ve been turning out per day lately it must feel good. A while ago you mentioned having written 14,000 words in a day once and someone asked if they were good words. You said that it was the end of The Android’s Dream. I remembr feeling like the end of that book had a different flow to it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time. It felt more contiguous and had a palpable momentum, if that makes any sense, and it worked very well. Did out feel that way when you were writing it?

  5. Well, like most such kerfluffles, my first exposure to the Palmer thing was hearing about here when it appears to be over or at least nearly so. I’d just note that the “crowd sourcing” idea was used by Chuck Berry for years, except then it was called “playing with pickup bands.” The results were predictably uneven. I learned about this via Taylor Hackford’s great documentary “Hail Hail Rock and Roll,” which chronicles Keith Richards’ attempt to rectify the situation by putting together an “all star” band for a concert for Berry’s 60th Birthday. It’s one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.

  6. I’ve always been a big fan of a quote attributed to Joseph Heller, the author of “Catch 22”. He was supposedly at a NYC party when one of Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe hedge fund managers/I bankers/etc started on about his summer house in Majorica, Chateau in Provance, cost of running the estates, need to upgrade his yacht from 150 feet to 170 feet, and so on. Once the guy left the conversational circle Heller supposedly said “I have something he’ll never have”. Someone asked him what that was and Heller replied “Enough. I have enough.” I thought about Heller’s comment when I became eligible for retirement a few years ago and had to decide was I willing to trade lower income for more time. It was an easy decision. I didn’t need the income–I had enough.

    And Mr Scalzi–a question about your schedule. Do you attempt to work something approaching an 8-5, Monday-Friday schedule to provide a structure, or are you and your family comfortable with your doing your work on a more flexible basis?

  7. FL Transplant:

    I try getting my work done during work hours when at all possible, because I like the idea of spending time with my family when they are here. This close to a deadline, however, I do a lot more work.

  8. Also, of course, as status seeking primates, when you stop grinding away, then you lose status, and that’s when all the other monkeys turn on you.

    Oh NOES!!! Must. Get. More.Stuff!!

    I also have been asked for thoughts on the fact that in the last week the polls seem to have swung Obama’s way, and what that means for the election.

    My husband said almost a year ago that Obama was liking to stand another term. Interestingly enough, I just had a dream this morning that Obama won. We’ll see in another month or so whether that was prophetic or nonsense…

    And dude, totally supporting Gary Johnson! But mostly just wanting to get my write-in campaign for Cthulhu off the ground – as I’ve said: why choose the lesser evil?

  9. I was getting flirted by some guy at a bar years ago, and he spouted the then-popular slogan “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

    “Wins what?” I asked.

    “Wins!” was all he could say.

    Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

  10. You don’t have to be rich to have too much stuff, I’m living proof of that. I have enough of almost everything, all I lack is someone willing to come and haul off all the crap I don’t want/need/remember owning.

  11. My husband and I both grew up poor, but over the last ~12 years, thanks to his circuit-board brain and company stock, now are just a couple of tax brackets from the top. We’re not even middle class by Mitt’s standards, but definitely comfortable. And it still feels weird.

    We did do the stuff thing at first, I admit. We were so excited about having money that we bought all the things we’d only dreamed about before. But our dreams were modest to begin with. We’re on our second house, and it’s big and has all the goodies. We’ve traveled a lot. But … I think we’re basically good, now. We’re taking a big hit this year for an expensive adoption, and would like a bit more to do more traveling, but other than that? We’re fine. So much so that I quit working. I hated the job, and someone else needs it more than I do, so there’s no point. I’d rather spend my time writing novels (and am.)

    I spose it helps that we’re not into bling for it’s own sake. We’ve never done jewelry, fancy cars, designer clothes, etc. The house is tricked out, but there are reasons for it. I love to cook, so I have a big kitchen. We love movies and TV, so we built a home theater. We couldn’t care less about impressing people. We just enjoy certain things, is all. Same with our travel. We do it for the experience.

    And maybe that’s why we’re different. We spend money on things that matter to us, not things that other people think we should have.

    We may well make a lot more money over the years, but I doubt we’ll use it for anything ostentatious. Retirement, travel, a college fund for the kid and an upgrade to an electric car or two, yeah. But that’s it. We’ll probably turn the rest into charity or start a scholarship fund or something. Hell, we already spend quite a lot helping out our friends. I’d rather make sure my friend has money to fix her water heater than buy some shiny rock.

    Money can bring out the worst in people, but it doesn’t have to. Good people will use it for good things and vice versa.

  12. in the last week the polls seem to have swung Obama’s way

    Rasmussen and Gallup have the race tied, so I don’t know what Nate Silver is smoking. Rasmussen called the 2008 election with the second-highest accuracy (Ipsos was first) and they’re tied in even the highly-democrat-oversampled Gallup.

    So I think Romney is pulling ahead.

    But the debates are coming up and with no teleprompter Obama is going to be at a HUGE disadvantage.

    Oh, and Paul Ryan is going to walk over and eat Joe Biden’s lunch.

  13. In terms of stuff, it feels like fighting the urge to hoard is–like many aspects of civilized life–fighting ingrained instincts. This one may have made the difference between life and death in an environment of scarcity. For crazy rich folks, and the hoarding of money, irrational fears about descendants one or two (or more) generations down the line sometimes start to take hold. For the rest of us, collecting more books than we’ll ever have time to read will have to suffice.
    And, yes, how rich you are, and how many yachts you sport, is how you keep score in a certain segment of society. (Part of why more redistribution really isn’t a disincentive at the top–they only care how they’re doing relative to each other, not in any absolute sense.)

  14. I’m convinced that certain voices in the anti-stuff crowd – minmalists, sufficency advocates – are as much about being vividly contrary as being reducing consumers.

    Not unlike some political contrarians that troll blogs and websites.

  15. John I know it’s hard to believe, but many of Gary Johnson’s supporters do NOT smoke pot. I’m in NY state, so I can vote for him with a totally clear conscience – and I intend to do so.

    Also, people may want to consider whether having the Democrats AND Republicans in total control of the allegedly non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates is really such a good idea (and connected, why the League of Women Voters stopped sponsoring the debates back in 1988).

  16. Gathering together lots of stuff is a habit which we are encouraged to feed by the likes of marketing departments and advertising. Were we to decide that our needs had already been met and we would therefore stop the acquisition of more and more stuff then the economic systems of large parts of the world would be turned on their heads. Quite where that would leave us is, possibly, a subject for another posting.

  17. I like Gary Johnson. I won’t vote for him but his desire to end the war on drugs is a noble one. Because lets face it, the war on drugs has been nothing but a huge waste of tax dollars and humanity.

    And no, I don’t use drugs. I just don’t want people jailed for what the do wi their own body.

  18. Rasmussen and Gallup have the race tied, so I don’t know what Nate Silver is smoking.

    Perhaps if you’d actually read his last two reports on national and state polling instead of looking at the topline numbers from only two tracking polls, you’d understand a bit better.

    Rasmussen called the 2008 election with the second-highest accuracy

    Sure, right before election day. But about this time in 2008, they were predicting a tied race as well, IIRC.

    Ipsos was first

    Ipsos has Obama ahead by 6 points right now.

    and they’re tied in even the highly-democrat-oversampled Gallup.

    There’s actually good reason to believe they’re not oversampled, considering less people are IDing themselves as Republican when responding to polls. Again, if you actually spend a minute or two to read the polling data, you’d know the ideological breakdowns (as opposed to the party breakdowns) actually show many more moderates and conservatives are polled than liberals.

    Plus, there’s a good deal of cognitive dissonance when you say Rasmussen is accurate and Gallup is not when you’re also saying both are tied. Which is it?

    So I think Romney is pulling ahead.

    Again, if all you’re looking at is two national trackers of your personal choice instead of everyone and don’t include state-level polling, then you’re either missing the boat or trying to sell a story. The election is decided by the Electoral College, and the polling of states (including that of Rasmussen and Fox News) is decidedly more grim.

    But the debates are coming up and with no teleprompter Obama is going to be at a HUGE disadvantage.

    Seriously? I never got this line of reasoning. Obama went head-to-head with Hillary Clinton and John McCain without teleprompters, and last time I checked, he won the primaries and the general in 2008. Plus, it’s not as if Romney magically pulls his words from thin air. In fact, he’s even
    “finicky” about his teleprompters
    .

    Oh, and Paul Ryan is going to walk over and eat Joe Biden’s lunch.

    Meh. Nobody really pays attention to the VP debates even when they’re disasters (see: Dan Quayle in 1988). Besides, Biden’s speech got the highest ratings of all the convention speakers from both parties combined, while Paul Ryan gets booed when talking to seniors about VoucherCare.

  19. When you think about whether “what you have is sufficient” don’t forget that for all but the very tippy top, that requires predictive ability FAR into the future. If I stop amassing – and just maintain – wealth now, and (for example) I am 40 with 3 kids, how do I know that what I judge “sufficient” now remains so in the mid to long term? How do I know that I truly have enough cushion to handle my (and my family’s) needs and wants, as well as to deal with any emergencies or bad fortune that comes?

    I don’t.

    That’s why this fascination with “you have enough, don’t need more” can get silly and can also be counterproductive. I posit that those who really believe that they “have enough” are likely those who haven’t done enough thinking about the future and all of its possibilities. (inflation anybody?)

  20. It’s also Lady Cheron’s birthday…Thanks for posting the link to the Stross post and to the Amanda thing. I just bought the album (you keep costing me money, but that’s okay) and will write on my feelings about being part of a volunteer organization once I figure out what I want to say.

  21. Although Amanda Palmer’s music isn’t my cup of tea at this juncture in my life (who knows what tomorrow will bring for my tastes or her artistic directions?), the businessperson in me is fascinated and impressed with her ground-breaking experiments in art-as-business. I may not care for her music, but if she decided a few years down the line to publish a book chronicling her experience with crow-sourcing, I’d buy that.

    As for money, money is only a means to an end. How much is useful to its earner depends entirely on what ends the earner hopes to achieve. If you’re goal is to revolutionize the computer industry, or set up a large charitable foundation, you’ll need a mite more dough than someone such as myself who merely wants to make sure I’m in a position to provide for my loved ones and I for all our needs and most of our wants (within reason) for the rest of our lives and make modest charitable donations to causes I value. A note on charities: I don’t look at my charitable donations as altruistic. As with any form of gift economy, I see them as an investment in something I value – namely certain aspects of my local and the larger human communities – just not investments where the return is financial remuneration.

    Whenever people have asked me what I’d do with a billion dollars, I tell them honestly. I’d spend a few million on me and my family, and the rest I’d set about starting educational, microfinanciering, alternative energy and quantum computing foundations. However, managing a billion dollar fortune is a full time job, so unless I could find someone I deem trustworthy and competent to be my money manager, I’d have to give up the academic career I’ve only just started the last few years to get off the ground, so I’m just as glad I’m not a billionaire. Anything more than a few million USD is more anchor to than freedom from financial concerns.

    That said, I did spend the first decade of my adult life working like a beaver to build a business† for the sole purpose of financial security. And while I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to do that, it would be wonderful if, in the future, people didn’t have to choose between security and pursuing their providential talents.

    † Scorpius vs. Whateverland: Yes, my partners and I built it, no we didn’t do it alone, yes I’m confident the President groks the distinction, no I don’t want to hear about it.

    @ Roland Martinez

    I think as a society we’ve become enamored with “stuff” and it’s losing utility altogether.

    I’m usually skeptical of broad sweeping generalizations. While consumptive consumerism is clearly a major aspect of most human cultures, I disagree that it’s a matter for simple reductionism. What material goods a person desires and why they desire them are not uniform. Some consumption is conspicuous, some is purposeful. Some consumers derive their main benefit from showing off, while others consider showing off a side-bonus or even tasteless, and most, IMO, probably fall somewhere in the middle. Others simple hoard as a kind of compulsion, while others still stockpile exactly enough to get through a breakdown in civilization and begin rebuilding.

    Take for example my book and music collections which were lovingly put together over thousands of hours. Now my music is all digitized and the CDs sit and I could re-build the book collection on my Kindle in an hour or two.

    Did you enjoy the music when you bought it? I’ve long since digitized all my records and CDs and given the redundant media away, and now I purchase my music digitally, but I’m nevertheless glad I was able to listen to and share all that music before mp3s ruled the earth. And I still enjoy paper books, but I give away or donate to my local library all of my fiction books when I’m through with them because I rarely read any of them twice.

    Except for food and clothing, the rest of the “stuff” is becoming pretty much optional.

    In many climates, clothing is functionally superfluous. I still love putting together a stylish outfit, but I’m under no illusions that it’s a material necessity.

    This is going to be a huge shift for a culture which has been designed around people out styling each other.

    I think you mean fashion, since style is in the eye of the beholder. Fashion is the consensus reality to which many of us who value style regard it as pointless to be a slave.

    @ Mark Clough

    Gathering together lots of stuff is a habit which we are encouraged to feed by the likes of marketing departments and advertising.

    People who say this rarely, in my experience, have the absolute bare minimum they need to stay alive. Like all “look at all the sheeple” arguments, it says more about the outlook of the person who makes it than the people they look down on through their preconceived lens. The fallacy of the argument comes into focus when you start asking: Need for what?

    Were we to decide that our needs had already been met and we would therefore stop the acquisition of more and more stuff then the economic systems of large parts of the world would be turned on their heads.

    I suspect that last part will happen anyway…not because human nature is suddenly going to upend, but because of disruptive technologies and possibly ecological and population shifts.

    “If you grew up with holes in your zapatos. You’d celebrate the minute you was having dough.” ~ Shawn Carter

  22. I agree with you about the presidential election: there’s still some time to go, and any prediction made at this point has to come with a high degree of uncertainty. That said, I agree with Sam Wang: the downticket races that are probably closer and more worthy of people’s political energy.

    Re Gary Johnson, I won’t speak for Libertarians, but I suspect many of them have a secondary goal of trying to bring more attention to their issues.

    duskfire @ 3:23 pm: As a private organization, I think the Commission on Presidential Debates is entitled to select its leadership, as well as its debate rules, however it wants. That said, I agree they are a joint venture of the two main parties to prevent substantial presidential debates, and it’s quite unfortunate that the electorate has allowed them a monopoly on presidential debates.

    Scorpius @ 4:11 pm:

    Because lets face it, the war on drugs has been nothing but a huge waste of tax dollars and humanity.

    And no, I don’t use drugs. I just don’t want people jailed for what the do wi their own body.

    I completely agree with you here. The war on drugs is a failure which hurts many of our citizens and hurts many people abroad. We should be ashamed of it.

    J-G @ 4:35 pm:

    If I stop amassing – and just maintain – wealth now, and (for example) I am 40 with 3 kids, how do I know that what I judge “sufficient” now remains so in the mid to long term? How do I know that I truly have enough cushion to handle my (and my family’s) needs and wants, as well as to deal with any emergencies or bad fortune that comes?

    That’s a good point, but it’s an argument for saving money rather than buying more stuff. It also doesn’t apply to the very wealthy.

  23. “If you support Gary Johnson, have another bowl” Why, thank you, though I’ll wait until I’m done running errands for the day. Here in California, Obama’s got a solid enough lead that it’s safe to vote third party, and if I weren’t voting Libertarian, I’d be voting Green or Peace&Freedom before voting Democrat. Last time I decided to hold my nose and vote Democrat for President was 1984, when stopping Reagan was important enough that I voted for Walter Mondale, and boy was that spectacularly successful! (It may have encouraged them to nominate Dukakis the next time! And yes, Reagan’s win brought us the wars I’d expected, and GHWBush as the next president, though I didn’t guess that we’d be seeing Dubya as yet another result of that.)

    My real question about November 6th is whether the Republicans’ Voter ID scam stops enough swing-state Democrats from voting to make up for the Republicans who hear Romney saying obnoxious things and decide to stay home.

  24. If you aren’t actively involved in campaigning or deciding where to effectively spend a political donation, what difference do the polls make. Election day will be here soon enough.

    I live in a state that’s not in play. I am considering Johnson, my sympathies are generally libertarian, and every year I have to choose between supporting libertarianism and the fantasy that I can affect the outcome.

  25. I once worked with a guy who got wound up about big budget movies months before their release. I guess the anticipation was a big part of the experience for him. I think of him when I hear about political polls.

  26. I’ve actually laid out a case for why old-school conservatives should vote Johnson now that Romney is clearly self-destructing. Short version: it’s the best way to send a message that the God Squad doesn’t speak for all conservatives.

    Unless you’re in a precarious swing state, voting for Romney isn’t going to help him win. May as well make a statement another way.

  27. I keep checking Craigslist for someone offering to take away my “stuff” for cheap. Over the years, we’ve been give four sofas. FOUR! That’s too many damn sofas, it really is. And I have cats, so two of them are entirely shredded and relegated to the basement. I would be shamed to try to give them to St. Vincent de Paul’s. There’s also a lot of other stuff down there (a gutted piano, long story), including almost 5,000 books. I’d like to get rid of the crap and put up more bookshelves, and move my office and design studio down there.

    I haven’t yet lost enough pride to put the sofas out on the street, like others in my neighborhood. This isn’t NYC, where putting things out means they disappear w/in minutes. I wish. That’s one thing I miss about NYC. That and delis. So, there are two things I miss about the Big Apple.

  28. On the subject of ‘sufficiency’, I do like what Bruce Sterling has to say in the last Viridian design movement post: http://www.viridiandesign.org/

    There isn’t really a quote to pull from it to summarise, but the gist is, have things that you use and don’t keep things that you don’t use. The things that you use, especially those things that are the closest to your skin, i.e. your clothes, bed and chair, should be the best that you can get. Of the rest, keep it if it is meaningful to you, if it is beautiful and makes you happy, or it is functional and you need it frequently. Everything else, scan a copy or take a photo so that you can get hold of it if you should need it in the future, and ditch the thing itself.

    Display for the sake of display once upon a time had a social function. It proved one’s employability or other social worth, and made sure that one was not in danger of being run out of town for vagrancy or the like. I remember from a Worldcon panel on economics, one of the panelists describing a woman he knew who collected tattoos because in the place she lived things and money would be quickly stolen from her. The tats displayed her employability; she obviously was able to earn enough to afford them so she had the skills to be of use to people. But I think that the conventional house-and-picket-fence, replace-your-car-each-year, TV-in-every-room kind of display, has passed its point of maximum utility, and has anyway never been sustainable. There are other, in my opinion better, ways to prove your worth.

  29. I like the fatted owl perched on your table — or is it merely ghlaghee, not ghætted?

    On the topic of various and sundry, I second the request for an update on Feral Cat. Any sign of it since release, or did he head for the hills? He has an entire clan of relatives in Hollywood and I’d thought that they might find a place for him there. (I refer, of course, to the famed actors Will Feral, Mike Feral, Terry Feral, Colin Feral and others of clan Feral.)

  30. I’ve striven to minimalise over the last year or so. Part of it is preparation for retirement – I want to downsize in a big way: think Tumbleweed house size – and have been on a roll as far as disposal is concerned. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy because it isn’t. Breaking the habit of “stuff” reminds me of quitting smoking. Including the part where you lie to yourself about how well you’re doing. It’s worth the effort as I have chosen to reduce to the point where I effectively live in one room of my house (that has actually become a truism as my daughter and grandson are currently living with me) and the end result is truly liberating. I can’t recommend it enough. The next time I move it won’t take a semi or even a rental truck, it will be in a station wagon.

  31. Some people keep making money because they can’t help it. They make Things, and the Things are profitable, whether it’s iPads or books or music.

    Some people keep making money because there’s no “you won” in that business. The game doesn’t end until the player says it does, and the player won’t quit, whether out of habit or for some other reason.

    I respect the people who make Things.

  32. Regarding people accumulating wealth, I believe you may have touched on the key thought. I may be mis-remembering this, but many many years ago (late 80′s to early 90′s) I remember a writer in a computer business magazine commenting on how much money Bill Gates had made, how much Sam Walton had made, how much Larry Ellison had made. He had interviewed these people and other people who had made lot’s of money. One of them had said that he had long ago made “enough” money, now the money was just a way to keep score. I believe that most of these people are super competitive and that the accumulation of wealth are how they think they “win” the game. That is why so many of them have no real plans for what to do with their wealth in the long term.

  33. @ Peter Eng

    I respect the people who make Things.

    I respect people who use their leverage to make positive differences in the world, whether that means making Things or investing in the work of others. Contrawise, I disrespect people who use their leverage to make negative differences in the world, whether that involves making some Thing toxic or exploiting the work of others. Bill Gates hasn’t made a single Thing I consider worthwhile – he even cribbed most of the source code for DOS – but he’s made investments I admire.

    @ Mike Moody

    One of them had said that he had long ago made “enough” money, now the money was just a way to keep score. I believe that most of these people are super competitive and that the accumulation of wealth are how they think they “win” the game. That is why so many of them have no real plans for what to do with their wealth in the long term.

    And this belief is based on what other than one billionaire in one article decades ago? Because, as far as I can tell, whether they’re lobbying the halls of power or trying to make the world a better place for the less fortunate or just trying to kick start the commercial aerospace industry, most seem to be quite busy with their fortunes. Again, “enough” money for what, and what does “long-term” mean? Whether you agree with how the ultra-rich use their money, most do in fact use it.

  34. I believe that most of these people are super competitive and that the accumulation of wealth are how they think they “win” the game. That is why so many of them have no real plans for what to do with their wealth in the long term.

    FWIW Bill Gates has plenty of plans for his wealth in the long term. He gives billions towards tech, health care/research, and education charities. Most of his wealth will go towards those causes when he dies, instead of making his children super-rich (he wants them to blaze their own trails rather than inherit it and do nothing productive). I remember reading somewhere that, whatever we discover the cure for in the near future, whether it be HIV or cancer or the flu or tinnitus, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will have been responsible for a good chunk of the funding. I may not have liked his products or business tactics all that much, but his philanthropy more than makes up for that in my mind. Yet another thing distinguishing him from Steve Jobs, IMO, who I believe was lionized waaaaay too much.

  35. I’m not sure any of the hyper rich think any differently about their money than I do about my holdings at the tail end of an epic length game of Civilization. How could they? And, Bill Gates as the example, probably continued to earn money because generating that much personal wealth requires a pretty significant engine. And an engine of that magnitude doesn’t just stop earning. I mean, after the first tangible billion dollars, you really can’t help but to generate more money.

  36. was watching history channel episode about alexander the great. talk about stuff. he had conquered most of the known world at the time and it wasnt enough. he wanted more. they didnt explore the psychology much, but one historian pointed out that at the time, greek soldiers fought because fighting defined who they were. Their myths were all about warriors. The myth behind Alexander was that he was related to both Achilles and Hercules. And his army of 30,000 followed him because they wanted to be part of that myth, they wanted to be part of whatever glory that Alexander found. …. They had defined themselves as warriors, so war was what they sought, not some paricular strategic goal. So even when they had conquered most of their known world, it wasnt enough because to stop warring was to stop being who they had defined themselves to be. To stop would be to face an identity crisis. I’m sure when Alexander died so young, a lot of his followers were desparate to find another mythological warrior leader to follow. … I think we can see this in modern day in people who define themselves an money makers and define themselves by the money they make. For them it will never be enough. Because it isnt about some strategic goal of economic sufficiency. Its about making money. So they always have to make money.

  37. Only very few, very special people can be productive members of society and still be altruistic and unselfish. To some degree or another the rest of us get caught up in status and stuff. But it is a natural progression that as we age we come to value different things. As I get closer to fifty I place a much higher value on people and time than in the past. Cars and boats become more difficult to maintain and start to detract from people and time. Perhaps I just need to earn even more money so I can afford to buy stuff and pay someone to maintain it.

  38. @ mintwitch “And I have cats, so two of them are entirely shredded and relegated to the basement.”

    Ha! (OK, so it is a bit rude for me to rip this sentence out of its sofa context.)

  39. There are some people, such as Warren Buffett, who are very good at making money. And it’s a very human thing to enjoy the things you’re good at. So at least some of the rich-beyond-any-reasonable-measure people keep on working to become richer because they like making money.

  40. @ Greg

    So even when they had conquered most of their known world, it wasnt enough because to stop warring was to stop being who they had defined themselves to be.

    That, and Andy’s dad was a poster-parent for child abuse.

    I’m sure when Alexander died so young, a lot of his followers were desparate to find another mythological warrior leader to follow.

    And his generals, knowing a war of succession was the alternative and would tear the young empire to shreds, were desperate for him to appoint a successor. But he was his father’s son, and so reputedly said I leave it to the strongest.

    Oops.

    @ Steve

    Only very few, very special people can be productive members of society and still be altruistic and unselfish.

    Since most productive members of society get screwed over and under, I’m not following your reasoning. Most producers aren’t wealthy or celebrated, they’re the man risking life and limb in the mine or the woman risking life and limb in the Corps but being denied full combat benefits because the IED that takes off her legs didn’t have the bureaucratic sense to detonate at an FOB.

    @ Lurks-no-More

    There are some people, such as Warren Buffett, who are very good at making money. And it’s a very human thing to enjoy the things you’re good at. So at least some of the rich-beyond-any-reasonable-measure people keep on working to become richer because they like making money.

    Why is it an either/or? Can’t someone enjoy being good at investing money and take satisfaction in being a linchpin of a coordinated effort to build something that benefits others?

  41. Gulliver: But he was his father’s son, and so reputedly said I leave it to the strongest.

    Did he repeat that? Because that would kill the theory that he meant to leave it to Krateros, but they misheard him say “kratistos” (to the strongest), which is how I heard it. But if he repeated it over and over, he was a son of a…he was a bad man who wanted a civil war, which he was well smart enough to realize would be the inevitable outcome of leaving his kingdom to whomever was strong enough to hold onto it.

  42. @ Xopher Halftongue

    Well, as I said, that was his reputed answer. Other accounts suggest he wasn’t entirely lucid due to the fever that killed him, and was unable to speak, and so pointed at or gave his ring (depending on accounts) to his general Perdiccas, who supposedly wanted to be regent until Alexander’s unborn son came of age, but was overruled by the other generals. Since all of the accounts of his death, it’s causes and his last words/body language come to us by third party histories, we’ll probably never know what transpired.

    Alexander was smart, but he was very much a believer in rule by strength. He may have thought that if no one could prevail in a civil war, that no one deserved to be emperor.

  43. ARRRGH YOU SAID REPUTEDLY DAMN MY EYES ANYWAY.

    Sorry, sorry. New contacts, kinda tired, but still I was careless.

    Had you heard the thing about Krateros? Is that attested anywhere real, because I think I got it from Mary Renault, whose accuracy about history is legendary…like a unicorn.

  44. Honestly, it sounds like something half-remembered a prof may have said or I may have read when I was learning about Macedonian history a decade and change ago. Even if it isn’t true, it’s very truthy :)

    The thing about death-bed accounts of people thousands of years before twitter and video-tape is that they’re like a game of Chinese whispers played over a hundred generations, and it doesn’t help that the people doing the dying are often not in the clearest frame of mind to begin with. Even with all our media and info-hoarding, I bet historians millennia from now will being solemnly teaching some pretty funky things about today’s notables to their wide-eyed students. For instance, did you know that Wil Wheaton believed John Scalzi was the devil?

  45. If you’re a Johnson supporter and your goal is to reach 2%, then whether your night will end in disappointment is not a foregone conclusion.

  46. realclearpolitics.com is by far the best site to go to for election polls. They have all the polls and keep a rolling average. This is more accurate than people picking and choosing which polls to look at. The best part of the site is under polls and the electoral breakdown.

    They break down by solid candidate, likely candidate, leaning candidate, and up for grabs. They seem to update it regular and keep the history. So you can see how people are doing state by state (with the rolling averages of all polls).

    If you are wondering Romney has been consistently sitting at 191 or so electoral votes all summer. Obama has gone from about 220 to his new high of 247(you need 270 to win). Note that the electoral votes include the ‘leaning’ category, which thought outside the margin of error are not so far outside where they could be wrong. If you go by electoral college, it is very tough for Romney to win.

    This is the best site to go to for polls. This way you can get around the left wing or right wing bias since they average out all polls.

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