Monday, June 30, 2003

A review from cnn --
The protagonist is every bit as compelling -- a thrill-seeking, drug-stoked, muckraking journalist. The story is every bit as complex, though the only mystery that needs to be solved is what drives the man called "MM" to do all the crazy things he does.

I am virtually acquanted with an amazing photojournalist that goes by initials "MM". He assures me that none of these things are true. Both books reviewed look like fun, especially for a long flight.

Neato - NEC Unveils Methanol-Fueled Laptop
I wonder when my neighborhood is getting a methanol recharging station.

Thanks to Ben Hammersley's wisdom (or an automatic bot program) I finally have incoming links as far as Technorati is concerned. That's exciting. I am not sure whether these links are going to expire, since Ben has taken me off the "fearless" list, but my 15 nanoseconds of notice will chill my heart in the coming hot summer months.

From the "D-uh" section -- Yahoo! News - Serious Spousal Spats Spike Blood Pressure
I would have never guessed. I presume next hot area of research will be on whether non-spousal spats spike blood pressure. I am shocked by the news.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

A couple of days ago I wrote a bit about some of the Harry Potter clones, russian "Tanya Grotter" sries in particular. So I got myself a copy. As the tiny bookstore I frequent did not have the original in the series, I got #5 or #6 -- "Tanya Grotter and the Staff of Magi" Will keep you posted. I am off to upstate for BBQ and Tanya Grotter.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Ample Time is a very nice gadget addition. If you use a PDA for a map, it will show you how far you can walk in a given amount of time, or how far something really is. Neato. via Ben Hammersley

Jewish Doctor's Plot thickens.
There are lots of links to this today. An atrocious letter from an Oxford University professor to an Israeli Ph.D. applicant. Rather than duplicate this here, I am linking to Roger Simon's thread on this.
On second thought, it would be nice to have a copy here as well. In response to Avit Duvshani's, an Israeli, request for admittance into the Pathology program, Prof.Andrew Wilkie responded:
From: "Andrew Wilkie" awilkie@worf.molbiol.ox.ac.uk
To: "Amit Duvshani"
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2003 9:58 AM
Subject: Re: PhD application

Dear Amit Duvshani,

Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country.

I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you look around.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Wilkie

Nuffield Professor of Pathology,
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine,
The John Radcliffe,
Headington,
Oxford OX3 9DS,
UK.

Tel (44)-1865-222619
Fax (44)-1865-222500

via Little Green Footballs

You can read the comments and discussion at these two links for more of the story. Professor has offered a non-apology and Oxford somehow thinks that ihs letter fits into their "non-discrimination" policy. I cannot figure out how denying anyone from Israel admission can be considered non-discriminatory, but I am no Oxford Professor.
Relevant links recapped: Oxford Apology on LGF, original letter on HorseFeathers, Roger Simon's thread , and Ron Rosenbaum's essay on european anti-semitism (I linked to it before, but it is worth putting it in again)

Friday, June 27, 2003

I hear the new "Do not Call List" had 375,000 people on it within the first 24 hours. As of now, the website, of the National Do Not Call Registry is overwhelemed. Alright, I will listen to some more of my music and try again later.


[Listening to: Flyuger moih vetrov - A. Ivaschenko i G. Vasil'ev - Al'ma-Mater' - Glafira i Ko (02:51)]

from Techdirt -- It's The Connection, Not The Content
"...he half-jokingly suggests that the telecom industry should just buy up all the music and movie licenses in the world, and let people trade these freely online. He suggests this would benefit the telecom firms immensely. The revenue from such content is 5% of the total revenue of the telecom industry, and the increased bandwidth use would more than make up for the difference."

Reminds me of the time when AT&T, still a monopoly, owned so much copper that were it to sell if off on the open market it would worth almost as much as the whole company. One should not be deterred by the fact that most of the copper is buried. Digging it up is routinely done by black marketeers in developing countries, most recently in Iraq.

From Slate -- Harry Potter and the International Order of Copyright - Should Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass be banned? By Tim Wu
I heard of the Dutch case around "Tanya Grotter", and heard that there was a Chinese version. Belarus, as usual, claims the prize.
And next door in Belarus you'll find Porri Gatter and the Stone Philosopher. In something of a departure, Harry's Belarussian clone wields a grenade launcher and re-fights the White Russian wars.


I am not sure what exactly the White Russian Wars are -- I presume they refer to the Communist Revolution and the Civil Wars of 1917-1922. What teenager did not dream of using a modern weapon to turn back the tide of history. I am definitely getting myself a copy of that book.

On a more serious note, I like the Slate story. It would make sense for Rowlings, in my opinion, to ask courts to require publishers to show clearly in book jackets and covers that this is NOT authorized or related to the Harry Potter created by Rowlings. Trying to squeesh all copycats seems like a thanksless and pointless task. Perhaps even counterproductive. For years I was under the impression that it was A. Volkov who created the Wizard of Oz, while in fact he translated the original and then created an excellent, as it happens, series of spin-off novels. He was able to do that because USSR did not recognize, or care, about international copyright when it suited them. Still, hours of amusement and fond memories of his characters are lodged in my memory. Additionally, there is always the allure of a "real thing", and it is hard to say how many copies of Harry Potter were bought by fans who were brought into the "fold" by cheaper local imitations.

The previous announcement of a Hamas-Israel truce lasted about an hour before being decried as an untrue rumour. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer. from MSNBC News
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, said Friday it had decided to suspend attacks on Israelis, a move that could give a significant boost to a U.S.-backed "road map" to peace battered by violence.

I am beginning the countdown...

Sorry to beat the topic to the death, but... I was going to lay out a coupe of thoughts about Maureen Dowd's op-ed from 6/25/2003.
I thought I was over my outrage over her column, but putting together my previous posting just got me worked up all over again. Sorry. I am under no illusion that a lawyer would read this post, but just in case I have to ask, "Can the New York Times be sued for creating an intolerable working atmosphere?" I am reading about Legally mandated speech codes at private clubs by Eugene Volokh. I am reading about EU Media and Advertising ban that would
"...avoid throughout all forms of mass media all stereotypical portrayals of women and men, as well as any projection of unacceptable images of men and women affecting human dignity and decency in advertisements." via Samizdata


The strangeness of the EU law we can debate later, but clearly there is a concern here for offending people's sensibilities in public and in private by the two major policy-making apparatuses in the world. Now, surely there is someone, somewhere in the NYT organization who went to a school that does not assign explicit points for being a member of minority, disadvantaged, etc.. Someone who considers themselves worthy of having been admitted on their own merit. (I could be wrong and there is not such a person, but then I do not think we really should worry about NYTimes lasting much longer.) Now that they know what Maureen Dowd and her editors thinks of them - "the tired, poor, huddled masses" - is not the workplace forever poisoned? I do not think I would be able to work next to her, and considering her relative position of authority, can one expect fair and professional treatment from her?

Workplace harassment is defined to cover a broad range of offensive speech: any speech (by the employer, coworkers, or even patrons) that is "severe or pervasive" enough to create a "hostile, abusive, or offensive environment" for a "reasonable person" and for the plaintiff based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and so on. Allegedly bigoted political statements can qualify. So can allegedly offensive humor. [ed - boldface added]


How can this column not qualify as harassment for any person in the New York Times organization who may have been, based on their race or childhood conditions, a recipient of affirmative action?

from Sasha Volokh
What's reprehensible is not that someone thinks this, but that someone finds it funny enough, without more, to be an entire installment of a political comic strip.

I think Maureen Dowd thinks so. In fact she says so in her op-ed in NY Times on June 25th. She wrote,

He knew that he could not make a powerful legal argument against racial preferences, given the fact that he got into Yale Law School and got picked for the Supreme Court thanks to his race.


I cannot possibly imagine how Ms. Dowd could know the admissions details for Judge Thomas, but that is so blatantly racist, I am astounded. I honestly thought I was going to see Revs Jackson and Sharpton picketing the Times building, but I guess they were busy. I am just sorry she did not bundle Johnny Cochran into the article -- could have seen a nice defamation suit coming. It speaks volumes, to me, that not only Ms. Dowd wrote this racist drivel, but that her editors did not see it fit to kill the column. Whatever "new" management NYT has got -- it is not "new" and it is not managing.

Google Toolbar Installed -- version 2.0. I have "BlogThis" again.

Heh. I guess I should not be waiting for a new version of BlogThis and QuoteThis from Blogger.
New toolbar from Google, the parent of Blogger is out. Sourced from CNET
I am just wondering whether the featuer will be configurable enough to give functionality to all different types of blogs, or will it be tied specifically to Blogger. I can only imagine how many entrees about this there will be tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Good thought -- Information as a service, not a good -- via TechDirt
Of course, people who think of their product as goods, are not always pursuaded that what they produce is indeed a service. And if people presume to know the difference ahead of the vendor then they get indicted, like here or here.

From Techdirt
The folks at the Berkman Center at Harvard, who have been putting out plenty of information about what countries censor what information online are now putting together a distributed computing application to help them figure out what sites are blocked where. Instead of having to run tests themselves, they figure they might as well get information from people all over the world. As with any such distributed computing app, it's being compared to SETI@Home. Sounds like a good idea - though, some people might shy away from using it because (unlike things like SETI@Home) this one is actually looking at specific sites you may be visiting. Also, I wonder if there are additional dangers...

At first guess, one of the dangers is that countries will just block this application. Long live telco monopolies.
ps. Link to the distributed application mentioned above

Ok, it seems blogger is back up with new software. Took well over 24 hours, in my case, to get everything working. I still do not have an explorer-based context menu BlogThis and QuoteThis working, but I guess that is something relatively minor.
The annoying is part is that I had a few things I wanted to write about yesterday. I will still try to cover them, but in a shorter form.
Thanks for reading.

Heh. Slowly various pieces of functionality emerge from the debri field. I can now post, but not publish. Will keep you, o faithful reader, posted. If not published.

Well, I still cannot post, but I have installed a new tool -- w.bloggar on my machine. At least I will have an easier time saving my posts, or working on a couple of them at a time.
It is a pretty neat tool, so far.

Blogger upgraded my account. It took the whole day yesterday, and I believe my archives are not working. That's the kind of upgrade I like.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Good. Let's see how long this will last. I cannot imagine it will last 3 months, but anything is good. -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad Agree to Truce

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I have been considering a long post about this -- BlogStreet : Popular Books
However, for the time being I decided to simply list the link and share a couple of long-winded paragraphs of thoughts.
In short, this is one of the more innovative uses for aggregating blogs and getting some useful info out of them. By itself, this is not that different from Amazon's "popular in " feature. Clearly, the community here is all of blogosphere that BlogStreet surveys, which is not necessarily a group distinctly represented as a purchase circle on Amazon. What does make it different, and I think in an important way, is that this is a kind of more general "self-assembling" type of information than any store or focus group could ever provide. People are not making decisions about joining a group and having their purchases tracked, they are not even necessarily buying books. They are simply writing about them.
At the moment blogstreet's parsing is fairly crude, but as blogs evolve, standards mature, we can look forward to more of these self-assembling information repositories. At least I am looking forward to them.
ps. I am aware that some trackback and wiki's work in much the same way. However, for those intentional pariticpation, if minimal, is still necessary.

Yesterday, I sent out an email to friends and acquantances regarding this. This publication has a very small online audience, but it cannot hurt to post this request for attention and help here. It is a for a good cause.

I spoke a an oncologist I know yesterday. In our conversation she mentioned a patient of hers who is afflicted with a similar illness, and whose prognosis is not so great right now. Nevertheless, she and her family are organizing a bike tour to help raise money and awareness of the desease -- Ewing's Sarcoma (PNET). It is unlikely that many of you will be able to join them in Denmark for the tour, but you can help support the effort, or participate in a "virtual" bike tour with them -- riding your bikes on the same days as they will in Denmark. Details
are here -- Shriner's Danish Bike Tour and their Virtual Bike Tour. Feel free to forward this on to whoever you think might be interested.


I make no representation that forwarding this on, or donating money, will put you on some sort of a "Golden Path", help you find a "golden nuggest", or cure the pain in the "golden tooth". I would however be happy if you took the time to read the information contained in the links. Surely, ten minutes spent reading through and considering ways in which you can help will not count as waste.

I succumbed to the temptation and added an RSS feed to this blog. You can now use your favourite news aggregator to see me update this site vicariously at a BlogMatrix RSS feed

Perhaps it is just me, but this article did not make much sense to me. -- Web Services Boon for Customers, Not Investors
I paritcularly do not understand Mr. Zinmeister (a bank analyst) when he brings the following points to bear ,

  • The use of common standards allows software developers to spend more time developing business logic rather than application code, automating processes and cutting costs
  • The need for specialized skills is relatively low, according to Zinsmeister, because training a programmer to transition from C++ to C# (in the case of .NET, Microsoft's Web services framework), or from Java to J2EE (the competing Web services framework supported by IBM, Sun Microsystems, BEA and others), is fairly easy
  • It enables wide-spread code reuse and a reduction in integration costs because all interfaces use the same standards and can now understand each other, which means that application code functionality can be written once and then leveraged by multiple applications rather than being written into each application separately; this also lowers maintenance costs because a change to the underlying logic of the application code only needs to be changed in one application rather than all
  • More rapid development
  • The ability to move architectures to lower cost hardware and software
  • The ability to extend the lifecycle of legacy systems by wrapping an application (or a specific component of business logic within an application) in Web services standards, allowing other applications to leverage the data or logic that resides within the legacy system.

I can almost grant the first and last points. However, to both of these I must reply that these have been a goal for as long as there have been "legacy" applications or any business-related applications to develop. It is not clear to me, how allowing RPC via XML over HTTP really simplifies the first goal, that of common standards. I can easily write a Web Service (and have done so on purpose) that will not be digeastable by anyone else, common standards or not. As for legacy applications -- companies that really have valuable stuff on their mainframes have already invested into building applications to give them access to their data. Uboubtedly, many would benefit from getting easier and more uniform access to these systems -- that is not in contention; however, it is not clear how Web Services solve this problem easier than anything else or faster than anything else.
As far as other points go, I have to wonder how many thousands of feet in the air this views are taken from. I do not see how adding extra layers of web servers, security precautions, and management tools is going to help "move architectures to lower cost hardware and software". The fact that Linux is free and excellent, and current hardware is fast and cheap have little to do with Web Services, IMO. "Wide-spread code reuse" and "all interface use the same standards" are holy grails that do not become easier or harder with Web Services. If Amazon or Google opened up their systems via perl CGI they would have been just as effective. I plain do not know what "same standards" are or how they help to [applications to] "understand each other", unless it is equivalent to "all humans use sound waves transmitted over the air to understand each other". Sure we do, but it is not automatic and it is not easy. At some point blogspot may know how to interact with amazon API, but I doubt it would ever automatically recognize those from some random homepage.
Same kind of uncertainly I see for the "more rapid development" point. It is not at all clear to me that Web Services have somehow, or will in the near-to-mid-term future, provide us with a significantly faster development lifecycles than more traditional web applications or client-server applications. There is a lartge market for components that can be used to speed up development. Most shops do not use them, or use them very sparingly. The truth that most developers know is that components are often as hard to use as anything home-brewed. It is very hard to write good, general-purpose components. Everyone has their own very specific problems and there are always one or two requirements that are just not implemented in a general purpose component. We, as developers, have gotten used to some charting or statistical components, but in general, anything that is high-level enough to be considered a component is most of the time too inflexible to be used by a wide variety of developers employed by a wide variety of corporations.
In conclusion, I would like to write that it is not that I so completely disagree with this evaluation of problems facing IT, or that Web Services are incapable of alleviating some of the issues, only that bold points like those brought above tend to only confuse the picture rather than clarify it.

I have mentioned this [or meant to] a couple of times. Glad to see that others have been verbalizing this as well --Techdirt:How Amazon Opens Up And Cleans Up
And let's not forget Google Web services. My guess is that the "killer app" is not going to come from a web service API Amazon puts out, but some kind of an app that uses a few webservices together, in a way that none of the companies providing them could by itself. Like something along the lines of "an applicatin that provides book reviews from wiki, amazon, etc depending on your preferences on amazon, your blog links, and what top news are on google combined with you and your circle have been searching for, and whether it is cheaper to rent from Netflix and Wallmart or buy new and resell on eBay later." or something like that.

Interesting --AU research fires up video surfing.

The interesting details are in the comments -- VentureBlog: The Blog Explosion

And this is the problem -- Apple Announces Chip Deal and Other Moves to Lift PC's
Mr. Jobs said, meanwhile, that Apple had sold more than a million iPod portable music players and more than five million songs through its iTunes music store.


No matter how you spin it, 5 million songs and a million iPods only add up to $5,000,000 for music and around $300,000,000 in iPods. By comparison, Apple revenues are around 5.9billion, MSFT at 31billion and Dell at 36billion. Microsoft has operating margins of 44% and profit margins of 30+%. Apple has negative on both these metrics. The $305million from these new products are not skewing the euqation at all,IMO.
This said, the G5 looks sweet, even though it is the dual-processor version that seems that best deal to me. For $2,000 I can get a pretty good Windows PC, one that would compete handily with any Mac in common tasks, Word Processing or Photoshop alike. However, building an interesting dual-processor system keeps taking me way past the $3,000 mark -- and that's getting an ugly beige box with no software installed, etc. A few people I know who are in the design/publishing business have been getitng the top-end dual-processor G4s, and are planning to get the G5's in the same type of configuration. If that machine is truly profitable for Apple to make -- it might be a winner.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

An interesting article in the NYT Magazine -- Nation Builders for Hire (NYT free registration required)
I guess it is somewhat refreshing when a journalist does not have to let go of his/her bias and pretend to be objective. The article is informative, well written, even if I find a lot of the ire missplaced. The biggest problem Mr. Baum seems to have with the situation is that the people involved on the contractor's side get paid "private sector wages." Well, I guess being in the private sector myself I do not find it so disgusting. Frankly, as described these people come off as great engineers with teremendous amount of hard-to-get experience. Were they to work domestically their pay would probably be close to six figures as well (based on my acquantance with some civil engineers). The tax-free part of the bonus is nice, but considering the danger they put themselves into -- it does not strike me as particularly unfair. Finally, there are plenty of consultants of all kinds working for the Big 4, Oracle, and similar who make as much or more money with all their expenses paid and do not have to eat oil-filled dust for months or years. I guess it is pretty clear that I do not find the author's "they're overpaid" argument overly compelling.
Neither do I find the idea of these corporations making money somehow offensive. IBM, Walmart, and the NY Times Corporation, all make a great deal of money. As they say, "that's the American Way." I would have been more impressed if the author showed a definitive breakdown between how much these same services cost when the Army did them by itself versus outsourcing, particularly for logistics. I do find troubling the assertions of the Army's lack of talent depth to fix its own communications gear or the Abrams tanks -- although I presume the difficulty is overstated or irrelevant. I cannot imagine tank crews being able to *really* fix their tanks beyond unjamming a gun or fixing tracks since WWII. As far as not being able to get a tech to fix something until 9AM -- fire the Army lawyer who wrote up the contract. Citibank or Bank of New York do not have to wait until 9AM, and neither should the Army.
As I understand it, modern economy, and wafare, deal in specializations. Guys who deal with minefields would be the kind who make at least 60K on average a year in the army -- 10-15 years experience, a good number of officers or senior NCOs. Their cost to the army is much higher -- in training, maintenance, housing, insurance, etc. Presumably, this year they will spend 100% of their time in Iraq -- thus costing more than they would otherwise by some significant margin, let's say 30%. However, if last year they were hired by some civilian agency to demine some other place in the world, or just spent a few months on the beach, courtesy of private sector wages, the average works out just fine, except over time the USA has a pool of reserves that are up to date and happy to help without the cost of maintaining them during peacetimes. I cannot make the assertion of any of this numbers, and I would dearly like to see the reporter dig deeper on any of these numbers.
As I said earlier -- I liked the article, but would have liked some less anguish on how much money a corporation might make, and more numbers on how that money could really be saved, or spent more wisely.
ps. Now, the story with AirForce leasing tankers from Boeing is one I would like to see more coverage on. Boeing seems to stand to make a great deal more money than any of the companies working in Iraq right now, for a lot less work, and to much louder taxpayer-funded tune.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Stranger things have happened in the Apple universe, but the new effort to tie their products to digital photogfraphy are living me with a mixed reaction.
The Canon 10D is a revolutionary digital camera. By setting the official price of $1,499 on its next-generation semi-pro digital camera Canon really raised the stakes in the lucractive arean. 10D is a great camera. But this entry is not about 10D... Following a new article from yahoo that said that Apple posted G5 specs on its website, I decided to check out the Apple site. Lo and behold, I see this entry for a Canon 10D. Going to the link I find a not-so-subtle plug for an apple laptop -- fair enough. Although reading the copy left me underwhelmed I still thought it was not a bad idea. The 10D is selling like hotcakes, and given the size of the files it produces, and spread of wi-fi in hotels across the country (and the world) a match between the output of the camera and processing on a laptop seems great. I was; however, hoping to see something special that Apple has to make the use of camera better. Some workflow for quickly processing large batches of digital photographs? a wireless gizmo to send pictures from the camera to the latop without a wire? Nope. Nothing. The copy reads,

Connects to EOS 10D via USB
Downloads images in a flash
Comes with iPhoto
Works great with Photoshop


Hmmm... sans iPhoto (which I am not a big fan of) that is not much to make me wish *I* had paid a preimum for that special apple laptop. Really, is this an example of "Think Different"? I still think the pairing makes sense, but as it stands it looks like Apple wants to make the profit by becoming a camera reseller, rather than a computer manufacturer. Of course, I could not help but look at the accessories prices. The first one, for a 50mm f/1.4 lense stopped me cold -- it just seemed wrong. Indeed, B&H sells the same lense for $299, and the next one -- 28-200mm is $359 ($120 cheaper in B&H). I understand the reasons Apple charges premium for its products, but I really cannot see why it should be able to charge premium for someone else's products, especially when they are as easily obtained from B&H, Adorama, or Ritz as they are from Apple. Could not they just do a deal with one of these stores? Either someone did not do their homework or else Apple has really no respect for the consumer.
Apple has always been about great marketing, if not always great prices. This new promotion leaves me thinking they misfired this time.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I saw this today --VentureBlog: The New Platforms from VentureBlog, and these guys seem to know what they are talking about. This matches rather well with my experiences and current understanding. Which is why I was surprised to see an ad today solicition employment application for a "new Web Application Framework to be written in C++" I am sure there is something to it, but is there really a need for a yet another Web Application Framework? And why would you really need to write one from scratch in C++? Seems strange.
I do find it curious that the "new platforms" post does not mention Web Services at all. Perhaps he pushes them together with "business applications" written primarily in java or perhaps since they failed to take off so far he just ignores them. The more I work with Web Services, the more potential I see for them.
I see them much like the browser in 1996 -- cute but not yet utilized to its full capacity. I think a look at google and amazon web services shows just how powerful a building block for next generation systems they can be.

Too cool. cheesebikini?: Flash Mobs Take Manhattan

Our senior Manhattan correspondent David Danzig reports that New Yorkers are using e-mail to coordinate "inexplicable mobs" — huge crowds that materialize in public places and suddenly dissipate 10 minutes later.


I really like (6) and (7)


6) If you are approached by a salesperson, explain that everyone present lives together, in a huge converted warehouse in Long Island City, and that you are there looking for a "[secret phrase]." Explain that you make all purchases as a group.
(7) At 7:37 you should disperse. Thank the salespeople for their help, but explain that the item has been "voted down." NO ONE SHOULD REMAIN AT THE MOB SITE AFTER 7:39.

Tyler Cowen weighs in with a good model of why people buy popular culture
Ok, I am sniping his words out of contex, but it is certainly a view I have not seen shared widely before. It made me chuckle, even if it is pretty clear that it is not the economics professors who are framing this debate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

This from NYT - Old Enough to Make a Lanyard, and to Do It Nude
"It makes me a bit freaked out that people would think of nudity as a sexual thing," said Michelle Jones, 15, a camper from Texas.


I cannot imagine why people would think of nudity as a "sexual thing." Perhaps I should solicit comments.
I am not qualified, or i nterested, in passing judegements on nudism, or nudist camps for children, but I do have a suggestion to the author of this quote:

"At school, if you see a person, you just see their clothes," Jane said. "Here you have to actually get to know the people."


Look at their eyes. Really. Some even claim they are a window to the soul. I do not know what the second sentence means, but if Jane only looks at clothes she has got a long way to go in her quest to "know the people."

Everyone is blabbing, er.. blogging about this -- HATCH COMMENTS ON COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT
I say, "Let 'em." Really. But only if they will completely, irretrievably and irrevokably, trash my computers. If they can do that I am all for it. Because before RIAA can blink I will sue them for the 4 great american novels I was in the middle of writing and 3 solo CDs I was working on, not to mention a replacement for 2 top-selling software productivity tools and a new super-cool computer game that will make Doom's success look like child's play. I presume a judge will rule that based ony my previous experience I am highly unlikely to have been successful in all these endevours, but at least a couple of the novels could have sold. Now, there are millions of people who will have their computers trashed, and RIAA members are not as deep-pocketed as tobacco companies... Figure a 20 billion dollar verdict on behalf of a 5 million consumers copyright holders should be warranted. There are a couple of people with million dollar contracts out of a few thousand who auditioned for American Idol, so there is a precedent. Let's not forget my copyrighted work that will get erased -- thousands of highly valuable fine art photographs. Even if we value them at time-spent-procuring value -- 30 minutes per photograph that's going to add up. I do not think we are even going to need any punitive damages here.
So as I said -- kill my computer Sen. Hatch. and I better not find a word from this, or any other blog on any of your office or home computers. Once I get a few houndred thousand that will be my share of the damages, I will happily pay $15 per CD RIAA can prove I had on my machines at the time. Good luck
ps. will the legislation also cover damages from people posing as RIAA and mistakenly hosing my computer? Because I will sue RIAA and Sen Hatch personally.
pps. Hmmm... I wonder if States could sue on behalf of their citizens. After all, they will have to carry the cost of firms having their IT infrastructure disrupted by all the vigilante coopyright holder attacks? Even if firms are at fault, the State loses tax revenue. I would love to see the State of California and the town of Beverly Hills suing MGM and Universal Music.

Weird but true. I was cleaning out my spam/junk mailbox and noticed a strange email. Someone was exhtorting me to sign up for a Bachelor of Fine Arts on-line degree program. While I have all the respect in the world for artists, I have never thought it was a particularly good investment to make if all you get out of it is the degree and diploma itself. However, I stand corrected. Apparently, jobs in museums and auction houses are going begging for applicants, for the lack of people with proper Fine Arts degrees. I could make a great living, the email farther implored, were I only to consider signing up for a revolutionary 4 course program that will culminate with my receiving a bona fide university diploma
I am strongly considering signing up.

Update to the previous post. New York Times, and Washington Post do not have anything on this either. USA Today has a headline, but the actual text is buried in a middle of a longer article on the (sad) state of Israeli-Palestinian "road map" process up-to-date. Well, I guess it is official -- that murder is not news.

This is the proper way of spelling out reality -- Israel Hunts for Killers of 7-Year-Old Jewish Girl
Hunt. Killers. Down. It would be too much, of course, to expect much sympathy from Western European press. A quick look at Le Figaro (great website, btw) shows four (web) front-page stories about Israeli-Palestenian conflict. Three of them talk about the cease-fire talks, interviews with sides involved, Colin Powell's visit. One talks about economic hardships Palestinians endure because they can no longer work in Israel. I wonder why they can no longer work in Israel?
I am still looking the article about a young girl murdered while riding with her parents in Le Figaro (nor can I find one in Le Monde). Perhaps if she was throwing rocks or molotov cocktails at PA police they would understand her situation and not shoot at her.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

sent in by a reader. I just want to know what an "alternative" adult film might be. FEMALES NEEDED FOR ALTERNATIVE ADULT FILM

Monday, June 16, 2003

Heh. Why Jews Don't Farm By Steven E. Landsburg

Friday, June 13, 2003

via InstaPundit --Bobos in Tennessee.
Well, what can one say -- it would be great if all software developers could kayak. I would even be willing to learn to kayak if it would help to keep a job or get a better one. Who would not?
On a more serious note. Why is there never an engineer? The only people who build anything in the author's world are contractors and mexican laborers. Does not sound like they live in the same neighborhood though. Which means their kids do not go to the two best elementary schools in the country. And so on -- criticisms abound. My guess is that's why there are 2 "hairshirt" references in the closing two paragraphs.
ps. as nearly as I could determine Volvo 240 has not been produced since 1993. Buying a 10-year old used car for a teenager seems perfectly normal. Perhaps I am missing something.

A new commercial in the making - Techdirt:New Vodafone CEO Can't Be Fired By Email Or SMS
I can see a new MasterCard & NYT Jobs section...

Your attorney -- 3 hours - $3,000
Company's attorneys -- 10 hours-$10,000
Watercooler gossip cost -$100,000
Not being fired by SMS -- priceless


Of course, it would have bee nicer if he included a provision that no employee could be fired in such an inhumane fashion. Of course, if they were fired that, they should have the right to attack a nice corporate data center and the HR department -- Fired Workers Attack Boss With Spears

Hmm.. I guess if you do not have customers, defensible and patentable technology it is harder to get a few million in financing. -- VentureBlog: Being Diligent
The order of things on the list points out very well what the relative merits of simply inventing a better mousetrap are compared to such a claim to fame as golfing with Jeff Bezos. Alrighty, that was uncalled for, perhaps, but this is something that got strongly overlooked in newspaper analysis of the dot-com days. While newspapers were crowing about people getting financing for half-baked ideas, they ignored the fact that by and large these were *not* people off the street. They were in position to provide references from authoritative executives, important companies, and previously successful entreprenuers.
VCs have never been big on taking random risks, as annoying as that may have been to aspiring start-up artists. At no time did they abandon that philosophy, it's just that for a brief time the risk of a venture not turning a profit was taken off the table and replaced with a seeming surety of it being bought out or taken paublic. The equation is always about an investment making money, it is only a question whether it would do it by selling its products or by becoming a product itself.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

A leading African musician purpotedly getting visas for hundreds of his countrymen as members of his band from The Volokh Conspiracy

On another note, the French government released Papa Wemba on bail two days ago, on charges of "human trafficking." Papa Wemba is arguably the leading musician in central Africa (his country used to be called Zaire, I won't confuse you by citing the Congos). He has cut literally hundreds of records, many of which are excellent, no one can keep track of them. The claim is that Wemba got French entry visas for hundreds of his fellow citizens by claiming they were members of his band. The entrants then disappeared and never showed up on stage to shake a tambourine. And he is charged with having done the same in Belgium.


As long as he is not moving them around in trucks with no windows or ship's containers... Reminds me of this story, which is, IMO, more bizarre in that a whole new national team was fabricated: Moldovans snorkel to new life

Hmm. He often makes me think -- The Price of Freedom - If the Patriot Act took our liberties away, would we notice? By Michael Kinsley
As it happens, this is a topic I have been having an ongoing dialogue over with RDK. A hypothetical question posed was as follows, "Were 2004 elections canceled tomorrow, will there actually be any serious kind of unrest/revolt until elections are reinstated?" One has to hope that the answer is "yes", and yet a bit of doubt lingers.
As for ACLU -- indeed, we have become complacent that they will question any government policy that might curb our freedoms. More on that later.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

J.P.Morgan says - Harry Potter Not Magic Enough for U.S. Bookstores
Roughly 32 respondents, or 91 percent of those surveyed, said they had previously purchased earlier Harry Potter books, but 16 percent of them also said they do not plan to buy the upcoming release, according to the J.P. Morgan report.


Alrighty then. I am not a statistian, but that just seems like an awefully small sample for a book expected to sell in millions (it already has over a million copies pre-ordered). Frankly, the article is so murky, it is not even clear why they brought it in this survey. Of the 32 respondents, how many were parents and how many children? I am surprised that 91% -- that 28 out of 32 -- had other copies, especilly considering that when the previous installment came out their children had to have been 3 years younger.
I can see how a delay of 3 years could play havoc with this book's sales. After all, whoever bought the previous book as it came out is now 3 years older, an eternity for children. More could be said on the subject, but drawing conclusions based on a survey of 32 people seems like a stretch even for a non-statistician.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Must Read. -- "Second Holocaust," Roth’s Invention, Isn’t Novelistic
Easy to criticize, to point out possible errors and biases, yet I dare to say there is not a Jew who does not feel the truth of this article, believes inits message and fears its indicated outcome. Think this is malarky? Go to Poland and mention that you are Jewish (or ask for a nearest kosher restaraunt). Go to Czech republic and have people hospitably take you for dinner at their homes, and proudly show off antiques left by "our former Jewish naighbors for safekeeping." Safekeeping indeed. Original link via InstaPundit

Social engineering at its matrimonial -- Conman left 'wife' as deposit to steal mobile phone through TechDirt

This is not artfully written -- Why America Outpaces Europe (Clue: The God Factor) And I am surprised to see NYT even publish something so clearly non-multiculturally sensitive, and in the same issue the bizarro article about a Muslim girl-only prom to boot, but it's a start.
My cirtisisms of the article are straighforward -- there is really no proof of Weber's theory that lies in this article. In any case, he was primarily concerned with overall prosperity, not hours worked per year. European secularization is a difficult topic, and comparing work hours is not really the best way to go about debating its merits, methinks. Absense of any statistics, or at least rebuttals to the mentioned but not quoted opponents of Weber does not help the author's cause either. If I work for 1000 hours a year in a factory and then another 1000 hours at a country cottage raising and selling (a bit) roses, how many hours did i work? What if one spends significant time volunteering somewhere? Obviously the issue is not the number of hours reported by some HR department. Without any kind of proof that none of the hours Western Europeans supposedly save from work do not go into other productive, or at least economy-wise non-zero sum activities, article's conclusions are flimsy. Its internal inconsistencies do not help either -- Czech are not Protestant but Catholic, work more than Americans, and still manage to be mostly agnostic. If there is a proof of "Protestant work ethic" in that sentence I must have missed it.
The only interesting point, IMO, comes from a dissection of EU regulations that would dramatically drop the number of hours worked by newly admitted EU citizens. Even there one could find a critique of the central argument -- perhaps it is not that EU-sniks work less, but there governments have prevented them from easily working more. Through emplyoment laws, union contracts, and high taxes the marginal utility of an extra 20 hours in the office just is not there for many -- religious or not.
Still, I hope that the new NYT editor is going to continue with this kind of not-out-of-the-left-field experiments.

Monday, June 09, 2003

This post started as a comment to - Giving Mine Sweeping A Whole New Meaning on VentureBlog

Startups are small and have limited resources. Therefore, in most instances, it makes good sense to pick a market and build it out first before jumping into other markets, no matter how promising they may look from a far. A company like iRobot would be well served to pick the market that it views as most promising for near term penetration (both in terms of breadth of coverage and revenue generation) and stayed focused on that market for some time. If it turns out that the market you pick does not prove as fruitful as you had thought earlier, you can always change course and chase another market. But spreading your company too thin when it is still resource constrained can result in the inability to capitalize on the successes you may achieve and will make those successes less likely in the first place.

I cannot really argue with this statement. However, I can also understand the diffculty of making such a decision. Why?
I believe the reason iRobot is having trouble concentrating in just one or two verticals is two-fold.
First, their mission statement clearly says,
3 - Have Fun Building a great company takes time. By creating a business with a superior work environment, long term stability, amazingly talented coworkers, and fascinating projects, we remain fresh, creative, and determined.
The challenging applications for the military are fun. Fitting that same application into a doll is fun. Finally getting a robot to serve you drinks is really fun. While the markets are different, the technology is much the same for all of them.
Secondly, I think that iRobot people realize that other teams are close to them in product development. Today they can probably make the most money with military applications, but then a chance to establish themselves in the consumer or toy market may be gone. In the long term, large payoff will have to come from retail, not the military, but they cannot really abandon the military market right now as it is fun, pays the bills, and lets them develop the kind of advanced technology they can later squeeze into a vacuum cleaner. Abandoning the military would mean losing their testing grounds and that is at a premium when your competition is Honda and Sony.

Microsoft supports blogs. In a wierd way -- Download the Windows Media Player 9 Series Fun Pack
The Windows Media® Player 9 Series Creativity Fun Pack includes two exciting new sets of visualizations to enhance your music with fun, synchronized eye candy. In addition, a "blogging" plug-in can add information about your currently playing music to your Web journal.

Live and learn. I did not know that military promotions have to be approved by the legislative branch. -- Senator Blocks 850 Air Force Promotions
The situation is idiotic, but I think that the practice is kinda neat. I wonder how one can find out more about pending promotions and such.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

viva la France -- USS Clueless
The question of why this is not getting coverage in US is not really a big question for me. What kind of coverage could there be? What would it accomplish? Those who already dislike France for the moment would simply shrug and say, c'est la vie, and those who refuse to believe anything bad of them will, well, refuse to believe anything bad of them. I think that the real crux of the problem for news services is that there are not really an easy villain here. Nor are there real "news" -- this is clearly a prelude to something else, and *that* will be news.
Obviously, something like this happening in US or anywhere else would be a sign of an inherent flaw in that country's political, social, and religious structure, but not with France, of course.

Can Staten Island do this, please -- NASA - NASA Warms Up To Maryland's Trash
Any story that shows how we can cheaply save the environment, save money, and do not even notice it, is worth a link here.

Sounds familiar -- from NYT
Rumors and revelations of government scandals were pervasive, particularly concerning the Credit Mobilier affair, so the press and public tended to respond with cries of "corruption!" Others charged the Republican-controlled Congress with hypocrisy since the Party's candidates had run on a platform of government economy the previous fall.

On This Day: June 7, 1873

Friday, June 06, 2003

Thanks you, Mr. Volokh -- Jhumor 18 Yiddish Law
Of course the real site of the The Volokh Conspiracy is worth reading. At least I do, like a real shmuck.

This is not a new thought, but a good way to put the search for WMD into perspective -- Samizdata.net - It's the WMDs, stupid!
Here in Ulster, the paramilitaries on both sides have successfully hid great caches of arms for decades under the noses of a highly professional army in an area a tiny fraction of the size of Iraq with far greater population density.
For more perspective, let's remember that Iraq is twice the size of France - largest European country and about the size of California. It's a big place.

I have revised the almost palpable fear of my own post.
My better half pointed me into the direction of "so, now we can never be happy?" With that kind of risk analysis in mind I have realized what has been bothering me about the article. As I mentioned before, it is hard to disprove that the author is wrong. Any exmaples of "good" inner cities or well-managed natural resources cna be dismissed as temporary anomalities or insignificant blimps. Perhaps that is so. However, it is also easy to show that this exact argument has been used from Shumer to New York -- both geographically and timeline speaking. Yes, Messopatamia was a nice marshy place, and Italy was forested, and so on, and each time this same argument was made -- cities are evil, overpopulation now is like no overpopulation of before, some are isolated but most will die a violent death, etc. If the argument cannot be easily shown wrong, I think it can at least be shown to be not new, not urgent. Adopting the same long term view that Kaplan wants to take we can also show that anarchy has been contained so far. We are still here as a species. And hey, China is going to the Moon soon. I would rather worry about finding a good warp drive than just worry about everything.

For a second I thought it was an Onion headline -- Ridge Concerned About Terror Alert Scheme Credibility (washingtonpost.com)
Alas, it is WaPo. I just cannot help myself with quoting this article farther,
But as the intelligence related to potential terror attacks becomes more detailed, Ridge expects to have more specific information that will give the government flexibility in predicting the target of a potential terror attack.
I know that Deborah Charles (the writer) does not mean to say that once the government learns to predict targets of terror attacks they will use this newfound power to appropriately color code the threat level... The word "potential" [terror attacks] kinda gave the true intent away. Still, I would not be surprised...
ps. I tried to translate a relevant, and oddly prescient, song but failed. If anyone cares its text can be found here

Heh. Tons of understatements. United Press International: Analysis: Jews flooding into Germany
As for the rest of the population, "there are now between 200,000 and 300,000 Russians in Berlin alone, and Germans don't know and don't really care who among them is Jewish and who is not."
But there is another irony in this influx of Jews from the East: Although most are highly educated -- Schoeps described the quintessential immigrant as a mathematician from, say, St. Petersburg -- they cost the German taxpayer money. "Between 60 and 70 percent of them are on welfare because they cannot find work. They don't speak German yet, and their Soviet diplomas are not recognized by Germany."

The article does a good job if implying that "quinessential" is the same as "average", which of course it is not. I do not want to go into reasons for these people not working. Some have to do with them, but one has to wonder how is it that these same "quintessential" immigrants from St.Peterburg (or Mexico, where "quintessential" might be different) manage to find work and prosper in US. Ehh. Old topic. moving on...

Hours of late night entertainment. Honest. -- Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

More Atlantic Monthly -- The Atlantic | June 2003 | Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? | Fallows
The scariest quote for me is this:
The significance of this case from the American perspective involves the increasingly chaotic ecology of truth around the world. In Arab and Islamic societies the widespread belief that Israeli soldiers shot this boy has political consequences. So does the belief among some Israelis and Zionists in Israel and abroad that Palestinians will go to any lengths to smear them.

How so? It is because by being exposed to these conviction on the pro-Israeli side I must readily, and unequivocally, assume that it exists in Plaestinian camp. It is the law of physics, right [action/reaction]? I believe the author underrepresents the group as "Israelis and Zionists" -- many of these people are not Zionists, and certainly not Israeli in any normally accepted sense. They do not live in Israel, many have never been there, nor care to go. Many of them are not even Jewish. It is sufficient that they know someone who holds this position and will, lathering at the mouth, claim that Palestenians are not "normal" people in precisely the same manner Palestenians, Saudis, etc prove that Jews are not. Topic to be continued.

Long. And extremely scary. -- The Coming Anarchy - 94.02
Much has been shown wrong, at least temporarily, but Africa is still proving him right, and Kosovo happened exactly as he thought. I have always been sceptical of the Lexus and the Olive Tree idea, but certainly I would rather have Robert D. Kaplan proven wrong than Friedman. My only consolation is that while it is possible to show Friedman being right, at some point in the future, it is almost impossible to show Kaplan wrong. When one subscribes to the "long term" view, not only will we all be dead, but any movemenet towards progress can be seen as a temporary blink.
Still, a worthwhile read if you got some time.

for RDK - How Does Corking a Bat Help a Hitter? By Brendan I. Koerner

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

MIT gets it. Why do not other schools? -- Working engineers show frosh the ropes via ./
It is not that it is hard to build a transistor radio, or a rudimentary transformer, but it is still fun to try. I wish more schools had more courses like this. Old school engineers, will snicker that this is child's play. Of course it is. That's why it is so important to still have these skills. One never knows when they are going to come in useful.

It is wierd to both agree with the conclusion and disagree with some of the arguments -- Marginal Benefits - Twenty years ago, cutting marginal income tax rates was a good idea. Today, it makes no sense at all. By Daniel Gross
Author argues that the current tax-cutting will be ineffective, primarily because people are not as responsive to tax rates as they were. A few reasons are given. Some I disagree with. Specifically:
Reducing marginal tax rates by a few points won't magically cause people to start working 50 hours a week instead of 40 hours; and raising them won't induce those same people to cut back their hours. Indeed, for all the attention paid to rates, Americans as economic creatures simply aren't that responsive to the current regime of marginal rates. If they were, you'd expect to see incomes clustering at points where there's an abrupt change in tax rates, as people strive to keep their income just below the next jump in marginal rates. But this paper by University of California at Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez doesn't find much bunching.

I have not yet had a chance to study the paper, but I think the insinuation that absence of bunching around income levels comes through by itself. While I agree with the overall conclusion, I disagree with this specific point. Primarily, I just do not really think most people get to choose their income points, and when they do, they keep it as low as they can without alarming the IRS. Allow me to illustrate. There are, I think, four types of tax-payers out there.
1. Most are employees -- they get a salary and sometimes they get raises. They do not get to choose the size of their raise, and employers do not ask them. Even if the employer cared, there is no way to figure out what margin a specific person belongs to even if their salary is close to border line. Because of mortgage deductions primarily, but a host of other rules as well a person earning a raw amount well-above a tax bracket ceiling may end up sliding under it on April 15th. The accountant, or TurboTax for some, have taken the tax-cutting job away from the government. Add in the IRA contributions, college and medical savings plans, etc and an employer has no clue whether a raise will put someone over -- and a lot of employees do not either. Whenever you get a raise you take it and say "thank you".
2. Small businesses -- if the business is primarily a cash business -- look for the person in whatever bracket their lifestyle may minimally be afforded at. If you can justify your lifestyle to IRS at 50K that's the income. Again, the accountant will cut your taxes, not the government. Even if one truly declares all of their income, the host of deductions and loopholes with ensure that the minimal possible tax will be paid. These members of the economy do decide what rate they want to be, but that decision is not dictated by a rate ceiling or floor as long as the difference is between 28 and 36 percent. Successful business owners pretty much automatically end up in the top bracket because they have nice cars and houses and that requires proof of income. Unnsuccessful or smaller business owners will be at the very bottom. No clustering here.
3. Highly paid professionals -- they just end up in the top bracket. No clustering necessary. Again, they do not get to choose what they are paid, but with that circle being increasingly dual-income how can they possibly slide under a $120K or so limit? They would be laughed out of the local starbucks. (ok, cheap shot, but too hard to resist)
4. Rich folk. By definition they are in the top brackets. They use accountants for all its worth, but they will still end up in the top bracket. They do not really choose their income as it comes primarily from performance of their investments, and whenever they do choose to chill at a resort instead of an extra Friday at the office their lifystyle requires them to make at least enough money to still get top rate from IRS.
I just do not see how in the economy where wages are determined primarily by those in the top brackets we would ever have "bunching" at different bracket ceilings.

That's why I read his books. He respects words. -- William Gibson
The agrippa poem is good too.

Kudos -- New Zealand's leading news and information website from Michael Jennings
1. This is just neat.
2. I have to presume there are enough people who studied in American, European, or Russian Universities available for hire by "evildoers" to not have to worry about a guy in NZ spreading dangerous knowledge.

A Liberal Trademark is worth a quick read (via InstaPundit). The title is misleading, in my opinion, and the issue discussed is not unique to left any more than it is to the right of political spectrum, but if you ever get annoyed by herd mentaility and believe yourself immnute, you might chuckle once or twice.

NYT Columnist argues that China should be added to the G-8 -- Bringing China In From the Cold
Many of the points are valid, tepid attemps at humor excepted. However, I think Mr. Kristoff is missing the main reason China is not a part of the G-8. The industrialized world fully understands, and justifiably fears, the potential and already existing power China has. But memebership in G-8 is a priviledge, not a right. Sure, we could include China in the G-8 tomorrow, but what would the world gain for it? G-8 is not a legislative or executive body. It has no formal power other than prestige it bestows on those invited, scorn on those disinvited, and an opportunity to have serious private talks between heads of government. China's inclusion in the G-8 will, indeed must, follow the pattern WTO established a couple of years ago -- show us you want it. Open up markets and protect individual freedoms. Encouraging the current government by giving it the prestige of being a G-8 (G-9) member *as-is* will only promote the spread of current policies of one-party domination, political intimidation, and behind-the-scenes crony capitalism. If China wants to join the club it must play by the rules, or at least show its willingness to try to play by them, like Russia does.

Monday, June 02, 2003

via Slate -- Material girl turns spiritual as she puts cash into mystic centre
So Madonna is buying a building to host a Kaballah center in it. Now, at first glance the list of supposed devotees does not inspire confidence in their collective wisdom. In fact, the well-known prohibition for not studying Kaballah until one (and one being definitely a man) seems to have been created just to prove this point. However, I have realized that I was wrong to chuckle about Naomi Cambell being an adherent. Two theories sprung to my torpid and nonrejuvenated mind:
1. Well, all of the people listed in the arcticle are rich and good-looking. Perhaps they do possess the wisdoms described in Zohar and that is the secret of their success! Come to think of it, everyone I have met who has boasted of knowing the secret of Kabbalah seemed to do pretty well, while all those silly scholarly types who kept reading and rereading the texts never did get anywhere...
2. Celebrities just cannot take a chance when a quote like this is thrown around
The centre's philosophy argues that we are all potentially rejuvenated every seven years and we only go on to age if we fail to recognise this fact.
It is a sort of Pascal's wager for them. Too good to be true but for only a few thousand (or million dollars) how can you *not* take a chance of it being true.
I can just see a reality TV show -- "Celebrity Boxing -- Kabbalists vs. Scientologists"