Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You keep using that word...

"...I do not think it means what you think it means."

The Washington Post tells us how rich people spend their time:
People invariably believe that money can make them happy -- and rich people usually do report being happier than poor people do. But if this is the case, shouldn't wealthy people spend a lot more time doing enjoyable things than poor people?

Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has found, however, that being wealthy is often a powerful predictor that people spend less time doing pleasurable things, and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed.

People who make less than $20,000 a year, for example, told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure -- watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way -- putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional. The richest people spent nearly twice as much time as the poorest people in leisure activities that were active, structured and often stressful -- shopping, child care and exercise.

Kahneman and his colleagues argued that many people mistakenly allocate enormous amounts of their time and psychological focus to getting rich because of a mental illusion: When they think about what it would mean to be wealthy, they think about how enjoyable it would be to watch a flat-screen TV set, play lots of sports or get a lot of pampering -- our stereotypical beliefs of how the rich spend their time.

"In reality," Kahneman and his colleagues wrote in a paper they published in the journal Science, "they should think of spending a lot more time working and commuting and a lot less time engaged in passive leisure."
First of all:

People who must commute to work aren't rich. Rich people don't have to work.

Second of all:

And in the United States in the year 2008, $100,000 per annum isn't rich.


People who make more money tend to be people who are doing what they want to do. Working 50 to 60 hours a week sounds grim to me, but I'm not making a six figure income.


The same driven, successful people may enjoy structured stressful leisure activities more than "passive leisure." White-water rafting, competitive team sports, sailing, tennis, adventure vacations, all take a lot of effort and planning, yet yield a lot of pleasure to the right kind of people.

If I won the lottery, I would take a few months to put my feet up and veg out, but I think that the lotus-eating would pall after a very short period.

It's Okay to Laugh at Him

With the possibility of an Obama victory in the offing, John Stewart starts aiming at the Democratic candidate.

Two points:

1) Jim Treacher is funnier than me:
That’s my favorite part, the nervous, hesitant laughter. You can almost hear the audience thinking, “Is this okay? Will people think I’m a racist?”

2) Democrats are kicking up a dust cloud when they say, "Changing circumstances required Obama to change his mind."


When Obama made his pledge he knew that if he won the primary that he would face the winner of the Republican party. What changed there? Did he think that McCain is just a big meanie and that he would have kept his pledge if Fred Thompson was the Republican candidate? Mike Huckabee?

What has changed since then? Money. Lots and lots of money.

Like the old joke goes, "We've established what you are, my dear. We are now haggling price."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Awesome Awsomeness

This is why I love the Internets. It's also why I read quality bloggers like James Lileks. Here is a show from the early 1970s that defines an era. And the cast! Burgess Merideth, Hugh O'Brian, Tony Franciosa, and Doug McClure!

Here's a link to Search in Jump the Shark.

All the way back to Jerusalem

We hear so much these days about the cultural and demographic challenge to the West by Islam. An interesting article in the Asia Times points out that the challenge goes two ways:

For the first time, perhaps, since the time of Mohammed, large parts of the Islamic world are vulnerable to Christian efforts to convert them, for tens of millions of Muslims now dwell as minorities in predominantly Christian countries. The Muslim migration to Europe is a double-edged sword. Eventually this migration may lead to a Muslim Europe, but it also puts large numbers of Muslims within reach of Christian missionaries for the first time in history...

As Father Dall'Oglio warns darkly, Muslims are in dialogue with a pope who evidently does not merely want to exchange pleasantries about coexistence, but to convert them. This no doubt will offend Muslim sensibilities, but Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI. Worse things await them. There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem - from the East. A website entitled Back to Jerusalem proclaims, "From the Great Wall of China through Central Asia along the silk roads, the Chinese house churches are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all the way back to Jerusalem."

Islam is in danger for the first time since its founding. The evangelical Christianity to which George W Bush adheres and the emerging Asian church are competitors with whom it never had to reckon in the past. The European Church may be weak, but no weaker, perhaps, than in the 8th century after the depopulation of Europe and the fall of Rome. An evangelizing European Church might yet repopulate Europe with new Christians as it did more than a millennium ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

No Greater Honor

In The Atlantic Robert D. Kaplan describes the process of awarding the U.S. military's highest honor, and reflects on the disconnection between those who serve and those who are served.

Over the decades, the Medal of Honor—the highest award for valor—has evolved into the U.S. military equivalent of sainthood. Only eight Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Vietnam War, all posthumously....

Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith was the ultimate iron grunt, the kind of relentless, professional, noncommissioned officer that the all-volunteer, expeditionary American military has been quietly producing for four decades. “The American people provide broad, brand-management approval of the U.S. military,” notes Colonel Smith, “about how great it is, and how much they support it, but the public truly has no idea how skilled and experienced many of these troops are.”

Sergeant Smith had fought and served in Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Kosovo prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. To his men, he was an intense, “infuriating, by-the-book taskmaster,” in the words of Alex Leary of The St. Petersburg Times, Sergeant Smith’s hometown newspaper. Long after other platoons were let off duty, Sergeant Smith would be drilling his men late into the night, checking the cleanliness of their rifle barrels with the Q-tips he carried in his pocket. During one inspection, he found a small screw missing from a soldier’s helmet. He called the platoon back to drill until 10 p.m. “He wasn’t an in-your-face type,” Colonel Smith told me, “just a methodical, hard-ass professional who had been in combat in Desert Storm, and took it as his personal responsibility to prepare his men for it.”

Sergeant Smith’s mind-set epitomized the Western philosophy on war: War is not a way of life, an interminable series of hit-and-run raids for the sake of vendetta and tribal honor, in societies built on blood and discord. War is awful, to be waged only as a last resort, and with terrific intensity, to elicit a desired outcome in the shortest possible time. Because Sergeant Smith took war seriously, he never let up on his men, and never forgot about them...

The ceremony in the East Room of the White House two years to the day after Sergeant Smith was killed, where President George W. Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Smith’s 11-year-old son, David, was fitfully covered by the media. The Paul Ray Smith story elicited 96 media mentions for the eight week period after the medal was awarded, compared with 4,677 for the supposed abuse of the Koran at Guantánamo Bay and 5,159 for the disgraced Abu Ghraib prison guard Lynndie England, over a much longer time frame that went on for many months. In a society that obsesses over reality-TV shows, gangster and war movies, and NFL quarterbacks, an authentic hero like Sergeant Smith flickers momentarily before the public consciousness.

It may be that the public, which still can’t get enough of World War II heroics, even as it feels guilty about its treatment of Vietnam veterans, simply can’t deliver up the requisite passion for honoring heroes from unpopular wars like Korea and Iraq. It may also be that, encouraged by the media, the public is more comfortable seeing our troops in Iraq as victims of a failed administration rather than as heroes in their own right. Such indifference to valor is another factor that separates an all-volunteer military from the public it defends.
Read the short article. It is well worth your time.

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