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Investor Fraud, Astrology and Finding Happiness in Personals Ads

By 1318 in Culture
Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:43:33 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)

Recently a legal activity I engaged in reminded me of a scheme I'd read about some time ago.

It's a stock market "prediction" scheme but it could easily be adapted to a variety of situations.

Here is how one person described it:

"You start with a mailing list of investors say 5000. You can easily purchase one from a variety of mailing list companies (for example investment magazines that sell their subscriber lists).

You print up post cards that claim you have the most amazingly insightful designed-by-MIT AI specialists super-secret stock market analytical tool. It will predict, with 99.99% accuracy, the direction of the stock market.

You offer to prove this by offering them the correct prediction for the stock market.

To 2,500 you write "The market will go UP" and to the other half "The market will go DOWN" in some period of time, for example a month.

A month later you are now right with 2,500 people and wrong with the other 2,500 people.

The next mailing goes out only to the first 2,500 people who got the "correct" prediction and it does the same thing again. You claim to be able to predict the next months stock market direction.

Again you split it into "UP" with 1,250 and down with the other half.

The first round of the successful prediction isn't likely to have impressed the investors. After all everyone is right sometimes, right?

But now you have two successful picks with 1,250 people. You probably have their attention, although there are likely to be some doubters.

So you send out a third post card doing the same thing again.

Now you have 625 people who have received no less than 3 successful predictions for the direction of the stock market from you. You have proven your case. You could even run another round of the same split. You end this by telling them to send you $5,000 for more information on the stock market. If only 10% of the 625 people respond you've made $300,000 which would pay for the initial cost of the mailing list and the post cards.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat."

It struck me that personals ads in places like Craigslist's Personals could play on the sense of extreme coincidence in creating a sort of instant, although erroneous, sense of connectedness with a succession of otherwise even or low chance events that one after another lend a sensation of extreme accuracy and improbability.

As one person described the sensation of meeting someone who was hard to find, "it was like meeting my soul mate".

This is also a variation on the way astrology works, but in this case it should work even better for you than for the astrologer trying to bilk you out of your hard earned ducats.

It would go something like this:

You place an ad on Craigslust(sic) saying you want to meet someone who has an incredibly rare and specific set of characteristics (and no I don't mean cute and blond with a nice ass). For example, born in a particular state, child of a single parent, loves Metallica, was a victim of incest, is a recovering alcoholic, is a successful lawyer and so on.

Alternately you could simply describe a set of characteristics that comes close to describing your most recent ex-boy/girl/rock.

Now you might say "1318, this is a recipe for disaster! The odds against finding someone who fits all those criteria is very remote! You'll never find a date this way!". And you might be right. However, here is the pseudo-logic behind this.

In astrological "predictions" the con-artist er I mean astrologer says broad vague things that mostly generate vague, but sometimes positive responses from you. When there is a "hit" on a particular area they can then move forward and make more predictions. However the more specific the predictions the more likely to "miss" but the more powerful when they do hit. Since online ads, like newspapers, are a high volume medium even the most extreme prediction is bound to be true for someone! And like the loyal astrological horoscope reader they tend to discard the false predictions but remember the correct ones. In a live reading they only have a $10 or $20 "downside" but as they get more exacting a few lucky hits can turn that person into a fountain of cash-for-readings as they become sure you have "the gift".

So someone in your audience is reading your ad and bingo they hit one, two, three, four or more out of say 7 extremely rare items or common items but not commonly all-in-one person. They are now convinced that you are looking for someone "like them" - it is cosmic syncronicity! In the same way you answer a job ad that has 5 or 6 of the "required skills" you possess. After all there is a lonely boy/girl/rock on the end of those ads who wants to find some connection.

Most ads are written on the opposite principle which seems intuitively more likely to succeed in a mass sort of way:

"Successful athletic boy/girl/rock seeks good looking, successful, financially secure, tall boy/girl/rock for camping/swimming/skiing/walks on beach, maybe something more with the right person"

I think many people aren't put off by this ad, but many don't feel a "connection" to it.

After all who doesn't like camping/swimming/skiing/walks on the beach? And everyone seems to describe themselves as "good looking" "cute" "curvy" and so on - but those terms mean radically different things to different people.

Does this mean you lie? Well, I don't recommend lying (unless you have to son!). But telling the truth might actually be rewarded here. The point being that you find the things that are the most extremely unique about yourself, in your past experience, or in those you tend to like, and put that out there:

For example, you were raised by lesbians and forced to live in the Neo-Nazi underground until you were rescued by Geraldo. You could say you are looking for people who've had that experience as well. Now someone is like to not have had the identical experience. They were raised by Neo-Nazis and had to live in the lesbian underground until rescued by Judge Judy. However the (un)commonality should strike the reader.

Kicked out of the girlscouts at 9? Grew up white in a non-white inner city? Grew up black in the white suburbs? High IQ score, schizophrenic breakdown, Child of an Adult Survivor of Alcoholics, ex-EST member, Eagle Scout?

The possibilities are endless.

There are secondary aspects to this approach. Assuming you find the only other half-basque, IQ-145, champion wrestler, rubiks cube failure, chain-smoker of KOOLS in your state you are going to instantly have that "we're like each other" bond that comes when people feel that, er well, someone is like them. "Unique, just like me!"

At the very least your personals ad should stand out from all the "I like tall women. I am a successful sensitive guy who likes walks on the beach, send me your picture" type ads. And I do mean stand out.

"But 1318" you plea "I am not special. I am not unique. I am a little nerdy, but I can't say that I like LOTR and GTA3? I weigh 350 lbs and have bad acne and was scarred during my teen years. I couldn't put that could I?" Well, in a sense, sure you could. Although I wouldn't limit myself to simple physical characteristics and commonly popular preferences. Find the most obscure video game you like, the most obscure food you like, the most obscure book, and pepper in some of your more unusual background elements you don't often share. I mean even if it wasn't the other persons experience it might be something they can relate to ('a scarring experience' or 'alienation'). And if it turns out I'm right it would support my theory that no matter what kind of girl/boy/rock you are there's someone out there that's into your thing.

Note: this article is intended as humor. Should you submit any personals ads, offer astrological readings or amazingly accurate stock prediction schemes using this story as advice you are on your own. YMMV.


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Investor Fraud, Astrology and Finding Happiness in Personals Ads | 73 comments (61 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
There is a flaw in your plan (3.00 / 4) (#1)
by CokeBear on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 03:47:36 PM EST

There are far more overweight, acne-covered, comic-book guy type males then there are females that would be attracted to such a person. Even if only one or two people emphasize these traits, they are unlikely to match with someone, because there its a buyer's market. Good idea though, to use unique traits to attract. You just need to emphasize the positive unique traits, as opposed to all your unique traits. Or something like that.

Maybe you're right (none / 1) (#2)
by 1318 on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 03:58:00 PM EST

Although I think that unique "non positive" traits (incest survivor, ex-felon, recent trauma) can also generate this "soul mate" unique bonding, its-so-odd we're-so-alike phenomena.

Exaggerating your positive traits is what everyone does which is why you'd think that all the personals ads were written by greek gods not mere acne-on-their-asses mortals.

Like the Astrologer- you might be as amazed to hear (s)he tell you about your dog that was killed by a tractor even though it is not "positive" information. But the sheer coincidence! How could they have known? They must have "the gift"!

But it is intended to be humorous and a commentary on people's perception of improbable events as a guide to life. Should I put that in there to make it more explicit?

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

It's only a flaw (none / 1) (#6)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 04:52:26 PM EST

if you're looking for a guarantee instead of a better way of doing things, which is all this claims to be.

[ Parent ]
You underestimate the odds (none / 1) (#22)
by nkyad on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 01:20:27 PM EST

You may be too focused on those plastic women we see on TV and movies. Those women does not exist. On the other hand, there as many overweight, acne-afflicted women as there are man. If you're going for the mythical supermodels you'd better not be an overweight, acne-covered, comic-book guy unless you're filthy rich. If you're going for the average girl, your qualities (if any) may easily outweight the physical shortcomings.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
No not so (none / 0) (#30)
by 1318 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 07:46:16 PM EST

I am not at all arguing that people should seek the plastic man/woman on TV/etc. I am suggesting (humorously) quite the opposite. I am suggesting that by extending out an invitation to anyone that has certain traits or common experiences that we might generate a sense of "cosmic syncronicity". You might attract a super-model or you might attract a recovering plastic-surgery victim. But that (erroneous) sense of cosmic-destiny would possibly be there.

I don't think anywhere in my story it says that you should be driven by the appearance of the person you are trying to contact.

In terms of specifying the traits of the kind of person you are interested in it could seem that way if you don't read it carefully. But what I tried to say was you'd post an ad for someone with unusual experiences and traits not related to their appearance. Appearance oriented ads are commonplace. If you say "I want a 6'2" ex-supermodel who loves sex with a 6% body fat" you'd not be far from the many ads out there. If you say "I'm looking for another child of a Guyana massacre survivor who loves chicken waffles" you could get literally ANYONE responding with no regard for their personal appearance. And if you were a child survivor of Guyana who loved chicken waffles wouldn't you be amazed to meet another person "like you"?

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

Your answer should be one up, shouldn't it? (none / 0) (#32)
by nkyad on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 11:08:47 PM EST

I believe I expressed more or less the same sentiment you did. I was answering to the top poster complain about overweigh men X unspecified women ratio (regardless any "cosmic destiny").

I really agree with you. I think that, unless you are only looking for quick appearence-based sex, it would be pretty stupid to address physical traits since most of them are mutable and in the end, irrelevant.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
Alternative (1.60 / 10) (#3)
by community icon on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 04:02:13 PM EST

You could always just LEAVE YOUR FUCKING HOUSE, losers.

i am not as cool as a: video of a hot chic working out
Yes, but this way you can LEAVE YOUR FUCKING HOUSE (3.00 / 7) (#4)
by 1318 on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 04:10:36 PM EST

and go meet than half-albino, pigeon toed, buffalo-nickel collecting, allergic to ragweek boy/girl/rock of your dreams!

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

rate 0, advocates geographical fascism [nt] (3.00 / 5) (#5)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 04:46:38 PM EST

[ Parent ]
This already happens (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by Scrymarch on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 08:13:29 PM EST

Read the personal ads of the London Review of Books sometime.  From memory, "20 something female biochemistry grad student obsessed with Rimbaud's poetry and the Bulgarian space program seeks companion for sprint trials and spastic drunkenness".

Indeed, just to have a Micheal Crawford moment here, I wrote a story on the same theme.  It was flushed out of the queue last year, apparently due to a deficit of philosophizing baby carrots.

I believe it was in the FAQ at some moment (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by nkyad on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 01:27:45 PM EST

I can't find it, it was probably removed or somehow lost in one of the server crashes, but it stated clearly that any article without philosophizing baby carrots would be dumped with prejudice by the editors even if it survived the queue.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
Discourage (1) (none / 1) (#37)
by rusty on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 10:10:19 AM EST

Comment lacks even a hint of existential peas.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Against metaphysical vegetables (none / 0) (#38)
by nkyad on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:20:53 AM EST

I much prefer the raw steak of life to the taste of your bitter-sweet metaphysical salad. This weak vegan philosophy can't stand the carnivorous onslaught of hyperbolic reality.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
This must be what they call (none / 0) (#56)
by Scrymarch on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 03:58:01 AM EST

... the dessert of the real.

[ Parent ]
After years of lurking... (none / 0) (#67)
by cyrn on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:28:38 PM EST

I registered just to say that this is probably the only laugh-at-your-desk-funny pun I have ever seen.

[ Parent ]
I'm honoured. --nt-- (none / 0) (#68)
by Scrymarch on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 06:07:00 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Visualize Whirled Peas (none / 0) (#62)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:21:42 AM EST

and Stop the Violins.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
the actual problem here (3.00 / 4) (#9)
by collideiscope on Sun Jun 26, 2005 at 09:26:21 PM EST

at least for M seeking F:

is that women don't read personal ads.

Let me rehprase. HOT women, the type of women you'd want to sleep with, women who aren't desperate or wack or wierd in some way, don't read guys' personal ads.


Then they read through the 100s of response, screening for the guy who comes across JUSSST right.

So you're coming at this from entirely the wrong angle. What you want to do is either

A) respond to women's personal ads in such a way as to stand out from the crowd in a big way (and this requires careful and accurate calibration of what sort of woman is writing the ad and what exactly she is ACTUALLY looking for (as distinct from what she SAYS she is looking for)

B) post your own personal add that is SO GOOD at conveying YOUR OWN UNIQUE VALUE that women will respond to it. This is not the same as being honest. Even conveying that you are UNIQUE (i.e: "I was a Furby designer and once worked for Nike") is not enough - everyone is UNIQUE. You must convey HIGHER VALUE to the GREATEST POSSIBLE NUMBER OF WOMEN without seeing supplicative.

Anyway, personal ads suck. Get out of your house and go talk to normal women.

Hope is a disease. Get infected.

Confirmed. (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by rpresser on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 02:37:29 PM EST

The one time I responded to a personal ad from a woman, a rather unusual ad I might add, I received a reply. (It didn't work out, but it was an interesting conversation nonetheless.)

The ten times I wrote ads of my own, I never received a single answer.

(Yes, I'm opening myself up for personal attacks here. I think I'll just imagine the attacks happened and ignore them ahead of time, so save your bits.)
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

Do personal ads work for anyone? (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by zenador on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 02:05:35 AM EST

On the craiglist personals there were over 6 pages of men seeking a woman that were posted today alone. I refuse to believe that anyone, no matter how desperate, would have the patience to make their way through all that.

Do not forget the lurkers (none / 0) (#20)
by nkyad on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 01:15:08 PM EST

My guess is that they work, else they wouldn't have lasted so long (the Internet lists are "new", but some form of personal adds are almost as old as language).

My other guess is that very few women are willing to put themselves up for this kind of exposure, but many will read the adds and respond to them if something clicks.

On the other hand, I am speaking from the top of my head, since I never used a personal add.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
Clearly they work for W4M posts (none / 0) (#28)
by destroy all monsters on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 05:04:54 PM EST

I suspect that women that actually do bother to go through M4W probably type in their preferences like "6'1" "professional" "bmw" "homeowner" and the like.

Regardless of the criteria, that's what the search function is there for.

"My opinion: You're gay, a troll, a gay troll, or in serious need of antidepressants." - horny smurf to Lemon Juice
[ Parent ]

Putting this to the test. (3.00 / 5) (#13)
by Psycho Dave on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 06:24:08 AM EST

I've decided to create a craigslist personal ad, using the advice you give in your article. I suggest everybody else do the same for their prospective cities and then share the most deranged responses.

The only girls on craiglist are fat ('scuse me...BBWs) or have kids, or are psychos.

Up to date! (none / 0) (#14)
by Scott Robinson on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 07:42:58 AM EST

Post in your diary some of the choiciest responses! That's a great ad.

[ Parent ]
hahahahah too funny (none / 0) (#18)
by 1318 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:35:02 AM EST

Let me know how it goes. I make no guarantees though. You are on your own.

You are, after all, rolling the dice of fate. Might I also suggest seeing a psychic to make sure it is in the cards for you?

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

But astr0logy is t3h real! (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by Have A Nice Day on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:02:08 AM EST

Lol. Cold reading is something I'd like to know more about though, as whether they know it's subterfuge and cheating or not (and some "psychics" genuinely seem to have deluded themselves on this), they all do it and I'd like to be able to play them at thier own game when I encounter them.

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
I suspect that it's like gambling (none / 0) (#16)
by 1318 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:27:37 AM EST

As the late great B.'Fred' Skinner might argue, the psychic is emitting verbal responses which occasionally 'hit' (reinforce the psychic by being accurate and are more or less correct). The variables that control the verbal response might not even be obvious to the psychic ("a hunch" or "insight") although nonetheless quite physically and not metaphysical (perhaps appearance or drawl or word usage, etc.). The psychic emitting verbal responses under the control of weak ("unconscious") stimuli getting occasional "hits" might actually believe they do have "the gift".

However, I think that some are genuinely just paying the bills.

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

Astrology (none / 0) (#36)
by rusty on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 10:06:48 AM EST

My mother-in-law used to do astrological charts part-time. So I have some sense of how people who honestly believe in it operate. A big part of it is just math -- you get the exact birth day, time and place and you consult all kinds of charts to find out precisely where all the planets and so forth were at that time. Then from that you have the standard set of character qualities that are supposed to be produced by those circumstances.

But beyond that, the ones who are good at it are just naturally good at reading people's characters. And my mother in law is scary good at it. You've probably met one of these people -- the ones that seem to see right through you, the ones that may see your good points, but see all of your flaws too, and there's nothing you can do about it. Successful "psychics" and astrologers generally have this talent. And it is very much a real talent, though there's no supernatural explanation needed for it. It's just that some people have an extremely sensitive social sense, like others have perfect pitch or a palate that can distinguish the particular vintage and year of some random wine.

So the astrology is sort of a crutch, but the actual reading comes from her own sense of what a person's like. As to whether it's subterfuge or cheating, I guess if they were bad at it you'd say it was. But the ones who are good at it can very much tell you things about yourself that you might not have realized on your own. So it may be fraudulent, but I'd say no more so than psychoanalysis.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

This bugs me (none / 0) (#40)
by localroger on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:51:28 PM EST

I used to know some serious astrologers back in my New Age days and it always bugs me when some Fundamentalist Materialist makes this kind full-bore ignorant claim about astrology. Not that I am a big believer in astrology myself; of all the weird things I've experienced it's the hardest to integrate with a non crazy-sounding worldview. But it is what it is, and it isn't what most people think it is, and that includes the vast populations that read the daily sun sign columns that debunkers love to whale on.

I have a half-completed newcomer's overview of horary astrology on my PC back home, maybe it's time to finish it. Hmmmm.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Oh please... (none / 0) (#44)
by Nasarius on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 04:38:30 PM EST

Can you point to one decent scientific study that shows that there's anything going for astrology besides random chance? If not, can you design a study to show this? If not, why do you "believe" in astrology if there's no empirical evidence for it? I'm sure you have some great anecdotes, but so do the alien abductees.

[ Parent ]
Read The F... oh bother. (none / 0) (#50)
by localroger on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:29:30 PM EST

I did not say I believe in it. I said that what astrologers do is not what most people think they do. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether what they do "works" or not. However, I will tell you there is no stupider looking person than the materialist who tries to debunk astrology because, for example, there are only twelve signs.

The biggest problem with accepting astrology is that almost *nothing* about it is random; it is not at all psychic, and unlike most methods of divination all of the resulting markers come out of a fixed, deterministic mathematical process from fixed starting data. This means, basically, that any two astrologers will (if they are competent) always draw the same chart given the same time and place data. And their interpretations of those charts won't vary much, either.

I have already written that metaphysical phenomena can't be studied scientifically because they are not consistent. This does not mean that I do or do not believe that they do or do not work; it means that science is a tool which cannot be applied to study whether they work or not.

Since many people do have anecdotes, including some much more credible than alien abductees, this leaves us with the open question of whether the frequent appearance of metaphysical activity represents active trickery on the part of the universe or a nearly universal perceptual defect. I maintain that it must be one or the other, but that which is probably unknowable, and that to make a firm decision requires an article of faith.

This is not to denigrate the faith in science that causes many people to lean toward "perceptual defect." I see the logic. It's just that I don't know, and I think that if you think you know then you are just fooling yourself.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Sorry but that's bullcrap (none / 0) (#58)
by Have A Nice Day on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 06:07:47 AM EST

I have already written that metaphysical phenomena can't be studied scientifically because they are not consistent. This does not mean that I do or do not believe that they do or do not work; it means that science is a tool which cannot be applied to study whether they work or not.
That's just a cop out. "We have no evidence for any of this so science must be inadequate to study it"

I'm not claiming to "know" either, but I am claiming that there's no reason to give it the slightest credence when there's no evidence other than anecdotes from people who generally, in my experience, have a pretty shaky grasp on the rest of life anyway.

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Actually, you are claiming to know (none / 0) (#59)
by localroger on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:11:36 AM EST

I'm not claiming to "know" either, but I am claiming that there's no reason to give it the slightest credence when there's no evidence other than anecdotes from people who generally, in my experience, have a pretty shaky grasp on the rest of life anyway.

On the contrary, you have just made a blanket ad hominem judgement on everyone who has ever made such a claim. I have known people with "a pretty shaky grasp on the rest of life" who have made such claims, but I've also known people who were solidly trained engineers who had no reason to risk their reputation reporting strange phenomena.

You have just accused, for example, G. Harry Stine of having "a pretty shaky grasp on the rest of life." While I don't advocate keeping a mind so open that anyone who walks by can fill it with garbage, I think when you make blanket assertions about whole groups of people you don't know because you have arbitrarily decided that their claims can't possibly be valid, you have given up the right to claim you have an open mind at all.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Not quite (none / 0) (#60)
by Have A Nice Day on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:24:30 AM EST

I made an ad hominem attack against the people I have met (note the "in my experience" part) who believe in so-called "supernatural" phenomena.. The people I have met have generally been wiccan or other pagan and have had a very shaky grasp on reality. In many it boiled down to being so frightened of livingin an uncertain world that they believed in any old tosh as long as it claimed to have predictive powers and a hit rate that was about as good as random chance. many people haven't the basic grasp of maths to not be amazed by simple coincidence and instead choose to believe that things are somehow preordained or in the control of a higher power.

Not that I'm saying this about your engineer friend, just that most of the people I personally have met that believe in this stuff are basically insecure nutcases when it comes down to it.

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
What good is it? (none / 0) (#71)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 07:22:56 AM EST

If it doesn't work in a predictable, measurable way, what good is it? If it only works when you're not looking or measuring it in any way, what good is it? It looks like you just keep moving the bar.

That said, what is it that astrologers do, in your experience? I suppose I thought they just preyed on the gullible; perhaps I was wrong. So, enlighten me.
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

It is an attempt to understand the world (none / 0) (#72)
by localroger on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:41:18 AM EST

Even if deluded, it represents thought, which places people who are Astrology fanatics above people who watch TV eight hours a day IMHO.

All divination systems boil down to symbolic representations that must encode, in a relatively simple form, everything that might happen in real life. They can be useful just to contemplate even if we don't believe they are linked to the world out there because they help us to clarify our perception of the relationships between things. Many modern pagans are like this; they don't really "believe" in magic, but they use the rituals and meditations to focus their attention.

When you get into a system like Astrology or the Tarot, you find yourself seeing the world in terms of the symbolic system more and more often. This can actually be useful, because it can allow you to form quicker more accurate judgements, but most of all it's just plain fun.

I have known people who take money to do readings who I am sure are not attempting to scam a quick buck; they believe in what they do and are just trying to make a living doing what they enjoy. (I have also known people who take money to do readings who are trying to scam a quick buck, and because I know the difference I easily identify and avoid them.)

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

This kind of claim... (none / 0) (#46)
by rusty on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 05:45:06 PM EST

The kind of claim I made? I thought I was being relatively fair.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
No, the claim in the article /nt (none / 0) (#48)
by localroger on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:19:00 PM EST

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
If it presented itself as a sort of psychoanalysis (none / 0) (#57)
by Have A Nice Day on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 06:04:13 AM EST

then maybe I would agree.

I am aware that there's much more to it than the little scrap of nonsense in the newspapers (used to date a Wiccan), but that doesn't mean it's any less silly.

Yes they work out all sorts of things, they work out the exact positions of the planets at someone's birth and the stars etc.
What they haven't got is any evidence that those things have anything to do with anything at all. I almost have more sympathy for the newspaper columns because (at least in early life) what time of year you're born could have some effect.

The "reading" of people is definitely a skill but it's still, IMHO, dishonest because it's claiming to have divined knowledge from the movements of the heavenly bodies when it's really just some form of intuition. At least psychoanalysis is honest in its intention and in what it tells people is the technique.

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Honest? (none / 0) (#63)
by rusty on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:48:33 AM EST

So, if astrology presented itself as a science without providing any scientific way to test its theories, then it would be ok?

You're in luck, because that's exactly how it presents itself! That comment was kind of off the cuff, but thinking about it more the parallells between astrology and psychoanalysis are striking.

FWIW, I think they're both silly insofar as they take themselves seriously, and that both are capable of providing insight insofar as the "patient" is willing to get what they can out of the experience.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I meant if astrology presented itself as intuition (none / 0) (#64)
by Have A Nice Day on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 12:26:32 PM EST

and the reading of people, rather than knowledge from the spheres.

/doesn't know enough about psychoanalysis to comment much further.
//now going for an evening meal with astrology/everything believing wiccan ex. Wish me luck. :-/

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Wait, Wait, Wait... (none / 1) (#33)
by Eight Star on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 11:30:08 PM EST

You mean that by being open and honest about what I'm looking for, I can find someone who is a good match for me?

Almost (none / 0) (#39)
by 1318 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:20:50 PM EST

It is not about what you are looking for. We all want to fuck the boy/girl/rock of our dreams - that valkyrie fuck machine that wants endless amounts of whatever it is we want to give her/him/it or get from same. A fantasy creature of infinite variations on height/weight/sexual adventure/financial stability/etc.

This is not about that at all. By being honest about who you are and what perhaps unusual experiences you've been through (not the usual relationship fodder like favorite movie and college attended but whether or not you were gang raped by circus monkies at 12 or how many hotdogs you can stuff in your shorts). It is our differences, perhaps extreme differences, and not our usual "things that people might find attractive about me" things that are being described here.

That you are intelligent, athletic, good looking, of average or above average height or income or social status/achievement are all very ordinary and common. They appeal to everyone and no one.

That you grew up in a czechoslovakian orphanage, were cut from the volleyball team for lesbianism, have a wart on your nose, and so on are the factors that lend to the irrational sense of improbability I am talking about here.

But honesty might work too. Shit, maybe I should try that?


"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

Wizard needs food badly! (none / 0) (#42)
by MMcP on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:25:53 PM EST

(N)oble (T)respass

[ Parent ]
Interesting (none / 0) (#61)
by Eight Star on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:50:37 AM EST

There seems to be two approaches here. Listing specific characteristics of yourself, and listing specific characteristics that you're looking for.

I think using both would get you the most 'amazing' matches.

[ Parent ]

Yes, exactly! (none / 0) (#65)
by 1318 on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 05:11:40 PM EST

You could combine them (as many an ad does) or you could go with the "I am this" or the "are you this?" approaches.

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

you haven't explained how you actually PROFIT (none / 1) (#34)
by ccdotnet on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:05:51 AM EST

1. (multiple iterations of spamming)

2. You end this by telling them to send you $5,000 for more information on the stock market. If only 10% of the 625 people respond you've made $300,000 which would pay for the initial cost of the mailing list and the post cards.

3. Profit!

You haven't actually explained how you make money out of this. So 10% of these suckers send you money. What makes you think 0% of these guys are going to come after you, either via a regulator (or with a pump-action), when you fail to deliver $5,000 worth of financial advice.

well this is all hypothetical of course (none / 0) (#35)
by 1318 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:41:05 AM EST

but I do believe there are one-way tickets to brazil for purchase to the right people.

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

Donīt be so sure about brasil... (none / 0) (#69)
by C0vardeAn0nim0 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 10:44:32 AM EST

now adays our authorities are very eager to colaborate with foreign countries on investigations of fraud and money laundering. you´ll end up extradited in no time if an FBI agent show up here with a warrant.

try paraguay instead, or cayman...

[ Parent ]

Yes, I stand corrected (none / 0) (#70)
by 1318 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 01:00:17 PM EST

I found a list of no-extradition countries here:


Another page lists these:

"Afghanistan Gabon Philippines Algeria Guinea Qatar Angola Guinea Bissau Rwanda Bahrain Indonesia Samoa Bangladesh Iran Sao Tome e Principe Benin Ivory Coast Saudi Arabia Bhutan Jordan Senegal Botswana Kuwait Somalia Brunei Laos Sudan Burkina Faso Lebanon Syria Burundi Libya Togo Cambodia Madagascar Tunisia Cameroon Mali Uganda Cape Verde Maldives USSR Central African Republic Mauritania United Arab Emirates Chad Mongolia Vanuatu China Morocco Vietnam Comoros Mozambique Yemen Djibouti Nepal Yemen South Equatorial Guinea Niger Zaire Ethiopia Oman Zimbabwe"

I would suspect that Afghanistan is no longer a good bet, although I hear that US backed forces have almost no control outside of major cities. The Phillipines comes up repeatedly in discussions like this I've heard.

Of course if you are relying on k5 fora list of countries to flee to after your crime spree you've got other more serious problems...

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

RE: you haven't explained how you actually PROFIT (none / 0) (#45)
by notaddicted on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 05:19:56 PM EST

Send them the same kind of 50% chance info (I'm not saying that it is a 50% chance either way, just that a blind guess has a 50% chance of being right, except this time look for something that will make a lot more money for those who are right (not that I know that this is actually possible, etc.)

This takes away half your problem, for the other half, I don't really know, I'd say go for a smaller ammount and more people, like start with 10000 and only charge $100 for the info.

I wouldn't go for investors though, I'd say the'd be harder to fool, go for horse race junkies, or lotto junkies or something.

I doubt if any of it would work anyway though.

[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#55)
by DavidTC on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:47:38 PM EST

Charge 5 dollars for the info, and claim to be able to predict whether any stock will go up or down over a period of a day, but that it takes ten minutes to run the calculations and you are backlogged. (Put in some wiggle room about how if it moves 1% or less you might falsely predict it will not move. Reasonable small print makes it look more realistic.)

That way you can actually look at the stock and make intelligent predictions, all the time keeping track if they were right. So you call them up and say 'I have scheduled your time, and are about to run your predictions, what stock is it?' then 'I will call you back in ten minutes'.

Then you call them back, you tell them the price will go up/down the next day, and you tell them where to mail the 5 dollars, after your prediction comes true.

Yes, half of them will go wrong, and you will not get the money, and you are out two phone calls and five minutes looking at the stock page.

Some of them will be true, and you will not get your money. Obviously, being a conman, you do not want to come after people for five dollars.

Some of them will be true, and you will get your five dollars, because they want more info. Assuming that's as low as 25%, you're at least earning a small profit.


And then when you have customer with, oh, four correct predictions, tell them you are leaving the business, because you have made all the money you need. However, you are willing to sell them the program you wrote, because they believed in you while stockbrokers just laughed.

Sell them a computer with a program that makes random (but repeatable, just in case you need to talk your way out of a fraud charge) predictions for $15,000 and walk away laughing.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Dummy companies (none / 0) (#49)
by godix on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:25:51 PM EST

If all a determined customer can figure out is that the company he gave $5000 is incorporated in some shithole of the world that has VERY loose reporting restrictions and happens to be owned by a dozen companies also from places with poor regulation and reporting (each of which also own each other in a giant hard to understand web) then you're home free. If you set it up right you'll die an old man before anyone can figure out who actually runs things. Especially if you bring in foreign banks in countries that won't aid investigations even in allegations of lawbreaking.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
What do you mean? (none / 0) (#53)
by DavidTC on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:30:03 PM EST

Why would you fail to deliver anything?

You give them some sort of crazy mathmatical model/computer program that you built to explain why you chose what you did, and let them put in data, and find out who to pick, and they can pick it.

Of course, your system is retrofitted to give the winning stocks you already picked, and sheer gibberish for anything else, but you never said it wasn't crap. You just said 'You guys know these projections work, that's why I'm giving them out for cheap. You can keep purchasing the projections on certain specific stocks, or you can purchase the prediction model and use it on whatever stock you want.'.

No one promises they'll always make money. They're not selling winning stocks, they're selling a 'modeller'.

The first step isn't fraud at all. It's perfectly legal to sell someone stock tips, as long as there is no conflict of interest and you aren't insider trading.

The second step, selling 'the model' is fraud, because you're not selling the model you used to recommend stocks. (In fact, that model is literally 'flipping a coin to see which stock tip they get'.)

But with a well designed fake model, it's damn hard to prove that. Simple models of the stock market don't work, so it's not like you can condemn something as being overly complicated, unless they did something stupid like hardcoding in their specific recommendations.

But anyone who can do calculus should be able to invent a function to churn out exactly the right recommendations that were already made. (In fact, that should be the computer program you write...a computer program to write a computer program that makes exactly the recommendations you want it to.)

Unless you can track down the other people who got the wrong stock tips. (And people who spend 5 dollars to get a stock tip from a newspaper ad don't go and complain about it to the SEC.)

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Hm, old advice with a new twist? (3.00 / 2) (#41)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:11:10 PM EST

Above all, be honest; and first of all, with yourself -- my grandmother

An interesting way to look at how psychological reaction to a small amount of subjective information (in this case, a personals ad) can trigger some interesting results.  And, your suggestions are not, IMO, without merit.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say shh, except that I already used the "blunt and honest about all aspects of my person" technique to find a romantic companion, and six years later we are married.  But, it isn't like the advice is really new.

The quote from my grandmother, above, was given to me shortly before she passed, and in direct response to my query about finding a decent companion.  And, that is precisely what you suggest -- be honest with the world, and you have a shot at finding someone of a kindred spirit.

Add to that another quote, this time from a man who ran a failed business and then was hired as a CEO for a successful firm: "It's better to fail publicly than to succeed privately."  So, with seeking a mate -- better to humiliate yourself publicly, if that's what it takes to be noticed.  Of course, one should humiliate themselves through honesty, not through being a jackass...

So, while I think you've hit the nail on the head, it's old advice for a new medium.  A solid reminder, nonetheless, as people who are otherwise honest and forthright about themselves turn into fools when it comes to sex, and set aside all capability for reason when it comes to love.
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

On personal ads (3.00 / 2) (#43)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:43:09 PM EST

Your idea is a good one, but I would not bother.  Just learn a bit about how the opposite sex really behaves, and exploit that knowledge.  The standard advice for men is:
1) learn how to read signals: touch, movement syncronization, etc.
2) make her think she is chasing you, and don't waist your time if she wont chase.  You should take longer to reply to her emails then she takes to reply to yours.
3) exploit the compeditiveness of women: get a non-permenent girlfriend (even an ugly one) and female friends, go to bars with them, not other guys.
Of course, its generally easier for women to manipulate men, and women generally know more of the technical tricks (like have an exciting first date, guys are suckers for endorphins).

In general, don't waist your time with online dating, it offers too little oppertunities to practice the skills required in real dating.  If you must date online, use one of the expensive services targeted at women in your desired age range.  Its not that their personality tests are very good, but they make the women feel beter about it.

Now if *I* were going to design an online dating service, I would try to exploit the diffrences between the sexes by making it asymetrical in an important way:  Don't let guys respond to personal ads.  This would *greatly* increase the quality of correspondence on the site for several reasons:
1) Lots of women run personal ads just for attention (without realizing it), but they won't be sending the first message, so they won't partisipate in such a site.
2) Making the woman send the first message makes her more emotionally committed (a major problem related to #1).
3) Guys will havce to write better ads (major problem)
4) Guys will be more serious (serious guys write good ads, upload pictures, and fill out personality questionares.. guys trying to get laid write lots of witty emails).
5) Guys will spend more effort on the few that come calling.  
You should also allow the women to chat about the guys in a form attached to each ads. (women would just like that sort of thing).
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!

kuro5hin echos Hollywood (2.00 / 2) (#52)
by nsayer on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 10:44:19 PM EST

Let's take a quick detour to Homonym corner:

"waist" is what's between your hips and your tits.

"waste" is what becomes of your time reading kuro5hin^W^Wchasing chicks.

Now then.

When you talk about going out with a girlfriend to exploit the competitiveness of women, I am reminded of an episode of CSI:Miami from last season. There was an outfit called "wing chicks" which was an escort service, of sorts. But in this case, the escort's purpose was to be the "close platonic friend" to help the guys hook up with the chicks in the bar.

[ Parent ]

dating is repeat business (none / 1) (#47)
by jcarnelian on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 07:48:01 PM EST

Yes, you can swindle some people out of their money, but usually only once. So, if you lie on your personal ads, you may be able to get a one night stand out of it, but pretty soon, your date will find out that you aren't compatible after all.

Astrology ... (none / 0) (#51)
by 1318 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:54:25 PM EST

... is a repeat business too.

And I'd offer that investing is as well. Many an invester has noticed that much investment advice barely outperforms the DJIA and some of it underperforms it! Throwing darts at the stocks page may produce equal or better returns than listening to your broker.

Although this example is produced for amusement it might not be that far from so-called "real investment advice" except that they don't take a one-way ticket to brazil. They simply smile and say "Oh well we tried" and as you stay with them they'll have some successes no matter what their system is.

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes
[ Parent ]

myspace has so many hotties (none / 1) (#54)
by auraslip on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:37:49 PM EST

if your in to 15 year olds...
excellent. (none / 0) (#73)
by skelter on Sat Jul 16, 2005 at 07:19:27 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Investor Fraud, Astrology and Finding Happiness in Personals Ads | 73 comments (61 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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