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[P]
Fiction: Megabits Among the Homeless

By rusty in Fiction
Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:08:02 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Many of you probably saw this yesterday in MLP, but I loved it so much I asked the author, Zachary Booth Simpson, for permission to run it here in its entirely.

In the "multimedia gulch" of San Francisco, Internet businesses have sprung to life thriving on a dense grid of fiber-optics, cheap capital, and smart high-tech workers. I recently toured one of the "server farms" located there, one of the data pumps that drive the net. I found a surreal world...

Update [2000-10-21 12:1:24 by rusty]: Zack, the author, has pointed out to me that this story is fictional. I wasn't aware of that when I posted it. I don't think it makes any difference to the essential "truth" of it, though. You may disagree, and it does open up a whole new angle on the subject.


Megabits Among the Homeless
A journey into the empty heart of a digital body

Zachary Booth Simpson 10 August 2000

(c)2000 ZBS. http://www.totempole.net

In the "multimedia gulch" of San Francisco, Internet businesses have sprung to life thriving on a dense grid of fiber-optics, cheap capital, and smart high-tech workers. I recently toured one of the "server farms" located there, one of the data pumps that drive the net. I found a surreal world.

Located in an oddly transforming neighborhood where scattered homeless lay about the dilapidated warehouses is an architecturally unimpressive but gleaming techno-office space where packs of nerds move in and out while pouring down Starbucks, talking about software, and being generally oblivious to the blight around them. The business I was visiting, whose identity shall remain nameless (we'll call it My-B2B-E-Portal-Server-Farm.com) is a place where the virtual bits of the Internet manifest themselves as real structures and is, as such, one of the few places where one can "see" the net. Being the pathetic technology voyeur that I am, my friend who worked there knew I would be excited about the tour, and I was!

As I left my vehicle and imagined the broken window and stereo-less hole that I would likely find upon my return, I noticed a man sifting through the trash. He was wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the very company I was visiting. In fact, to be more exact, he was wearing six of them and holding a dozen more as he had obviously found a discarded box of sad techno-marketing tees, their usefulness as swag either over-estimated, faded, or, most likely, wastefully rounded up to the nearest 100. The man headed off, seemingly happy with his new nerd wardrobe.

In front of the building my eye was drawn to a set of tall transparent cylinders, something like gigantic drinking glasses 12 ft tall and 10 feet in diameter guarding the building. Large and odd enough to pass as corporate modern art, they stood empty and soulless, somehow lacking any artistic merit whatsoever. Upon closer inspection, the floor of each cylinder was actually a metal grate as if they were not colossal drinking glasses, but rather gigantic coffee filters. The grates appeared to cover ventilation shafts, although the Plexiglas prevented detailed inspection. Oddly, each cylinder was filled with trash, mostly of the flying-though-the-breeze type such as newsprint, styrofoam cups, and french-fry containers.

"How odd this is," I thought to myself as a man walked up and asked for change.

"Not now," thinks I, "can't you see, I'm contemplating modern art!" I stared, shifted vantage places, and stared again. The transparent monoliths remained completely opaque in their purpose. Another man pushed two grocery carts filled with possessions and built a tent between them. I continued to stare, squint, and blink at the mystery.

At last to my dull wit their intent became clear; the goal of these garbage-filled Plexiglas rings was to prevent the, shall we say, differently-housed from sleeping over the warm ventilation shafts.

"How heartless," I mused to myself as I heartlessly ignored another solicitation for change. Heartless, yes, but a thermodynamic imperative no doubt. If the vents were impeded by the paper and plastic insulating material of the address-impaired, their efficiency at dispersing heat from the hot-air-generating businesses within would be, well, challenged. I further supposed that the garbage filling the tubes was an unintended side-effect -- a bug in the design (albeit, an incredibly predictable one). As there were no doors to provide access into the cylinders, one supposes that a ladder-enabled janitor is paid to climb over and periodically sweep. Thousands had been spent on the installation, thousands were being spent on the upkeep, thousands of BTUs were venting to the atmosphere. It all seemed like a failure of basic microeconomics -- demand and excess supply for heat in the very same place and yet somehow it is more politically efficient to keep the homeless cold. Why there couldn't be a small shelter which dissipated the heat and simultaneously warmed the cold remained unclear. Politics, economics, and thermodynamics, three more subjects I guess I'll never understand.

I entered into a lobby that was a vast cavern of polished surfaces and open mezzanines bridged by oddly placed escalators and filled with deafening echoes -- as if a spelunker had been hired as the architect. I explored up and down the escalators searching for the right floor, my destination tantalizingly visible above but without obvious access. I discovered an elevator that went only down and escalators to nowhere. I was tempted to just climb the mezzanine walls, and stood in frustration illuminating my goal three floors above with my key-chain laser as if I could just ride up the beam. Eventually I located a secret passage with the correct lift. "Card access required;" no problem, I just loaded in with the other white nerdly-looking ("tastefulness-challenged") guys like myself, and rode up -- one considerate security violator even held the door open for me!

The elevator passengers were all wearing marketing-oriented black techno tees, the ubiquitous shirt of the elite programmer class. One of them was wearing the very same shirt that the homeless man outside had happily discovered and now proudly sported en masse. How excellent, in what other culture would two men on opposite ends of the income spectrum be found wearing the same clothes? If it weren't for the conversation regarding the ups and downs of various dynamic load-balancing routers, one might not have been able to distinguish this pack of nerds from an assembly gathered in front of a Seven Eleven at midnight.

I momentarily found myself at a receptionist's desk. My trivial ruse could have easily been continued past her by clinging like a pup to the pack, but I decide to stop like a good little dog and sign in; besides, I didn't know where my friend's cube was so it seemed easier to simply ask.

The receptionist was beautifully dressed, a trim black skirt and stylish blouse. Her hair coiled and piled on her head like a French noodle dish obviously required hours of preparation time; her face and manicured hands radiated their time and expense. In short, compared to the employees walking past her whose combined yearly compensation was more than should would make in a lifetime, she was the epitome of style and class -- at least in appearance.

"John Smith please," I asked.

I could tell immediately that this was going to be a tedious interaction as I had interrupted her highly focused concentration on a celebrity web-page and I regretted not sticking with the pack.

"Does he work here?" she inquired, not even bothering to look me in the eye.

"Yes." (No, I just like asking for strangers.)

She was skeptical; after a few moments of trace-like meditation she asked, "are you here to see him?"

"Yes." (No, I'm conducting a survey of people with this name, come on.)

She stared past me as if there was something very interesting going on behind my back. I glanced around and saw nothing. Maybe she was waiting for a laser beam to appear out of nowhere again.

"Hmm, OK, sign the log please," and I did using my fake name "Buck Tandyco" (my lie being an automatic response -- part of a one-man privacy campaign to stop the epidemic recording of unnecessary information, such as any purchase Radio Shack, hence the name).

She stared at her screen which displayed the internal home page of the company's intranet. It had a company logo (what, the employees aren't sure of who they work for?) and no useful information on it other than a link to "Phone List." She stared at it for about 15 seconds and finally mobilized her arm for a click. She entered "J" and "S" into the search fields (apparently bright enough to note this abbreviation trick during training and lazy enough to use it) and managed to hit Enter, despite the elaborately decorated inch-long fingernails that impeded accurate typing. The scrollbar indicated that the resulting list was about four pages; the first page ended at "Simmons." She unhesitatingly asked: "Are you sure he works here? He must be new."

"Try scrolling down to his name," I suggested, pointing at the scroll bar.

"No, I don't think he works here."

"He's worked here for about six months, just hit Page Down."

"Hmm... he has?"

"Yes, I'm sure if you'll just scroll down by clicking on this you will..." but before I could begin to explain the ingenious concept of an ordered alphabet, she had found a hard-copy version of the phone list and called his voice mail.

"A mister Buck...Uh... Tandyco to see you." (Oops, probably shouldn't have used my fake name.) She told me to sit down so that she could return to uninterrupted web-surfing; apparently Yahoo's Saturday weather forecast was very important to her job and needed immediate attention.

After a minute or two of contemplating my navel, I requested to use the phone so that I might call my friend's cell phone.

"I'm sorry, you can't use the phone." Ah yes, thinks I, with access to the phone I might be able to just walk right into this place and steal sensitive information, we can't allow that.

"How about you call him then?" I asked.

I had her trapped; she glanced around again for stray laser beams and within a few minutes agreed to the call. Millions of dollars of sophisticated digital cellular radio technology thus deployed, my friend was located on the other side of the wall -- I could have just spoken in a loud voice; oh well, ubiquitous technology creates ubiquitous waste.

The server tour gathered among the cube walls which were covered in nerd white-board graffiti -- UML diagrams, code snippets, stock quotes, explicatives regarding Microsoft.

The inflationary Bay Area real-estate economy laid sprawled out around us. Almost every cube was doubled-up, two nerds per cube (with solitary managers, actually 1.8 n.p.c. I'd estimate). Flush with investor cash, every doubled cube was complete with two flat-panel LCD screens (~$3000 a piece, doing the same work as a $400 monitor) and Herman Miller chairs (~$700 a piece holding the same shapeless nerd asses that an $80 chair would hold). Loads of cash can buy you loads of toys, but it can buy you neither space nor attention in San Francisco as land and customers are the two commodities in short supply in dot com city.

We began the tour of the server infrastructure. I was informed that this server hosted one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the net -- about 4 million page views a day. My friend and I calculated the hits per second as we walked (about 46 per second, maybe twice or triple that at peak). That's a lot, although by computer standards it's pretty trivial, at 2,000 bytes of text per page, a mere 100,000 bytes per second or so. A common desktop computer could handle that in its sleep and still play a decent game of Quake. But graphics add a lot and networks are orders of magnitude slower than the computers that run them -- this was no trivial web page, and it was expected to be up 24/7 without interruptions. This requires industrial strength engineering, and my nerd excitement swelled.

The servers were downstairs, halfway underground -- almost metaphorically halfway between the realities of the street-level homeless (the silhouettes of their bodies visible pressed against the upper windows) and the subterranean virtual world of fiber-optic cables and digital content.

To enter the server room required a key, a pass-code, and a "biometric scan" of the hand. Security cameras watched our every move. "There's not one square foot unmonitored here," our guide told us as he passed his hand over the scanning contraption which sent out sweeping laser beams and beeped satisfyingly. I noted that the ceiling tiles appeared to allow entry over the wall, good thing there's a $5,000 biometric scanner here to prevent that. As I entered, I pointed my pocket laser at the scanner in order that it might get a chance to meet one of its own; it again beeped satisfyingly.

The entryway displayed a prominent raised-letter, brushed stainless steel logo illuminated by halogens on quite expensive-looking bendable shafts. This is a place where no unguided persons should ever be, so why put an expensive logo here? Maybe it is to remind the employees who hadn't read the intranet homepage who they worked for -- they worked for a company with too much cash.

The server room was a vast array of locker-like closets arrayed in deep perspective, each big enough for a man to stand in. They were flat black metal and very borg-like, just the kind of thing you might imagine such a place should include. On the other hand, the floors and walls were covered in fun swishy colors detracting from the digital death-star theme. However, this thematic flaw was more than compensated for by the overhead industrial wire guides traversing the ceiling in all directions carrying neatly organized bundles of fiber. Big Fat Data Pipes, the very beasts we came to the zoo to see. Data was downloading, bits were banging! This was a major artery of the net.

But something was very wrong with the scene. Where was the humming? It was deafeningly quiet; where was the fan noise, the disk-drives whirring, the smelly heat of thousands of hardworking microchips? Where was the "big hummer" as my father used to call the mainframes on which he "system analyzed" -- i.e. toiled -- at IBM? (Once my mother took a tour of his office and asked if a noisy machine in the corner of the server-room was "the big hummer that you're always talking about?" No, he replied, that was "the air conditioner.")

Indeed, the only things in the room making any noise (or heat for that matter) were the gigantic air conditioning systems along the walls. (Exhaust upstairs, bypassing cold homeless.) The computers should be cranking out the heat, the fans should be whirring up a storm! It should be a digital hurricane in here, what gives?

A few more steps and the answer was clear. The hundreds of racks were empty, awaiting customers. The hollowness made clear by the shimmering aliasing visible as the meshed front and back locker walls interfered with one another creating a moire pattern and a ghostly emptiness.

"Where is everything?"

Apparently they only have one customer so far. Apparently the timeline of bringing in the DS3s from the telecom companies is months overdue. Apparently there's been some trouble with the installation. Apparently they're planning and hoping for more. One sympathizes, engineer to engineer.

That's OK, I suggest, if there aren't any customers the place can be easily converted into a cryogenic facility -- the lockers are just the right size for a body, and there's plenty of refrigeration here, just turn down the temperature. Surely there's going to be a big market in the Bay Area for that when all these over-monetized nerds start kicking over, and if the dot com stocks keep tumbling, this may be sooner than expected.

My brilliant business plans noted silently, we shuffled into the far corner. There, locked in a cage like monkeys, lived the beasts we had come to see: servers.

They hummed satisfyingly.

To the untrained eye, not much to look at; similar but less interesting than a audiophile's stereo cabinet: uniform boxes stacked with protruding cables, a few switches and power supplies, no blinky lights, no graphic equalizers wiggling up and down to a network heartbeat, no scrolling status panels. Nothing really, a common burglar probably wouldn't even bother to steal this stuff were it to be laying around in a house into which he had broken, regarding it as some-kind of uninteresting junk. But to the trained eye, it said something different. To me it said one thing, and it said it very, very loudly. It said: "OOGLES OF INVESTOR MONEY."

There were millions of dollars of hardware trapped in the cage. The box in the corner, a top-end Cisco router, quarter of a million right there. Six boxes next to that, eight CPU servers with a six gigs of RAM each. Hot-swappable RAID arrays, redundant power supplies, big cool switches. Some joker had put an old-fashioned Frankenstein knife switch in there just for good measure.

Our guide described the redundancy in detail. Two of these connected to four of those. Each gizmo fault-detected a pair of wizwangs. The widgets supported the foozles and the foozles monitored the widgets. Four separate fibers ran into the building from four different directions. Everything was fault tolerant out the wazoo. It was an engineering marvel, there was, "no single point of failure," our guide said proudly.

Well, other than the fact that this building is sitting in one of the most seismically active parts of the world, I pointed out.

Yes, he admitted, there was no backup until the site on the East Coast went up.

"When will we have that?" someone else asked.

"We have no current plans."

That's OK, I mused, according to Yahoo weather no earthquakes are expected until at least Saturday.

The tour dispersed, we left the server room and returned to the offices. Past the facade of security (guards playing Gameboys), past the clean indoor putting green, past the tiny nine square-foot Zen rock garden gurgling its happy little gurgle, past the unscratched pristine indoor merry-go-round (stopping briefly to test the reality of the Coriolis force, of course) we wandered around the fantasy of a techno-worker paradise. A fantasy, of course, because these toys all sound cool in theory but nobody really uses them -- everyone is far too busy fixing bugs and drinking coffee after all. Why, I thought, couldn't this excess budget have built a playground outside where the children of the neighborhood could have used it while the nerds satisfyingly stared at it as they do now? At least Rockefeller's generation built lasting structures as testaments to their obscene wealth and loose cash, this generation of entrepreneurs just buys fancy office furniture and toys, destined to be returned and resold from discount office furniture stores. (Someday, I suppose, a smart furniture store will open located inside the same building as the techno-offices and have a permanently installed crane on the roof which will rotate into place and repossess the cube furniture at a moment's notice of investor fall out.)

The correct buzzwordy techno-term for the business I toured is: "a server co-location facility." I couldn't help but think as I left the building, past a woman huddled under the shelter of the ATM machine, past the homeless-made tent, past the garbage-filled cylinders dutifully keeping the homeless cold, that maybe some of those millions would have been better spent on a "homeless co-location facility." Maybe some of that expensive real-estate filled with empty black lockers ought to be filled with apartments. Maybe there's paradoxically such a thing as too much capital and not enough cash. Maybe there's something sick about a society that chooses brushed stainless steel logos and $3000 LCD monitors over keeping everyone warm and healthy. But fortunately those thoughts passed quickly, and I went home to surf the net.

Cisco's stock is up three and a half, and the weather tomorrow will be a lot like today... gimme some more content and content accessories quick, I'm getting impatient.

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Display: Sort:
Fiction: Megabits Among the Homeless | 113 comments (109 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Is it me... (1.85 / 20) (#1)
by acidos on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:52:54 AM EST

... or is this totally redundant being that link was already posted?

Redundancy defended (3.92 / 13) (#4)
by rusty on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 12:00:43 PM EST

Yes, it is redundant, and the link already posted and whatnot. But links decay, websites move, people change ISP's... etc. I wanted to have this one in our archive, whatever happens to the original source page.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Suggestion on that note (2.62 / 8) (#6)
by 11223 on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 12:19:08 PM EST

Unless you anticipate the kuro5hin archive lasting longer than the static pages contained on the server, why not put up a page (kuro5hin.org/whatever.html) with the contents, and then update the MLP story with your mirror?

--
The dead hand of Asimov's mass psychology wins every time.
[ Parent ]

Probably longer than you (1.12 / 8) (#8)
by scorpion on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:32:14 PM EST

Ya, K5 will be around longer than your comment and will be enjoyed by many of the readers.

[ Parent ]
What a great story (2.48 / 25) (#9)
by RiffRaff on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:38:06 PM EST

Wait, let me dry my eyes...there. That's better.

What is the point of this story? Guilt? Sorry, with over a third of my income going to taxes, much of which is purported to help the homeless (and the poor, and the pregnant, and mothers, and the children, and the addicted, and the diseased, and the ...), you'll excuse me if I don't fall over myself opening my checkbook.

Of course, if the government would allow me to select the programs or charities that I thought needed my help the most...


http://www.lp.org Enough is enough!
Not Guilt, Perspective (3.28 / 7) (#24)
by Gomker on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:56:10 PM EST

I dont think the point was to make you feel guilty, but give you a perspective on our culture.
Yeah, taxes suck and they don't seem to help anyone. But thats not the point either.
Theres all this effort and money spent on technology, and for what? So we can get our pr0n that much faster?
The world gets more soulless which each passing year, and very few people seem to give a damn about anything anymore but making money. But alas , we all must take care of ourselves, because no one else is.
</rant>



[ Parent ]
Actually... (2.88 / 9) (#29)
by DemiGodez on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:34:14 PM EST

and very few people seem to give a damn about anything anymore but making money

I would like to recommend a book to you and anyone who thinks that focusing on making money is a bad thing or that money is the root of evil. The book is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with a focus on making money. By doing so, you are exchanging the best work you are capable of for the best work another man is capable of. Working hard for money is nothing to be ashamed of. Granted, there are people that get money without earning it, and these people should be ashamed.

[ Parent ]

Money's not the root of evil (2.85 / 7) (#36)
by El Volio on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:55:15 PM EST

The original quotation was that the love of money is the root of all evil. I don't feel bad that someone chooses to pay me well for an important job done properly. But it's not the most important thing in my life. Taking care of my family, trying to give something back to the community, following my religion -- those are priorities.

Working hard for money is no cause for shame. But doing so to the exclusion of all else is a shame.

[ Parent ]

Money (2.00 / 1) (#73)
by DemiGodez on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:57:30 AM EST

Working hard for money is no cause for shame. But doing so to the exclusion of all else is a shame.

I don't happen to think that I owe something to the greater good of mankind. However, I also think that just making money (honestly, not through inappropriate means) will benefit mankind. I don't think working only for money and excluding everything else is shameful if a person really understands what money represents. In a lot of ways, it represents the best we are capable of, the best product/service we can produce. I certainly don't think there is anythign wrong with the love of that.

[ Parent ]

Depends (2.00 / 1) (#82)
by El Volio on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:35:19 PM EST

I guess that depends on what you really value in life. I don't mean that as a dig at all; rather, when you say, "[money] represents the best we are capable of", it makes me think about what's really valuable and worthwhile in life. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, there are many riches in life other than that. Raising a family; the loving smile of your wife/husband/etc.; successfully helping someone make their life better -- all those things are among the great accomplishments of life, and are not directly tied to money.

Money is good as a means to an end: With it, we're able to support ourselves and those for whom we're responsible. We're able to allocate resources to things that are important to us, whether that be gourmet food, entertainment, investing to hopefully gain more money, etc. But gaining money for its own sake? What's the point?

[ Parent ]

Money is valid. (none / 0) (#113)
by Rezand on Sun Oct 29, 2000 at 09:30:00 AM EST

People who value money are definitely entitled to do so. I just might not agree with them.

[ Parent ]
I propose a minor Godwin's Law (4.00 / 8) (#40)
by kallisti on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:19:05 PM EST

The book is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

New Law:

Sooner or later in any thread involving money, someone will invoke Ayn Rand.

Although I generally support capitalism, this book isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't want convincing. It proposes that society consists of only a few people who are important and that everyone else is just a thief. It uses this position as the basis for a great rant, basically "we're the only important people in society, so stop picking on us or well take our ball and go home", and then the few take off and civilization collapses. Along the way, there is a horrible accident and an explanation why we should cut down all the forests and install billboards everywhere.

The real world is considerably more complex than that, the division of the world into the chosen few leaders and thieves is rather simplistic. For one, there is cause and effect. I have earned my way, through study and hard work, to get where I am today. I was encouraged from a very early age to do so, and for that I am thankful. Other people are told they are losers from day one, their parent's are losers, their race are losers. For someone to hear this everyday must be wearing down. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, should we then spend all our money trying to feed/house them? Well, so far that kind of thinking hasn't worked out too well, this is the basic failure of socialism.

Unfortunately, I have no answers to the problems of poverty (or laziness, if you prefer). It seems to me that part of the problem is the way people perceive things, and that is very hard to change. There may be no solution, but strawman arguments aren't going to help anything.

Also, the comment you referred to said "give a damn about anything anymore than making money", which you took as an attack on making money. It isn't, that I can see. It is a statement that when focused solely on making money, then other things will be missed. Making money and then enduring the collapse of the society that money is invested in would suck, wouldn't it?

[ Parent ]

Of course not.. (1.66 / 3) (#72)
by DemiGodez on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:54:33 AM EST

this book isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't want convincing..

Well of course not. I suggested it because I use to think that money was evil and that I owed something to other people until I read that book. There may be people like me who aren't aware of the book and would be interested in it.

And of course the book simplifies it. It's a philosophy book intended to illustrate a point, not a look at the realities of society.

I also don't make a distinction between attacking making money and attacking making money and ignoring everything else. I see that there is a distinction for you, so adjust my comments appropriately.

[ Parent ]

But sooner or later... (4.00 / 3) (#81)
by minusp on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 04:25:23 PM EST

... most everybody outgrows Rand. Sorta like getting too old for Pokemon....
Remember, regime change begins at home.
[ Parent ]
Thanks! (none / 0) (#101)
by error 404 on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 12:22:25 PM EST

For posting the ending. I tried to read A.S. a while ago, but I couldn't get past the first few thousand (well, it seemed like thousands, probably only 150 or so, really. And I read dictionaries for fun.) pages of "Wah! Daddy gave me a railroad and now I have to worry about what other people think!" whining.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
Not a new problem (4.80 / 10) (#38)
by sec on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:09:18 PM EST

"What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to.

"What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death.

"What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labour, no chance to get your fill of good food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.

"The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves in order to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing they are alienated from themselves, and exhaust themselves in their own service as though they were slaves of others.

This could well describe today's culture, couldn't it? However, it was written 2000 years ago, by Chuang Tzu. Just so you don't think that this is a new problem or anything. :)

Different culture, different time, same problem. For all the progress we've made in some areas in the past 2000 years, we've made bugger all in other areas.



[ Parent ]

Bah (2.87 / 39) (#10)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:38:31 PM EST

You lie. This was actually written by Jon Katz. It had to be. Here's a summary:

"I visited a big company. It wastes money and does stupid things. Life would be better if it gave up its offices to the homeless people outside, built a playground for some kids, and the employees all became homeless too. Corporations are evil. Whee."

I'm just not as impressed as some people, I suppose. Sure, the excesses of new firms with huge cash infusions are absurd. Who cares? Someone earned that money, and it is his to waste, if he's that foolish. Besides, having seen some other colo facilities, they're not all mismanaged, badly secured places with stupid receptionists and no customers. Having seen a lot of business districts, most of them just don't -have- homeless people. Having seen a lot of homeless people, most of them seem to "live" within a few blocks of a nearly empty shelter, but they won't go there, because they might be forced to stop drinking and panhandling.

Of course, it would be politically incorrect to write a story about the way panhandlers can often make more money than bartenders and waitresses, and how they often blow this on cigarettes, drugs, and booze. It would be considered tactless to point out that they avoid the excess of shelter beds that exist in order to maintain their nasty habits and avoid having to get a job. It would be inhumane to note that many of them will outright refuse to take help from someone who offers to buy them lunch instead of giving them 50 cents. How dare I?

Simple. I don't give a rats ass about tact. This is what IS, folks. This is real, and whether you like it or not is quite irrelevant. Most of the poor people in the US are anything but, and the ones that are really poor don't usually even try to take advantage of the opportunities they have to better themselves. We praise and pity them. On the other hand, companies hard at work trying to -earn- money are vilified, and people write crap like this, picking out what must be the worst in the whole country(or just making up details; who knows?)


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

the homeless should power our servers... (2.52 / 21) (#14)
by planders on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 02:11:20 PM EST

We should incinerate the bodies of the homeless and use their otherwise unproductive energy to power our homes, businesses, and dot-com server farms. But that's purely a scientific, rational perspective. I don't want to get into the nearly endless costs of gathering all these homeless and transporting them to the incineration centers because that's purely a social cost and would be a lot lower anyway if people would just be sensible (and/or not become homeless in the first place.) What's more, any non-combustible leftover parts can be recycled into padding material for shipping computer parts.

[ Parent ]
let trhurler shoot 'em (2.35 / 14) (#21)
by speek on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:31:59 PM EST

It'd be much cheaper, and wouldn't smell as bad.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Morbid (2.00 / 14) (#22)
by XScott on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:47:26 PM EST

It wouldn't smell as bad initially, but wait a week or so. Then there is the problem of where you store the remains.

(there goes any chance I might have had at getting an after life...)



-- Of course I think I'm right. If I thought I was wrong, I'd change my mind.
[ Parent ]
With the proper filtration... (2.00 / 13) (#32)
by beergut on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:13:16 PM EST

... we could clean up the smell. Say, using a tightly-packed charcoal fillter to get rid of nasty impurities in the smoke produced. Heck, we might even be able to recover useful stuff from the remains, like Bucky-balls and Nano-tubes!

Hell... this is sounding like a better idea all the time.

Now, where's my gun and my blowtorch? Got me a neighborhood to clean up.

--BeerGut.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Re: the homeless should power our servers... (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by Potsy on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 01:09:33 AM EST

Who let Johnathan Swift on to K5?

[ Parent ]
maybe another read? (4.57 / 14) (#17)
by rusty on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:04:05 PM EST

I think you completely misread the article, because my take on it was totally the opposite of yours. In fact, I loved it because for once it did *not* fall victim to the easy way out, of brainlessly advocating that one thing is wrong and another thing raight, and that we should give all of our money to the homeless.

I thought the article was an impressive balancing act. Simpson could have just written yet another "scathing" indictment of the digital economy. What he did instead was paint a portrait of one event in one place at one time. He reports his observations, and does very little, IMO, to attempt to draw you to a particular conclusion. The economic divide in present day America, not to even mention the rest of the world, where it is mostly worse, is an question without an easy answer, unless you're simply willing to throw up your hands in defeat. Should anything be done? If so, by who? And what?

But you seemed somehow to read it as the same old Katzian blather. I'm disappointed, since the reason I went to the effort of posting it here was that I thought it was a shining example of the same kind of topic, treated without the knee-jerk rhetoric. It made me think, and it didn't provide me with a warm fuzzy impractical solution that I could hide my uneasiness behind.

"How odd this is," I thought to myself as a man walked up and asked for change.

"Not now," thinks I, "can't you see, I'm contemplating modern art!"

Does this sound like a bleeding heart to you? And later...
I couldn't help but think as I left the building, past a woman huddled under the shelter of the ATM machine, past the homeless-made tent, past the garbage-filled cylinders dutifully keeping the homeless cold, that maybe some of those millions would have been better spent on a "homeless co-location facility." Maybe some of that expensive real-estate filled with empty black lockers ought to be filled with apartments. Maybe there's paradoxically such a thing as too much capital and not enough cash. Maybe there's something sick about a society that chooses brushed stainless steel logos and $3000 LCD monitors over keeping everyone warm and healthy. But fortunately those thoughts passed quickly, and I went home to surf the net.
Maybe there is a problem here? But how many of us haven't gone through this exact thought process. "Gee, it must suck to be homeless. Maybe someone should do something for them. Wonder what's on K5 today?"

And finally, I think this sums up the real question better than any other bit:

At least Rockefeller's generation built lasting structures as testaments to their obscene wealth and loose cash, this generation of entrepreneurs just buys fancy office furniture and toys, destined to be returned and resold from discount office furniture stores.
We, as one of the wealthiest generations in history, have done jack to help anyone but ourselves. Why? Are we paralyzed by the kinds of feelings you have when confronted with the enormity of suffering? That there's just nothing you can do, and it's always been that way, and we might as well buy another Aibo? We are the people who have already changed the world once, or possibly more than once depending on whose interpretation you believe. Who better than us to try to solve problems that are traditionally considered unsolvable? But it won't happen if we continue to turn a blind eye and pretend that there's just nothing we can do.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Wow (3.08 / 12) (#25)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:01:25 PM EST

I'll admit to being more impressed by this reply than by anything else I've read here. You're right; there is something to it. The reason I didn't see it is that I'm really quite burned out on the topic. However, I will say that I think the answer to this issue is quite simple; we need to get rid of the idea that the government can solve problems and make people firmly aware of the fact that if you don't get an education, fit in to the degree necessary(ie, you probably can't wear dreadlocks in a corporate office, but you might get away with a small nose ring, depending on where you're at:) and make yourself a useful asset to someone who can pay you, your only hope of ever amounting to anything is to do it yourself, and that's a lot harder than anyone realizes who has not tried it.

In other words, I think the entitlement culture is a self-propagating nightmare that will make things worse no matter what we do, unless we end it. The notion that the world, or your neighbor, or whomever else owes you something just because you're there has to end. Otherwise, the day -will- come when almost everyone lives in crushing poverty.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I agree with most of that (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by rusty on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 08:45:41 PM EST

In other words, I think the entitlement culture is a self-propagating nightmare that will make things worse no matter what we do, unless we end it.

I'm right with you there. If I *had* to come up with something to try, I'd say that the really important thing is that kids be given an equal chance. Meaning if we're going to spend federal bucks trying to solve social inequality, the point at which they should be applied is equalizing the playing field in primary school and high school.

I don't have a college degree. I make good money, because I am smart and have learned a lot on my own. I did go to college though, and private high school, so while I made myself what I am, it wasn't without a significant boost from my parents and upbringing and childhood environment, which taught me how to use the system, and get along well and support myself in the future.

But what if your parents are absent, or stone-broke? They can't help you. What if you start life in the inner city, or out in the middle of nowhere, both places that tend to have bad schools. You have no starting point, and you're losing the race from day one. By the time you're 25, you can take care of yourself, or not, IMO. But when you're 5, or 15, that's the time when the government should be looking out for those of us who don't have anywhere else to turn.

That's just my theory though. God knows the public education system hasn't gotten us anywhere, and that was supposed to solve this problem. So, I'll take one can of worms and hand you this other one labeled "Broken US Education Policy". Enjoy. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Game, set, match! (2.50 / 2) (#51)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 09:22:03 PM EST

Hammer, nail, head! Hmmm, can I think of any more? I think you're right on the money. You do realize, however, that your new home state has implemented a program that gives the lion's share of funding to the top performing schools? Nice little vicious circle we're starting there...

Lemme ask you something. You appear to think well of your schooling. What things did you learn there that allowed you to get to where you are today? I know it's tough for you to try to say what others may not be getting that might be keeping them back, but in your opinion, what did you get that helped you get ahead?

[ Parent ]

Everyone wants to be like America ... (2.00 / 1) (#56)
by jcocks on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:44:38 PM EST

You do realize, however, that your new home state has implemented a program that gives the lion's share of funding to the top performing schools? Nice little vicious circle we're starting there...

You think that's bad? Here in Oz, our government is implementing a similar policy of assigning funds to schools based on the wealth of the surrounding households!

He thinks it will "widen the range of choices available to parents for their childrens' schooling"... My arse it will! It will more likely lead to rich private schools and poor public schools.

It's insanity... But our ruling party (the liberals) are corporate lackeys, so it's to be expected.

Ever notice how God speaketh with a southern drawl? <grin> Everyone wants to be like America, but Education is an area where we should be as unlike America as we can possibly be. So is healthcare, but try telling that to Howard and his underlings. Before too long, we'll be virtually indistinguishable from America, save for our underpowered cash-starved defence-force and our attitude towards life as a people...

[ Parent ]

You've got it exactly right (2.00 / 1) (#84)
by magney on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:50:29 PM EST

Public schools in the US are funded by property taxes. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the money seems to be allocated according to school district (the school in a given district gets the property tax monies from the homes in its district). This has, as you noted, the effect of rich schools in rich areas and poor schools in poor areas. And I personally suspect it's an important factor in the persistence of our rich/poor divide.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Re: You've got it exactly right (2.00 / 1) (#86)
by sec on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 07:18:31 PM EST

I'm not so sure about that. As with all things, the correlation between what you pay and what you get is not as strong as some people would like you to believe. :)



[ Parent ]

what I learned in school... (4.66 / 6) (#61)
by rusty on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 02:14:15 AM EST

  1. That it doesn't matter what other people think of you. Or rather, that it only matters when they know what they're talking about. If you just meet someone and they tell you you're stupid, well, screw 'em. If they've known you for six years, and taught half your classes, and they *still* think you're stupid, *then* you might have a problem.
  2. That there are no absolute rules, only guidelines with greater or lesser degrees of enforcement. [NOTE: Most people *never* learn this]
  3. That thinking for yourself is more important than anything else, even (especially?) when you reach the wrong answer over and over. Or, best case, when you reach the right answer that no one else thought of. Anecdotal digression: In physics class, senior year in high school, we had a Newton's Laws test. One problem was the standard one involving a guy on a cliff shooting a cannonball at a guy down at the bottom of the cliff. Part 1: Given X initial angle and Y initial velocity, does the cannonball hit the guy down below? The answer was no, it falls three meters short. Part 2: How would you adjust it so as to hit the guy below? This one was looking for me to change the angle and velocity, but the hell with that. I thought for a minute, and wrote: "Move the guy at the bottom of the cliff three meters closer." My physics teacher marked it: "Correct. I hate you." That's the kind of thing that in your standard American public school would have been marked wrong without a second thought. But it is a correct answer. And he didn't really hate me. :-)
Those are really the biggies that leap to mind. I think anyone who learns these three things early on will do pretty well. Especially number two.

The common thread between all three is that you can't make judgements without knowlege. You can't teach someone without knowing who they are. My school had 250 students, grades 7 through 12. My graduating class was 24, the largest they'd ever graduated. I honestly think that that is the biggest any school should be. The teachers and administrators knew us, very personally. We were not able to hide behind the anonymity of being just another of the 4,000 faces in the halls. We had to take responsibility for what we did, and they had to take into account who we were, not just try to fill us up with facts for some standardized test.

The drawback to all this, of course, was that college sucked. Compared to high school, I was just another number at college. And I had virtually none of the preparation for the sheer drudgery that most learning institutions feel you need to go through, because drudgery was really not part of my primary schooling. I love to think, and college gave me little sanctioned opportunity for that. Even when I got professors who liked to challenge me, most of the other students were just there to punch the ticket and move on the the next class, the degree, and the comfy job. And they were supposedly some of the brightest kids in the country. They were smart, but they had never been forced to think for themselves, and defend their ideas. Their brains were flabby.

Schooling isn't all of it, though. I'm white, upper middle class, from blueblood New England. I have cultural capital that you can't buy or learn. I don't know how much that matters now, if at all. But I have a strong suspicion it does still matter, even if we all pretend otherwise. I don't think there's anything the government can do about that. But my two education reform mantras are:

Smaller Schools: Not just smaller classes. Smaller schools. No "school districts", no centralized authority, no education bureaucrats sitting on their asses in some office park running the schools. A school should have at most 3 layers of management: teachers, department heads (who should also be teachers), and a principal. All located in one building and not beholden to any outside authority to do their job. Any more than that is wasteful and harmful.

No standardized tests: Standardized tests are like TRUST-e certificates. In the guise of being objective, they are actively harmful. They make you think you know something concrete about your child, when in fact they tell you nothing. Provided with a convenient number, we all complacently act like it's the truth, when in fact I might as well pick standardized test scores out of a hat for all the truth they reflect. The only person who can tell you how well your child is doing is their teacher. That's it. There are no metrics for learning, there are no accurate numbers, or aggregate statistical indicators. There is only a parent and a teacher, talking to each other. It's too bad the government can't tie that to funding levels, but since when did the education system become a sweatshop where children are set to work earning funding for test scores? That would be the legacy of the Clinton administration. Thanks, Bill.

Er, ok. I haven't had a good education rant in a while. Feeling ranty tonight I guess. Anyway, there's my two-step plan for saving the world. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Education, public and otherwise. (4.40 / 5) (#68)
by Alarmist on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:04:08 AM EST

That there are no absolute rules, only guidelines with greater or lesser degrees of enforcement. [NOTE: Most people *never* learn this]

I might disagree with you on one or two points, but I agree that this is a very important lesson to learn, because it opens the door to what I think the single most important realization about ethics that anyone can make:

It is your responsibility to decide what is right and try to live by that.

Ultimately, whether you assign the decision about what is right/wrong to a higher power (or -ers), the laws of the land, philosophers or scientists or what your mother told you to do, you are the one who made that decision. And once you realize that you made the decision, then you also realize that you are capable of self-determination. You have the power to choose what you believe is right; you can either agree with somebody else, or you can set out on your own.

I don't think most people ever realize this. Some people actually lash out against it and say, "If you don't believe X" (where X can be a religious, philosophical, legal, or other teaching) "then you're lawless! What's to stop you from raping and killing innocent people?" The answer, of course, is that you are the one who stops you from doing wicked things to people. This is a greater level of personal responsibility than a lot of people can handle, and it's not always easy, but it is always worth it.

Gah. I've gone far afield on this. Time to bring it back home some:

Not just smaller classes. Smaller schools. No "school districts", no centralized authority, no education bureaucrats sitting on their asses in some office park running the schools.

If it were possible to agree with any sentiment 1250%, I would do so with yours. Education is a vital part of making human beings into sociable, civilized, intelligent creatures. It is a task that should be approached with a great deal of care and attention to the outcome. Unfortunately, in the United States at least, this doesn't seem to be the goal. There, the goal is to create mind-numbed consumers who are incapable of making critical judgments or thinking for themselves.

Smaller schools mean that each teacher has the chance to concentrate on the needs of individual students, rather than shoving material at them and hoping that enough sticks for them to pass the class. No education bureaucrats (many of whom have probably not seen the inside of a classroom for a decade at least) means that we won't have any fat-bottomed louts making idiotic decisions about matters of the utmost gravity. I was initially leery of no centralized authority, but I realized then that it should be that way: parents should (and in an ideal world, would) be much more involved in the teaching of their children, to the point that a school meeting with parents present would be enough to decide policy for that school. The hard part is making sure that everybody learns enough of the same things such that nobody is disadvantaged when it comes time to get into college or go to work. That's the only place that a centralized authority can help, and too often it drops the ball. And why would we need school districts if each school is run by the surrounding neighborhood?

Lots to think about. Education reform is a big issue for me, and since I fear it won't happen in my lifetime, I guess it means that I'll have to find some reasonable way to educate my hypothetical children. (Probably a combination of home-schooling and regular school, with the understanding that I'll be spending a lot of time after school with them discussing what they were taught and the merits of those ideas.)

They make you think you know something concrete about your child, when in fact they tell you nothing.

They might tell you something if every educational system was identical. As it was, I was scored once (I think I was in the 9th grade) as having a "post-college" reading level (they figured somewhere around grad. school). Now, I know full well that I'm a bright guy and can read the hell out of things, but in the 9th grade? Sheesh. What do they base an assessment like that on? Vocabulary? I might be able to understand grad. school vocabulary, but I doubt I'd understand the concepts presented.

Education is not just about teaching. Education is about learning.

Fight the Power.


[ Parent ]

The point of education (3.33 / 3) (#70)
by spiralx on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:36:23 AM EST

Education is not just about teaching. Education is about learning.

The trouble with education is that we are, at least in my experiance, taught nothing more than a set of facts, with very little in the way of background information or concepts. This is a rediculous way to go about it for a simple reason.

We don't think that way. We think in terms of connections between things, not by considering everything on it's own. If you're asked to desribe something, what do you do? You don't start describing it's physical properties, you compare and contrast it with some other object the person is familiar with. It's a hell of a lot easier to learn things when they're part of a consistent framework.

As part of this, I think that the history and development of various subjects is sorely lacking in education. You don't get taught any of the background behind how various developments and ideas came about, leaving each concept in a vacuum. The histories of subjects are usually fascinating and educational, but they seem to have no place in modern education.

I did a degree in theoretical physics at university, but I hated physics at school because it was boring, mundane and left out any sense of unifying structure. But I read a lot of popular science and saw that it was interesting and it could make sense, so I thought fuck it, and did the degree.

That was better, but there were still times when you'd be presented with a load of stuff without any clue as to why it was so. I did an entire course on general relativity, learnt all the equations and maths, and did well on the test. But did I understand it? Not really. It was just a load of maths. But the next term I did another course on it with another lecturer, who basically sat us there and explained general relativity from first principles. It was really obvious when the underlying ideas were explained, and the stuff I'd done made sense. And it was interesting, something else which schools don't seem to provide.

Gah. Now I've gotten all riled up :) What education really needs is to teach us how to think and how to learn. You can't learn everything in school, but if you know how to pick things up, then it doesn't matter, because you can always pick new things up easily at a later date. An essential skill in today's job market.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Education and its discontents. (3.50 / 4) (#77)
by Alarmist on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:34:52 PM EST

The trouble with education is that we are, at least in my experiance, taught nothing more than a set of facts, with very little in the way of background information or concepts. This is a rediculous way to go about it for a simple reason.

Veritas. It's easy to say, "In 1492, Columbus discovered the New World." It's harder to say that he was looking for a short way to get to China, that he deliberately falsified his figures to make the feat seem possible, that the University of Salamanca rightly said that his claims were bullshit, and that nobody had to hock any jewels to get him there: they spent about as much on that trip as they'd have spent on a couple of state dinners, and that in the long run, his trip was bad for Spain because it caused the collapse of their economy by introducing too much gold.

It is pointless to teach someone that grass is green if you never explain why. And as everyone who's ever dealt with a four year old knows, trying to answer "why?" is one of the hardest things you can do, because eventually you run into a point where you just have to say, "I don't know."

As part of this, I think that the history and development of various subjects is sorely lacking in education. You don't get taught any of the background behind how various developments and ideas came about, leaving each concept in a vacuum. The histories of subjects are usually fascinating and educational, but they seem to have no place in modern education.

Indeed. Case in point: commercial use of radioactivity. In the early 1950s, some lunatic of an entrepreneur came up with a radioactive golf ball. The idea was that you could find your ball with a geiger counter. Vaguely around the same time, some other nut came up with radioactive bags of sand; the energy was supposed to relieve aches and pains and treat arthritis, among other things. Also about then, somebody else thought it would be a neat idea to treat chronic sinus problems with a shot from a radioactive inhaler. Lesson learned: if any new technology is introduced with a sufficient coolness factor (in this case, atomic power because we'd just won a war with it), then you can bet that there will be a pack of numbskulls out there who don't understand it, but are willing to throw it into a bag and sell it to the uninitiated.

Gah. Now I've gotten all riled up :) What education really needs is to teach us how to think and how to learn. You can't learn everything in school, but if you know how to pick things up, then it doesn't matter, because you can always pick new things up easily at a later date. An essential skill in today's job market.

Very true. Now if we could only convince the school boards that this is what we need to be doing....

Fight the Power.


[ Parent ]

so true... (3.00 / 3) (#88)
by naasking on Sat Oct 21, 2000 at 01:36:50 PM EST

I'm currently in the Engineering program in Univ. and I'm startled by the number of people who have absolutely no clue what's going on. Essentially, this is their learning process:

Here's a problem I have to solve. Here's 15 formulae from class/the book. The answer should be like this. Use the first formula that should give you that answer. Move on to the next formula if that answer is wrong and keep doing this until you get the right answer. Memorize the fact that this formula give you the right answer to this problem.

There's absolutely no learning going on here. Most of my fellow students don't really care about learning the material; they just care about getting through. Whenever they're confronted with a new problem they have NO clue where to begin, what the problem means, or even what the context of the problems or the solutions are. Because they don't have any understanding of how things connect(and because they don't try and develop any understanding), they reduce the problem of passing from fully understanding the material, to memorizing which formulae solve which problems.

I fall into this trap too when I have to cram for tests, but in general I find that I have to do much less work and I end up understanding everything better if I actually put effort into finding connections in everything I'm learning. It's too bad that they don't teach THAT in schools.



[ Parent ]
Progress and cross-linking (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by Aquarius on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 05:41:13 AM EST

The trouble with education is that we are, at least in my experiance, taught nothing more than a set of facts, with very little in the way of background information or concepts. This is a rediculous way to go about it for a simple reason.

We don't think that way. We think in terms of connections between things, not by considering everything on it's own. If you're asked to desribe something, what do you do? You don't start describing it's physical properties, you compare and contrast it with some other object the person is familiar with. It's a hell of a lot easier to learn things when they're part of a consistent framework.

However, this isn't the whole truth. Extrapolating from what you already know and comparing new concepts to old ones, is a much easier way to think, but its inherently restrictive. While I hesitate to use a business buzzword, "out-of-the-box thinking" is what progress depends on. If you relate all new things to old things, or treat a new concept as a special or general case of an old one, then you'd never formulate a theory of radioactivity; you'd never build the theories of relativity; you'd never discover that F=ma. Some ideas are generally new, and can't be explained in terms of old concepts. Thomas Kuhn's theories of paradigm shifts explain that "exceptions" and "special cases" to the currently understood paradigm (collection of theories about how things are) build up and up, but something more is needed for a "paradigm shift". For instance, take the paradigm shift between Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. While there were exceptions and qualifications and hazy areas to Newton's laws, there was no shift until Einstein took a step outside the Newtonian framework. A paradigm shift pretty much always represents a step closer to the true nature of things, and trying hard to relate all new ideas to old ones maintains the paradigm.

Sometimes you have to consider a thing on its own, without context, because then you can understand it better; the context might be the wrong context. Take, for example, a blind man exploring an elephant. He has, as his context, a picture in his head of what an elephant looks like, and the fact that he's standing in front of it. So, he reaches out, and finds a long thin thing on the front of the elephant, which must be its trunk. However, he finds no mouth, and thus concludes that the elephant does not eat. Similarly, he finds no eyes, and thus concludes that the elephant is blind.

The truth, of course, is that the long thin thing was its tail, and he started at the back, not the front. That's what I mean about context misleading you. If the blind man had no preconceived idea of what an elephant was and where he stood in relation to it, then he might have got a more accurate idea of what it was like by exploring.

Aq.


"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
[ Parent ]
The more things change... (2.50 / 2) (#71)
by analog on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:46:30 AM EST

As it was, I was scored once (I think I was in the 9th grade) as having a "post-college" reading level (they figured somewhere around grad. school). Now, I know full well that I'm a bright guy and can read the hell out of things, but in the 9th grade?

Good comments all the way through, but I had to respond to this one. I had an almost identical experience, although it was eighth grade and the test only measured to the third year of college (I aced it, though). After graduating high school and working odd jobs for a couple of years, I joined the military. I got tested for reading level again there, and aced that particular test as well (it tested through the four year college level). I actually had my shop chief pull me aside one day and comment on it.

When it happened in school, I didn't question it much; like Rusty, I've never trusted standardized tests, so I pretty much ignored it. This time, however, I asked some questions. It turns out that the mythical "average American" adult has an eighth grade reading level (by what standard I have no idea). When you got tested, you probably got measured by this same standard; given that, it begins (at least to me) to make sense that a ninth grader could score that highly if he/she has something on the ball.

How it's determined what constitutes an eighth grade reading level (especially considering it's apparently where most high school graduates sit) or how any of these levels are set I don't know, but it would be interesting to find out. However, whether it's a kink in the testing or people really can't read worth a damn, something is obviously very broken.

[ Parent ]

Reading Levels. (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by Alarmist on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:14:10 PM EST

However, whether it's a kink in the testing or people really can't read worth a damn, something is obviously very broken.

I'm of the opinion it's the latter: most people can't read worth a damn. They can read, but they don't like to and they're not very good at it. This, in my mind, is functional illiteracy.

A lot of people are taught to associate reading with boring material that they have to slog through to get the grade. We can thank our educational system for this, largely in the way it tests our knowledge of texts and in many cases the texts themselves. I was lucky enough to develop a love of reading as soon as I could do it (derned if I know why; later on it was because the stuff that I was reading and thinking about was a lot more fascinating than what was going on around me), and I desperately hope to be able to pass that along to my hypothetical children.

Today's people, though, are different. For entertainment, they're more likely to look at the TV or surf a website than they are to read a book. Though the web has a lot of reading content, not much of it is pitched to people who can't handle newspapers. TV doesn't require the same sort of processing power that reading does; you actually see the characters and hear the dialogue; when you're reading, you have to fill that stuff in, and that's work for people who hate doing it or don't do it well.

Fight the Power.


[ Parent ]

Damn, Rusty... (3.50 / 2) (#75)
by analog on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:22:22 PM EST

my graduating class was as big as your entire school.

It's interesting; of the three things in your list, I'd have thought #3 would be the biggie. I was curious how your experience was different from mine (and it appears it was a lot more different than I would have thought), but I was also asking from the standpoint of a parent who has children in what is supposed to be an outstanding public school (a "California Distinguished School", woohoo!) that's mostly outstanding at fundraising.

My son is something of a math whiz; in second grade he had a teacher who liked to find her students' limits, and by the time he finished that year he was acing tests given to fourth graders about the middle of the year. He's in fourth grade now; he's still doing the same math (in school, anyway; he gets more at home).

Having asked about alternatives so he didn't spend two years spinning his wheels, I found that there weren't any. Of the reasons why the school doesn't want to let someone who is good at a particular subject move ahead in it, exactly zero have anything to do with academics. It mostly comes down to "we don't have the resources to deal with that" (this from a school where every classroom, even Kindergarten, has 'net connections and multiple computers) or "it promotes elitism". This last is particularly ironic, as I live in an area where elitism is practically a way of life; however, it appears that it's only okay when it's economically based, not intellectually.

My wife has started pushing the idea of private school (she went to one for much of her primary/high schooling), but I've been resistant; I'm much more a "fix the public schools, don't abandon them" kinda guy. I may rethink that position, though; I'm not sure the public system is capable of changing in time to benefit my kids even if it wanted to.

I'm also fascinated by your "cultural capital" remark. Accepting that it has mattered at some point even if it doesn't now, how much of that is internal vs. external? IOW, has it been more important to you in the way you react to the world, or in the way the world reacts to you?

[ Parent ]

cultural capital (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by rusty on Sun Oct 22, 2000 at 05:10:12 AM EST

my graduating class was as big as your entire school.

I was reminded by my mother this weekend that my school was 150 kids, not 250. So your class was almost twice as big. Anyway, I could go on and on about education policy and all the ways public ed is broken, but I don't have the energy at the moment. Look into private schools -- at least consider the option. Public schools won't change in time for you, I can almost guarantee it.

About cultural capital, that's a tricky thing to nail down. It's a concept that I picked up somewhere buried in the otherwise standard Marxist cultural studies curriculum, that's really influenced how I think about group perceptions.

How much has my cultural capital mattered? Probably quite a bit. It's easy for me to get a well-paying job, because I can talk to people who can afford to pay well without making them uncomfortable. How would I be doing in life if my standard job interview "why should you hire me" spiel went like:

"Yo, shit, muthafucka, I be slangin the perl all over this here beeyatch! I be kickin some crazy ass web shit, damn right."
Probably not so well. On the other hand, if I were forging a life as a hip-hop artist, I bet I'd be knocking on doors till my fingers bled if I said to record company execs:
"My rhymes are quite exquisite, yet have a somewhat etherial interplay with the rhythm of the drum track. When I rap, I feel that I'm best able to capture the insouciance, if you will, of the modern urban youth, yet still tip my metaphorical cap to the rappers of yesteryear, who I consider to be my technical forebears."
Its a matter of fitting in to the situation at hand. I could learn how to be ghetto fabulous, just liek a kid from the streets of South Central could learn to run a software company. *But* it would be much harder, in both cases, than if we stayed where society expects us to stay.

So partly, cultural capital is an external expression, that can be managed by the individual. I deliberately do this, to some extent. I dress nondescriptly, in an effort to prevent people from immediately and easily classifying me as a member of some particular group. About 75% of my wardrobe is jeans and a charcoal sweater. They're nice jeans, and it's a well made sweater, so the overall effect is kind of hard to pin to any easy group. I look too old and well dressed to be a college kid, but too young to be an exec. Too sloppy for a yuppie, but not quite sloppy enough to be a hacker. Most people around here guess programmer pretty quick, but I think that has more to do with my not being too outgoing in company, and with the general assumption that everyone is in computers unless proven otherwise. No one guessed programmer in DC.

But, try as I might, I'm still bound to the other side of the cultural capital equation. Capital, or money, is only good if they agree on it's value where you try to spend it. So it's always a transaction between my presentation and the outside world's perception. In my example above, even if my money looks real in the rap world, there's always going to be a mismatch between my presentation and what's expected. If nothing else, skin color alone will do it. Read "Black Like Me" for probably the canonical experiment in applied cultural microeconomics of this sort.

But don't get the idea that it's just race. It's much more than that, and much more specific. Race is just culture's whore -- it's still married to economics. I do believe that economic class has a much stronger effect on cultural capital than just race. "Them that has, gets" is the saying, and it's because "Them that has, gives" and who are they going to give it to, except others like them?

So, if I may close with some wild-ass assertions that seem plausible at the moment but might be complete bullshit. Cultural capital, and a sort of broader concept of the cultural economy, translates to the assertion that humans are still pack animals, and we look out for our own. It'd probably be simpler if we just all pissed on trees, but our signals are a lot more complicated and subtle than that. So much so that we rarely notice them at all, consciously. Who knows, perhaps dogs don't consciously notice other dogs scents either, but stay out of each others territories cause it makes them feel wierd.

Point is, when I say "cultural capital", I mean all the little signs we give off that indicate that we belong to a particular pack. If my pack has more money than other packs, or more status, chances are I'll get some of the benefit of that, without even trying. It's an interplay, in the same way that money only means anything when it gets circulated. So, to finally try to address your actual question, I don't think you can really separate the two. Me reacting to the world, and it reacting to me are too tightly entwined to be meaningful separately.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Responsibility (3.50 / 6) (#76)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:28:32 PM EST

But what if your parents are absent, or stone-broke?
I have friends who were in this boat when they were younger. It isn't fun, to be sure, but they quickly split into two groups.

The first group worked their asses off, did what they had to do, and seldom complained about it. These were 12 year olds with the responsibilities of 25 year olds, and they just did it. I was amazed at the time, but looking back, it doesn't seem so unreasonable; I wasn't so different at 12 than I am now, except that I hadn't yet figured out that all the adults telling me I didn't know what I was doing were full of shit.

The second group didn't do jack. They whined, they complained, they said someone ought to do something, but of -course- it couldn't be them to do it, because that would require actual, sustained -work.- At the time, I thought this was the "normal" reaction of someone that age to that kind of problem, but you know what? It is no different from the same reaction out of a 30 year old, which you see all too often.

The point is, if we quit teaching kids that they're helpless fools who can't do anything, and if we teach them that they are responsible for themselves, they'll prosper. Yes, this means letting them take some risks, and they might get burned a few times - we all have been. A few will have tragic accidents - so do we. A few will excel beyond all reasonable expectations, too. Life is risk; treating kids like pets will not change that, but it does result in kids who can't take care of themselves. I'm not saying you shouldn't tell kids about the dangers of something, but tell them the way you'd tell your neighbor - not the way you'd talk to a baby. They aren't stupid, and they don't need to be treated like inmates in a prison(aka, like kids in a public school.)

A neat side effect is that kids who are allowed to take responsibility for themselves tend to figure out pretty quickly that wasting their lives is not a reasonable option. They no longer have someone else to pull their asses out, and as soon as they become truly convinced of that, they become much more industrious - just like the rest of us. No, they won't all be stellar performers in classes, but the -vast- majority will get that diploma and move on. Now, I personally think the public school system can't do this in general; it is too tied to legal issues like liability, which it cannot disclaim, and far too closely tied to the NEA, which thinks kids are helpless and dangerous. That leaves private schools, but they do cost money. I'm not sure what to do about that, but I'm willing to bet that an answer can be found in large trust funds that reinvest heavily(the same basic way that, say, Duke University pays for most of its upkeep, half of its students' tuition, and so on.) I think those of us who earn enough money to support such a thing should do so, not out of obligation, but out of self-interest.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You've been tainted (3.70 / 10) (#18)
by Wah on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:08:13 PM EST

I think this was better than most Katz, mainly because it didn't draw the conclusions. You did.

"How heartless," I mused to myself as I heartlessly ignored another solicitation for change. Heartless, yes, but a thermodynamic imperative no doubt.

And from the intro...

I recently toured one of the "server farms" located there, one of the data pumps that drive the net. I found a surreal world...

I just didn't catch as much of the judgemental moral leaning that K putz in his stuff. Just interesting observations. Your argument for the homeless and a shelter are great, but what about the arguments for the workers in the company to use *old* 300 mhz mhz, and *gasp* CRTs? I think that is really what makes this good, or at least interesting. Presented in a way that left the judgement up to you, the reader. Because he, the author, is just as guilty. But fortunately those thoughts passed quickly, and I went home to surf the net. Observations, not judgements.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Homelessness (3.33 / 6) (#23)
by gorak on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 04:38:21 PM EST

Boy, you sure seem to know a lot about the life of a homeless person.

Consider this: in your country, your government wins votes by claiming that those people unable to work (through sudden destruction of an industry, mental illness, physical disability, substance dependency, or one of a hundred other reasons) are to blame for their condition. That they are lazy. That they, effectively, choose their lifestyle.

And here you are, proudly parrotting that party line.

Did it ever occur to you that the homeless don't occupy the provided shelters because they're already full? Because there's no profit to be made in providing shelter for the homeless, that it has to be borne on the backs of charity (slim pickings at the best of times), and that the available space is used in rotation because they simply cannot house all of the needy all of the time.

I pity you. I pity the lack of awareness you have of the world around you, and I pity those who come into contact with your views and opinions and are swayed by them.

What you need, my friend, is a few weeks on the streets. Enough to get you filthy and smelly, in a city where you don't know anyone, and can't go to your dotcom friends for a sinecure to lift you out of your misery.

You need a hard, sharp smack of reality.


I can feel my mind going, Dave...
[ Parent ]

I've seen what I've seen, man... (2.71 / 7) (#27)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:19:54 PM EST

Boy, you sure seem to know a lot about the life of a homeless person.
Seeing as I know a few homeless people, I ought to know more about it than most people. Especially most people who don't even live in my country. I actually know two at the moment. They're both nice guys, they both have lots of problems, and to be honest, I empathize. However, I do not empathize with their attitudes; rather than try to move up in the world and solve their problems, they prefer to live semi-scavenger lives; they scrape together enough money to buy cigarettes, beer, and maybe a cheap meal, and they "party." People offer to help them out, and in one case, a guy was basically offered a new life if he'd clean up his act, get some education, and get a job that can support him. He turned it down, not because he felt guilty about accepting, but because he likes his life better than the idea of risking the unknown.
Consider this: in your country, your government wins votes by claiming that those people unable to work (through sudden destruction of an industry, mental illness, physical disability, substance dependency, or one of a hundred other reasons) are to blame for their condition. That they are lazy. That they, effectively, choose their lifestyle.
They have created an entitlement culture that rewards acting like a victim - acting helpless. This is precisely the opposite of what you claim.

Did it ever occur to you that the homeless don't occupy the provided shelters because they're already full?
I've been to those shelters. They aren't full. A few are sometimes, but usually they have between 20-50% empty beds. Some of this is because of truly unfortunate and blameless causes such as shame, but some of it is because most shelters require you to clean up your act and try to put your life together, and a lot of people don't want to put in the effort or give up their habits. Now, it may be that in some places, there are shortages of shelter beds - I can only speak from the experience I have - but here, homeless people on the streets have a choice.

By the way, there is no sizable English speaking city on the planet where I couldn't get a job, even not knowing anyone. I have this asset called "skills" which I "earned" and which businesses "need" and are willing to "pay" for.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
pfft (4.66 / 6) (#30)
by Simian on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:55:54 PM EST

Hmm. You chose not to reply to the well-written post with the statistics that refute your 'tude. It's obvious you've already made up your mind about the whole issue, knowing the...what was it? two? homeless people who 'party'. So I shouldn't bother.

But today I'm a sucker, and because my s.o. is the person in charge of finding homeless people housing for a county with a little over three hundred thousand people in it, I actually know something about this issue.

The shelter is *always* full. They kick people out after a month if they haven't found housing. Have you ever had to find housing in a month, being a single mother working a six dollar an hour job (if you're lucky enough to know someone to watch your kid)? It doesn't always happen.

She also sees directly how much harder it is to get housing if you're black. It's that simple. Oh! but racism doesn't exist anymore. That's right, I almost forgot.

I don't know what U.S o' A. you're living in, but for the last *twenty years* this so-called 'culture of entitlement' has been a fiction. Besides the fact that straight-up welfare is a pittance compared to what we spend subsidizing corporate advertising overseas, I don't know how you could have possibly missed the fact that 'welfare reform' is not the exception, but the rule. Reagan? Bush? Clinton? And Clinton was the worst of them! Excuse me?

On that note, since I live in Wisconsin (home of Tommy Thompson, pioneer of W-2 'Workfare') I can tell you that aforementioned 'welfare reform' is the direct cause of a lot of the homelessness in Wisconsin. Just imagine that previous scenario I mentioned, except now you can't find someone to watch your kids. Yer screwed. With a bit o'welfare, people used to be able to get the childcare to work a job. Oh well. Natural selection, right?

If I had to guess, on the basis of my considerably more relevant experience than yours, I'd say that perhaps ten percent, at most, of homelessness is directly due to serious drug addiction or as you put it 'choice'. The rest is just regular people caught in a bad situation. You will see what you want to see, but nobody really chooses to live on the streets without being seriously addicted to crack or heroin.

You've recieved more 'welfare' already, I'm willing to hazard, than most homeless ever will.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
Or maybe... (2.50 / 6) (#31)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:11:10 PM EST

You chose not to reply to the well-written post with the statistics that refute your 'tude
At the time that I wrote last, it had not been posted. However, it contains no real citations; for all anyone knows, the author made up a bunch of numbers or quoted them from Al Gore, the notorious liar. If someone posts a link to a study, or even an ISBN number or something, that's useful. If all we get is "some study said that blah blah," well hey, I can make up bullshit too, and even if there was a study, without knowing who did it, who funded it, what methodology it used, and how it defined terms, the numbers are -meaningless.-
The shelter is *always* full.
There are several such shelters within ten miles of my apartment; if there is only one in a county of 300,000, that's pretty odd. Is this near a city, or is it small towns? That might be the difference; I'm in an area with about 3,000,000 people.
Besides the fact that straight-up welfare is a pittance compared to what we spend subsidizing corporate advertising overseas,
If it is any comfort to you, I don't support government subsidies for anything, whether corporate or individual. If wanting to keep what I earn and choose my own charities is hateful, then at least I'm an equal opportunity hatemonger.
You've recieved more 'welfare' already, I'm willing to hazard, than most homeless ever will.
A nice theory, but a wrong one. The only government money I ever had was a loan, and that only because my parents couldn't save enough money to put me through college while paying nearly half their income to Uncle Sam. A significant part of that loan is already paid back, and the interest they're charging, while lower than some rates, is high enough to make me a REALLY good investment. Better than government bonds. Better than some mutual funds. Frankly, between paying that and paying my taxes, I've already(less than two years out of school) indebted "society" to me, rather than the other way around. By the time I retire, that debt will be well into the millions of dollars.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Citations? (2.20 / 5) (#34)
by sec on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:38:21 PM EST

At the time that I wrote last, it had not been posted. However, it contains no real citations; for all anyone knows, the author made up a bunch of numbers or quoted them from Al Gore, the notorious liar. If someone posts a link to a study, or even an ISBN number or something, that's useful. If all we get is "some study said that blah blah," well hey, I can make up bullshit too, and even if there was a study, without knowing who did it, who funded it, what methodology it used, and how it defined terms, the numbers are -meaningless.-

Looking at your initial post, I see a lot of claims without any citations as well. Do you actually have some references to back up your assertions, or are you just being sanctimonious?



[ Parent ]

Citations (3.33 / 6) (#41)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:24:07 PM EST

I admitted in several places that most of my comments stem from (rather extensive) personal experience in a metropolitan area, both city and suburbs. Contrary to common reaction here, I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I have not lived my whole life in some country-club paradise. I've seen studies that show severe underutilization of shelters for various reasons, some genuine problems, others ridiculous, but I don't ask you to accept that, because I readily admit that I don't have them handy. I -will- say that some (not all, so nobody needs to feel like ha has to defend himself:) of the comments about how I just don't understand poverty sound like they come from people who get off on how "progressive" they are and how much pity they feel even though they themselves have never even seen a bad neighborhood and would be afraid to enter one. Well, folks, I've been there. I have lots of friends who live there. I've been there. I've helped friends. I've seen people in the streets begging for money, and turning me down because I offered them a meal instead. I've seen kids whose parents didn't want them in their houses, out in the streets causing trouble. And you know what? I've only seen anything resembling true suffering in places where the government made it worse than it otherwise would have been.

Consider:

The government artificially lowers housing prices. Half the incoming tenants are people hard on their luck. The other half are prostitutes, drug dealers, and other small-time criminals. The neighborhood goes to hell. Anyone reputable who can leave, does leave. This isn't just white people; blacks leave too. Soon, half the neighborhood is empty and the other half is either extremely poor or else criminals. Violence rises. Businesses close. Pretty soon, you can't get a job there even if you have skills, so unless you have reliable transportation(the people remaining there don't have this,) you have no job, or else a very, very bad one. Now you're REALLY hopeless.

The government artificially boosts incomes. People spend money like they have it. This is not unique to them; people of all income levels do this when they get more income. It IS made worse by not having to earn your income. Nothing good happens, but people drink and smoke more, and they get satellite tv.

About the only form of aid that doesn't bung something up is shelters and meals. These are good things, and I support them. Whether you believe this or not, I'd gladly donate ten percent of my income to reputable providers of such things(which is FAR and away more than they'll get from Uncle Sam,) if the government didn't take three to four times that. I do believe in compassion and charity; I do not believe that government has any business in either.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Finally... (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by spiralx on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 08:21:31 AM EST

... you make a comment that states a well-reasoned, rational viewpoint without a lot of the ranting that so often characterises your posts. Whilst I've noted that I disagree with you on, well, almost everything, I agree with you here, there are no quick fix solutions to this problem.

As with all social issues you can't just wave a legislative wand and convert money into success, doing so is nothing more than a propaganda move and a waste of money. Unfortunately the nature of our political process (elections every few years) means that politicians are more likely to take the easy, good for publicity route than institute long-term programs which may not look particularly impressive but work.

My personal opinion is that the best thing to do is to have shelters and food available, so that people can get to the point where they have a chance to pull themselves out of their situation. Unfortunately, lack of funding and poor administration means that this isn't available for many, who end up stuck on the streets.

I'd also like the see some kind of solution to the problem whereby without a fixed address things like employment and banking are often impossible. Being unable to find a job solely because you do not have a home merely makes the problem worse - people who would otherwise have worked their way off of the streets are forced to remain there. This is rediculous, and serves no purpose IMHO.


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Re: Citations (3.50 / 2) (#85)
by sec on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 07:14:37 PM EST

True enough, the efforts of the government often end up having no effect, or making the problem worse. But, the same is true of the private sector, or of individuals. If you're going to go by that standard, then it logically follows that _nobody_ should do anything for anybody.

Not all of the taxes you pay go to helping the poor, btw. Some, in fact most, go to providing services for everybody -- roads, enforcement of safety regulations, research, defense, and so on. You may or may not agree with the way the money is spent, but you simply can't argue that all of your tax money is being spent on the poor.

It seems that your position boils down to, 'If the government would only butt out, everything would be OK', which I find every bit as simplistic and naive as saying, 'If the government would only take care of everything for us, then everything would be OK'. I think that we have yet to find the right balance between government and private concerns, true. But that doesn't mean that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If the government was totally uninvolved, we'd likely be complaining about how businesses, charities, and individuals were screwing things up.



[ Parent ]

Sort of... (1.00 / 1) (#100)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 11:51:10 AM EST

First off, private charity is like private business; you only have to give your money to the good ones. And there ARE good ones. However, the government has no -incentive- not to suck, because it can easily just raise tax rates, put a gun in your face, and say "hey, pay up!"

Now, as to your assertion that most of my taxes go to things that benefit everyone: the two biggest spending categories, by far, are "defense" and social programs. "Defense" involves the world's largest offense going around invading countries and trying to make "peace" by threatening anyone who carries a weapon or shouts in the streets. That doesn't work, and it is a waste of my money - roughly 30-50% of my taxes, depending on whose figures you believe and which spending bills you include in the total. The actual "defense" part of our military could be funded on 10-20% of that at most, probably less, since we wouldn't have to pay the price of being hated everywhere. "Social programs" means things I'll never benefit from and never have, in general. That's most of the rest. Then there's the maybe 10% that goes to roads. Even if I give credit for that, that's roughly 15% of the current spending, and the government wastes roughly 90 cents on the dollar(compared to more like 10 cents on the dollar for a top notch private charity, btw,) which means 1.5% of my tax money is going to something generally useful(and think of that 10 cents/dollar rule applied to social security - because it does, friend. It does.)

That makes me feel really good, let me tell you.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I don't know about the US, but... (none / 0) (#106)
by sec on Tue Oct 24, 2000 at 04:46:49 AM EST

I live in Canada, so I'll go by the numbers we have here.

Now, as to your assertion that most of my taxes go to things that benefit everyone: the two biggest spending categories, by far, are "defense" and social programs.

In Canada, social programs are administered by the provincial governments, so this might vary from one province to the next. Some of the money is provided by the federal government, though. I live in Saskatchewan, and a copy of our latest provincial budget can be found here:

http://www.gov.sk.ca/finance/paccts/paccts00/00paper1.htm

(Look on Page 13 of Part 1)

Out of a budget of approximately $5G, we spent approximately $600M on social services. 12%, in other words. Wouldn't call that 'most'.

"Defense" involves the world's largest offense going around invading countries and trying to make "peace" by threatening anyone who carries a weapon or shouts in the streets. That doesn't work, and it is a waste of my money - roughly 30-50% of my taxes, depending on whose figures you believe and which spending bills you include in the total. The actual "defense" part of our military could be funded on 10-20% of that at most, probably less, since we wouldn't have to pay the price of being hated everywhere.

I certainly agree with this, but it's beside the point. It's not going towards helping the poor, now is it?

OTOH, Canada spends so little on its armed forces that they don't always have uniforms to wear.

and the government wastes roughly 90 cents on the dollar

Just because it isn't directly benefitting you doesn't mean that it is wasted.



[ Parent ]

No offense, but... (none / 0) (#107)
by trhurler on Tue Oct 24, 2000 at 12:09:11 PM EST

in talking about where -my- tax dollars go, which was what I was doing, Canada isn't a really good indicator. The breakdown in the US is that somewhere on the order of 60% of federal dollars goes to social programs(GAO classification - it is a bit fuzzy, but that's life.) That 60% does precisely zero for me, and accounts for probably almost 20% of my income. Then, defense takes almost all the rest, and as we know, defense is a synonym for "offense." If you eliminate the waste on the latter and eliminate the theft in the former, that's a lot of money.

Now, as for the eliminated "services," first off, when I say 90 cents on the dollar is wasted by govt, I mean -wasted.- Poured into the pockets of overpriced contractors and bureaucrats. Gone. Does not help the poor, does not improve roads, does not defend the country, just GONE. If I were allowed to keep my money instead of them taking it, and I then gave 10% to good charities, the poor would benefit probably 5-10 times as much as they do from the feds taking between 30 and 40% of my income - and I'd gladly do that, as would everyone I know who I have asked. People aren't generally assholes, but how generous can you be when the government takes every dime you could be using to get ahead in life?


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You're right; my bad (3.00 / 5) (#42)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:24:19 PM EST

it contains no real citations; for all anyone knows, the author made up a bunch of numbers

Most (if not all) of the information in my first post is available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Should've said so then. I'm kind of surprised that you took the easy way out and insinuated I was lying rather than checking it out yourself, though, given the attitude in your other posts toward those you believe are taking the easy path.

[ Parent ]

Sorry (3.00 / 4) (#44)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:40:32 PM EST

I don't tend to track down that sort of thing for others; it was harsh to insinuate that you were lying, but, devious though it was, my motive was to try to prod you to come up with the info:) I openly admit that I make claims and don't always provide cites, but I also don't say things like "a recent study said" unless I have the cite or am willing to be called an ass:)

One thing I think we -have- shown is that the problems are not the same everywhere. Even people who disagree with me have come up with different views of what really is, and that's probably not due to lack of knowledge or intellect, but rather because poverty looks different depending on where you live, who you know, and so on. Most government statistics are skewed to favor more government spending, because that's what keeps bureaucrats in business, but at the same time, I'm willing to believe that there are worse problems than I've seen - but not where I've been, because I know better. (BTW, that "where I've been" is pretty much anywhere and everywhere in St. Louis and the surrounding county. We have problems here, but when Larry Rice does his homeless publicity stuff, that's generally bs, because most of those people are not homeless by mere misfortune, and many times, there are more volunteers than homeless people. If he spent as much money on actual charity as he does on trying to make himself look good with stunt shows like setting up tent colonies for two days' time and then tearing them down, there would BE no homeless people in St. Louis.)


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
S'aright... (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 08:13:56 PM EST

it was harsh to insinuate that you were lying, but, devious though it was, my motive was to try to prod you to come up with the info

As I say, I should have provided it up front.

As for your other comments, I'll have to say I agree with them; well, except for the comments about St. Louis, as I've never been there. Myself, I'm from Northern California, although I live in the SF Bay area now. There are a lot of poor rural areas up there that nobody seems to realize exist.

An illustrative point; I took a good friend up to my hometown once to show him where I grew up (he was from a town on the outskirts of Philadelphia). As we pulled into town and I showed him where I lived when I was a kid, he said "I didn't know there were places like this in this country". I'll never forget that, and I try to eradicate that type of ignorance whenever I think I see it. I may go overboard at times, but my intentions are good; those people are there, they are trying, and they do count. You sound as if you're willing to accept the possibility, and that's all I'm after; I don't want to change your mind so much as maybe open it a little.

[ Parent ]

Most homeless are "hidden" (3.33 / 3) (#54)
by jcocks on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:12:36 PM EST

Not only that, but I'd hazard a guess that most of the homeless and poor are hidden. They don't go around advertising the fact that they're homeless unless they're a real bum. They go and find shelter wherever they can. They wear clean (to an extent) clothes. They make the best of what little they have.

Down the road from where I usually catch the train from Work there's a guy who sits with his face in his hands on the sidewalk with a hand-written sign and a cardboard box begging for money. I think I may read the sign next time I walk past, and if I sense he's in real need, I may slip him a hundred or so.... I figure, what the heck, I'll usually just end up wasting it myself anyway...I might as well give it to somebody that can't live without it.

[ Parent ]

I know better, but... (4.58 / 17) (#26)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:05:48 PM EST

Of course, it would be politically incorrect to write a story about the way panhandlers can often make more money than bartenders and waitresses, and how they often blow this on cigarettes, drugs, and booze.

Not politically incorrect, just incorrect. While there are people who make a good living panhandling, they most certainly don't blow it on drugs and alcohol (I imagine some of them do smoke). Kind of hard to keep your mind on the business of collecting the cash when it's out to lunch. Let's also keep in mind that these people are the exception, not the rule.

It would be considered tactless to point out that they avoid the excess of shelter beds that exist in order to maintain their nasty habits and avoid having to get a job.

Only tactless insofar as it's completely wrong. A recent study of U.S. cities found that 1 out of 5 requests for shelter went unfulfilled due to lack of resources. For the rural homeless it's worse; most rural areas in the U.S. have no shelters at all. It might also be worth noting that 20% of the homeless in America are already employed.

It would be inhumane to note that many of them will outright refuse to take help from someone who offers to buy them lunch instead of giving them 50 cents.

Perhaps; but it would spoil your self-righteous posturing to point out how many of them would weep at that kind of generosity.

This is real, and whether you like it or not is quite irrelevant. Most of the poor people in the US are anything but, and the ones that are really poor don't usually even try to take advantage of the opportunities they have to better themselves.

Spoken like a complete and utter moron. At any given time, just over 20% of the U.S. population is living in poverty by the U.S. government's definition. Given that for a family of four this means they're living on less than $16,500 dollars per year, I'd say that in practical terms there are quite a few people in America that who don't meet the government definition of poor but who are exactly that. It might also be worth pointing out here that despite the all too frequent rantings of people who want an excuse not to pay their taxes, most of the poor in America are in fact employed.

As for not taking advantage of opportunities, a study of poverty over a two year period showed that while 30% of the U.S. population spent at least two months below the poverty line, less than 6% of them stayed below the poverty line for the entire period. Why is that you might ask (or, being afraid you would get an answer, maybe you might not...)? Because they are taking advantage of whatever opportunity to make it better comes their way. The fact is, however, that those opportunities are few and far between.

I'm happy you've had an easy life; not everyone is so lucky. It's too bad it seems to have caused such a severe case of myopia. Perhaps you might want to refrain from commenting on things you so obviously have no clue about, though, especially as you have nothing constructive to say.

[ Parent ]

Me myopic? (3.70 / 10) (#28)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 05:29:21 PM EST

Given that for a family of four this means they're living on less than $16,500 dollars per year, I'd say that in practical terms there are quite a few people in America that who don't meet the government definition of poor but who are exactly that.
I know many people living under the so-called "poverty line." They tend to have dilapidated but functional housing. Most families have a car or two. They've got all the usual utilities, and some of them have cable or satellite TV. They have microwave ovens, VCRs, some have DVD players, they've got stereos, and computers, and sure they bought it all secondhand, but it works and it works well. They have problems, they struggle to meet payments, and so on - but to say that they really suffer is an absurdity. Compare them to people who REALLY suffer(see: Africa) and then tell me who is poor. Nobody except a tiny number of true unfortunates is poor here; they're just not as wealthy as the rest of us.

I don't want to hear about what I've never seen; I grew up with a lot of "poor" people, and my family wasn't exactly rolling in cash. I know some homeless people, too. The former are often hardworking, serious people whom I respect. The latter are usually where they are because they dislike it less than all the alternatives.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Yep, sounds like myopia (4.00 / 5) (#35)
by El Volio on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:47:52 PM EST

I also know many people living under the so-called "poverty line". They tend to have housing that is beyond inadequate. Most families have a car that usually doesn't run and have to rely on friends, neighbors, or walking (public transportation isn't that great in North Texas). They have water and electricity; many cannot afford telephone service. They have an oven that came with the apartment and is often out of repair. They have a TV bought for $30 at the local pawn shop that doesn't work all that well, but it makes them feel like they're getting somewhere. They have problems, they struggle to meet payments, and so on - and to say that they really suffer is often true. Compare them to people who REALLY suffer (see: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, &c.) , and they may not be in as bad of a position, but they're barely making it. Basic health care is often unaffordable and always scarce. Having enough food to feed the family is a blessing. Essential clothing comes from charity. And they're in the Land of Opportunity, as so many people like to call America. Nobody except a large number of ignored folks is poor here; they're just not as noticed as the rest of us.

(I have no idea how common this is in other developed nations; if someone from one of those other nations cares to comment, I'd be very interested to learn what this situation is like in other places.)

I don't want to hear about what you have seen. Just like my experiences, it's only a tiny sample of the complete reality, and neither of us have seen all the sadness and unfortunate situations out there. Just like you, I grew up in a "poor" family, and as difficult as it was, I weep to see families in my own state in conditions that make me feel I was rich. My family wasn't rolling in cash, either, when I was young. There are homeless people who dislike it less than alternatives, just as there are poor people who keep themselves there. There are also poor people who are trying desperately to give a better life to their children, with varying degrees of success.

I'm saddened, though not surprised, to read your comments. This attitude is all too common nowadays. Look at the colonias of south Texas. Look at the most burned-out inner city slums. Dallas has them; so does Houston. They're every bit as bad as their sibling neighborhoods in LA, NY, Chicago, and many other small towns. Given that for many of us, this is an economic boom, it's quite a statement about our society that large sections of the US haven't experienced too much of its benefits.

You're right: There are degrees of poverty. But that doesn't mean that there aren't hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of families throughout the US who aren't genuinely poor. Let's not forget about them just because they're not as bad off as those unfortunate souls in Somalia or Myanmar or a hundred other forgotten corners of the globe. I got where I am today thanks, not just due to my own hard work and that of my parents, but because other people around us cared enough to help. Now that I'm grown, with my own family, I spend a lot of time and money every month helping the less fortunate. There are others who do far more, infinitely more, for the needy than I do, no doubt about it. The point is, if everyone does something, it will benefit us all. I don't just mean economically; I mean improving the state of the society in which I live.

And in the end, that's the point.

[ Parent ]

australian experience (2.33 / 3) (#55)
by enterfornone on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:15:18 PM EST

I think unemployment is worth $100 (divide by 2 for US$) or so a week here. you can also get rent assistance and goverment supplied housing. basic medical is free (apart from the medicare levy that comes out of our tax). you can get more money if you have kids.

i don't know what is considered the poverty line here. i certainly wouldn't want to live on $100 a week. but i do think that those who are sleeping on the streets are not doing it for financial reasons.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Eloi and Morlocks (3.00 / 3) (#62)
by RiotNrrd on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:17:33 AM EST

I hate seeing homeless people on the streets. I hate seeing starving 3rd worlders on TV. I hate hearing that the III World War is *this* far away from kicking off in the Middle East.

But I don't know what to do about it. Sure, I could sacrifice my life, work in a shelter, a soup kitchen, or some such, but I haven't got that sort of abnegation. I hugely respect people who do. When in the UK, I buy a magazine called The Big Issue, published by and for the homeless and sold by homeless people on the streets. The magazine costs 1 UKP, of which 60 p go directly to the vendor. This sort of project I can deal with - I can do (a very little) good and get something out of it that will simultaneously entertain me and raise my awareness of many sociopolitical issues that I would otherwise probably never hear about from the McMedia.

And this is a drop in the ocean. Are we turning into a Time Machine-style culture, with the moneyed techno-literate elite ruling from the glass towers while the dispossessed roam the deserted streets below?


-- There is a rational explanation for everything. Unfortunately there is also an irrational one.
[ Parent ]

Yep, you (4.50 / 10) (#39)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:11:55 PM EST

It's fitting that you put 'poverty line' and 'poor' in quotes; your definition of those terms is certainly different than mine.

some of them have cable or satellite TV. They have microwave ovens, VCRs, some have DVD players, they've got stereos, and computers, and sure they bought it all secondhand, but it works and it works well

They're doing a lot better than the poor people I know; the ones I know often worry about the fact that their kids go to school hungry. The ones I know worry to death about what their kids are up to because they can't be there when the kids get home from school; you know, those pesky jobs that everyone is convinced they don't have. Most of them do indeed have tvs; they use rabbit ears though, not cable. I have to say also that if the people you know have these things while still living under the government definition of poverty, things like housing, food and clothing must be damned inexpensive where you live.

I don't want to hear about what I've never seen

Of course not; you might be forced to admit that what you've seen doesn't represent the total picture, and that there might indeed be more to it than you're aware of. Yet you'll say this after having objected to me calling you myopic. Strange.

I grew up with a lot of "poor" people, and my family wasn't exactly rolling in cash

Okay, I'm going to assume that you mean well, and this has all been driven by ignorance rather than a being well crafted troll. I'm also going to break a promise to myself and vent a little here, and not worry about how it sounds. Let's start off by pointing out that "poor" does not mean "not rich".

When my mother was a child, she picked cotton to help support the family. As a child I lived in a place where the water on the floor was two inches deep whenever it rained hard. We didn't have a car; someone gave my mom a tv when I was six. My children were born into a standard of living I didn't reach until after I was an adult; I swore they'd never know what it was like to be poor, and they never will. My standard of living now, while not opulent, is way beyond anything I thought possible when I was a kid. But I'll tell you something; although I worked my ass off for a long time to get where I am, and I was building on a foundation laid by my parents, it scares the hell out of me sometimes to look back on it and see how much luck played a role. If you haven't been there, you have no fucking idea how hard it can be to get above it.

It pisses me off no end to hear all this crap about how the poor in this country actually have it made, and they should just quit their whining, or how they just need to try a little harder, and especially "I know what I'm talking about because I wasn't rich and I met some poor people once". You have no clue.

Are there poor and homeless in this country who sit on their asses and just take what's handed to them? Absolutely. There are rich who do the same thing; one of them's running for President right now. It makes it neither right nor accurate to tar the entire group with that brush. Go ahead and get pissed off at those that take advantage of the system, but quit coming off like they represent the majority of those who find themselves down and out.

Most of the poor and homeless in this country will (and do) do anything they can to change their situation. Contrary to your opinion, they do not choose to be that way.

[ Parent ]

A couple of comments (2.33 / 6) (#43)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:34:07 PM EST

I have to say also that if the people you know have these things while still living under the government definition of poverty, things like housing, food and clothing must be damned inexpensive where you live.
They're not as expensive as they are in many places. However, most of these people have government assistance, and they all tend to shop at secondhand stores. Clothes ARE cheap there, btw. When you've got food stamps, section 8 housing, and secondhand clothes, basic expenses are pretty damned minimal. Their major worry is healthcare, and even then, mainly for their kids rather than themselves. The worst of their problems tend to be bad teeth and budgeting issues. There are people worse off, but every single one of them that I know has personal issues that cause this - alcoholism, smoking 5 packs a day, or some similar hole into which one can pour money. Yes, some are worse off short term without such problems, but they don't stay there long; if you're really bad off long term, there's a reason, and the only one I'm aware of that I respect is outright physical disability.
Are there poor and homeless in this country who sit on their asses and just take what's handed to them? Absolutely. There are rich who do the same thing; one of them's running for President right now.
What do you mean, "one of them"? At least two, maybe more. Gore and Bush are both rich brats. The main difference is(not that I'll vote for him; don't get me wrong,) Bush is fairly honest about his upbringing, whereas the mansion-dwelling DC suburbanite Gore tries to pretend he grew up on a farm too poor to even have modern equipment. Nader, Browne, and the other 3rd party candidates, I don't know enough personal info on to say. I do know a lot about their political viewpoints, but that isn't the same thing, obviously.


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
*Sigh* (2.80 / 5) (#49)
by analog on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 08:34:56 PM EST

What do you mean, "one of them"?

Well, I was thinking of Bush, 'cause I was actually thinking I might vote for him at one point; he can actually sound pretty reasonable if you don't listen too closely. The more I find out about him, though, the more I wonder what the hell was in my water. I don't like Gore much either, but to be fair it does appear as though his record of falsehoods might be somewhat exaggerated.

As for Nader, I used to know someone who went to school with him, and as that school was Princeton, I'd imagine he's probably silver spoon as well, not that it matters. I might vote for him just out of hope that the "other parties" might make some kind of a showing and help stir things up a little.

[ Parent ]

Show me one that isn't.... (1.60 / 5) (#52)
by jcocks on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 10:20:51 PM EST

U can bet your ass they're silver spoon. I wouldn't be surprised if ALL politiians in any position of power are silver-spoon... Even here in Oz, where I live, almost all prime-ministers are Rhodes Scholars... Rich pricks... And, when one enters the political arena who isn't "silver spoon", suddenly former political enemies are united in bad-mothing the poor bastard... I would personally LOVE to see a politician who isn't in it for his/her own good...

[ Parent ]
There are some (2.00 / 2) (#64)
by chaotic42 on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 09:00:57 AM EST

I would personally LOVE to see a politician who isn't in it for his/her own good...

They exist. Not all politicians are evil. Quite a few of our US 3rd party candiadates really do care.

[ Parent ]
Nader (3.00 / 5) (#59)
by nutate on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 01:12:43 AM EST

http://www.votenader.org/biography.html

Silver spoon..? I doubt his parents had stock. But I think it people should receive judgement unbiased by their parents wealth. A child's personal reception of that wealth, maybe, but not just what they had when they were <18 yrs old.

As far as the recent comments on homeless people deserving help, U.S. vs. the third world, etc. I think that focusing on the differences doesn't hurt, but let's look at the similarities here. Money does get wasted. In my opinion, the private sector does more of it than the public sector. This could start an entire debate, but I hope it doesn't. We've all seen the bad start-up plans go south, so why does it keep happening? Why burn this money? Or is it really burning, or just filtering back into an overbooming microeconomy?

[ Parent ]

experiencing vs knowing (3.33 / 9) (#53)
by jcocks on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 10:42:45 PM EST

I swore they'd never know what it was like to be poor, and they never will Isn't the correct word to use "experience"? People should know and understand what it is like to be poor. That breeds acceptance.

It's when people don't know and understand what it's like to be worse-off that you get remarks like those in the post you originally replied to... Such people display ignorance to such an effect I feel quite angry. Yes, poor people do exist and it isn't entirely their fault that they're poor. And, yes, I agree that many do not do anything to help their situation...

But most try, and those who do not try deserve no-one's sympathy.

[ Parent ]

Yes (3.00 / 3) (#78)
by analog on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 12:52:19 PM EST

Isn't the correct word to use "experience"?

That's actually a really good point, and one I missed until fairly recently. When I say "know" it's because it's exactly what I meant (and I suppose in a sense you can't truly know something without having experienced it). However, I wanted them to be completely removed from that whole thing. Here's where I have suffered from my own form of myopia.

As you have pointed out, though, it can cause problems. There is already a disconnect being caused by the fairly radical difference in experiences between myself and my children. I still haven't decided how to deal with that, but I'm glad you brought it up; it's a good reminder that as much as I hate to see other people "look the other way", I'm guilty of it myself sometimes.

[ Parent ]

Life in the real world (3.83 / 6) (#37)
by deanc on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:06:59 PM EST

Ok, I was amused by your drawing of a parallel between this article and a Jon Katz wank-o-rama, but you've _totally_ missed the point.

This inflation is non-existent? Bullcrap. The economic boom in San Francisco causes massive inflation on housing prices and rents, amounting to 30%-40% per year. That makes people poor if they weren't already. And what did they do to deserve that? Did they not work hard enough? Were they not industrious enough? No, they just had the misfortune to have a decent job without stock options and were vulnerable to a massive real estate crunch that impoverished them.

-Dean



[ Parent ]
Real estate inflation (3.40 / 5) (#45)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 07:58:49 PM EST

Well, first off, this is why you should buy a damn place to live if you're going to stay in one place for any long period. It isn't as hard as people think; if you can afford a two bedroom apartment, you can probably buy a place within 10 miles of that location - especially with all the first-time homebuyer incentives that are out there today. Granted, it is too late now for anyone living in southern California. They might just have to move a bit.

That said, yes, this can be a problem. However, you are never going to eliminate economic growing pains; when demand goes up, so do prices, and if only certain people are creating the demand, then others may get screwed. Several possible solutions:

1) buy a place when you can afford to
2) rent somewhere else and commute
3) move to a city that isn't insane

3 is my favorite option, because even as a techie capable of making the big bucks, I just don't want to live in a place as insane as Silly Valley, and I sure as hell wouldn't if I wasn't a geek. I don't see why anyone would, in fact. Despite the press, almost nobody gets rich, and the lifestyle is insane. We have startups here in St. Louis - but we don't have a tenth of the stupidity or general economic disruption. If I -did- want to live the nuthouse lifestyle, I'd move to NYC, because at least there I can live in a real city:)


--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Good comments on the old article (2.37 / 8) (#11)
by nutate on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 01:43:42 PM EST

Check out the following link for a good thread, imnsho:

link

;)

Both types of comments (3.28 / 21) (#13)
by Wah on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 02:09:57 PM EST

Topical: I think this is a great article. It's not that money could be better spent on the homeless than $4,000 working environments in a company that isn't doing much but being electronic, but a look at a interesting place at a certain time. The strangeness of modern society can be tough to capture, and I think the author does it.

"Well, other than the fact that this building is sitting in one of the most seismically active parts of the world, I pointed out."

Snap back to reality, and the simple fact that nature still controls us, despite our neat-o toys.

Editorial: I thought it was as well written article and was quite a bit more than MLP (which I think/thought of as mindless quickie-type amusements). If someone expresses your opinion about something being redundant, don't point it out again, moderate that comment, or reply to them. Turn down the noise, and please, if you read the heading and it looks like a redundant article, then you click on it and it looks like a redundant article, then it's probably a redundant article. Pointing it out at this point seems a bit redundant, no?

(double posted for formating reasons, moderate down the other)
--
Fail to Obey?
Am I supposed to feel guilty now? (1.43 / 32) (#15)
by KindBud on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 02:24:16 PM EST

Am I supposed to vote for Gore or Nader now?

Am I supposed to quit my job and volunteer at a soup kitchen now?

I really have no idea what the point of this "piece" is supposed to be. There are homeless people in every big city. Why pick on "dot-com city" (I know why, that was a rhetorical question)? Why not an expose on homeless people in Omaha outside the Berkshire Hathaway offices? Did you know BRK.A is trading at $58,200 per share? It's up $700 today. BRK is a co-lo facility, too -- co-lo for money.

And who the fuck voted this drivel to the front page?

--
just roll a fatty

You aren't "supposed" to do anything (4.14 / 7) (#16)
by kallisti on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 02:57:06 PM EST

This article is one person's viewpoint of what is happening right now in San Francisco. Pretty much everything in the article I have seen with my own eyes, and I thought it was a good writeup of what the SOMA (South of Market [St.] Area) is like these days.

There is a lot of rhetoric about all the nifty stuff the Internet is capable of, this is a piece which reminds that underneath all that there are physical effects as well. Many people haven't seen any of this stuff and I feel it is good to hear other viewpoints, even those you disagree with. In fact, especially those.

If this isn't "technology and culture, from the trenches", then what is?

[ Parent ]

woah, chill, smoke a .... (4.42 / 7) (#19)
by Wah on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:20:50 PM EST

Some articles are just there for you to read and enjoy, maybe make you think a bit, if at all. Not everything has to be a call to action.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
Here's what you should do (2.87 / 8) (#20)
by speek on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 03:29:48 PM EST

Go home, buy some more stuff. Wait till some desperate person breaks into your home to steal your stuff, and murders your wife in the process. Then, you're supposed to call the police, and get a manhunt started, find the black guy who did it (cause it was a black guy, obviously), and demand the death penalty. The police will jump to your defense, and all will be well again in the world.

lather, rinse, repeat.

The world you've chosen is truly fabulous. It's one where you don't have to care, and that's important because your emotional resources were never developed as you matured. Caring is truly, truly a burden no rich white American should ever have to shoulder.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Literature. What a concept. (1.00 / 1) (#102)
by error 404 on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 12:32:36 PM EST

What you are supposed to do is go about your life and look at the oddness of it all. Maybe think or something. Maybe just enjoy the flow of words - it was very nicely written.

Does everything have to have a bottom line? An executive summary? Action items?

The article describes a situation the author has observed, and some of the mental states the author experienced as a result, and invites you to come to your own conclusions if you are so inclined. It's called Literature. Kind of unusual to notice it among all the ads and instructions and warning labels, but in the old days, it was considered a Good Thing.
..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

I've been thinking about this lately (4.21 / 19) (#33)
by barooo on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 06:26:22 PM EST

It's kind of funny that this article is on here today, becuase this is something that I've been thinking about quite a bit for the past few days. I live and work in Chicago, and every day on my way to and from the el I see homeless people or people begging.

Most of the past experiences that I've had with the homeless left me with a bad taste. I once attended an event in college (students collected sponsors then slept on the quad all night to raise awareness) and met a number of homeless people then. This was at the University of Illinois.

Most of these people struck me as dishonest and lazy, and seemed quite capable of getting out of their situation, so I came to the uneasy conclusion that they were content enough. There was also a particular individual around campus we jokingly called "spare anything" who would ride up and down green street on a bicycle asking everyone he passed if they could, well, spare anything.

So, this largely allowed me to ignore the homeless without feeling more than a vague sense of guilt. Anyway, a couple of mornings ago, something happened that really shocked me. I was walking to work, drinking an expensive cup of gourmet coffee (not from starbucks though :) and digesting a nice chocolate chip scone, when I saw a homeless man (he was shabbily dressed, black, unclean, and pretty much fitting my mental type of "random homeless guy") rooting through a trash can. He came up with a half eaten bagel, and walked away eating it.

This event has really stunned me. I keep returning to it from time to time. I don't know the man's circumstances. Maybe if I knew him, he would fit my other preconceived notions. Maybe I'd think that he too could easily escape life on the streets if he'd just try a little bit. But being confronted by someone who's sunk to the level of eating garbage has a way of shocking one.

I have no idea what the answer is to this problem, but the effect was like getting hit in the head with a brick.


--
[G. W. Bush makes] one long for the flashy showmanship of Calvin Coolidge, the easy eloquence of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the simple honesty of Richard Nixon.
P. M. Carpenter
Maybe 'They' Don't Want to Change (3.85 / 7) (#66)
by mrnoodles on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 10:38:47 AM EST

Not a flame, just a comment: sometimes these ppl don't _want_ to change. I read a story a while ago in the news that told the story of a 'homeless' man in Toronto. He lived beneath the Gardiner Expressway on the shore of Lake Ontario. He had a small shack he built himself from scrap. He had a small collection of books, which IIRC, were his most prized possessions.

The story brought to light the fact that he _chose_ to live this way. He was once a successful businessman, but it was driving him mad. Long hours, too much stress, etc. It was killing him, so he left. He chose a simpler life. And he was chastised for it. The police routinely hassled him, telling him to move. They stole his books, dismantled his shelter. His own family regarded him as being 'insane' because he left his job. His daughter wouldn't speak to him.

I'm very bothered by the fact that in our 'free' societies non-conformity is frowned upon, discouraged, and attacked. Unfortunately, the only solution I have come up with is for people to be more responsible for themselves. Take into account the effects your actions will have on others, be sensitive to other people's needs and desires, but focus on yourself. After all, you are the only person you can change. Obviously, I'm not saying that we should embrace greed. Quite the opposite, in fact. But if I mind myself, you do the same, and we help each other out when it's necessary, our world gets better. It gets better because I'm not wasting energy helping you when you don't want or need the help, and you're not wasting energy attacking me for what I'm doing. In short, if someone asks for your help, it's only right to help them. If someone looks like they might need help, offer it; but if it's refused, move on. You'll both end up happier. cheers, MrNoodles

[ Parent ]

eating out of garbage (2.50 / 4) (#79)
by DefCon5 on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 01:14:19 PM EST

I'm from C-U also, and I also can relate to what you are saying. Eating a bagel out of the garbage is one thing, but can you imagine standing over a garbage can and eating a sunny-side up egg out of it?? I thought I was going to retch right then and there. And he was even licking the yolk off his dirty fingers. You probably know the guy, he's that real skinny spidery guy with a beard that always wears black. I'm sorry, but there has to be some mental illness involved before you find anyone poor enough to eat out of dumpsters to be eating a liquid egg out of them. It's dangerous to eat that kind of thing after its been sitting. Anyway, I would just assume my taxes go to give them a home, food, mental help, whatever else they need if for no other reason than to keep them from grossing me out, anything to keep them from grossing me out like that, memories of it are bad enough.

[ Parent ]
"Spare anything" (none / 0) (#110)
by withak on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 12:08:37 PM EST

I am at the University of Illinois right now, and "Spare Anything" is still around. He seems to be riding a different shiny new mountain bike every time I see him.

[ Parent ]
Gates has a conscious? (3.33 / 9) (#46)
by Aztech on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 08:13:42 PM EST

It seems Gates has an ounce of common sense after all, the following is an excerpt from Gates: Poor Need Meds, not PCs from Wired News.

Since Monday, senior officials from the private sector, Third World governments, and funding organizations such as the World Bank had been talking about "doing well by doing good," using information technologies to spur development and create markets among the world's poor.

"The percent of growth that an IT firm like Hewlett-Packard will get from people who make less than a dollar a day is minimal," Gates said. "Do people have any concept of what it means to live on less than a dollar a day? There's no electricity. Do they have PCs that don't use electricity?"
Even though this directly relates to third-world countries, it's obviously applicable to the poor or severely deprived in the west.

Maybe people are starting to realise technology and computers in general are not the panacea they're made out to be after all? Some people care about innocuous things like food, water, and shelter rather than whether they should get an Abit K7T or Asus KV7.

Excellent article (3.20 / 10) (#48)
by Red Moose on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 08:24:48 PM EST

I found this to be one the more interesting reads I have had a look at in recent weeks, or even months. While I'm personally not a do-gooder, neither do I work in what is being described by the non-tech community as the "dot-com" industry, which is, in all fairness, the most financially proliferative area in these times in the "westernised" world (i.e., wherever people buy new cars every year or two, watch cable TV and surf the net as a hobby (of sorts)).

While there are many companies in the industry that are purley built on the (solid?) foundation of future growth, it's all really about credit. And baks and big companies only give money where they can get it back; they don't give $10 million in a loan, and say, "sure, speend it all on the homeless). It's the fault, i think, of that fact the industry is built on "magic-money" (my term) - money that doesn't exist in reality, but is all to do with stocks and futures and whatever, and generally stuff I don't understand. And it's all very fragile.

<soapbox> Bill Gates is a good guy for one thing though - he regularly gives millions to charities, and medical research foundations, etc., . The only people who bad-mouth him or Microsoft are the people who are competing in the same industry. I'm oh sooooo sorry for those folks that they can't use some non-MS OS, 'cos that's just too fucking bad, IMHO. I have yet to hear of Sun or Apple donate to charity. And I'm not a Microserf. The typical tech-corp these days indeed has lost of money, lots of credit, etc., . They are no different to the other typical companies of years gone by in other industries.

</soapbox>

I can name that building. (4.20 / 10) (#57)
by mahlen on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 01:03:08 AM EST

I don't know which company that is, but I'd bet that that was the Sega building at 8th St. and Townsend he's describing (Sega is the major renter of the building, and their logo is on the side). I used to work at the other building on that block, the Macromedia building. Those plastic rings around the vent match the description. In fact, here's a picture of them.

In all fairness, however, those cylinders were there long before the tech boom, before in fact that building had any tech clients at all. That building (in fact, that whole area of San Francisco) was previously the anchor of the interior design industry in S.F.; the building described was previously known as the "Fashion Center". When i worked in that area from '97 - '99, our little nerdly gang at the startup i worked at, Perspecta, went from being strange outsiders among the very fashionably dressed and somewhat snooty to the norm. The design industry also did nothing for the homeless nearby; in fact, I suspect they were far crueller than the nerds are.

mahlen

I asked Cardinal Spellman what I should say when people ask me whether I believe the Pope is infallible, and the Cardinal replied, "I don't know, Senator--all I know is he keeps calling me 'Spillman.'"
--Sen. John F. Kennedy, ca. 1959



Thanks for the link (2.00 / 3) (#60)
by Potsy on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 01:49:21 AM EST

Thanks for that link. I was hoping someone on this thread would know which company or at least which building the article was talking about. And I'll bet you're probably right that nerds and geeks might end up being nicer to the homeless folks than most other people.

I wonder if the owners of the building will be putting a link to Simpson's article in their "the press" section of their website...

[ Parent ]

Damn - you beat me to it! (none / 0) (#111)
by boinger on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 04:25:24 PM EST

I work there, as a matter of fact, for techtv (formerly ZDTV). I always figured those plastic tubes were to keep homeless folk off of them, too. --boinger
--- Yes, that's really my email. fuck-you.org is really my web site, too. No, it's not porn, it's just my personal site. I promise.
[ Parent ]
Looking out for #1 (3.50 / 10) (#65)
by Raunchola on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 10:36:20 AM EST

Like many other people here (I'll bet), I like watching the next dot-com plummet down to reality. I read Fucked Company on a regular basis. And I laugh at the twentysomething dot-com president who thinks he can raise a bazillion dollars just because he has a website and a catchy name.

But if they want to burn through their funding on meaningless things, let them.

As for all of these comments that we should all drop what we're doing and save the poor, I'll just say it flat out and without reservation...fuck that.

No, I wouldn't classify myself as a cruel person. I'm a regular blood donor whenever the Red Cross comes by my college, I'll always be sure to stick some money (not spare change either) in the Salvation Army pots around Christmas time, and I always tip the pizza delivery driver at least two bucks (since I was once in their position too). But, realistically, I just can't drop everything in the name of the poor person down the street. Before I worry about them, I have to worry about one person first, myself.

Admit it, you're probably the same way. You may not want to admit it, but it's probably true. And what's wrong with that, I ask? I have things like college tuition, food expenses, and car payments to take care of. And I'm sorry if you get offended that my tuition takes precedence over some panhandler, but that's the way it is. I could just toss my money to the poor, but then I'll be out of a college education. And there's no chance in hell that I'm going to do that.

However, I do believe that, if you do have a lot of money to burn, then you should at least toss some money towards charity. Guys like Andrew Carnegie stated that they would not die rich, and they showed it. And now, we've got Bill Gates who is donating money towards various charitable causes. Whether you like Gates or not, you'll still have to admit that it is a generous thing for him to do.

The main point is, guys like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Gates all had / have money to burn. They made the money, they should be able to burn it as they wish. If they choose to throw some towards Charity X, more power to them. But if they want to throw it towards a new addition to their house, more power to them. They made the money, they should be able to spend it as they wish.

Me...I have no money to burn like they do. I have to worry about myself before I worry about the bum on the corner. And I'm sorry if that offends you, but this is the real world, not some Rage Against the Machine video. Before I take care of anyone else, I'm going to take care of myself with the money I earned for myself. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.


-
I am an American, not a "USian." Get it right.
Some clarification from the author (4.78 / 14) (#67)
by zsimpson on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:03:09 AM EST

Hi, just saw that my article had been posted here. Some clarification is probably due. This is a work of *fiction*. I am a freelance software engineer and I wrote this as a humorous summary of several semi-related companies, not all of which are even in San Francisco. Donīt take it too seriously.

As for any speculation on "the point", there wasnīt any other than to amuze my friends. In case you are wondering my political stance on charity, etc., and in case you think Iīm suggesting that we all stop what weīre doing and give to the poor, I donīt think that... I am a member of this very industry that Iīm poking fun at. That said, I think itīs good to keep things in perspective sometimes and frequently its easiest to do that by overdramatizing the scene.

Anyway, itīs fun to see that so many of you were inspired enough to write about it.

-Zack

Helping the homeless (3.42 / 7) (#69)
by ikillyou on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 11:35:43 AM EST

When I was in Valley, I did some charity work where we gave food to the homeless in San Jose. So if you want to, you can help.

And it's a mind broadening experience. I know, it sounds cheesy ... but before that, I used to see the homeless as just "the homeless", without personality or history.

But they're people, some of them really interesting: I spoke to this guy who was a sailor, who'd seen the world, taken part in several conflicts, but now forgotten by the system. Some silver haired World War II veterans, also abandoned by the system, queueing up in the line for food. And another guy who would drag a trash bag full of cans around, which he said he would sell for some money, complaining how people never gave him any respect.

The organisation I was with is http://northerncal.us.tzuchi.org/. It's a buddhist organisation and predominantely chinese, but you don't have to be either to join. But if you don't feel comfortable, I'm sure there're other charities you can help out with if you just look around.

If Joe Strummer could see 'em now (3.66 / 6) (#80)
by kvigor on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 03:28:34 PM EST

The goal of these garbage-filled Plexiglas rings was to prevent the, shall we say, differently-housed from sleeping over the warm ventilation shafts.

                           Ventilation units where towers
                                       Meet the streets
                                  The ragged stand in bags
                            Soaking heat up through their feet

                               This was the only kindness
                                And it was accidental too
(The Clash, "Car Jamming").

The image of these plexiglass towers keeping people away from heat is just sickening.

But are sch things built? (none / 0) (#95)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Oct 22, 2000 at 10:02:00 AM EST

The image of these plexiglass towers keeping people away from heat is just sickening.

Are these things actually built in big cities? This is fiction after all.

If they're symbols, what do they symbolize?



[ Parent ]
Waste (3.80 / 5) (#83)
by Once&FutureRocketman on Fri Oct 20, 2000 at 05:46:28 PM EST

Thousands had been spent on the installation, thousands were being spent on the upkeep, thousands of BTUs were venting to the atmosphere. It all seemed like a failure of basic microeconomics -- demand and excess supply for heat in the very same place and yet somehow it is more politically efficient to keep the homeless cold. Why there couldn't be a small shelter which dissipated the heat and simultaneously warmed the cold remained unclear. Politics, economics, and thermodynamics, three more subjects I guess I'll never understand.

This sort of inefficiency is endemic to our society, and it is nothing short of criminal. It seems to arise most often from simple short-sightedness and poor engineering. A little bit of careful thought and good system-level design can eliminate alot of this kind of waste, saving resources and increasing wealth simultaneously.

For example, did you know that a properly designed building can be perfectly comfortable without heating or airconditioning in most any climate? To see an example of this kind of engineering, go here. For an example of this same kind of thinking applied to a much harsher climate, check this out. (And yes, I've seen the building and it is every bit as cool as they claim.)

The bottom line is, we have the means and the knowledge to vastly improve our efficiency, reduce our impact on the environment, and get rich in the process. That we don't is a testament to unthinking laziness and infrastructural inertia.

If you want to know more about this way of thinking, I suggest you read this in particular, and check out the Rocky Mountain Institute's website. There's alot of good stuff there.


"Research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing."
-- Wernher von Braun

Building in Harsh Climates (3.33 / 3) (#87)
by Dacta on Sat Oct 21, 2000 at 05:05:57 AM EST

In Coober Pedy, Australia, most houses are built underground because it to too hot for above ground. Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in the middle of the Australian desert.

During the summer months it stay over 40 degrees C in the shade (110-120 F?) during the daylight hours, and can drop down to around 0 C during the night. The underground houses say about 21C all the time. It's amazing what a bit of thermal mass can do for energy efficiency!



[ Parent ]
Poor engineering? (none / 0) (#94)
by Luke Scharf on Sun Oct 22, 2000 at 09:51:12 AM EST

This sort of inefficiency is endemic to our society, and it is nothing short of criminal. It seems to arise most often from simple short-sightedness and poor engineering.

Have you looked under the hood of a modern automobile? I assure you that there is quality engineering there. I heard a statistic that a modern electronocly controlled engine (like is in my 1989 Ford Tempo) produces around 2% of the pollutants than an engine burning the same amount of fuel as an engine from 1950. Sweet.

More efficient and better.

If you want to argue that we don't need cars, that's another issue. I'll be happy to tell you why we can't get rid of them.



[ Parent ]
Automobile efficiency (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by Once&FutureRocketman on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 01:12:56 PM EST

The modern automobile is a wonder of efficiency -- they've managed to get the total system efficiency up to about 30%. (Of course, gods help you if you ever try to work on one.)

That's better than it sounds, but it's about half as good as they could do. You may be familiar with Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight hybrid vehicles. They are a step in the right direction, but they are tiny little evolutionary steps, still held back by their "conventional vehicle" heritage (e.g. they are significantly _heavier_ than analogous cars with standard engines).

Hypercar Inc (which is afilliated with The Rocky Mountain Institute) talks about the potential for building radically more efficient vehicles by combining efficient hybrid-electric drivetrains with lightweight composite bodies. These factors reinforce each other, synergistically amplifying efficiency (i.e. lighter body requires a smaller engine, which permits a lighter body, which permits a smaller engine, etc... This is a simplified explanation, but you get the idea).

The technologies exist to massively improve our efficiency at almost every level. We simply have to figure out how to use them, and choose to do so.

As for cars being necessary: They are made necessary by the way we currently choose to live as a society. I would argue that there is much to be said for adopting a lifestyle that does not require an automobile (or at least requires very infrequent use of same). But I'm not living that way and I wouldn't try to force anyone else to do so. As an engineer, I want to enable people to use their technology in a more efficient and less damaging fashion.


"Research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing."
-- Wernher von Braun
[ Parent ]

Africa (4.00 / 5) (#89)
by henrik on Sat Oct 21, 2000 at 03:00:37 PM EST

I'm suprised that no one has mentioned the 3rd world countries - a couple of millions invested into africa could significantly improve (or even save) the lives for hundreds of thousands of people.

There are a lot more poor africans than homeless americans - while both are in dire need of help, i think that money invested into Africa could do a lot more good.
there are a lot of cheap things that save a lot of lives: For example, micro loans to women, agricultural support, childhood vaccination, etc..

There is a world outside America and Europe too..

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!

It's called "anathema" (3.75 / 4) (#90)
by ubu on Sat Oct 21, 2000 at 03:33:47 PM EST

I don't think it makes any difference to the essential "truth" of it, though.

That's really priceless. It reminds me of those Boston Globe reporters who were fired for making up stories. "It doesn't change the essential truth," sure, even though the story was essentially a lie. Truth == lie. Outstanding logical analysis.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
Truth != fact (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by Greyjack on Sun Oct 22, 2000 at 12:25:22 AM EST

A fictional story can still illustrate truth.

--
Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett


[ Parent ]
In fact... (none / 0) (#97)
by sec on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 01:52:55 AM EST

Some of the best fiction is that which, even though it is fiction, succeeds in pointing out the absurdities of society.

Books like 'Animal Farm', for example, may be fiction, but they are also the truth.



[ Parent ]

In fact... or fiction? (none / 0) (#103)
by ubu on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 12:58:00 PM EST

Not in the slightest. Animal Farm is nothing more than propaganda. The only thing that makes is palatable to the Western literary diet is the fact that it's our propaganda.

You're welcome to enjoy a steady diet of fictitious semi-historical retellings, a la "U-571" and "The Patriot", but the fact remains that they're little more than propaganda -- whether or not you agree with the essential message. Truth is not the sort of thing you compose from a series of heartfelt messages; it's external and immovable. It doesn't play favorites.

A cute story can be useful in conveying a message, and that message may or may not be good, but to equate a work of fiction with "truth" is to demonstrate laughable gullibility. Did you enjoy "Bronenosets Potyomkin"?

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Enlighten me! (3.50 / 2) (#105)
by Greyjack on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 05:27:14 PM EST

Tell me, please, if Truth is in fact "external and immovable," from whence does it stem? I would love to hear the correct definition of Truth!

I must know!

--
Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett


[ Parent ]
Enlightenment... (none / 0) (#108)
by ubu on Wed Oct 25, 2000 at 01:28:28 PM EST

I can't enlighten you, but the Word of God can. Truth springs from the eternal God, not from my wisdom or yours. That message is offensive to human ears, but Truth is safe from our judgment.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
And which one is that? (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by sec on Wed Oct 25, 2000 at 11:05:01 PM EST

I know of several gods, and several "ultimate truths". Which ones are you talking about?



[ Parent ]

Sorry (none / 0) (#114)
by ubu on Mon Oct 30, 2000 at 07:22:08 PM EST

I only know One.

Ubu
--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Animal Farm is not fiction. (none / 0) (#112)
by bscanl on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 08:29:57 AM EST

To be a bit more specific, Animal Farm is an allegory. It is not madey-up fiction, whereas this short story was nothing more than fiction. It doesn't matter if the point made by the short-story is one that we should consider relevant in the real world, it doesn't excuse the publishing of this fiction as news, imho.

[ Parent ]
The impact of debit on the poor (3.00 / 3) (#91)
by ODiV on Sat Oct 21, 2000 at 11:00:28 PM EST

I was downtown the other day and noticed just how many people use their debit cards for pretty much every purchase. Who carries change around anymore? I certainly don't as much as I used to and I know people who never carry around any cash.

I got me wondering if the rise of the debit card has impacted the people who ask for change on the street.

I suppose no one here has first hand experience though right? I doubt the guy who sleeps on the bench outside the library ever walks inside to use the Internet. I wonder if he's even allowed.



--
[ odiv.net ]
Homeless: A Tricky Issue for Libraries (3.00 / 1) (#96)
by weathervane on Sun Oct 22, 2000 at 05:55:17 PM EST

It's definitely an issue for libraries. On one hand they have a misssion to provide books and information (that includes the internet) to those least able to afford them.

On the other hand, they don't want to drive off their existing clients by having the place overrrun by smelly, shabby looking people who are often hostile to the staff and use the place as a place to get a quick nap.

Bottom line: libraries often do make a practise of kicking out the homeless, based on complaints by other clients.

P.S. Squeegee punks I know have told me that there is a lot less change forthcoming than there was 5 years ago. Why is anyone's guess.

[ Parent ]

Re: Homeless: A Tricky Issue for Libraries (3.50 / 2) (#99)
by erotus on Mon Oct 23, 2000 at 06:25:57 AM EST

Well, I used to work in a library during my college years. The library is in a nice suburbian town with very few homeless people. At least the homeless were not publicly visible like a downtown area. I do remember one fellow who came in every now and then, grabbed a book, and sat in the comfy chairs with his eyes half open. I couldn't tell if he was reading or asleep. One of my co-workers finally caught him sleeping. None of us said anything to him since we rarely saw him. However, it did make us wonder what he did during the days he wasn't sleeping in the library.

[ Parent ]
Fiction: Megabits Among the Homeless | 113 comments (109 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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