June 29th, 2010

I don't trust people who can't do math

Specifically, would _you_ trust someone to put together a shelter to survive virtually any disaster, if they couldn't do math?

Stephen Colbert did a bit on Vivos, which made me giggle and, of course, google them. I saw a bunch of people saying that it was 20 shelters, 200 people per shelter, cost of $10 million per shelter to build. And the company may extend invitations to buy an ownership interest at $50K per adult/$25K per kid, hypoallergenic, quiet pets for free. I had a little trouble nailing down the $10 million per shelter to a company source, but here is one instance:

www.terravivos.com/images/release_3_25_2010.pdf

They're saying it's going to cost them $10 million to build, but selling the ownership interests at the highest possible rate would just barely break even, never mind the operating costs implied in the material.

Never mind they are selling condos to survive the apocalypse. I wouldn't buy a condo to survive the apocalypse from someone whose plan is to not even break even. That's just wacky -- the only way it makes sense is if they're planning on taking your money and _not_ building the condo.

Which is why I don't trust people who can't do math: maybe they _can_ do math, and I'm the mark.

It's probably just a practical joke anyway, or a way to sell some refitted nuclear fallout shelters with an animation of something entirely other.

ETA:

Hmmmm.

http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2003/02/24/story3.html

"Fully functional" at 15K square feet for a little over a million. Pre bubble prices, so probably not that far off the mark for current. I wonder if I can find it in zillow.

Wow. Searching on 17 acre Alvarado got me a cached page off housing block with the address 10136 FM 1807 and a price of $500K. But current zillow price on that address (which, I might add, makes absolutely no sense to me) is well under $200K. *shrug*

ETAYA: But I think it's the right place:

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM656D_DF_50_IFC_Alvarado_Texas

Altho heaven knows I've made dumb that's-GOT-to-be-the-same-thing errors before.

Definitely not the same place. Never mind. I wonder which one it was? Or maybe somewhere else entirely. There was probably a whole crop of Nike sites in Alvarado.

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM656B_DF_50_Launch_Battery_Alvarado_Texas is 10136 FM 1807. FM is "farm to market road" or something along those lines".

more worrisome sentences

From _Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations_: "Typically, hunting and gathering societies considered food to belong to all, readily shared what they had, and did not store or hoard -- egalitarian behavior indicating that shortages were rare."

Counting up the problems:

(1) How do we know what they thought and whether they shared? Answer: by analogy with primate species and modern-day hunter gatherer societies. So that's suspicious, but I'm not disagreeing with it.

(2) Did not store or hoard: well, no, given that they lacked the technology to do either, unless they didn't but either way, we don't know _this_ either.

(3) Egalitarian behavior: if there is a general rule out there, it's that communal ownership arises in the poorest, most resource starved groups -- not the ones with no shortages.

How do you pack that many errors into _that_ short a sentence? It isn't even unclear. It's very clear. It's just very wrong in every possible way.

hoof and mouth disease

Okay, not really. And definitely not the livestock version, anyway. On our weekend in Albany to congratulate the kids' cousin on graduating from high school, A. was acting really sick again. We _had_ been mostly recovering from the previous cold/flu/respiratory virus/wtf. And she wasn't getting better Sunday night, so today, I asked R. to take her in to find out what's up. They say she has hand, foot and mouth virus, probably coxsackiesomethingorother. She'll be sick for a weekish, has sores in her mouth (as does R., actually, who is also feeling much sicker again -- T. and I are not sicker, or at least not as sicker as they are, altho we aren't getting better the way we were), is running a fever and not very hungry. The good news is, lethargic = napping more. The bad news is, wow, can she be clingy when she's sick.

We had such plans for this week. We were going to go to the aquarium. We were going to go to Canobie Lake. I was trying to set up playdates.

This is what I get for attempting to get out of the house.

Also, B. canceled due to illness, and T. refused all outings with me. We stayed inside almost the entire day, except when he bawled because R. took A. to the doctor and T. wanted to go with them. We waited tearfully outside for about 20 minutes until I successfully distracted T. by picking him up and tickling him, did some deep pressure, and then took him back inside to throw him on the couch. Repeatedly. Other than that, we did an ungodly number of jigsaw puzzles, played HoneyBee Tree and the Candyland Castle Game, set up the monorail, the wooden train set and the plastic train set (all at the same time. That is always kind of fun to watch), and watched a lot of TV.

R.'s meeting got rescheduled, so he spent a chunk of today napping with A.

ETA: T. and I have been singing some song games (mostly monkeys jumping on the bed and if you're happy and you know it, but also sometimes incy wincy and other stuff). I wonder if the "mama called the doctor and the doctor said" from monkeys jumping on the bed is why he wanted to go to the doctor with papa. Probably not. T. and R. go to the doctor a lot because of the asthma complicating respiratory stuff. Altho oddly, this time around it wasn't a problem.

_Last Call_, Daniel Okrent (kindle)

Subtitled: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Stunningly, _not_ an academic press book: the imprint is Scribner, so it is Simon and Schuster. Recently published (May), I saw the author on Rachel Maddow -- she was taken by the description of the Anti-Saloon League and its single-minded focus on a single issue.

I cannot recall enjoying any book, fiction or non-fiction, quite so much as I enjoyed reading this one. It has been many years since I last wanted a book to go on and on indefinitely because I so thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is possible that the topic is a large chunk of the explanation: I have never read in any depth about Prohibition, altho I have read several books about strategies in regulating alcohol and other recreationally mind-altering substances. Okrent begins several decades before Prohibition and continues for a while after Repeal, thus, while his focus is on Prohibition, there is a lot of familiar territory in the form of woman suffrage.

Maddow is right to have found this book appealing from a political journalist perspective: Okrent's perspective is political. A lot of books about regulating mind-altering substances have a very recognizable agenda; Okrent doesn't, in part because this is _history_. He's not talking about marijuana or meth or anything else. He's talking about alcohol. And he's specifically talking about a short list of organizations (including WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League, but also many others) that were political to the core: they had a goal and they rallied whatever resources they could to attain that goal. They lied. They misrepresented. They twisted the constitution. They race-baited. Etc. Okrent _could_ have painted the goals as evil, but he does not: when he's describing what the WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League were up to, it's pretty easy to sympathize. Not just empathize, not just feel compassion, but to feel swayed by their propaganda, even while recognizing it as propaganda. When he's describing what the brewers were up to, as much as I sympathized with their goal, I was horrified by their tactics and their rationales. It's hard to say Okrent is neutral, but it is easy to feel, after reading this, that Okrent really made an effort to understand why people did what they did, and to present that as accurately as he possibly could. That makes for both a rollicking good read and really excellent history.

It is entirely possible that Okrent has a massive bias, and it is invisible to me because I share it utterly. I don't know. What I do know is that I came to this book without particularly high expectations -- I just figured that Rachel Maddow doesn't often plug a book quite that hard, or for quite that reason, so I might as well give it a shot. And what I left this book with -- in addition to a wonderfully detailed vision of Prohibition, what led to it, what it did to our country, and what did it in -- was an eye-popping realization that the Republican Party has been breathtakingly stupid in a very particular way once before. So I probably shouldn't be so surprised to see it happening once again. And right there, that's probably the bias.

I cannot possibly recommend this book strongly enough. I envy you the fun you are about to have, the day you embark upon this lovely, lovely book.

ETA: Oh, yeah. There's a chapter on Joe Kennedy, and how the rumor got started that he was a bootlegger, and how he almost certainly was not. That was a shocker, and a fascinating tale in its own right.

two sidelights

Having slavered all over Okrent's book, I now want to make a couple of minor, largely irrelevant remarks about it. First, there's a little story about a young woman during Prohibition who got unconscious-drunk in the company of a young man/men and her parents got a little letter on the subject. That young woman then grew up to become a house mother at a sorority. "But to look at Pauline Izor at sixty -- or at a photograph of one's own mother or grandmother -- and to try to imagine her as a falling-down drunk is unfathomable." Yeah, so, Okrent? Grow the fuck up. Altho the story does go a little ways towards explaining how college drinking culture might replicate itself over time. A bit overdetermined, but still.

There's a quote about Al Smith: ""Al is really a very stupid man," an admirer once said. "All he can see is the point.""

I would be a happy woman if someday, someone said something like that about me. I'm also looking forward to Stanley Walker's _The Night Club Era_ arriving from Better World Books via Amazon used books. I found it by searching on that phrase in google books.