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July 31, 2009

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My favorite Conan YouTube clip (the second one in that post).

As I wrote in comments there, I like to imagine that this is what meetings of California's Cabinet are like.

"Testes have many wonderful uses, but thinking ain't one of them."

Oddly coincidentally, Batocchio, in the same set of comments I just linked to, noted the detail of Arnold sending the leader of the California Senate these (which were sent back).

Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?

From the sounds of it, we should be asking you for weight-lifting advice. I've been lifting to one degree or another for about the same amount of time, so I thought I might be able to help, but it seems you're well past me in weight-lifting experience. I certainly need nothing to supplement my body weight when doing pull-ups, and I don't even bother with deal lifts.

I would be willing to say this: Hanging weights on a belt would put tension on your back when doing pull-ups or chin-ups. Compression is usually more problematic.

When standing on the ground, a weighted vest would put your lower back under more compression than would a belt, which would transfer more force directly to your legs through your hips.

When hanging, a weighted vest would add mostly to the load on your shoulders and have almost no effect on your lower back.

If an experience-free exposition of the physics involved is helpful, there it is.

Regarding your form, I think you're doing more of the work with your back than you would were you to stay perpendicular to the ground, which would force you to use your lats more. I don't know if that's bad or not. I think it depends on what you're trying to acheive. You're probably getting a bit of ab work at the 45 degrees.

This thing is firing darts? As in dartboard darts? Or the ones with suction caps? If the latter, how do you prevent substituting them with the former?
That is not meant as a joke!
For some time heavy water pistols (there are also bazookas) over here were equipped with sensors that would block the nozzle, if something different from water was loaded. The reason were nasty accidents with 'pranksters' putting bleach in these things.

Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?

To a certain extent, yes. But children are very good at distinguishing play from real. And it's a heck of a lot of fun.

It's also virtually impossible to keep this kind of play out. There is something primal about playacting war and conflict. I was raised in a home where we were forbidden to have any toy weapons -- specifically including guns. We ended up running around pretending that sticks were guns. Or playing with toy guns that our friends had.

Eventually, when I was like 11, my dad made a toy gun out of (I swear) a piece of plywood. This was my first experience with the adage "Be careful what you wish for." (Toy gun made by not-too-handy dad out of plywood? Not cool.)

FYI...

stimulus? stimulating.

Hairshirt, that's very helpful & makes me feel a bit better.

This thing is firing darts? As in dartboard darts? Or the ones with suction caps?

There's a little velcro spot on the soft tip -- to stick to the target. (In deference to folks who don't want to teach their kids to make war, these products are labeled as a game of "tag" .... umm, yeah.) The range is about 25-30 feet.

I do a lot of pullups and chinups. A lot. Both weighted (with a belt) and unweighted. Question 1: what is the impact of using a weight belt on the lower back? Should I buy a weighted vest instead? (I typically hang between 25 and 70 pounds on the belt.)

First off: 70lbs? Damn. And I was proud of myself for doing 6 wide angle pull-ups at 45lbs.

I find that a chest belt distributes the weight better. When you get tired, chances are that you will start breaking form and using your hips to shift the weight to help with those final few reps. My experience has been that chest weights make this much, much harder to do...IMHO. I also find that the 45 degree angle with the chest weights seems to work my pecs a little better as secondary muscle. As long as I light myself down slowly and don't over do it, I don't have any back problems and I've [email protected] up my traps enough that it's a lingering problem.

Hope that slightly tipsy post helps.

PS - What the hell did you do to get up to 70lbs on the pull up?

Cool toy, Von!

So, you're a big, tough guy with pecs and lats and a washboard in the midsection and a throbbing vein in the temple region?

Just wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for insulting or annoying you in the past.

If that's not good enough, I can outrun you.

That will be all.

This is an interesting coincidence for me--over the summer I've been reading about weightlifting online. It's sort of entertaining, because as my wife and I have noticed, some fitness gurus (not all, but many) seem to have this notion that in pushing their sport or their ideas, they have to tear down everyone else. But entertainment aside, it's also confusing. The running gurus seem to give fairly consistent advice about their sport--a lot of the weightlifting guys seem to be at war with each other and some of them also make astonishingly silly claims about the worthlessness of aerobic exercise for weight control. (Stuff like "long slow distance is bad because it trains your body to burn fat more efficiently--you should do all intervals all the time, if you do cardio at all.")

Anyway, on to my own question. What's the best way to weight train if you want to increase your strength in the upper body, but have no ambitions of becoming big? (I don't think I could add much muscle if I wanted to, though I have no problem accumulating 10-20 lbs of fat if I don't watch it). I run a fair amount, which according to the weightlifting gurus means my legs aren't going to be very strong (as opposed to having lots of endurance), but maybe there's a chance for my upper body.

"Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?"

I think it's hard to stop. It doesn't take much "indoctrination." If you want to try to stop it, active campaigns against such games seem necessary to at best ameliorate it.

My personal opinion is that children should be highly educated about the differences between games of war, and the actual brutality, events, and consequences, of real war. I don't know that attempting to forbid games of war would be a particularly productive way to go, and I'm outright doubtful about it.

But I stand in favor of the education and indoctrination on the differences between games of war, and actual war, I stated above.

Letting out natural aggression in games is a different thing, after all, than actual harming of other people. It's confusing the two things that can lead to problems.

"It's also virtually impossible to keep this kind of play out. There is something primal about playacting war and conflict. I was raised in a home where we were forbidden to have any toy weapons -- specifically including guns. We ended up running around pretending that sticks were guns. Or playing with toy guns that our friends had."

I'm not sure I want to try to find an appropriate study on this, but it certainly seems anecotally true.

If that's not good enough, I can outrun you.

This is why I have an nerf machinegun: To gun John Thullen down.

(As my tailor says, I'm built like a gorilla. Not so much with the washboard abs, though.)

Awesom0 - 70 pounds is just a 45 plate and a 25 plate on a belt. I can only manage 3-4 of them, and I usually stop at 45 (and I can only manage 6-7 of them, so we're not so far off). I tend to vary my grip, though, so I'll work up to 45 (or 70) with a wide overhand grip, and then repeat the sets with narrower underhand and neutral grips.

For some reason, unless I have seen reason to think otherwise, I generally picture bloggers to be thin, pale and out of shape - usually wearing glasses. It's my default image. That was my image of you before this afternoon, von. It's odd to imagine you as being built like a gorilla after a few years of baselessly thinking otherwise.

"This is why I have an nerf machinegun: To gun John Thullen down."

Dude, that will only work on the nerf John Thullen.

Hey, open thread: if anyone's gonna be at Musikfest in Bethlehem PA this weekend, I'll be playing with a guy named Digney Fignus on Sunday at 7:00 and Monday sometime in the afternoon, I think 2:00. Stop by and say hey, I'll buy you some fried dough!

Tonight I'm at yet another Boston north shore Irish bar with a pretty good rock band. Semi-loud music and fine UK ales on tap.

No pull ups will be performed, only some elbow bends.

"For some reason, unless I have seen reason to think otherwise, I generally picture bloggers to be thin, pale and out of shape - usually wearing glasses."

I'm fat (currently 265 or so, though I've been down to 250 in the past couple of months, and then ballooned up some again lately), pale, short (5' 4") and out of shape, and I used to wear glasses, but now only have reading glasses, because I don't have a spare couple of hundred bucks to purchase replacement longer sight glasses the last one of which I lost at a bus stop in Boulder several years ago.

Fortunately, I don't desperately need them; they're just very helpful.

But even online prescription glasses cost a couple of hundred bucks even with the cheapest frames. Not in my current budget.

I do find the reading glasses absolutely necessary these days, save on the computer, where I simply blow up the font size as desired.

Before Facebook deleted my page for no explained reason, and then never responded to any of my zillions of attempts to get an explanation, I could have pointed you to a few more recent pictures of me. I suppose I could always post a couple at my blog, but I'm not all that fond of any of them.

Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?

If any of the nerf projectiles tear through flesh and bone, I'm sure Von will let us know.

On the all important toy gun issue, my younger sister and I had water pistols, but even with that we still used things like a toy broom as a machine gun. And I used toothpicks to stand for spears with the little toy cavemen.

We mostly pretended that guns only knocked people out, however. Little liberals at play, I suppose.

"And I used toothpicks to stand for spears with the little toy cavemen."

You could put someone's eye out with one of those!

"We mostly pretended that guns only knocked people out, however."

Perhaps we should allow kids to play with toy guns, or fingers pretending to be toy guns, but then enforce on them mandatory six-week confinement to their rooms as hospital beds, and splints tied to their limbs, and whatever else we can manage to simulate realistic wounds, without being too realistic.

And jump in their rooms in the middle of the night frequently, setting off M-80s and screaming "Boom" so as to give them experience with PTSD.

(This is an attempt at very dry humor, if that isn't clear.)

Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?

Given the cultural milieu in which children steep, I'm don't think you can raise children who don't think that war and killing are games. To children, just about anything is a game, and games are how they learn about the world and themselves. Children's war games are cognitive tools for exploring conflict.

The problem we have isn't that society is full of people who played war-themed games as children. Rather, the problems we have are (1) that most adults never bothered to learn what war is like and (2) many adults are ethical monsters who see no problem with starting unnecessary wars. These sorts of problems cannot be dealt with by preventing children from playing with nerf guns.

As a youngster, used to have the old fashioned cap pistol, which created a delightful odor as the tiny dot on the red ribbon exploded. No projectiles involved.

"You could put someone's eye out with one of those!"

You know, that is one of those lines that people say, but can't really imagine, so to put a delightful picture into people's minds going into the weekend, a little story.

When I was 5 and my brother 9, we were playing Peter Pan, my brother playing the role of the infamous Captain Hook using a coat hanger (in those days only metal ones available). I ended up in the hospital having surgery on my eye ball and have not regained sight in my right eye until this day.

My younger son uses the story to frighten high school freshmen he teaches when they start getting boisterous and throwing pencils around.

"For some reason, unless I have seen reason to think otherwise, I generally picture bloggers to be thin, pale and out of shape - usually wearing glasses. It's my default image."

Hey, I don't wear glasses! I got laser eye surgery!

"Isn't it totally inappropriate to indoctrinate young children into thinking killing and war is a game?"

I'll add my own to the list of "good luck with that" anecdotes:

My wife used to work at a day care center where one year they instituted a very strict policy of no war toys. And with zero tolerance - nothing that even remotely resembled a weapon was allowed on the property, either as a company-owned toy or in the form of a toy one of the kids had brought with them from home. No war toys.

So naturally the little boys at this center hit upon a creative solution to this top-down change in policy - they nibbled off bits of their graham crackers so as to form them into the shape of handguns and resumed their mock gunfighting using crackers to go "bang!", "pow!" as if nothing had changed.

As for at home, I've told my boys than in preference to mock gunplay I like it better when they fight Star Wars style duels with fake plastic lightsabers, as there is little risk that someday while they are playing over at one of their friend's houses somebody might accidentally slice an arm off with dad's real lightsaber which got mistaken for a toy.

Regarding the new poll out that indicates that only 42% of Republicans are willing to say that Obama was actually born in the US (http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0709/58_of_GOP_not_suredont_beleive_Obama_born_in_US.html)...

I know this site tries to make the assumption that both sides of the political aisle work in good faith, and mostly just disagree about the best way to govern our country -- a great ideal that I thoroughly support. But how do you reconcile that attitude with a poll like this? Is there anything at all that Republicans can point at on the Democrat side where they believe something that is obviously, patently false?

I'd love to believe "the other side" is reasonable enough to have an honest debate with. But when I see stuff like this, it makes me question that.

When it comes to the lower back and chinups, I'd definitely stick with the weight belt- especially now that you tweaked it. By keeping the weight at or below your your lower back, the strain on it will be minimized. Ideally, you can get things a little lower than the lower back and that will actually work to stretch the spine a little which in turn will give the discs a little more room which in turn will help keep your back healthier.

As for how far to pull-up, what you describe sounds right. You only cheat yourself when you're not pulling all the way up as your limiting the range over which you have strength.

To be honest, unless you're body-building or a competitive power-lifter, I would stay away from deadlifts of any sort and opt for "reverse-situps" where you lie on your stomach and then lift your legs off the ground as high as you can. The more reps the better. Also, another exercise is to lie on a bench with your feet touching the floor and alternately lift your legs up as high as you can. Concentrate on using the lower back when doing these. A third variation is to get on all fours and lift opposite legs and arms. In other words, when raising your right leg, also raise your left arm. Straighten your legs as you raise them. This is actually a decent balance exercise as well. If you do these exercises, don't rush them- slower controlled movements will maximize their effectiveness.

I've had lower back problems for many years, but since I started doing these types of back exercises I have really improved the condition of my back and I have not had any flareups in many years now.

If you do stick with deadlift type exercises (and squats for that matter), then be fanatical about form- it will be the only thing between you and a very bad back. Even then, there are no guarantees.

Anyway- hope the back improves. Sorry if I sound preachy- it's not intended... just trying to offer some lessons from my own experiences.

"As for at home, I've told my boys than in preference to mock gunplay I like it better when they fight Star Wars style duels with fake plastic lightsabers, as there is little risk that someday while they are playing over at one of their friend's houses somebody might accidentally slice an arm off with dad's real lightsaber which got mistaken for a toy."

You say that now, but when they meet a real Jedi, there could be trouble.

Or you could go with one of these. Or for a mere $200, this, if you're nuts.

"For some reason, unless I have seen reason to think otherwise, I generally picture bloggers to be thin, pale and out of shape"

Hey, I'm fat, pale, and out of shape!

"I know this site tries to make the assumption that both sides of the political aisle work in good faith"

The site doesn't do anything. The site has no mind or agency. Different individuals who post at this site have their own views on these issues, just as you do.

"The site doesn't do anything. The site has no mind or agency. Different individuals who post at this site have their own views on these issues, just as you do."

Well, that was the feeling I got from the articles and commentary at this site, and it's what I believe Hilzoy was advocating. Certainly wasn't the main thrust of my post, regardless.

I'd love to believe "the other side" is reasonable enough to have an honest debate with. But when I see stuff like this, it makes me question that.

Eh, I think you may be reading too much into this. Most Americans lack the training, inclination, and practice to usefully debate any policy issue. That's true regardless of what their political beliefs are. So for most people, policy beliefs boil down to tribalism or inherited wisdom or that thing they heard from that guy on TV. Now you can try debating with these people but it doesn't usually seem useful to me: facts are irrelevant to tribal identity so debate is just exhausting.

OW isn't really here to promote discussion with those people I suspect. The focus seems to be on people who care enough about policy issues to do some reading, people who believe (even if only through self-deception) that policy arguments should be subject to facts and not just identity. Now, among Republicans/Conservatives of that set, I suspect a much smaller fraction are birthers. But it hard to poll those people, so I doubt we'll ever see a comparison.

Thanks, Gerry!

That was my image of you before this afternoon, von. It's odd to imagine you as being built like a gorilla after a few years of baselessly thinking otherwise.

Think about Henry Rollins in the Rollins band days. Add a couple inches of height, a couple extra years, and a couple extra pounds. Delete the tatoos and put him in a suit. Send the resulting creation to law school, have him work for years and years, and then make him a youngish partner at a largish firm practicing (mostly) patent litigation.

Presto: von.

(Oh, and I wear contacts.)

"...and it's what I believe Hilzoy was advocating."

I believe what Hilzoy believes is something far closer to the idea that there are people who can be found on both sides of the aisle who are acting in good faith, and that discussions between them can be worthwhile, as well as discussions between people in closer agreement on issues being worthwhile.

(Not that Hilzoy founded the site, anyway.)

This is a very different idea than the notion that generically, or in totality, or mostly, "both sides of the political aisle work in good faith."

I don't believe Hilzoy believes the latter at all. This distinction is crucial.

I do not speak for Hilzoy; I'm just guessing, based on my several years of experience with her. For actual Hilzoy opinion, ask Hilzoy at your next opportunity.

I miss reading Hilzoy's voice.

Hey, I don't wear glasses! I got laser eye surgery!

Posted by: Sebastian | July 31, 2009 at 04:45 PM

You were already exempt from my default image, Sebastian. I knew you played volley ball, so I pitured you as being tall and leanly muscular, and probably blonde in a California sort of way.

Think about Henry Rollins in the Rollins band days.

As an aside, I was lucky enough to catch Henry reunited with the 90s Rollins Band line-up just a couple of years ago at the TLA in Philly in a double-bill with X. They were supposed to play the Electric Factory, which holds quite a few more people, but didn't sell enough tickets. It got moved to the much smaller TLA, which still wasn't that crowded.

I was a little worried that Henry wouldn't be able to muster the same intensity that he used to have. My worries were completely unfounded. He killed, totally, and didn't seem to care in the least about the size of the crowd. In my beer-fueled eloquence, I told my wife it was as though he crapped out his soul right on the stage. (My wife used to refer to Henry Rollins as her boyfriend.)

He wasn't quite as big, muscle-wise, as he was a decade earlier, but he was quite ripped, and a bit grayer.

It was a blessed evening to be sure. (X was okay, too. I was just never into them all that much.)

Oh, and my six-year-old saw the picture of the Nerf Vulcan. He knew it by name, but couldn't figure out why I was looking at one on the computer.

I've weighed about the same amount since seventh grade but lately the distribution has shifted, hence my recent decision to join my husband's health club. Now there will be two people down there who are always changing the tV's in the excercise machines away from Faux.

This is a return trip for me; I used to workout regularly and loved it. I loved the narcissism of it, the self indulgence of making my body all toned and strong. I was buff! Then I just got bored with it.

Now I can't say I have much enthusiam but I don't like being both skinny and flabby. Plus since I have surgery on my intestines I acquired a five inch incision in my lower belly that adhered to my abdominal wall giving me the look of a woman with a butt crack in front.

I do have glasses with tape on the bridge over my nose, though. That's classic blogger nerd, isn't it?

Unless you plan on an aggressive and thorough campaign of sheltering your children, they will encounter images of war and death. They will play wargames with their friends, and if you forbid it they will simply do it when you're not around to give your input.

Similar lines of thought apply to sex and drugs. This is not a coincidence.

For my part, I take a very liberal view of what my boy is allowed to watch or play--if he's old enough to ask the right questions and understand what he's seeing, and it's not going to give him nightmares, I'm generally okay with it. Within limits, of course--I won't let him watch me play Prototype, and Jay and Silent Bob is over the line. But generally speaking, I've found that if you treat kids as if they're capable of grasping complex subjects, and are willing to explain them, they will surprise you with what they're able to process and absorb in a sensible manner. And they understand the difference between reality and fantasy just fine, if you make the effort to establish that early on.

And really, Nerf is pretty low on the scale of death-dealing devices, or ability to be mistaken for same. Now, if your kid is building one of these beauties, you should probably keep a closer eye on their hobbies. :)

The neighbors kids have a little electric jeep. Add the vulcan & they have a rockin little technical.

And do boys dream of electric jeeps?

This is a return trip for me; I used to workout regularly and loved it. I loved the narcissism of it, the self indulgence of making my body all toned and strong. I was buff! Then I just got bored with it.

I've been through something like this a number of times. I've worked out to varying degrees over a couple of decades with the emphasis varying between lifting and cardio. I've never stopped completely, but I've been in some pretty deep lulls.

About 3 years ago I got my body fat down to as low as it had been since I was about 22 years old through what was probably the best combination of lifting and cardio I had ever done, spurred by the diagnosis of high blood pressure. Getting in great shape didn't really help in that regard, but I was pretty ripped.

I'm about 20 pounds heavier now than I was then. Having a third kid really changed things. And finding that medication worked far better than exercise to lower my bp didn't help my motivation much, either.

Lately I've been doing high-intensity interval training and some lifting. My weight doesn't seem to be changing, but I've been feeling a lot better and more fit, regardless of what the scale says. So screw the effin' scale. And I'm drinking beer when I damned well feel like it.

"You could put someone's eye out with one of those!"

You know, that is one of those lines that people say, but can't really imagine, so to put a delightful picture into people's minds going into the weekend, a little story.

My experience was the up-close visual. I used to work for a parking company in downtown Minneapolis. One of our lots was next door to a bar that was less than scrupulous about making sure their patrons didn't have too much to drink. Throw in some ethnic tensions (there were a lot of Asians that went to the bar next to that one), and there were periodic fights on our lot at Friday and Saturday bar close.

One time when I was the weekend manager, there was an all-out massive brawl. This featured someone grabbing the stool our double parkers sat on and hitting someone else in the head with it. I was right there, trying to make sure all of our employees got into the shelter of the cashier's booth, and got to see the wonderful sight of the target's right eye hanging by (I guess) the optical nerve after having been squeezed out of its socket.

Fortunately, the cops arrived before I felt compelled to try to help the individual. I would say "poor gentleman," except that he was trying to hit someone with a bottle when he got clocked.

You know it goes both ways. At the end of my Field Artillery Advance Course, we had a training exercise where we simulated a corps in combat ( 3 divisions ). We only did the fire support part and all by radio. It became quite boring. Mission after mission of artillery interspersed with some calls for air sorties and the occasional call for naval gun fire. 225 captains working over maps and paperwork ( you wouldn't believe the amount of paperwork involved in fighting a war)
Well, as I said it goes both ways. We were 30 hours into a 48 hour operation. As a Fire Support Officer it was my job to monitor calls for fire. My silence ment consent or I could intercept the call and change it any way I wanted. I monitored the following call for fire. Juliet 3 tango one six, this is juliet 3 tango 27 fire mission over. ( the call is read back by the recieving unit) Enemy tank platoon w/ dismounted infantry in the open, grid 065344, direction 1509, full phasers in effect. Of course, I had to interupt. Everyone knows that tanks require photon torpedoes. The exercise went down hill from there for 5 hours. It all came to a halt when the Commanding General stopped by and saw a logistics request for Charlie Battery, 1st of the 37th for disruptors and dilithium crystals. They called the exercise. Give the guy credit the CG was amused. To this day I contend that a request for photon torpedoes should be handled by the Naval Gun Fire Laison Officer ( aka-NOGLO)

...got to see the wonderful sight of the target's right eye hanging by (I guess) the optical nerve after having been squeezed out of its socket.

My understanding is that there's a good possiblity of a person in that condition being able to see through the dislodged eye, so long as the optic nerve is still intact. In the right frame of mind, it would be cool to take the eye and have a look around in ways previously unavailable. Imagine looking yourself in the eye without a mirror or looking forward and back all at once. I might just pop one out right now just for the fun of it.

Aaahh!!!_Real_Monsters (Krumm)

"My wife used to work at a day care center where one year they instituted a very strict policy of no war toys"

When my stepson was a little kid, my wife tried this policy.

He promptly picked up a stick, pointed it at somebody, and said "bang!".

I was never a little girl, so I don't know what little girls like to do. Little boys like combat, pretend initially, not pretend later.

Not all little boys, just lots and lots.

About that toy machine gun:

Somebody went to the trouble of designing that thing. Engineers spent time making detail drawings of the parts. Skilled toolmakers fabricated precise molds out of blocks of stainless steel. Chinese workers assembled the plastic pieces with hasty dexterity. Purchase orders, invoices, customs forms, and sundry other papers were filled out by people in cubicles. Somebody somewhere assigned a UPC code to the damn thing. The entire panoply of modern industry and business was mobilized to produce ... a toy machine gun!

I have similar thoughts when I look at my 5-year-old nephew's collection of toy trucks and toy trains and toy construction machinery. (I do note with some pride that the kid can explain the difference between an excavator and a backhoe in two languages!) Looking at all that stuff, I see millions and millions of dollars worth of tooling just to make the piece parts. I see evidence that the world has run out of useful things to produce.

Don't get me wrong. I love my nephew, and I would not deprive him of a single minute's pleasure. Nevertheless, I have to wonder whether the world economy is reaching the point where, if we just let little boys amuse themselves by picking up bent sticks and yelling "bang" at each other, too much unemployment would result.

--TP

Gary:And jump in their rooms in the middle of the night frequently, setting off M-80s and screaming "Boom" so as to give them experience with PTSD.

That method was used on the Austrian crown prince (son of empress Elisabeth) to 'harden' him for his future career as a soldier. It included literally firing pistols next to his head while he slept. The results were what we would call PTSD today (and he later committed suicide).

I see evidence that the world has run out of useful things to produce.

That must also be why, until recently, there were three large pet stores in Augusta, Maine (pop. 17000 or so, but in fairness, it's a commercial center for a wider area).

And by pet stores I don't mean stores that just sell pets, I mean stores that sell acres of plastic (and other) junk for pets.

It's also virtually impossible to keep this kind of play out. There is something primal about playacting war and conflict. I was raised in a home where we were forbidden to have any toy weapons -- specifically including guns. We ended up running around pretending that sticks were guns. Or playing with toy guns that our friends had.

Bingo.

Primal indeed. Here's the thing: on some level, human beings (or at least men) like war. Hardwired. That's one of the reasons why it's so easy to drum up support for a war, and why people are so quick to resort to force.

That being said, humans also commonly recoil and are deeply scarred at the experience of war. Yet we keep coming back for more.

I say this not as a comment on parenting - boys will play war games regardless. But rather as to note that too few humans recognize the existence of this innate compulsion to make war. Perhaps becoming aware of this trait could help us to make more informed, better decisions. Correct for the bias so to speak.

I see evidence that the world has run out of useful things to produce.

...and consume. The amateur economist in me ponders these things often. Is there some objective measure of value beyond monetary cost? I ask because it seems that there is so much nearly useless stuff available in the modern world, much of it coming under the toy category, whether for kids, pets or adults, and most of it made of plastic. Then you've got your F-22s and such.

One of the justifications for continuing the production (or opposing the discontinuance) of the F-22 was the jobs the production provided. But that is akin in my mind to paying people to do any damned thing you can think of regardless of what value is being created - the old dig-holes-and-fill-them-back-in thing.

It comes down to what we, as the human race - not just the US, allocate our resources to - human resources in the form of labor and creativity, natural resources, and whatever secondary technological resources arise from them.

One of the mental experiments I've used to try to understand economics through what might be called a boundary-condition analysis is what I call the "Black Box Economy."

The Black Box Economy posits that human beings possess black boxes that can produce whatever material thing one might desire, eliminating the need for labor, at least to recreate things once fully conceived.

There would remain limitations on available land, air and water, but the black box would not require raw materials to create end products. It could spit out a log cabin without any trees being cut down. It could create a leather sofa without skinning any cows. It would be limited only by the imagination of the user and the laws of physics (other than those that make the black box impossible). The black box may also be used to remove from existence anything the user no longer wanted, so the result of this experiment need not be a world littered to the sky with mansions and Lamborghinis, or whatever it is you think the human race would overindulge in.

You can assume everyone has a black box or you can assume there is some limited number of black boxes over which the human race might fight or create a government to manage. You can assume any point in human history or pre-history for the introduction of the black box. (Perhaps they were there from the beginning of the universe, but humans had to evolve to the point of knowing what to do with the black boxes. Maybe they started off spitting out stone tools or bunches of bananas.)

So the questions are:

What would people use the black boxes for?
What would people do with their time if they didn't need to work?
Would there be war without competition for scarce resources?
What would be the nature of technology and its advancement?
Would people bother to design new things or would they cease to progress, having an infinite supply of their basic needs?
Would there be more or less art?
Would there be more or less sport?
Would the population exlode, necessitating need to create technology to manage various forms of human waste? (Or can the black box disappear poop and such?)

This would be, I think, the world the Luddite would fear most. It's the logical end of the machine, in the form of the black box, replacing the efforts of man. And I think it's a logical extension of: I see evidence that the world has run out of useful things to produce.

I also have to assume I'm not that original a thinker, and that there's something in economics or science fiction (or whatever) akin to my Black Box Economy. (And, yes, I've already considered 2001. I don't think it's quite the same thing.)

Tony:

"Purchase orders, invoices, customs forms and sundry other papers were filled out by people in cubicles."

Are you telling me the private sector has bureaucracy ... that these people (faceless, natch) gum up the works with their shuffling and their stamping and their facelessness?

When my son was little, we didn't actively discourage the use of weapons of mass destruction, but neither did we buy him toy guns. So, he found a good sturdy stick and had himself a trusty sword switcho chango machine gun, bazooka, rifle.

I found that stick in the shed last Spring when we were moving.

Same with me pretty much, although my brother and I had cool holsters and six-guns at one point and with a cowboy hat, kerchief, and some cobbled together chaps, we used to hold up my mother at gunpoint as she refurbished herself in the bathroom after my Dad would leave for work.

She learned to humor us with a little "Well, if it isn't the Thullen gang etc" sorts of small talk, and then we'd demand french toast for breakfast.

Try getting french toast out of your mother nowadays with the three-day waiting period and all of the other busybody liberal crapola it takes to arm your little five-year-old self so that the world seems manageable.

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA still gets french toast out of his mother (in her 90's now, but she keeps a derringer in the top of her stocking) by waving an AK-47 in her face like a lunatic. Whatever works.

When my son was pre-school age, he had a little buddy across the street whose weapon of choice was the bow and arrow. One day, the doorbell rang and I opened the door to find Sammy pointing the business end of an arrow (bowstring fully taut, one eye closed for good aiming) right at my good eye. I noticed he didn't have little suction cups on the end of the arrow either; they were the pointy kind.

At that moment, I summoned just a little empathy for General Custer, the bastard.

I made sure from then on that I went to the door carrying, if you know what I mean, and I mean concealed.

In fact, if kids were allowed to carry concealed toy weapons across state lines, we'd have a lot less of guys like Von walking around brandishing his cool macho weapons and endangering the public (by which I mean very short children in his own house).

I hates guns, despite my checkered childhood. Ban them completely. And bullets.

But don't touch my stick. Hey, what about a toy, plastic stick for $9.99?

P.S. There is very little produced by humans that I require. The stores are filled with crap. Of course, we can't ban that useless stuff; someone might go out and mass produce medicine and MRI machines, and spend the money on healthcare, and prices would fall, and everyone would have cheap healthcare and ....... better that we have sticks to beat each other over the head to prevent a good third of our society from accessing reasonable healthcare at reasonable expense.


hairshirthedonist,

i've toyed with a somewhat similar thought experiment: assume a software program that can generate perfect $100 bills, given a few pieces of inexpensive hardware and simple raw materials. you could literally print your own money (but let's ignore the inflationary aspects of such a thing).

if a license for the program itself cost $100, thus it would literally pay for itself on the first use, would people pirate the program anyway ?

i say yes.

"I also have to assume I'm not that original a thinker, and that there's something in economics or science fiction (or whatever) akin to my Black Box Economy."

Yes, there have been a wide variety of stories over the decades based on the assumption that human physical leisure would cease to be necessary, and various results might happen, from E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops, in 1909; summary here. WALL-EYE has some similar themes when it gets to the humans.

Asimov also had his worlds where robots did all labor, and humans lived underground, and grew afraid of going above ground.

Phil Dick produced a variety of responses to the theme.

I'm trying, and forgetting at the moment, who had an old classic story about humans being required to constantly use new products, rid themselves of them, and use newer ones, as a satire on product obsolescence that was necessary to keep the economy from collapsing.

I have vague memories of Robert Sheckley, and William Tenn, touching on such issues; someone who has been rereading old stories more recently than me could give a more thorough answer. (Go ask on rec.arts.sf.written.)

An anthology of sf on economics could be very interesting, but difficult to sell to the mass mareket, I'm afraid. There is this, of course.

One of the premises of the original Star Trek was that the human race was freed from the need for anyone to take any job they didn't enjoy, and no one had to take a "job" at all, if they preferred. Some could just make art, or just enjoy art, or study, as they wished, while others wished to be productive or creative or helpful or serve in other ways. That was always the background assumed of the human race. Eventually most things could be produced by "replicator," and energy was, for all practical purposes of commercial use, unlimited. (Presumably there were upper limits, since they didn't go around creating Dyson Spheres, or infinite numbers of starships.)

Eventually we see, in Deep Space Nine, that Ben Sisko's father ran a restuarant in New Orleans, but apparently that was purely because he loved pleasing people with his food.

(Otherwise, to be sure, ST of the years never dealt with economics in a consistent way, and is a mishmash of inconsistency, with replicators, and with references to "credits," and interstellar trade, and the Ferengi having "gold-press latinum" that couldn't be replicated, and it never all quite hung together in a way that made sense.)

I'm trying, and forgetting at the moment, who had an old classic story about humans being required to constantly use new products, rid themselves of them, and use newer ones, as a satire on product obsolescence that was necessary to keep the economy from collapsing.

Fred Pohl's "The Midas Plague", of course. (There were sequels and eventually a fixup novel too.) Why couldn't you have asked this on r.a.s.f.w and helped me in my futile quest to gain ground in the YASID stats?

In re war toys and the like: does no one read Saki any more? "The Toys of Peace"?

i say yes.

For the same reason Mallory climbed Everest - because it's there.

Gary,

I knew I could count on you. Thanks.

While we're open-threading and all, another SF idea I had was a human being who somehow attained total omniscience of the physical present on all levels, from the exact position and velocity (screw Heisenberg) of the most fundamental particles of matter to the vastness of the universe, with the ability to perceive fields, be they gravitational, electromechanical or otherwise. (I like specific and narrow, if great, super powers, rather than Superman-like general superness.)

So this person, knowing what's happening everywhere at any given moment on all levels, could naturally be the ultimate spy without effort, could become the world's greatest physicist, physician, automotive troubleshooter, even, and innumerable other things, if not those immediately upon attaining this omniscience, and very well might have a pathway to developing other super powers through learning not available to other humans.

For example, by observing the goings on in people's brains over time, our hero (or villian or whatever - Omni sounds like a good name) might develop the ability to read minds, at least to some degree, after learning how the physical patterns in the brain relate to people's actions. Further, if there is any potential for the human mind to produce physical forces, Omni would be able to observe the most miniscule of such effects invisible to the rest of us, thereby having a feedback mechanism through which to learn to hone that ability to it's full potential and possibly become telekinetic.

Anyway, you can go from there. I'm sure this is fairly well-covered territory, as well.

I'm about 30 lbs heavier than I was last year of high school; about 20 lbs more than freshman year of college (I was still growing, evidently). I'm not exactly svelte, now, but I seem to still be trading fat for muscle. Down from about 207 max weight (~18 months ago), I'm now just under 195.

Training regimen is some body-weight exercises at home (pushups, pullups and lunges), stretching, kicks (all the basic TKD kicks: front snap, inside-outside, outside-inside, roundhouse, side kick, back kick) and a little bit of light weight training. Plus usually a couple of nights TKD training at the school a week, and two or three sparring sessions a week. The classes usually have some cardio to get warmed up, then stretching and after that it varies quite a bit. Sometimes we do interval training, where we do something demanding for 2 minutes and then have a minute of rest, and repeat that a whole lot of times. Sometimes it's work on forms. Usually we have one class a week where we spend a good chunk of the class working on whatever form goes along with our level, plus one-steps and self-defense techniques.

The TKD thing is really working for me, because I tend to slack unless I have a coach. If I have a coach, I pretty much do whatever the coach demands of me. I think if I took off another 10 lbs, I'd be in pretty decent trim. I've been down as low as 175 as an adult, but that was when I was running a whole lot and doing nothing else.

"I also have to assume I'm not that original a thinker, and that there's something in economics or science fiction (or whatever) akin to my Black Box Economy."

A for Anything by Damon Knight (Closes to your idea and the best)

The 4-sided Triangle by William F Temple

The Duplicate by William Sleator

The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator by Murray Leinster

The Undivided by Colin Woodcock (.pdf)

This from John Thullen:

P.S. There is very little produced by humans that I require. The stores are filled with crap. Of course, we can't ban that useless stuff; someone might go out and mass produce medicine and MRI machines, and spend the money on healthcare, and prices would fall, and everyone would have cheap healthcare and ....... better that we have sticks to beat each other over the head to prevent a good third of our society from accessing reasonable healthcare at reasonable expense.

is the serious response to this from Tony P:

I see evidence that the world has run out of useful things to produce.

Thank goodness John said it so succintly; it would have taken me too many words to tackle on one of the few sunny days we've had all summer.

My snark about pet stores wasn't animus toward pets (I hasten to add, thinking especially of wonkie); it was animus toward the inundation of the world with plastic junk.

'Nuf said. I should go outside.

Gary mentioned, Philip K. Dick, and one of Dick's notions was that of kipple, which seems a lot more plausible to me than all this economic stuff. Avram Davidson had a related idea with Or All the Seas with Oysters, which, according to Wikipedia, was reused by Pratchett.

I'm amazed when I think that my folks would let me buy one (only one, no more!) Matchbox car, and I would spend hours in front of the Matchbox display choosing the one car. It is hard to know if the cost was an issue (my folks were mad savers), or they were able to be a lot more disciplined than I have been. I suspect the former, because, though my mom thought Las Vegas was a place she'd never go, when the Hawaiian side of our family had a reunion there and she went, she fell in love with the place. One thing I noticed when I went there was that all of the buffets seemed to have lots of interior decorations from the 1930's, and I think by pulling on that string, it really strikes a note with the folks of my mom's generation.

Of course, now, because of China (I think Colbert said it best when he acknowledged the Chinese ambassador at his roast of Bush saying 'thank you for making our Happy Meals possible) so much more stuff can be churned out and the kids collect it. Our preschool used to try and do a bazaar, but had to cancel it because it was impossible to separate out all of the free gimme toys from things that people might pay money for.

A bit of synchronicity, I saw the trailer for No Impact Man (trailer here, needless to say, he has a blog, but I'm at the link limit)

white, male, 5' 11.75", 185 lbs., mostly idle. (my excuse is that it's summer, and the LA Basin has been damn hot this year.)

Well I just got back from working out. Boy did it feel good! I'm back to being a gym rat!

About hating pet stores; I hate the ones that sell pets. I love the ones that sell stuff and I am a sucker for the stuff. Our house is so full of chew toys and blankies and beds that you'd think we had kids. In fact when it got to 104 I took one of the dog beds (we have more dog beds than dogs) and slept on it on the deck. It's really, really comfy.

BTW, since it's an open thread, did I mention my husband's new dog? She's a German shepard collie mix, very gentle, diffident and sensitive.

And another possible subject for discussion: does anyone besides me like that series about vampires? (True Blood, First Bool, something like that) We're watching it on Netflex so I don't know if its HBO or what. The premise is that the vampires who have always been among us have decided to come out and demand their place as citizens. It's very Southern Gothic.

Think about Henry Rollins in the Rollins band days. Add a couple inches of height, a couple extra years, and a couple extra pounds. Delete the tatoos and put him in a suit. Send the resulting creation to law school, have him work for years and years, and then make him a youngish partner at a largish firm practicing (mostly) patent litigation.

Presto: von.

Talk about a heavy lift.

It's funny you mention kipple, LJ. I knew Ted Pauls for many years, until he died, and his sister Karen, too. Why, Ted once threatened to so me, once when I and two other folks were doing a newszine, and reported on the business troubles of their little publishing business, T-K Graphics. They didn't sue, of course, both because we were accurate, and had mentioned they were in danger of going out of business because other people were suing them, and that's what happened.

But Kipple, the zine, among other things, was a very thick zine, published each week, and Ted was obsessed with the Vietnam War, and over the course of 1958-1966 or so, he ended up publishing one of the most detailed collections of what was in the news each week about the Vietnam war, a valuable, if incredible obscure resource; I had a complete run of Kipple, of course, when I collected fanzines....

Now stop me before I tell you an Avram Davidson anecdote....

Another novel in which a duplication device destroys the economy:

Venus Equilateral: Pandora's Millions by George O. Smith

I say you get it out of your system now, Gary. Who knows when the next open thread will appear...

(I've also renounced the use of italics over here, cause I don't want to screw up and leave an unclosed tag. In case anyone was wondering)

There is also Brave New World where every new product (primarily sports related) has (by law) to be more complicated than its predecessor (it's unclear whether those things are produced by the lower castes or automatically by machines).
Somewhat related the 'consumer culture' in THX 1138, where every citizen is encouraged to constantly buy (the products being coloured geometric objects). The moment they enter their home with the bought stuff they put it into the garbage dispenser creating the need to buy anew.

FWIW, I'm about 6"2 and a half. Which is, for the record, one half inch taller than publius.

You'll notice that American industry doesn't produce toy MRI machines, or toy vaccines, or toy chemotherapy regimes so that kids could sell each other toy health insurance and deny each other coverage so that they could acclimate themselves to being efficient little toys for the bigger toys later in life.

John Thullen: Of course, we can't ban that useless stuff; someone might go out and mass produce medicine and MRI machines, and spend the money on healthcare, and prices would fall, and everyone would have cheap healthcare and .......

... and "health care spending" would become about 60% of GDP, instead of the 16% it is now. Truly a horrible thing to contemplate. There are much better things to spend money on than "health care", fer chrissake. Your grandmother might have spouted nonsense like "When you've got your health you've got everything", but we modern consumers know better, don't we?

Since various science fiction-ish thoughts have crept into this thread, I have a scientifically fictitious question: if medicine someday achieves all we could ever ask of it, if it can someday cure pretty much every disease and repair pretty much every injury, will not SUICIDE become the leading cause of death?
Just another horrible prospect to contemplate:)

--TP

You'll notice that American industry doesn't produce toy MRI machines, or toy vaccines, or toy chemotherapy regimes so that kids could sell each other toy health insurance and deny each other coverage so that they could acclimate themselves to being efficient little toys for the bigger toys later in life.

If you're playing doctor with a toy MRI machine, you're doing it wrong.

"... if medicine someday achieves all we could ever ask of it, if it can someday cure pretty much every disease and repair pretty much every injury, will not SUICIDE become the leading cause of death?"

There have been stories along those lines, though you neglect to mention accident that more or less destroys the whole brain, which means that for "repair" you have to buy into the notion of "uploading" copies of one's consciousness, or at least memories, and then downloading them into a cloned copy (or other form of body, or existing in some other kind of cyberspace), which also opens up the whole philosophical question of what makes up "you."

One question it also opens up is the need, if people become effectively ageless, for additional brain/memory storage, and then you also get into stipulating various forms of body manipulation, genetic engineering into different forms, and so on. And then, past that, you start wandering into Greg Egan territory, as well as into AI/Singularity territory.

"Regarding the new poll out that indicates that only 42% of Republicans are willing to say that Obama was actually born in the US "

I bet he could drive that up past 50%, if he'd just release his real birth certificate, instead of the "Certification of Live Birth" they'll issue to people born elsewhere.

For my part, I'm close to morally certain he was born here, (I actually think McCain had the bigger problem on that front, and it would have tickled me pink to have the courts disqualify him.) between that birth announcement, and the testimony of the Ob/Gyn. But his stubborn refusal to release the full out birth certificate for public viewing causes a certain doubt among people lacking partisan motive for assuming Obama is on the up and up.

"But his stubborn refusal to release the full out birth certificate for public viewing causes a certain doubt among people lacking partisan motive for assuming Obama is on the up and up."

I haven't bothered following any of the details on this, since it seems so lunatic, but since much of the theory seems to involve documents already produced allegedly having been forged, why couldn't the doubters just proceed to claim that this next document is also forged, Brett?

Brett:

Produce any documents you like.

You're not an American. Neither was your mother.

I bet he could drive that up past 50%, if he'd just release his real birth certificate, instead of the "Certification of Live Birth" they'll issue to people born elsewhere. the form accepted by the US Department of State to demonstrate natural citizenship.

Fixed that for you.

Also.

There's also the short story "Originals," by Pamela Sargent, which has stuck with me for years.

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