The Greatest Dilemma aka The Parent’s Dilemma

Maybe you have to be me to understand this one, but I’m guessing that you only have to be a sort of half way self aware parent of a child that you truly love to understand it – this – my greatest dilemma. I want my child to grow up and be happy and find … Continue reading “The Greatest Dilemma aka The Parent’s Dilemma”

Maybe you have to be me to understand this one, but I’m guessing that you only have to be a sort of half way self aware parent of a child that you truly love to understand it – this – my greatest dilemma.

I want my child to grow up and be happy and find success and joy and love and be able to deal with the world.

And the world is completely fucked up.

Am I supposed to turn my child into yet another completely fucked up, money obsessed, neurotic asshole? Should I teach her how to be a really good person despite the fact that our world chews up, spits out, and completely fucks over really good people?

Or should I teach her to be a sort of economic terminator that buys low, sells high, always makes the career expanding move, exploits the stupid career limiting moves of others, and who always takes the move that advances her interests (or the interests of those she is interested in)?

It’s a sort of expanded level of prisoner’s dilemma. Which, if you aren’t familiar with game theory, goes like this: (thanks Wikipedia)

The prisoner’s dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely “rational” individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it, “prisoner’s dilemma” (Poundstone, 1992), presenting it as follows:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:
If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)
It is implied that the prisoners will have no opportunity to reward or punish their partner other than the prison sentences they get, and that their decision will not affect their reputation in the future. Because betraying a partner offers a greater reward than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them to betray each other. The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray, when they would get a better reward if they both kept silent. In reality, humans display a systemic bias towards cooperative behavior in this and similar games, much more so than predicted by simple models of “rational” self-interested action. A model based on a different kind of rationality, where people forecast how the game would be played if they formed coalitions and then maximized their forecasts, has been shown to make better predictions of the rate of cooperation in this and similar games, given only the payoffs of the game.

An extended “iterated” version of the game also exists, where the classic game is played repeatedly between the same prisoners, and consequently, both prisoners continuously have an opportunity to penalize the other for previous decisions. If the number of times the game will be played is known to the players, then (by backward induction) two classically rational players will betray each other repeatedly, for the same reasons as the single-shot variant. In an infinite or unknown length game there is no fixed optimum strategy, and Prisoner’s Dilemma tournaments have been held to compete and test algorithms.

The prisoner’s dilemma game can be used as a model for many real world situations involving cooperative behaviour. In casual usage, the label “prisoner’s dilemma” may be applied to situations not strictly matching the formal criteria of the classic or iterative games: for instance, those in which two entities could gain important benefits from cooperating or suffer from the failure to do so, but find it merely difficult or expensive, not necessarily impossible, to coordinate their activities to achieve cooperation.

So, should I teach my child to be a drone, a thinking, good person, or a mercenary ? Which option maximizes her happiness in the future? Is she going to be happier if she is successful or if she is good or if she is a part of the system? This is what I call the parent’s dilemma.

So, here is the dilemma in pretty simple terms. I can teach my child to be successful in this world, which makes her a part of what I see to be the problem or I can teach her to not be part of the problem, which from what I have experienced and continue to see will make her unsuccessful. There does not seem to be a middle way in this particular dilemma – at least no middle way that exists in the United States of America.

Paycheck to paycheck is harder than ever!

NEW YORK – The calculus of living paycheck to paycheck in America is getting harder.

What used to last four days might last half that long now. Pay the gas bill, but skip breakfast. Eat less for lunch so the kids can have a healthy dinner.

Across the nation, Americans are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills. It’s starting to affect middle-income working families as well as the poor, and has reached the point of affecting day-to-day calculations of merchants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 7-Eleven Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc.

Food pantries, which distribute foodstuffs to the needy, are reporting severe shortages and reduced government funding at the very time that they are seeing a surge of new people seeking their help.

While economists debate whether the country is headed for a recession, some say the financial stress is already the worst since the last downturn at the start of this decade.

From Family Dollar to Wal-Mart, merchants have adjusted their product mix and pricing accordingly. Sales data show a marked and more prolonged drop in spending in the days before shoppers get their paychecks, when they buy only the barest essentials before splurging around payday.

“It’s pretty pronounced,” said Kiley Rawlins, a spokeswoman at Family Dollar. “It seems like to us, customers are running out of food products, paper towels sooner in the month.”

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said the imbalance in spending before and after payday in July was the biggest it has ever seen, though the drop-off wasn’t as steep in August.

And 7-Eleven says its grocery sales have jumped 12-13 percent over the past year, compared with only slight increases for non-necessities like gloves and toys. Shoppers can’t afford to load up at the supermarket and are going to the most convenient places to buy emergency food items like milk and eggs.

“It even costs more to get the basics like soap and laundry detergent,” said Michelle Grassia, who lives with her husband and three teenage children in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Her husband’s check from his job at a grocery store used to last four days. “Now, it lasts only two,” she said.

To make up the difference, Grassia buys one gallon of milk a week instead of three. She sometimes skips breakfast and lunch to make sure there’s enough food for her children. She cooks with a hot plate because gas is too expensive. And she depends more than ever on the bags of free vegetables and powdered milk from a local food pantry.

Grassia’s story is neither new nor unique. With the fastest-rising food and energy prices since the 1980s, low-income consumers are stretching their budgets by eating cheap foods like peanut butter and pasta.

Industry analysts and some economists fear the strain will get worse as people are hit with higher home heating bills this winter and mortgage rates go up.

It’s bad enough already for 85-year-old Dominica Hoffman.

She gets $1,400 a month in pension and Social Security from her days in the garment industry. After paying $500 in rent on an apartment in Pennsauken, N.J., and shelling out money for food, gas and other expenses, she’s broke by the end of the month. She’s had to cut fruits and vegetables from her grocery order — and that’s even with financial help from her children.

“Everything is up,” she said.

Many consumers, particularly those making less than $30,000 a year, are cutting spending on nutritious food like milk and vegetables, and analysts fear they’re further skimping on basic medical care and other critical services.

Coupon-clipping just isn’t enough.

“The reality of hunger is right here,” said the Rev. Melony Samuels, director of The BedStuy Campaign against Hunger, a church-affiliated food pantry in Brooklyn.

The pantry scrambled to feed 5,000 new families over the past 12 months, up almost 70 percent from 3,000 the year before.

“I am shocked to see such numbers,” Samuels said, “and I am really concerned that this is just the beginning of what we are going to see.”

In the past three months, Samuels has seen more clients in higher-paying jobs — the $35,000 range — line up for food as the fallout of the subprime mortgage woes takes hold.

The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which covers 23 counties in New York State, cited a 30 percent rise in visitors in the first nine months of this year, compared with 2006.

Maureen Schnellmann, senior director of food and nutrition programs at the American Red Cross Food Pantry in Boston, reported a 30 percent increase from January through August over last year.

Until a few months ago, Dellria Seales, a home care assistant, was just getting by living with her daughter, a hairdresser, and two grandchildren in a one-bedroom apartment for $750 a month. But a knee injury in January forced her to quit her job, leaving her at the mercy of Samuels’ pantry because most of her daughter’s $1,200 a month income goes to rent, energy and food costs.

“I need it. Without it, we wouldn’t survive,” Seales said as she picked up carrots and bananas.

John Vogel, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, worries that the squeeze will lead to a less nutritious diet and inadequate medical or child care.

In the meantime, rising costs show no signs of abating.

Gas prices hit a record nationwide average of $3.23 per gallon in late May before receding a little, though prices are expected to soar again later this year. Food costs have increased 4.5 percent over the past 12 months, partly because of higher fuel costs. Egg prices were 44 percent higher, while milk was up 21.3 percent over the past 12 months to nearly $4 a gallon, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average family of four is spending anywhere from $7 to $10 extra a week — $40 more a month — on groceries alone, compared to a year ago, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger III.

And while overall wage growth is a solid 4.1 percent over the past 12 months, economists say the increases are mostly for the top earners.

Retailers started noticing the strain in late spring and early summer as they were monitoring the spending around the paycheck cycle.

Wal-Mart and Family Dollar key on the first week of the month, when government checks like Social Security and public assistance generally hit consumers’ mailboxes.

7-Eleven, whose customers are more diverse, looks at paycheck cycles in specific markets dominated by a major employer, such as General Motors in Detroit, to discern trends in shopping.

To economize, shoppers are going for less expensive food.

“They’re buying more peanut butter and pasta. And they’re going for hamburger meat,” Flickinger, the retail consultant, said. “They’re trying to outsmart the store by looking for deep discounts at the end of the month.”

He said the last time he saw this was 2000-2001, when the dot-com bubble burst and the economy went into a recession after massive layoffs.

For now, low-price retailers are readjusting their merchandising and pricing.

Wal-Mart is becoming more aggressive on discounting. It announced Thursday it is expanding price cuts to 15,000 items, ranging from Motts apple juice and Progresso soups to women’s fleece tops, heading into the holidays.

Family Dollar, whose food offerings were limited to candy and snacks until two years ago, has expanded its mix of groceries like fruit cups, cereal and such refrigerated items as milk and ice cream while cutting back on shoes. This summer the chain began accepting food stamps.

Food pantries are also getting creative. Samuels said her church, Full Gospel Tabernacle of Faith, just started offering free cooking classes to teach clients who are diabetic or have other health conditions how to prepare vegetables like squash. It’s also offering free exercise classes.

“We are trying to make them health conscious,” Samuels said. “It’s not right to give them just anything. Our mantra is eat well and live well.”

Running, animal porn, North Korea, Food, and Suicide

I’m sick of getting comments with links to animal porn.

This is one of the most viewed posts on this site of all time. Why? Animal porn.

I went running this morning for the first time in a while. I think the walking helped a lot. I felt like I was running faster and better than before. The bummer is that it seems like every time I get motivated to start running, I encounter some sort of injury. This morning it is my left calve muscle, now I’m limping around the library. Oh well, I’ll just run a little slower tomorrow and be sure to stretch.

I have to say that I appreciate the comments that have been showing up lately. Sometimes with blogging it starts to feel like the only ones reading what you write are yourself and your mom (Hi Mom!) so it feels especially good to get some interaction. I’m changing things up a little bit , trying to incorporate more of me into my posts while still giving you links to stories that catch my interest or I think will catch yours.
As to the comments, I have to moderate them pretty close or we end up with links to animal porn and other foul internet areas. So the deal is that every comment has to be approved by first time commentators, after you are approved though, you can comment at will. I know it can be frustrating to make a comment and not see it immediately, but I do it because of the animal porn. Just say no to animal porn.

Here’s a bad segue into North Korea where they are saying that up to 800,000 people have starved

People dying while working in factories, exhausted from hunger; policemen stealing food from the people; lack of food, starvation: while world leaders discuss the food problem at the FAO summit, the population of North Korea faces an unprecedented decimation. The annual famine, together with the disastrous flooding last year, has made food impossible to find in the regime headed by Kim Jong-il. According to South Korean non-governmental organisations, the only groups still allowed to bring necessities to the north, 800,000 have already died from hunger.


There is nothing more horrifying than mass starvation, especially when it can be avoided. This is almost a million human beings who are dying in the worst possible way. I would classify this as genocide.
Food shortages are striking world wide and prices are spiking for a variety of reasons. What can you do to keep your own grocery bill lower? Here are 10 ways from Gimundo

1. Shop the bulk bins.
2. Eat less meat.
3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat.
4. Eat your leftovers and take your lunch.
5. Vegetables cost less when they’re in season, and they taste better too.
6. Eat your eggs and demand humane treatment of chickens.
7. Join a co-op or buying club. Or start your own. Find one near you.
8. Plan your menus and shop with a list.
9. Grow your own and learn to dehydrate, freeze, and can foods for the winter.
10. Know when to scrimp and when not to.

On to other things, I am happy to see that anthropology isn’t listed as one of the ten most worthless degrees. It’s funny because I almost majored in film, but had a very similar thought to what they say there.
Also am happy to say that a French judge ruled that lying about one’s virginity is grounds for annulment of a marriage. It should be. So should uncontrollable accidental bowel syndrome. And chronic bad breath.

Another abomination is what is happening to once great American cities like Detroit. Despite all the negatives in this article, it makes me think that moving there may actually be a good idea. Maybe that’s just because I am poor. lol. The rapture is coming.
Don’t worry though, according to wired.com you can now leave a note for your loved ones.
. If you want to just rappture yourself, you can always buy the newly popular German suicide pills. Leave it to the Germans to perfect euthanasia.
And finally on this post of bad segues…if you want to run your car on water, here is the way that the internet claims you can do it.

Making money with Text Link Ads

  • First off, I have to admit that in most of my online ventures, I haven’t really succeeded. Adsense has not yet yielded me a dime in actual payouts. Affiliate programs have never really worked for me. Referral programs haven’t worked. Paid to email and paid to play games or surf the net seem to take too much time and not give enough back in return.

    The one success that I’ve had was with .

    One day, I googled “How to make money with your blog” and I found a list of ten things one guy had tried. I signed up for them all using my blog “Poor Vago’s Almanack” and then I waited to see the results. A few ads sold in the first month and I got a payment for $22 from TLA. Then they just kept selling. At one point, I was getting around $240 a month but then back in February, my payouts started to decrease. This came from a combination of things, 1st, TLA had stopped taking ads from gambling sites and casinos. 2nd, my content had shifted from fairly racey stuff to tales of my travels and adventures and as a result my pagerank had decreased. At least that is what I think happened. At the moment, I am making about $130 a month.

    I don’t remember any of the other programs I signed up for, but definitely works and it does so in a way that doesn’t leave big ugly ads all over your site. In fact, I’ve never found a TLA ad on my front page.

    So sign up for TLA today and see if you too can start making some money. It really works.

  • Making money online – Moolah

    I’ve started to get serious about making money online. One of the blogs I recently bought is NewsNotion.com, which is all about making money online. I’m going through the old posts and I’m going to try out every bit of it. I will be posting all of my results here along with new content for this site.


    I figure the first thing to do is to go through Casey’s post and see if I can learn what she is teaching. I’m starting at the back and working forward, so the first post on this blog is about Moola. Here is the link to Casey’s post on Moola.

    http://www.newsnotion.com/2007/04/08/moola/

    I promise, I will be adding strategies and tactics of my own, but for the moment, I need to get up to speed on what everyone here already knows. At first glance, Moola seems interesting. I’ve grown pretty distrustful of any kind of gaming through the years. The reasons casinos are so big is because most people lose, so I’m sure that there is a lose factor built in to Moola. I’m going to sign up though and give it a shot.

    It’s actually pretty fun and the upside is that they do give you your first penny. The whole concept is that if you double that penny 30 times, you have $10 million dollars! Not bad. I just played my first couple of games and I’ve won so far. Of course, I’m still in the .25 cent or less range.

    It’s free to sign up and more amusing than taking facebook quizzes.

    Sign up here.