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I often read the San Diego Reader when I eat alone because it’s free and I have an affinity for local weekly publications that I developed while living in places that had decent examples of the genre (I don’t think genre is the word I was looking for but it’ll do). The staff at the Reader occasional write something worthy of a small college newspaper, but usually fall short of that lofty mark. To the best of my knowledge the listing of local music is accurate, so they’ve got that going for them.

Last Thursdays addition had some highpoints, including an ode to my old neighborhood set in the laundrymat across from my apartment. Another article “An Olympic Moment” told the story of Jacob Blumenfeld, a former San Diegan who went to Beijing during the Summer Olympics to bust out a Free Tibet sign. After being arrested, he was asked if he worked for the government and who was in charge of his operation. The Chinese didn’t think a couple of 20-somethings would head off to a far away country to complain about Tibet. If you enjoy shouting “America’s Number One” or something similar, and are worried that China may be a challenger in the Earthly domination category, this observation should be reassuring.

This country is great at blowing stuff up, designing iPod’s (but not so much at making them) and creating overly complicated financial instruments (oops) and a big reason for this is we live in a country were a sixteen year old could come up with an awesome new widget, get some financial backing and sell it to the world. Or fly to China and protest human rights issues. As long as the Chinese are following in line with the Party, they’ll have trouble getting past the design stage. At least that’s what I think.

As for Mr. Blumenfeld, he and his co-conspirators were deported back to the U.S. along with a crate full of Wallmart bound tupperware, and the Chinese government paid for the ticket. So next time you want to go see Asia, buy a one way ticket and pack a free Tibet sign.

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Via Marginal Revolution, this link has some guy (with a strange, rubbery face) arguing that we all love Obama because we don’t know much about him. I can’t argue with that, but who would argue that we don’t know too much about most public figures these days? Would Kennedy have been so popular if people knew he was down with OPP in the early 60’s? Could Lincoln have gotten elected if the public knew about his opium problem?

I agree that the chance of Obama being the president his supporters think he could be is tiny, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the best candidate. I would’ve liked him to wait until ’12 to run when he’s spent some time in the Senate and proven himself a bit, but I also would like a better candidate than John McCain or Hillary.

For starters, my sheepskin, still in the cardboard envelope it was mailed to me in, makes an excellent coaster.

As for using what I actually learned in the classes, I had a first last night. I went to volunteer tutor some kids, cause I’m that nice a guy. I ended up being kind of a big deal amongst the tutors when a high schooler came in looking for calculus homework. As best I remember, tutoring others is the only time I’ve used my fairly extensive knowledge of higher mathematics.

Not sure exactly how much getting that knowledge cost (thanks mom & dad!), but I’m glad I finally got to put it to use, and a short five years after graduation. If you have some partial differential equations that have been keeping you up at night, feel free to put them in the comments.

If you live in the greater San Diego area and have been trying to figure what why you took that 8 am US history class check out the flex program at volunteersandiego.org .

Word is George Bush actually set foot in San Diego today, didn’t just fly over a la Katrina. Kanye would probably say thats cause there aren’t as many black people here, I personally don’t think G-Dub see’s color. He does see money, and San Diegans got it.

I checked volunteerSanDiego.com  to see if I could help somebody out, and it told me there’s more people trying to volunteer than volunteer’s needed. I tired to help some of the out of luck would be volunteers out by letting them clean up the apartment. I haven’t gotten any positive responses on that one.

Freakonomics got some bright folks together to discuss philosophies on the following:

You are walking down the street in New York City with $10 of disposable income in your pocket. You come to a corner with a hot dog vendor on one side and a beggar on the other. The beggar looks like he’s been drinking; the hot dog vendor looks like an upstanding citizen. How, if at all, do you distribute the $10 in your pocket, and why?

First off, if I’m hungry and want a hot dog, I’ll buy one and eat it. Regardless of whether or not I do, I still have to decide what to do with the rest of my money.

Part of me wants to go with Barbara Ehrenreich and follow JC’s advice. When I was young and idealistic, I used to do that largely due to thinking like Roland Fryar, that it’ll help the bum more than me.

I originally ditched that philosophy because of the old “they’ll just use it to buy drugs” notion. But thats for fascists, well meaning fascits, but fascists none the less. Who am I (or you) to decide how anyone else is going to spend their income. That doesn’t answer the question, because that line of thinking doesn’t mean you have to be the one giving the bum money, but I will rule out giving the bum a hot dog.

Giving to bums around here isn’t a matter of life and death, I live by the beach in San Diego, so most of the bums I see (and I see a lot) don’t have it so bad, so I don’t feel compelled to help them as needy people. But as pointed out in the Freakonomics post, the good book says if somebody asks you for something, give it to them and more. That seems pretty noble.

Hypothetically, me and a bunch of people start giving money to bums. Lets say this amounts to thousands of dollars. Markets being what they are, it seems to me that more bums will enter the market at this point. Some person at the margin, who otherwise would’ve gotten a (shitty) job is now going to be on the street annoying people for money, as bad as that is for us (being annoyed) it must be worse for the person who almost wasn’t a bum.

So I don’t know how to deal with panhandlers, but I do know that working is for suckers, so I shouldn’t get upset with them for trying to avoid it.

So after a nice four months of unemployment, I am once again a sucker. I seem to have steered myself back into the world of corporate ridiculousness.

During orientation, the HR chick started telling us that my new employer goes along with the 1988 something or other drug act. I thought she was about to ask me to pee into a cup (which I was not afraid to do, for the record), when she informed me and my fellow co-hires that we aren’t allowed to use, distribute or make illegal drugs at work. No company policy about illegal drugs off the clock.

Soon she told us about how if somebody seemed angry and dangerous they needed to be reported, to avoided situations like the one were a former employee would slam his fist on his desk and get in peoples faces, to the point that they were uncomfortable. How horrible.

So you have, in my opinion many wasted man hours. Now for my back of the envelope economic analysis (I’m no economist, by the way). About 10 man hours were used today, and I’ll assume that happens every other Monday and the average value of those man hours to the company is $20 an hour. Complete guesses all around but it seems reasonable. Adds up to  $5,200 a year.

The argument for the silly HR presentation is that it makes the workplace safer and could, in theory, even save a life. You can’t put a price on that? I’m going to try. According to Wikipedia (I told you it was a back of the envelope calculation) the per capita GDP of Burkina Faso is $1,200. People there are poor and I’m sure you could save a few lives with food and or medical care with $5,200.

I wanted to get a better dollar for life estimate, but I worked for the first time in 4 months today and I’m tired.

I now the $5,200 wouldn’t go to saving Burkina Fasoians. Some of it would go to rich fat-cats who hold stock in my new employer. Some of it might make it into my pocket in higher wages, more likely some of it would end up in consumer pockets as we lower prices to increase market share. Maybe some of that extra cash, that wouldn’t be needed by whoever gets it (they don’t have it now) would end up feeding Haitians. I’m sure theres a better use for it than having me sign a paper saying I won’t make crystal meth at work. Besides, if I started doing it at work, it’d take all the fun out of it.  I’ll stop my bitchin, at least I didn’t have to pee in a cup.