Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Too much law really is a bad thing.

Found this gem of an article on the Economist. I only put up the half that I found very interesting.

AMERICANS are still chuckling about the “pants suit”. A man—a judge, no less—sued his dry cleaners for $54m for allegedly losing his trousers. A sign at the shop promised “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. The plaintiff was not satisfied, so he cried fraud. He then used his highly trained legal brain to calculate the damages he was owed. He started with $1,500, a reasonable fine for consumer fraud. He multiplied it by 12, for the number of his complaints. Then by 1,200, for the number of days he was deprived of his trousers. And then by three, for the three owners of the dry-cleaning shop. After adding a bit more for mental anguish, the total came to $67m, but he kindly reduced it to $54m.

When the case was dismissed in 2007, many felt justice had prevailed. But the defendants had been put through purgatory and saddled with $100,000 in legal costs. They closed the shop and considered moving back to South Korea. The case illustrates “an important truth about human nature—that angry people can go nuts,” observes Philip Howard, a campaigner for legal reform. What was most shocking about the pants suit was not the idiotic claim, he says, “but that the case was allowed to go on for more than two years.” Some judges think even the nuttiest plaintiffs deserve their day in court. As the judge who let a woman sue McDonald’s for serving her the coffee with which she scalded herself put it: “Who am I to judge?”
Click here

The rule of law is a wonderful thing, as anyone who has visited countries ruled by the whims of the powerful can attest. But you can have too much of a wonderful thing. And America has far too much law, argues Mr Howard in a new book, “Life without Lawyers”. For nearly every problem, lawmakers and bureaucrats imagine that more detailed rules are the answer. But people need to exercise their common sense, too. Alas, the proliferation of rules is making that harder.

At a school in Florida, for example, a five-year-old girl decided to throw everyone’s books and pencils on the floor. Sent to the head teacher’s office, she continued to wreak havoc. Her teachers dared not restrain her physically. Instead, they summoned the police, who led her away in handcuffs, howling. The teachers acted as they did for fear of being sued. A teacher at a different school was sued for $20m for putting a hand on a rowdy child’s back to guide him out of the classroom. The school ended up settling for $90,000. Understandably, many schools ban teachers from touching pupils under any circumstances. In New York City, where more than 60 bureaucratic steps are required to suspend a pupil for more than five days, teachers are so frightened of violating pupils’ rights that they cannot keep order.

The relentless piling of law upon law—the federal register has 70,000 ever-changing pages—does not make for a more just society. When even the most trivial daily interactions are subject to detailed rules, individual judgment is stifled. When rule-makers seek to eliminate small risks, perverse consequences proliferate. Bureaucrats rip up climbing frames for fear that children may fall off and break a leg. So children stay indoors and get fat.

The direct costs of lawsuits are only one of the drawbacks of an over-legalistic society. Too many rules squeeze the joy out of life. Doctors who inflict dozens of unnecessary tests on patients to fend off lawsuits take less pride in their work. And although the legal system is supposed to be neutral, the scales are tilted in favour of whoever is in the wrong. Because the process is so expensive and juries are so unpredictable, blameless people often settle baseless claims to make them go away. The law is supposed to protect individuals from the state, but it often allows selfish individuals to harness the state’s power to settle private scores.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Something random I found. Smileworthy stuff..

A woman has a close male friend. This means that he is probably interested in her, which is why he hangs around so much. She sees him strictly as a friend. This always starts out with, you're a great guy, but I don't like you in that way. This is roughly the equivalent for the guy of going to a job interview and the company saying, You have a great resume, you have all the qualifications we are looking for, but we're not going to hire you. We will, however, use your resume as the basis for comparison for all other applicants. But, we're going to hire somebody who is far less qualified and is probably an alcoholic. And if he doesn't work out, we'll hire somebody else, but still not you. In fact, we will never hire you. But we will call you from time to time to complain about the person that we hired.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I don't know what to call this.

I’m aware that I haven’t updated in a long, long time. Not that there isn’t anything to write about, I just didn’t feel like writing. But today was a tipping point in my life, and I think it would be criminal if I didn’t write about it.

I’m not even sure where to begin or what I really want to write about, but I know that my state of mind at this very moment needs to be recorded in the servers of Google. I think I’m normally quite careful with what I put up here, disguising everything I write with a thick veil of mysticism. I don’t think it would be necessary today. I don’t think my regular readership stretches that far.

Sudden realizations that my things are not as they could optimally be seems to be some kind of permanent fixture in my life. I’ve had enough epiphanies to start questioning if they were really epiphanies to begin with. These things are supposed to be rare and life changing. If it happens too often, then I’m either ridiculously good at self reflection or the realizations that I have been having are much less epic than I seem to make them out to be.

Anyways, I don’t know how far this new one will go, but the last one brought about change that has held together quite well thus far. It’s been what, two years since I decided that blatant cynicism and constant caustic remarks to strangers don’t work in my favour? This new found vigour for all things seems to be a little harder to sustain, but I suspect it could be here to stay. It is somewhat ironic that the person who caused this second moment of realization is somewhat skeptical my ability to affect such change upon myself. I can still vividly remember the life drain out of me when I read the explanation to the speechlessness that I seemed to have caused. I was quiet for the evening, thinking and fretting. But I smile when I recall the follow up to the message that had made my guts sink. “Hoping for external factors to change you. That’s tough” or something along those lines. I almost replied, “Well, you’re an external factor, and I think you just changed me”. Perhaps she underestimated the kind of effect that she had on me. Perhaps I was the one to blow a seemingly innocuous spark into a solar flare. Whatever the reality of the situation, what has happened has happened, and I think I came out of it a better person. The results are yet to be seen, but for once, I have a sense of anticipation for life. All the clich├ęd lines that we hear from the likes of ‘Stranger than Fiction’ suddenly start to make a little more sense. I know I can. So why not?

Of course, like every other sticky situation of this nature, there will be issues unresolved. But in this case, I think they are petty. The big questions have already answered themselves, and although I would love to have a chat to satisfy my curiosity, I can live without having asked those questions.

Of course, there are regrets. Aren’t there always, eh? I wish I had told you how lovely you are without having minced my words. I wish that I had the courage to be a little more honest and not have played the game of cloak and dagger. I wish I told you how much I enjoyed your company and the conversations that we had.

But I suppose you always were the wiser one. The one with the clearer head to see what we had for what it really was, and to nip it at the bud. I could sense it too, but that voice was drowned out by a cacophony of lonely moans and curious squeals.
I really doubt you would read this, but I want you to know that I will always think of you as a friend. You make that part remarkably easy.

So there you have it. I give up. Probably should have a long time ago, but some blind sense of optimism and the aforementioned chorus of voices kept driving me on. I shall respect your broad and tactfully dropped hints and leave you at peace. And I wish you luck, not that you are going to need much of it. =)

Monday, October 27, 2008

It was a long, ornately decorated table. Gold and purple tapestries hung magnificently along the walls of the room, giving the room the regal feel that it needed to exude. Each chair was elaborately decorated and matched the rest of the room. In fact, every bit of furniture or decoration in that chamber seemed to blend in with the room. Nothing seemed out of place.

The noisy chatter coming from the room was starting to get to me. I almost always enjoy the sessions that I have at the council of rulers, the operative word being almost. This was one of those exceptional days. The day had started pleasantly enough for me, but the sudden arrival of the Secretarial Minister happily chatting with the Aesthetics Minister about God knows what had soured my mood considerably.

Alicia saw right through my badly disguised frown and settled herself beside me. She put her hand on my arm and smiled that warm, knowing smile of hers. She knew what I was thinking. She was also telling me that I was an idiot.

Years of working with her has led us to be able to communicate without actually saying anything. We knew what the other was thinking, even if the thoughts were intentionally obscured. She was my dearest friend, and closest adviser, but we both knew that we were much too similar to be of much use counseling each other. Sometimes an alternate perspective is needed, and she couldn't provide one, since her perspective was almost always mine. But she knew me, and she could put things into perspective like no one can.

"You know you are wasting your time right?"Her question was cautious, probing.

"Yeah, I do."

Alicia sighed. "You're messed up you know. They are just good friends. They talk a lot to each other. They like each other's company. So what? Why are you so affected just seeing them?"

I stared at her. She stared straight back at me and then looked away, rolling her eyes.

"You don't know," she said. "Bloody brilliant. Of course you don't."

She kept talking. "Let me tell you why. You hate one of them. You like the other. People you like, you want to befriend. And knowing you, you like him enough to want exclusive rights. It doesn't work that way. And you know that. Thats why you're not saying anything about it. You'd be the laughing stock of the council. But its gnawing at you, eating at you everytime you see them share a joke or tell each other about whats bothering them. You want to end it, but you know its impossible. So you sit there, grit your teeth and be miserable."

"I'm not miserable," I retorted. She snorted and shook her head.

She leaned in close to me and said, "Let it go. Its not worth it."

Then she stood up, gave my shoulder a friendly squeeze and left me.


Eddie Saguero glanced down at the controls that lay beneath his fingers, caressing them lightly. They glowed eerily in the darkness of his cockpit, the symbols of each button clearly visible. Eddie had done this so many times, it had become second nature to him, but this time, there was something different as he prepared to leave the hangar. He couldn't quite place it, but he knew that something wasn't quite right with the mission. Some people called it a warrior's instinct. Others dismissed it as superstition or a bad lunch that was back with a vengeance. It didn't really matter. Eddie wasn't in any position to be picky about the missions he had to run. The Clan raids had already taken a considerable toll on the Inner Sphere war effort. He was a soldier, an instrument of war. He received orders and executed them. It was't his place to ask questions or wonder what the point of all his missions were.

"When you're ready, Eddie,". The voice startled Eddie. He snapped out of his pensive stare at the console and moved to power up his 60 ton harbinger of death. Harbinger of death. At least thats the way he would like to call his mech to distract himself from the fact that the 90 ton machines that he might run into would turn his 'harbinger' to scrap metal quite easily. Still, nothing like a good dose of self delusion to get the spirits up before a mission.

Eddie powered up his mech and listened to the comforting sound of the fans of his fusion reactors starting to spin. His heads up display lit up immediately, and he heard the clinical, yet strangely seductive female voice of his on board computer running him through his system diagnostics.

"Nav Baker Three"

"Ambient tempetature, 24.49 degrees"

"Local time is seven five, three five, seven six, GST"

"All systems nominal"

On that cue, Eddie eased the throttle forward, making the mech take its first few tentative steps away from the support beams that surrounded it as it docked. The mech produced a resounding thump everytime it took a step, its metal legs hitting the concrete floor of the hangar with the same comfortingly familiar sound it always made. Eddie toyed with the torso controls a bit, turning to get a feel of the machine he was piloting. His eyes wandered over to the screen that showed his weapon statuses. They were highlighted in green, each of them showing a full stock of ammunition. He wondered inwardly if he had chosen the right armanent for his mission. He favoured energy weapons over everything else, which explained the extensive heat sinks on his mech. He knew that he would outlast most projectile or rocket oriented builds in a long fight, but wasn't quite sure if he could evade the onslaught long enough to take advantage of his relative independence from ammunition constraints. After all, he didn't have the most well armoured unit in the hangar.

As Eddie stepped out of the hangar, he hammered the throttle forward and made towards his nav point. The fine dust that his mech kicked up only served as a reminder of just how dry and hot this planet was, which in turn brought him back to questioning the wisdom of being dependent on beam weapons. He shrugged to himself. The choices had been made. Any cock-ups would be his to bear.

Passing the first nav point, nothing had yet happened. Not a life form in sight. Another boring patrol.

Then his sensors beeped. A red triangle showed up at the right of his radar. Eddie perked up.

"Control, I'm getting signs of an anamoly in sector seven. I'm moving to check it out," Eddie relayed speaking into the mike.

"Copy that Delta 3. Be careful out there," came the reply.

As he drew closer to the target, Eddie could see a crater smack in the middle of where he was headed for. A small, wispy slither of smoke rose out from the middle of the crater. Dust billowed around the blackened center, obscuring the line of sight through his cockpit. Eddie decided to draw closer, his thumb resting on the trigger of his primary weapons group.

Visibility was almost zero at this point. He turned of the image enhancement system, and everything went black. The contours of the hills before him were represented with coloured lines, as was the object that had made the crater. It was metallic, that much he knew. And very, very hot.

A million possibilities raced through his head. Was it a clan probe? Was it a scout? A single light mech sent to record data and clear the landing for a invading fleet? Blood rushed through his veins as his heart thumped.

Eddie drew closer and the image of the object got sharper. It had jagged edges and a fairly irregular shape. It certainly didn't look industrial, much less space age. He ran a quick scan on it when he got close enough. His computers beeped and whirred as the numbers where crunched.

The green fonts of his heads up display flashed "Object identified".

Below it, the results flashed. Meteorite. It was the most anti-climatic moment in his life. Eddie sighed.

In the monotony of the daily patrols, he sometimes wished that something will happen. But nothing ever did.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Of Epiphanies and a mid life crisis

I think I probably call the tiniest of revelations epiphanies so I guess the word in itself tends to lose a bit of impact. But when you have an experience that leaves you brooding for a few hours, thinking, and then feeling like you just had a mid life crisis because nothing around you seems to matter very much, then I'd say its probably worth paying more than a little attention to it.

Now there is only the small matter of encapsuling the feeling and sustaining it, because if it does go away, then I suspect it will be next to impossible to recapture in the short term.

Feeling like shit, but knowing that you need to feel this way for your own good sucks.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Random post

It was a strange feeling really. Not that he wasn't used to it, but most of the time it slid under the consciousness. It was covert, but always let him know that it was there. Naturally, he learned to ignore it, as he did so many other slightly unpleasant experiences that he encountered. And it never really pushed the issue. It was content being a needle in the side, constantly harassing him with a little prick here and there and waiting for his measured response that would inevitably come out of frustration.

But this time, it chose a very interesting time to surface. Its likely that its caused by the general disillusionment that he felt about the subject matter that lay before him. It happened when he stared at the clock in front of him and noted that he had plenty of time to complete the tasks that lay before him. His brain decided to take a short detour. Some might call him irresponsible for doing that. After all, the questions he was answering was part of the system that is supposedly his only purpose in life for the time being. Admittedly, he had stopped caring about his purpose a long time ago as the people who watched his slow but steady slide.

But I'm rambling. We're here to talk about recent history, not well established facts about our subject.

If he were to be perfectly honest with himself, he probably wanted it to happen. He doesn't really remember what happened actually, and what I write here is just based on a very clinical account of his version of the story. I suspect he was being quite honest though.

The amazing part about this situation is that he never goes into those really disturbing bouts of emotional upheaval that have become part and parcel of his life. I wonder if this is a unique case, or if he is actually changing.

It serves him quite well, this state of mind. Treating it like it was inconsequential does help him get on with things, but the inevitable doubts of whether he is trying hard enough surface. I've lost count of the number of times that I have seen him flinch when he hears Jason Mraz on the radio. I can hear him sigh, even if no one else can. I think he is heading in the right direction though. Nice good dose of confidence coupled with his usual sincerity by the truckloads. And for once, believing that it is not the end of the world if the next phase of life that he has hyped up to be a make or break doesn't work out.

I still cheer him on. Good luck mate.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohy, Ashley Cole. You bloody cunt faced git.

Did you know that Ashley Cole has written a biography? Yep, he has joined the ranks of the hundreds of footballers that think that they have been misunderstood in some way and writing about it will somehow miraculously bring about comprehension of their side of the story.

Well, I normally wouldn't care what happens in the personal lives of footballers, but I just so happen to be linked to the review of the biography. Lets see what Ashley has to say.

"One day I was just chilling with my homies, when this geezer call Jose come round me manor giving it large, saying he wants me to go hang with the Chelsea massive. Well, at the time I has got the hump with Arsenal, right, cos that David Dein has just offered me a contract for 55 long uns a week when I is expecting 60, minimum. Don't get me wrong, blood, it's not about the money. I is an ordinary lad from an ordinary background, for me money ain't what I am in the game for. I'd play for nothing, any day of the week.

"Which is roughly what Arsenal is expecting me to do. 55 a week: it's a joke. This Dein is dissin me, right? He is well out of order. So I says to this Jose: 'what you got then?' And this bald geezer what is with him gets out this like humungous cheque book and I'm telling you, the moment he gets it out, I feels six foot tall. Which is just as well, as this Jose says he ain't interested in left backs what are midgets.

"Now, as I say, Ashley Cole is just an ordinary lad what has supported Arsenal all his life, and he plays for the love of the game, that is his only motivation. Money and that, that's for others to work on. So from there on in, I leave things to my team of six agents, five accountants, three lawyers and seven actuaries. Plus the bloke what advises on off-shore investments in Chilean bearer bonds and Argentine footballers [they tell me, at the last count, that Ashley Cole owns three of Carlos Tevez's toes].

"While they is chatting, I just gets on with being part of the best team England has sent to the World Cup in 40 years, full of world-class players in every position. And I tell you what, we is that close to winning the thing. In fact, we would have done if we hadn't lost to the team that lost to the team that lost in the final.

"After that, I gets married. And that's another thing that the media gets all wrong. People think that me and Cheryl is just interested in seeing our picture in the papers, but that's rubbish, we is not like that. For Ashley Cole and his missus, it's magazines or nothing.

"Eventually I sign for Chelsea. I have to pinch myself to believe it's happening to me, an ordinary kid from an ordinary north London family: almost winning the World Cup, marrying the girl of every bloke's dreams and then joining the club I've supported ever since I seen the size of Peter Kenyon's wad. And the best thing is, I can walk away from Arsenal with my head held high. For Ashley Cole it has never been about money. It's all about respeck, innit."

When I finished reading it, the only thing I was thinking was WTF was that? I know people always say that footballers are stupid, but that is just in a league of its own. Thats not even english that he is writing. What the fuck is up with the nigga talk? Since when does a rich ass spoilt brat qualify to use street talk like that? And the ego, dear god!

Oh, and check out his analysis of England's performance in the World Cup. They lost to the team that lost to the team that lost the final. And he calls that close to winning. How is being beaten in the quarters even considered close to winning? The statement is so delusional, I don't think I'd be able to come up with shit like that if I smoked a joint, did some blow and downed 3 graveyards in the same night.

Misguided, egoistic and stupid, Ashley Cole has just cemented himself as the stupidest footballer since George Best. I think its amazing to note that he is going to spend the rest of his life in a delusion about just how great his life is without ever realizing how much of the real world he has missed.