Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh, China.

China has been stripped of the Olympic team bronze for gymnastics for... 2000? WTF?

My first thought is, duh. It was pretty obvious that China used girls who were quite under-age for the 2008 games, which resulted in something of a controversy. So, I guess it's not surprising that they did the same thing in other years as well.

But on second thought, While it's shitty that China ignored the rules, especially considering that their handling of Olympic hopefuls is still very much in the vein of totalitarian governments, the girls did it, not the government. I say let them compete. They won, fair and square. They worked hard, and to take the medals away because their government is run by a group of self-centered sacks of shit doesn't seem right.

China stripped of 2000 gymnastics medal for underage athlete (

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Go Gadget Racial Profiling

I'm assuming that this connection has already been made, but I'm going to lend my voice to the din. Does anyone in Arizona, who recently passed a law so stupid that it would be hilarious if it wasn't so infuriating, realize how hypocritical they are?

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Yes, hypocritical. They are vehemently against Obama and his health care, yet they have just passed a law that is closer to 1984 than anything Obama has ever done, talked about, or even thought about.

Well, that of course assumes that their resistance to Obama was logical and not rooted in racism, political fear-mongering, and dogma.

At times, I feel like Obama isn't wrong simply because those who are vocally against him are so dumb that they can't be right.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MMORPG Economics

I'm always saying that the various online games are stuck in the old economics of game play. Namely, they're still operating on the concept that you make a game, package it on some kind of medium, sell it, and then count your money. Even World of Warcraft is basically that. The only difference is that you then have to pay for access to a service.

Dungeons and Dragons Online has discovered the profits possible from opening the game entirely. Previously, they were trying to operate under the same business model as WoW, which I thought was dumb then, and has since been proven to be dumb. D&D-O was heading towards oblivion until they opened the game, which immediately sent user numbers through the roof.

Still, they then followed Farmville and any number of games from Aeria in a business model built on restricting access to certain parts of the game unless you pay up. I've nailed why this doesn't work, and why Farmville and all of Zynga makes almost none of their money from direct sales, all the while gold and items in World of Warcraft sell for, in some cases, hundreds of dollars.

In WoW, everything people are buying is attainable in-game. When someone buys, there's no way to tell if they bought their way through or if they earned it. That's important. In Farmville, many items can only be purchased with real money, they thus hold no value since they represent nothing but the money behind them.

And that's the key. When something is only attainable with money, they have no opportunity cost in the game. Obviously, classic opportunity cost applies, but not virtual. In WoW, for example, you want the Sword of a Thousand Truths. You can look up online and find that you need to go through a long quest called a raid to get it. You have a 10% chance of getting it on any given raid. The raid takes 3 hours to complete. That means that you can decide if buying the item is worth a possible 300 hours of game time required to get the item in-game.

Everything or nearly everything must be accessible in-game. Only then can a user apply a value to the things for which you are charging. The developer cannot lock up anything behind money or its value becomes nebulous.

WoW may want to consider this. They need to do something, because the population appears to have plateaued at about 11-12 million.

Results From Dungeons & Dragons Online Going Free: Revenue Up 500% (
World of Warcraft- Population 11.5 Million and shrinking? (

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Far My Ownership Goes.

The New York Times has a story about a Native American tribe that has sued The University of Arizona and reclaimed some blood samples taken from the tribe because the DNA was being used for research other than that which was initially discussed. They discuss the legal issues, and, as with most popular stories about science clashing with dogma, the only argument presented in favor of the science is that it's "good science," and that progress demands that we make concessions in the degree of control individuals have in the data that they submit.

One of the biggest issues is that the DNA indicates a link between the tribe and people making the trek over the Bering land bridge, which doesn't exactly jive with the tribes creation story (shocker!) that says that they were plopped there to be the Grand Canyon's defender.

This isn't a matter of moral or ethical problems. If a research institution wants to be tender and understanding with dogmatic beliefs, then that's their choice, but not their legal or ethical obligation. The blood was taken, and the DNA is nothing more than information, now. They have more blood, they haven't "lost" any DNA. The University didn't take it from them. The situation is similar to a researcher telling a man that, if he has a blue string in his pocket, he's, I dunno', psychic. The man empties out his pocket and the researcher finds many strings of different colors. None blue, but the researcher remembers the colors that he did see. If the researcher then writes a paper on those other colors, what harm has there been?

There are certainly a great number of ethical issues with DNA, especially as our ability to analyze it gets ever-greater, but this story is not one of them. The Universities actions did not diminish the tribe or its people. They did not steal anything. They did not harm the people. Just because a group of backwater, uneducated people don't like science clashing with their official story of their creation is not a basis for a fucking law suit.

Indian Tribe Wins Fight to Limit Research of Its DNA (

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Good News

Well, at least we've gotten that out of our system.

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to [the most devious and mediocre]. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

-H. L. Mencken

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Inelastic Joints.

The New York Times has recently discovered the concept of inelasticity in the artificial joint industry.

I can only assume that they know this and simply assume that their readership is retarded, because, duh. Of course artificial joints are a total rip-job. In economics, the elasticity of a good is how widely its price can vary with no effect on its market value (price). For example, if bicycles suddenly all cost $5,000, almost no one would buy bicycles anymore. But if insulin suddenly cost $5,000, its sales would only drop a small amount because it's literally a matter of life and death for those who buy it. So it is said that insulin is inelastic.

As such, any good that is highly inelastic is going to foster corruption. If I'm the only maker of bread, and people need bread, even if I don't act like an asshole and charge $500 per loaf, my successor may discover that, regardless of what she does, people always come back. A relationship of such imbalance is never good. The buyer and the seller must both need each other.

So here we are with artificial joints. People who need them NEED them. The market is very difficult to get in to. So, we have a limited, inelastic good that because of its nature limits competition. And we are surprised that the companies suck? Seriously?

Inelasticity is merely one detail in the economic web that, in anything other than medicine, is fine. It's only once it becomes part of medicine that we have, dare I say it, a moral issue. If insulin is a necessity for life, can a society that supposedly cares about its members truly allow free-market principles keep its price high? I don't think so.

Health System Bears Cost of Implants With No Warranties (