Archive for the “Society” Category

It only takes a dollar to win a 300 million dollar lotto jackpot, but it takes 1.5 billion dollars that didn't win to get the lotto jackpot that high.

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Photo of mansion by patishka - sxc.hu"Warning: This episode of 'MTV Cribs' is known to create unrealistic expectations in teens about what it takes to succeed in America. Your odds of becoming a multi-millionaire athlete, musician, actor, or person who is famous for being famous are about the same as your chance of being hit by lightning."

"Furthermore, most of these people became millionaires through a relentless drive for self improvement and success, making sacrifices, and not taking the easy road."

"If you want to be on 'Cribs' get off your ass, and start *working* toward a goal. You may not ever reach it, but you'll get more of what you want by working for it than by watching it on TV and wishing for it."

Wanna suggest another warning label? E-mail burgerguy@gmail.com

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I just read a Seth Godin blog post, What's It Like (the sad story of the hot pepper), in which he summed up one of my greatest conflicts/challenges in talking about Hell on $5 a Day.

The point that Seth makes is that for most projects, you have to be able to be able to categorize it. People don't want to know what it is, but what it's like. That gives them a quick, experiential point of reference they can build on. "It's like King Kong, but with a giant bunny" lets the audience's memory/perception quickly fill in a whole bunch of blanks so you don't have to.

On a rare occasion, though, your project is so unique, it defies a simple categorization. You can't get that quick hit of familiarity. You either have to describe it in full, without the aid of familiar references, or you have to say "it's like nothing you've ever had. Just trust me and try it."

People would ask me to describe my novel in just a few words, and I couldn't. It wasn't a "vampire novel" per se. It just happened to have a vampire in it. Some of the story was driven by Alain's vampirism, but a lot of it wasn't. There was a lot of borrowing from Dante, some from Milton... Categorizing it was very difficult for me. I was too close to it to be able to boil it down to a few catchphrases and keywords.

I didn't know if it was that unique, or if I just didn't want to categorize it. To categorize it feels like you've not only limited it, but you've taken away a degree of its uniqueness. So, as the creator of an "artistic" work, it's quite possible I was merely resisting categorizing my story rather than the story itself resisting categorization. Every child is unique, right? Even if they aren't.

But when you're trying to sell a work, saying "just trust me and try it" is not a great approach if you haven't built trust with the person. Furthermore, when you say "this is unlike anything else," you have to be 100% sure it is unlike anything else. If someone gives you the benefit of the doubt, reads it, and says "this is just like...", you're screwed. You asked them to trust you about it's uniqueness and lost.

I'm still on the fence over whether my novel is resisting categorization or I'm resisting categorizing it, but Godin has given me some insight that is helping me look at it more honestly. If I want to sell it, I need the best answer for "what's it like" that I can find.

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While new tobacco taxes keep getting passed on a smaller and smaller base of smokers (due to people quitting and dying), smokers bring up a good point: why aren't we taxing other health hazards like fatty foods?

I decided to do some math on how much a french fry tax might raise. For a back-of-envelope calculation, I found an article from 2002 that put annual per-capita consumption of french fries in the United States at 28 pounds, with 90% of that being at fast food restaurants.

So that makes 25.2 pounds of french fries eaten at fast food restaurants per person per year. A large fries at McDonalds is approximately 1/3 of a pound. So that makes 75.6 orders of fries per person per year, or a little less than 1.5 per week. At a "quarter per order," that means $18.90 per person in taxes.

Now, that's a "per capita" figure which is an average among all people, from babies to senior citizens. So if the average person ate 75.6 orders of fries and paid $18.90 in "quarter per order" taxes on them, a population of 300 million would generate $5,670,000,000 in new taxes.

Now, $5.6 billion is just a drop in the bucket considering our national debt and all the other things we're facing, but it's a start. Consider California's budget crisis. They have 10% of the population. If they did "quarter an order" on french fries, they could conceivably generate over a half-billion in new tax revenues, and in a state that has been so welcoming of sin taxes on tobacco, when heart disease and obesity related illnesses are such huge health issues, why wouldn't the taxpayers welcome a sin tax on french fries?

I eat fries, though not nearly as much as I used to. But I'd welcome a quarter per order tax in Washington rather than a gasoline tax or a sales tax increase. If I don't want to pay the tax, I can have a salad or some fruit or sliced veggies.

'Course, if they try to tax bacon, there's gona be a revolt up in this motherf... but I digress. If we're going to tax cigarettes, we might as well tax french fries. It's only fair, and right now state governments need to find revenues where they can. "Quarter per order." It's an idea whose time has come.

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