Monday, November 23, 2009

Amazing card manipulations

What if Dimitri Arleri had decided to be a surgeon instead?

Just Hang On, Baby

Click on this link for a fascinating story about a Chicago options trader whose hobby is fishing for large, fast, ferocious tuna -- from his kayak.

Money quote:

"It never occurred to the authorities that someone might be crazy enough to want to catch a bluefin while sitting in what amounts to a floating plastic chair and enjoying what Melville called a “Nantucket sleigh ride.”"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Callous? Stupid? You decide.

A couple of days ago a bill landed on the desk of Rhode Island governor Don Carcieri which would add "domestic partners" to the list of people who are allowed to make funeral arrangements for a person. Carcieri vetoed the bill. His reason? According to CBS News it was that the legislation represents a "disturbing trend" of the incremental erosion of heterosexual marriage.

If you've read any accounts or heard stories of gay partners in long-term relationships being denied the right to even attend their partner's funeral, let alone make the arrangements for the service, you know how painful and humiliating it can be. You can read a few in the comments section on the post regarding this story at Joe Jervis's blog. Here is just one: "Shortly after my partner was killed in a traffic accident, his mother had his remains moved to another location and refused to tell me where they took him. They actually dug him up and when I went to the cemetery, I found an empty grave. She said that she didn't want me "desecrating" his grave by putting flowers on it. Earlier, I was allowed to attend the funeral, but was told that the burial was for "family only." We had lived together for six years."

There are many stories like this. And it seems callous of Carcieri to deny committed couples the right to make funeral arrangements for each other. Given that the bill was passed out of the legislature with a veto proof 64-1 margin, it also seems sort of politically brain-dead.

However, Carcieri did make one point that I sort of agree with. The bill established criteria for what constitutes a "domestic partnership" and Carcieri believes those criteria are sort of vague. They include living together at least a year and being "financially interdependent," such as owning a home together or sharing a credit card. Carcieri believes a "one year time period is not a sufficient duration to establish a serious bond between two individuals...[relative to] sensitive personal traditions and issues regarding funeral arrangements."

Here's where I agree (and where this starts to sound like "The View"). Say your daughter has shacked up with a guy and he talked her into adding his name to her credit card. If your daughter died and the live-in BF wanted to have her body cremated in defiance of your wishes and religious tradition, I have a hard time seeing why his wishes should take precedence over those of her family.

Clearly it's not that I don't want people in committed relationships to be able to make funeral arrangements for each other (or inherit without taxation, visit each other in the hospital, etc.), it's just that when it comes to important issues such as these, that's what marriage is for. If you want those rights, you need to take on the responsibilities, as well. It's just another reason why we need marriage equality.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thought Experiment

Here's the question for today. Let's say someone has told you that tomorrow morning you will dropped at a randomly chosen place on one of Earth's land masses and you have to make your way back home. You get to wear whatever you choose in terms of clothing, but you only get to take one other man-made thing with you. What would you choose? A knife or other weapon, perhaps? A satellite phone? A Visa card? Other than those three, I can't think of anything else that would be a reasonable choice.

The chances are good you are going to end up in a very inhospitable environment. About a third of the land masses are either mountain ranges, deserts or capped with ice. Even if you hit the two-thirds that is mostly habitable, odds are you aren't going to be anywhere near a city or town of any size. So what item would be most useful to you?

The satellite phone is a fine option because you can immediately call for help. But if you don't know where you are, how can you tell people how to find you? (Though I suppose the authorities could probably track the phone signal to you, if you could convince the authorities it wasn't a prank before the battery ran out.)

A weapon is also useful, especially if you end up dropped in an inhospitable environment where you might face wild animals or even human threats. I suppose you could also use the weapon to obtain money or goods through the threat of force, but you would also likely run into people with bigger and more weapons who might thwart this plan of action.

I think a strong case can be made that a Visa card could be the winner. It may be of little use in a jungle or in a desert, but once you got yourself to almost any sort of settlement, it would be a widely-recognized symbol that you would be able to pay for the assistance you are requesting and would be greeted with more warmth (and likely equal respect) than you would brandishing a weapon.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Gettin' Jiggy with Aaron Burr

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of "In The Heights," 2008 Tony winner for Best Musical, performing at the first White House poetry jam. Beautiful.