Who’s Responsible for a Stand Alone Complex?

If you are a citizen of the Internet at the time of this posting, you are probably aware of the ongoing battle between The Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman and FunnyJunk laywer Charles Carreon. The most recent development is that Carreon is threatening litigation against everyone involved in what he calls a “distributed internet reputational attack.” As a proud geek this instantly made me think of one thing: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

What we have here is almost exactly like a stand alone complex. A bunch of people all independently engaged in a similar activity. Their actions accumulated together to create one large effect without formal coordination or organization.

In this particular instance we can largely support the actions of this mass without guilt. Other than some crazies that sent death threats, I’m sure most people involved are only guilty of posting funny things on the Internet. For the sake of discussion, what if they had all done bad things?

For example, pretend that thousands of people each stole one dollar from Carreon’s bank account? You could go after each person individually, but stealing $1 is barely a crime. Also, there are so many people that the cost of getting any individual will be way more than the dollar that was stolen. Yet, their accumulated actions have cause a large amount of damage.

You could go after Inman, as he is the only thing that could be called a leader or instigator, but he is not personally guilty of any wrongdoing. He’s only guilty of posting funny things on the Internet and collecting money for charity. He never told people to commit crimes, so how can he be responsible for the independent actions of others? That would be like holding a sports team responsible for the actions of their supporting hooligans.

If you think it’s tough when the only person who can be called an instigator is innocent, it can get even harder when there is no human instigator. What happens when people act in unison without any coordination or organization, an no single source initiated the action?

What happens when people learn how to instigate complexes while keeping it impossible to prove that they did so? You could say that Inman knew that his perfectly innocent actions would cause his followers to act in such a way, so he could theoretically have intentionally instigated them. Yet, there is still no way to prove that he did because instigation and innocence are identical, unless you have the ability to read minds.

The only example of battling complexes we have to go on is the case of Anonymous. Anonymous is not as stand alone as they pretend to be. They have some sort of organization, digital meeting places, and there are members with higher profiles than others. A true complex doesn’t even have a name or community. Despite Anonymous having some amount of organization, fights against them have still been fruitless. Sure, some people have been caught, but the entity still exists and acts without those members. If they were all truly stand alone, it is likely none of them would have ever been caught.

Our society has no real way to deal with anything remotely resembling a stand alone complex. A victim of a complex, whether deserved or not, has almost no recourse other than to hope for another such complex to spring up and act in their favor. What kind of societal structure can we devise that can repair or prevent harm from complexes that aren’t as agreeable as ones involving jpegs on the Internet? Soon we will see a day when something like this happens that we can’t all agree on being just and wonderful.

On Convenience

Yet again there was a big Internet kerfuffle regarding digital music and piracy. It’s been at least fifteen years now. What needs to be said has been said. There is however, a side issue of convenience that I think is being misunderstood.

I think David and I agree on at least one point, which is that Emily’s suggestion that buying music isn’t convenient doesn’t really make sense. It’s gotten pretty easy over the last few years to pay for the music that you like.

Jonathan Coulton

You can see how both David and Jonathan easily agree that paying for music is convenient. It takes very little effort to legally purchase music on Amazon or iTunes. The process is pretty seamless and the music is properly organized. Most of the time you click once and an entire album of music is ready to play.

What they are missing at is that convenience isn’t just about the process of getting the music, it’s about the size of the catalog. If you buy music legitimately, you will often have to use many different stores to get all the music you want. A large percentage of that music is unlikely to be legally available on any store, especially foreign music. Look how many people have to keep switching between different iTunes countries to get the music they want. There should just be one iTunes store with all the music from all the countries.

If someone goes to iTunes or Amazon and searches for music, and no result shows up, that is inconvenience. Now they have to go to all the other legal music stores to see if it is available there. Or they have to try to find the official web site to see if it is there. If they just go to Pirate Bay, all the music is in one place. Convenience means always getting the search result you want, and not going on a wild goose chase. When I say all the music, I literally mean all music recorded from every label and every country and every artist throughout all of history. Just one important missing track is an excuse to pirate.

In addition to the size of the library, the ability to buy in bulk is necessary. Piracy sites don’t just have albums and singles, they have discographies. These discographies go way beyond any boxed set sold by a record company. They even include pirate concert recordings. They sometimes include foreign releases of an album if they had different track listings. I can’t go to the Amazon MP3 store and click one button to get every track that a given artist has every so slightly contributed to.

In the article that sparked this discussion Emily talked about how she ripped 11,000 songs. She did this by sitting there and ripping CDs. That’s not all that convenient. Neither is clicking on every single album and track in an online catalog. If you want to sell me some music, sell discographies. One click to get every Zeppelin track ever for $20. Sold!

There’s also the matter of DRM being inconvenient, but that is mostly gone now for music. When people say it’s still inconvenient it is because the catalogs are severely lacking, and there is no way to buy in bulk. If you want to build something that we will come to, build the music library of Alexandria. The Pirate Bay is already almost such a library. You have to meet or beat that to have any chance at competing.

Digital Identity Management

I read this article today, and it made me think of all the people who have false and/or multiple identities on the Internets.

I’m one of the co-founders of Windsoc, and I have several web projects aside from that.  I’ve done quite a bit of consulting in the past, and I still do the odd one today.  I’ve also dabbled in politics, having run for office once and spent many hours on issues that I feel are important, such as youth recreation and city planning.  And I’m a part-time writer of speculative fiction, spending around 0.1 hours a week on it and seeing my literary career advance at the same rate as the snows of Kilimanjaro.  And then there’s that television series I was working on…

So which one of these “hats” do I wear on Twitter?  I worry about annoying followers by talking about the wrong things, so I generally say nothing at all.  My personal blog has always been political, so I don’t feel it makes sense to start talking about startups or technology or programming.  And there are many things I just can’t say on the Windsoc Blog, since I’m not the only one involved in this venture.

My Identity Crisis: Why can’t I be more than one thing on the web?

Like every person, this guy has multiple aspects of his life that are mostly separate. At the very least most people separate family, friends, and work. Many people have even more separate lives. Perhaps they have multiple jobs, multiple separate friend groups, even multiple families. On top of that we now have different lives as members of various communities that have been able to form thanks to the Internet.

People, myself included, tend to act as different people within these different realms. Conversation topics, manners of speech, or even entire personalities can be completely different when someone is with their family as opposed to when they are at work or out with friends. This is both conscious and subconscious. Even if you are most comfortable acting as a drunken clown, you do not want to do that at your job. Yet, you don’t have to think about it. The environment of the workplace changes your behavior such that you act in a certain manner.

On the web, it’s a bit different. You haven’t actually changed your surrounding physical environment, or the physical people that are surrounding you. It’s the same you in the same place with the same Internet connected device. Thus, even when you interact with different groups, you don’t automatically change who you are.

Sometimes you might be interacting through web forums, which is like changing environments. It’s relatively easy to be a different person on Fark than you are on Reddit. It’s much more difficult to be a different person on Twitter, since it all has to be conscious. You have to actively decide how to act based on what user you are logged in as.

There are things you can do to help that subconscious switch. Maybe use a different Twitter client for each different account. That way you can associate the different aspects of yourself with different visual environments. Use the twitter website for your family twitter account and use Tweetdeck for your business tweets.

Even then, I have a better idea. Stop being multiple people. I really don’t like this aspect of human culture that we change who we are. I suffer from it as well as anyone else, but I try to do what I can to notice it and reduce it. Whether it’s family, friends, or work I try to break down the barriers between them.

It might be trying to get my family members to come to a geeky convention, or telling my coworkers about My Little Pony fandom. I want to be my most comfortable and true self all the time. I don’t want to change who I am because of where I am or who is nearby. I want to have one “true” identity that is always on. I want to always be the same person all the time.

And that is why I have just one account in each place. I’ll tweet about New York food trucks, technology, and games all in the same hour. I’ll connect to co-workers, family, and friends all from the same LinkedIn account. I’ll friend my mom on Facebook and also people who listen to my podcast.

If I happen to share something online from one aspect of my life that other people don’t understand, I see that as an opportunity. There’s nothing about myself that I need to hide from anyone I know. If someone judges me based on what they see in other aspects of my life that were previously hidden from them, fuck ’em. There are enough other people who will see those other aspects and bridge the gap.

Thanks to the Internet we have been able to bring people so far apart so much closer together. That is the miracle that has caused this situation in the first place. Why then would we put up barriers at the last line of defense to keep people apart?

Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word “Tolkien”

BoingBoing is reporting that that someone selling buttons with the word “Tolkien” on them was shut down by the Tolkien estate.

Not content to censor a book that combines literary criticism and fiction by including JRR Tolkien as a character, the Tolkien estate has shut down a guy who makes and gives away buttons that have the word Tolkien on them:

Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word “Tolkien”

The Tolkien estate isn’t the only ones. Martin Luther King Junior’s estate is also notorious for being a copyright troll. Try posting his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube, or even quoting a few words from it somewhere publicly visible. You’ll hear from them soon enough.

In the gigantic copyright war that has dominated the Internet for the past ten to fifteen years, this particular aspect is often overlooked, since most of the attention is on digital distribution. If there’s a way we can make some slow progress in copyright reform, I think a good place to start is changing the expiring time at least a little bit.

The stated purpose of copyright, int he constitution, is to promote the progress of science and useful arts. In what way does granting a creator’s descendants intellectual property rights over their ancestors creation promote any progress of science or useful arts? These people aren’t creating anything, they are just milking the work of their ancestors.

You might argue that if someone who is currently alive will have an incentive to create something with the knowledge that it may provide for their children. That may be true, but it’s not necessary to grant the children the intellectual property rights for this to happen. If something is successful in the creator’s lifetime, they will presumably earn a great deal of money from it. That money can be passed on in the form of inheritance, and that should be enough of an incentive. If the children want continued revenues beyond the inheritance, they should create something of their own.

Personally I would prefer copyrights, if any, to be much shorter than they are now, and for them to expire very quickly. Even if you are far less extreme on copyright issues than I am, you have to concede that any copyright should immediately expire and disappear the moment the original creator passes away. Even if you are one of those people who believes that copyright infringement is stealing, you must admit that you can’t steal from the dead.

As soon as someone passes away, all of their intellectual property that was not a work for hire, should immediately enter the public domain. To deny the world access and use of such great works, or even individual words, for the sake of bringing profits to people who were just lucky enough to be children of great artists, is heinous. You can’t tell me that a pile of money in Tolkien’s children’s pockets is of greater value to the world than the greatness of his books spreading far and wide for free.

Where Have the Good Men Gone?

For the past few years there have been intermittent editorials in various media publications, mostly from women, lamenting the cultural phenomenon of so-called “man-children.” The basic idea is that guys in their 20’s and 30’s are playing video games instead of turning into their fathers. The Wall Street Journal just published one more for the pile.

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This “pre-adulthood” has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it’s time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn’t bring out the best in men.

Where Have the Good Men Gone?

I have no doubt in my mind that many of these man-children exist, and in quite a large number. Being 28 and living in NYC, I can absolutely confirm the existence of trust fund kids, hipsters, college dropouts, and former frat boys who don’t have serious jobs. They live irresponsible, often drunken, lives. I’ve seen everything from the typical guy in a band to guys who play online poker to make rent. I know some females in this pre-adult category as well, but men are the majority, anecdotally speaking.

Do I think this is a problem? Yes, I do think so. Without serious careers, spouses, or children, these people are going to have some serious problems in the coming years. They’ll have no retirement savings, and nobody to take care of them. Even if the economy recovers, they’ll have no marketable skills to get good jobs. The newer college graduates will leap over them. It’s definitely a crisis our society is not structured to deal with. Since our government only cares about the short term, this won’t be fixed. The consequences won’t appear for a few more decades yet.

Despite that, I do think that these journalists are clearly missing out on one particular group of people, and that is people like me. For every man-child I know who wastes away playing MMORPGs all day, I know someone like myself. We have quality careers. We cook, clean, handle finances, and live as responsible adults. We are not the same as these immature people avoiding adulthood. We are successful professionals, but we are lumped in with the man-children.

Why don’t we get any recognition? Because it’s the year 2011, and our hobbies now include such things as video games, comics, and cartoons. There is a quite significant group of people who still look down on geeks and their hobbies as not being adult. What makes a guy who plays golf and fixes cars more of an adult that someone who enjoys playing tabletop role playing games? They both have jobs, they both pay the bills, they both get the job done. Hobbies are not related to maturity level in any way.

Kay S. Hymoitz, and others like her, continue to falsely associate the popular hobbies of the modern geek with immaturity. It stems mostly from the same source as Roger Ebert’s disrespect of the video game as an artistic medium, but has an additional layer of sexism on top of it. You don’t see anyone calling out geeky women as immature girls. Instead, they are cool and hip. If they are interested in science or technology, that’s even better. But a man who is a computer nerd is an immature little boy. Double standards much?

You don’t have to go much further than the surface of the Internet to find the enormous army of responsible, successful, adult geeks, like my friends and I. Do you think Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of penny-arcade.com are children in men’s bodies? How about Steve Wozniak, Jonathan Coulton, John Hodgman, Jeff Atwood, Kevin Rose, Mark Zuckerberg, or any of the other successful nerds out there? Are they so-called man-children? I didn’t think so.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Demographic Data

In the year 2011, men watch My Little Pony

If someone truly refuses to grow up, has no job, no skills, and is going nowhere in life, then feel free to call them out on it. Just don’t judge someone’s maturity level by their chosen hobbies. The world we live in now is one in which the same guy who responsibly contributes to his 401k also spends evenings watching My Little Pony.

If women are interested, they are going to have to cast away their prejudices of old. I know many geek couples, married and not, who are in wonderful relationships. Some even have children. Anecdotally speaking, I don’t see the non-geek couples of my generation getting along nearly as well. Instead, I see a husband sneaking to play video games when the wife isn’t home. That’s a divorce in the making if I’ve ever seen one.

Women, throw away your prejudices against geek hobbies. If you’re looking for a man, don’t ignore the nerds. They might scare you by talking about comic books, but if you wait a minute you’ll see they have real jobs, are incredibly smart, and live very responsibly. Maybe if you even listen, you’ll find you enjoy these hobbies, and your impression of what they were about was all wrong. If you reject every guy with an XBox, you will be quite lonely, and have nobody to blame but yourself.

The Luddites are not actually the power brokers

I just read this article that gives many examples of people who have given up carrying a cellular phone. It claims that by doing so, these people end up in a position of power because others are forced to work on their time.

Everyone has a cell phone now. There are more than 280 million mobile subscribers in America, according to the Federal Communications Commission. According to a 2005 international study by Advertising Age, 15 percent of Americans have interrupted sex to answer their phones. Even people who are videotaping themselves having sex, like Paris Hilton, stop to answer a call. The call of the wildGoogle, Verizon would exclude mobile Web from rulesT-Mobile looks to lag in offering 4G.

Not having a cell phone is a way of getting the world to run on your time. A lot of powerful people are already on to this. Warren Buffett doesn’t use one. Nor does Mikhail Prokhorov, the 45-year-old Russian billionaire who owns the New Jersey Nets. Tavis Smiley doesn’t own one, either.
The Luddites may actually be power brokers

First of all, almost every example in this article is someone who is already a power broker. People need them more than they need other people. If they carry a phone, of course people are going to be calling them constantly. Even the small town dentist has a position of power over his patients. They aren’t going to switch dentists because he doesn’t have a cellular phone. The premise of the article gets the causation wrong. It’s not luddites that are power brokers, it’s power brokers that are luddites.

Even if you are a power broker, should you really get rid of your cellphone? It’s quite a stupid idea if you ask me. Sure, as head of a business you will be able to control when your customers may call you. But what about your family? If there’s an emergency, and you’re unable to be contacts because you are a luddite? That sure will make you think twice. The simple answer is that you should have a phone on you at all times, at least for emergency purposes. If you don’t want to get calls off the hook from customers and such, simply don’t give out the number. It’s that easy.

For those of us who are not already power brokers, refusing to carry a phone will only get people to work on your time as far as their politeness will stretch. It also only works so far as your friends and family are not very spontaneous. If there are things happening, and you are, or could be involved, you will get left out if you can not be contacted. You’ll be relying on the politeness of others to go out of their way to accommodate your phone refusal.

Personally, I have completely stopped accommodating this. My friends all have phones, but they often don’t answer promptly. Other times, they let the battery run out. If I’m about to go out to eat dinner, and I call someone with an invite, a non-answer is a no answer. If they complain later, it’s their fault for not dealing with their phone properly. If I’m waiting for someone, they’re late, and they don’t respond to calls or SMS, I’ll just leave. When they complain later, I can tell them I waited and called, and they didn’t pick up their phone.

There really is no excuse to not carrying a cellular phone if you can afford it. It should be charged, and within close proximity at all times. You don’t have to always pick it up, but at least look at the caller ID. You might say you would never pick it up during sex, but what if it’s your mom calling at 3AM? That’s almost certainly going to be an emergency situation. You will regret not answering. There’s always something more important.

There’s also the situation where people are depending on you. Take for example the superintendent of my building. Yes, I’m paying him indirectly, but he definitely has a position of power over me. If he didn’t carry a cellphone, and I needed him, I would have to work on his time. However, one time the lady who lives across from me locked herself out of her apartment, and it was almost time for her to take her pills, which were inside. My super does carry and answer his phone, but imagine if he didn’t. By being a luddite you become a great burden to the people around you. You need to already be in a powerful social position in order for people to be willing to accept your burden. The boss of the company can get away with it, but only because his assistant does not.

Carry a phone. Keep it on whenever possible (not theaters and such). Keep it charged. Only give the number to people who you want to be able to contact you at any time. You don’t need to answer every call, but check the ID to make sure you want to hang up before you actually hang up. If you follow these rules you can get the best of both worlds. You won’t have a beeping phone ruining your life with interruptions. You won’t be a burden to those people who really need you. And most of all, you won’t risk being out of touch at those critical moments you will regret missing.

Raw food raids are on the rise

There’s an interesting post on BoingBoing about government raids on farms that are selling wares at raw food markets. It’s simultaneously ridiculous and also awesome.

“If you take my computer again, I can’t do my homework.”—Words spoken to agents raiding a small California dairy farm by the owner’s 12-year-old daughter. The farm is known for producing raw goats’ milk cheese that is sold by members-only raw food markets. Grist reports that local, state, and federal raids on alternative “raw foodie” membership marketplaces are on the rise.

Raw food raids are on the rise

Ok, so the ridiculous part of this is the computer confiscation. People need computers and Internet access. With news, banking, and even government all being online, someone without a computer and Internet is effectively cut off. Really, we need to follow the lead of Finland and make Internet access a right that can not be revoked unless someone is convicted of a crime of appropriate severity.

As for the issue of the food, hells yes. If you read the posts on BoingBoing, they’re typical crazy hippies who think that anything which happens to benefit a bigger company to the detriment of a smaller one is an evil corporate conspiracy. Those same people will cry huge foul when they find a big company doing something like selling toys with lead paint. They’re just hypocrites who pick sides based on which party they empathize with more, rather than based on the facts of the issue itself.

The facts are that raw milk, raw cheese, and other such foods are fucking poison. You know humanity is only where it is today because we invented alcoholic beverages. Why is that? It’s because alcoholic beverages didn’t turn to poison and kill us all. The alcohol in the beverage killed off the nasty bacterias.

If you drink some raw milk or some bathtub cheese from one of these hippy farms, your odds of getting sick are quite high indeed. You might say that it’s never happened to you, and that’s quite possible. But it’s a huge risk. You want to get listeria, seriously?

You know how come we drink milk today? Pasteurization. Yeah, you know, the process that pretty much saved all of our collective asses. Without pasteurization, we wouldn’t be able to eat half the shit we eat today without getting sick all over the place. I’m not just talking about the common case with lots of diarrhea and vomiting, death is a significant possibility here.

You might like the taste of raw milk, but I’ve heard that anti-freeze tastes really good. I guess anti-freeze is more dangerous than raw milk, as it almost guarantees death, but the milk isn’t far behind. Actually, I’d say that lead paint is probably less dangerous than the milk. I mean, you aren’t supposed to eat the paint, and it can’t really hurt you if you leave it on the wall where it belongs. You’re going to drink the milk, and if it’s unpasteurized, you know what’s living in there?

Remember, milk comes from a farm. Farms are dirty places. They are really dirty. Even a clean farm is dirty. There’s animal poop and dirt and other nasty stuff all over. There’s also all kinds of bacteria that would love to fuck you up. The evil commercial farms are actually heavily regulated. They go to great lengths to make sure the food is clean. Ultra pasteurization, irradiation, and all kinds of other technology that make food safe to eat, and help fight hunger. Science scares hippies, so they don’t like this sort of thing, even though it saves lives. The hippy farms, they hardly do anything. Remember, unpasteurized milk is milk with cow poop in it. The bacteria in that cow poop can kill you.

The reason we have these laws for consumer protection is because clearly consumer education doesn’t work. There’s no way we can teach everyone the dangers of raw food. And even if we do, people like these hippies on BoingBoing still won’t believe it. Idealistically I am anti-nanny state. Pragmatically, let’s save some people’s lives. Even if they’re stupid enough to drink raw milk, they don’t deserve to die or have their insides come out both ends for that stupidity. Saving them from themselves is a good move. Government, please crack down more on unclean farms.

The New Google News

This guy Bruce Tognazzini (Tog), really doesn’t like the recent changes to Google news.

The team involved appears unwilling or unable to just come clean with the fact that they screwed up completely, and, instead, are just chipping away at one individual screw-up after the other. It’s as though they replaced their gazelle with a pig and are now carving away at the pig, desperate to make it at least look like a gazelle. So far the result, unfortunately, it does not look (or feel) like a gazelle at all, but only like a distressed and wounded pig.

Top 10 Reasons the New Google News Sucks

I read Google News a lot. I visit it multiple times a day. It is by far the best news aggregator in existence. It doesn’t show you any stupid crap, because, as with all Google systems, it’s algorithmic as opposed to democratic. It is incredibly intelligent when it comes to grouping duplicate content. It’s highly customizable, and it manages to cover everything important.

Recently, they changed Google News. They changed the layout from two columns to one, and some other things. As someone who visits that site frequently, on my PC and on my iPhone, I’m indifferent. It’s neither better nor worse than it was before. All of the key reasons to visit Google News, which I have already described, have not changed. It still provides links to all the important news stories without duplicates or stupid crap.

Remember the hundred or so times Facebook changed its layout and/or privacy policies and people were in an uproar? Well, everyone is still using Facebook, still playing Farmville. No changes going on there. No surprises.

One of my favorite stories is about the Citgo sign in Boston. It’s a gigantic and famous outdoor advertisement. It’s quite garish. When they originally wanted to install it, the neighborhood fought against it tooth and nail. They lost. More recently when it was suggested that it be taken down, people fought to keep it up because it had become a landmark.

Remember when they changed the name of the Nintendo Revolution to the Nintendo Wii? Remember people made jokes about the name? Remember when Firefox changed it’s name two or three times? Now, everyone calls them Wii and Firefox without even thinking about it.

Every time anything changes, for better or for worse, people complain. Then after a time, the change almost always sticks and wins and the complainers forget. We’ll never eliminate all this moronic griping, but perhaps we can lessen it slightly. The next time something changes, wait a week or two before you decide whether the change is really so bad. Odds are you will get used to it and forget it was ever different. The next time you see or hear someone complaining about a recent change, simply because it is a change, ignore them, or at least give them the same advice of waiting a week or two.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Change is the only constant. You’ve heard it all before. That’s why we don’t want to hear it again. Save your breath for when there’s a really important change with real consequences. Losing your shit over the layout of a web site is kind of sad.


Douglas Rushkoff thinks that shit is about to go down, economically speaking.

Yes, this is really it. The beginning of a true end-of-cycle economically.

If you own “stocks,” use these bounces to get out completely. If you have to park your money somewhere, consider yourself lucky you have money to park.


I’m not going to discuss whether he’s right or wrong. Time will tell, also I have no idea. I would however, like to add some counter advice. Well, maybe it’s not so much counter advice as it is additional advice.

Let’s pretend that he’s right and the market is about to go down, as in way down. If you own a lot of stock right now then yes, selling would be a good idea.

The rest of his advice, about creating actual value, is good advice in any economic scenario, and I wholeheartedly support it. However, selling now doesn’t mean avoiding stocks forever.

If the markets crash hard, I personally will likely buy like crazy. I’m young. I have a lot of time left. I have money. I have a 401k. If it goes way down, I’m going to increase my 401k contribution to the max I can afford. I might even just get an online trading account and just go for it.

See, I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not even 30 yet. Any investment I make will probably last 40 years plus. Buy low, sell high. That’s the most basic advice in all trading. There’s almost no chance that it will be lower when I retire than it will be if there’s a big dip soon.

It’s almost like a gift. Hey, maybe you didn’t start your 401k as early as you should have. Maybe you didn’t make your contribution large enough. If you have money afterwords, it’s your chance to play catchup.

If you believe Doug, then by all means sell now. But if he’s right, be prepared to buy after the smoke clears.

American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation

I don’t even know where to begin with this article from the New York Times. It tells the “sad” story of a college graduate who has to live with his parents because he can’t get a job. Except that he did get a job, and he turned it down.

The daily routine seldom varied. Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.

American Dream Is Elusive for New Generation

There are so many things wrong here. Let me start with something simple. Why is he sending out four or five resumes a week? When I am on a job hunt, I can send out as many as five an hour. It’s clear from this fact alone that this kid is lazy and inefficient.

Well, there is one other explanation for how few applications he is sending. It could be that he’s just very picky. He claims that he’s willing to work anywhere, but apparently he’s not willing to do any job. He has some sense of entitlement that because he went to college he should immediately start in a high up position. Welcome to reality! He’s probably could apply to hundreds of jobs a week, he just doesn’t want those jobs because he thinks he’s too good for them. Guess what? Someone who will prefer to stay at home than to make $40k is an asshat. I wouldn’t hire him to flip burgers if I owned a McDonald’s.

The author of the article, Louis Uchitelle, places all the blame squarely on the economy. Oh, it’s so hard for these kids to find jobs. I don’t know what Louis is talking about, this kid found a job and turned it down. Blame the kid for being a douche, not the economy.

I graduated from high school in the year 2000, so I did not enter the job market until after the .com bust. I took the first job I could find. It paid $40k. I was working within a few weeks, and moved out soon after. Twice since then I have changed jobs. Each time I started my job hunt I have found new jobs in a matter of weeks for significant increases in pay. Even in this horrible economy, jobs are aplenty in my field.

Now, I don’t want to blame the kid entirely. I also want to blame his parents, and our whole society. My generation grew up with everyone telling us we should follow our passion and be whatever we wanted to be. They filled our heads with lies. This kid obviously still believes those lies. Not everyone can live their dream, most won’t. If we all lived our dream we would have too many astronauts and not enough farmers.

They also told my generation the lie that everyone should go to college, and that it’s a magical job ticket. Back in my parent’s generation going to college was special. Not everyone did it, and not everyone graduated. Thus, if you did have a degree, it was actually sort of a magical job ticket. Nowadays almost everyone has a degree, so the value of said degree in the job market is significantly reduced.

Because of these lies, my peers not only went to college, they majored in whatever they felt like. Many of them majored in things that provide absolutely no marketable job skills. I knew a person with a communications degree working at Gamestop, so awesome. Could have saved the money spent on college and gone to Gamestop right after high school and been a pretty big manager with four years of climbing the ladder. Four years of on the job experience is worth a lot more than four years of school.

Even worse than that, a lot of kids have gone to college with no direction. They went to college because it’s the thing to do, and their parent’s paid for it. They have no idea what they want to major in, or what they want to do with their lives. They toil in useless liberal arts classes doing nothing worthwhile, and perhaps never graduating. Even if they pick a major, they change their minds wasting thousands of dollars and years of their lives. The college doesn’t care, they’ll take your money.

Now, I did go to college. I went to RIT and majored in computer science. That happened to be both my passion and a marketable skill. It was easy to see from day one who was going to succeed and who would fail. There were kids who went home to their parents every weekend to have them do their laundry and feed them. There were kids in CS who had hopes of money, but no skill or interest. There were those who could work very hard and make the grade, but didn’t truly care about what they were doing.

The retention rates were horrible. A frighteningly large number of kids changed majors, transferred to other schools, or dropped out. They just couldn’t hack it. When actually forced to live independently and work hard, they quit. They boomeranged right back to mommy and daddy. It’s good, in a way, that we don’t have more job openings for these kids, as they would likely destroy whatever companies were fooled into hiring them.

I remember years ago I read a magazine that was left in a bathroom. There was an article in it about a couple who couldn’t get by because they were burdened with debt from college. At the time, their income was slightly less than mine, and their student loan debt was roughly equal. What was the problem? They had huge credit card debt. They had a gigantic house, kids, cars, luxuries. They lived as if they had a six figure income when they were in the lower five digit range. Yet the article blamed the economy rather than these people. They could have made a case using a better example, why did they choose these morons who were living so far above their means?

I think our friend in this article is quite a similar to that couple. He currently lives with his six figure parents. If he takes that $40k job, then his luxury level will decrease significantly. He won’t eat nearly as well. He won’t have as nice a television. He won’t have as nice a car. He won’t have an XBox. He refuses to step down before he takes a step up. Previous generations were forced to step down, by being drafted into war. The current one would rather leech off their parents.

And who can blame them? The parents must take a huge share of the blame. Why do they allow their kids to leech? They’ve spoiled these children their entire lives, why would they stop now? They’ve never forced, or even permitted, these children to live independently. They never will, unless they are tossed out in the street.

It’s well and good to have these kinds of stories out there. Tell the stories of the unemployed. Tell the story of any interesting person you can find. Just don’t go blaming the economy when the person is clearly at fault for their own problems. Find a better example. Find someone who has a marketable skill, is applying to jobs like crazy, and hasn’t even been called back. I think maybe the reason they don’t have such an example is because it doesn’t exist. Those people already have jobs, and the rest are not worth hiring. There isn’t a shortage of positions to be filled, there’s a shortage of quality labor.

I leave you with this relevant TED Talk by Mike Rowe. Make sure you watch the whole thing, or you won’t get it.