Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ready... Set.... Beard!

I put the shaving cream away this morning. The plan is to go full beard, and then trim back to "friendly mutton chops". My father had facial hair all my life until a few years ago, alternating between phases of a Sonny Bono moustache and Chuck Norris beard. Maybe I will carry on the legacy, or just put on a winter coat... I'm not sure yet.

I expect it should fill in nicely. In my high school yearbook, they asked "How have you changed since freshman year?" I was quoted as answering "Facial hair." I grew a respectable beard over a few weeks on my high school graduation trip. I dabbled with goatees in college.  I can get a 5 o' clock shadow. I am armed with manly facial follicles. It's about damn time I harness these powers.

I remember reading recently that beards are indicators of trustworthiness (Journal of Marketing Communications). That is interesting... what is it about beards? Could it be that people with beards are perceived as more "granola", and not caring about superficiality? Are they deemed wiser? I mean Santa Claus, God and Jesus all have beards. That's pretty good company. However, the Uni-bomber, Karl Marx, and Fidel Castro had to go ruin it for bearded people. Goatees are the opposite. You've got goatee Satan and Lenin. Plus, everyone knows that your evil parallel universe self has a goatee, like evil Spock. That's why I like Friendly Mutton Chops. It's got that friendly bearded fullness, but then throws a you with the shaved chin. Did he shave the chin to keep food out of his beard? Or does he ride with biker gangs on the weekend? Why didn't he shave the whole thing? It's so mysterious! So many choices. Who knows where this follicular adventure will take me...

(Whoa, random aside... I just image-googled 'Friendly Mutton Chops' and saw a photo of my friend Jim down the page. Small world!)

Laws vs Regulations

What is the difference? Well, I'm not going by a dictionary... but there is a clear difference between:

A) "You must not commit violence."
vs
B) "You must apply for a license, so an official can evaluate whether violence may be committed by your desired action."

I'd categorize laws as part of a justice system, where someone reacts after the fact when the law has been violated. I categorize regulations as the hoops you're forced to jump through... all the paperwork, the licenses, The bureaucrats that review your case for approval.

Which is better? If justice is upheld by law, can a regulatory approach ever add value? Regulations make it harder to engage in illegal activities, but also harder to engage in legal activities. Certain types of people absolutely worship regulation. They fail to see the forest for the trees. In the equation, costs of "red tape" and loss of productivity are large. The bureau-philes would say "The cost of letting crime run uncontrolled are larger", assuming that regulation can actually stop a criminal in the first place. Regulations assume the people are essentially bad, and should be controlled by benevolent bureaucrats. Who's to make sure the bureaucrats aren't bad? Laws must, by nature, be written clearly so they can be fairly interpreted in a court of one's peers... and justice appropriately served.

The error of the regulation advocate is not giving enough credit to the deterrence of a strong justice system. Let's face it, human behavior is not easily controllable. The alcohol prohibition of the 1920's corresponded with increased alcohol use. People will do what they want. To say that most people don't use heroin because it's illegal is simply not true. Like regulations and bureaus, you can build an intricate barbed wire fence around your garden, but then a rabbit will still find a way to dig under it to eat your vegetables. Waskally wabbit!

Are there any good examples for necessary regulation? Let's see... where do we have the most regulation today? Health - see how FDA rules deny drugs to the sick who would willingly try experimental treatments. Terrorism - look how the TSA rules lead to pat down 3-year olds and crowds out airline's ability to protect their own $200 million aircraft. Pollution - one I've dscussed before.  I've talked about local Sacramento regulations as well. The examples go on, but in each case... minus regulation, there would be an opportunity for courts to serve justice in a case of actual fraud or violence. Bureaus crowd out private responsibility.

The fact is, most regulations are excuses for government to reap new revenue and for public unions to expand their payroll. They are means of rent-seeking by special interests. They are beasts conjured loose by politicians upon manufactured crises. De-regulate and privatize, but do not neglect a strong principled, expedient, and accessible justice system in it's place.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Steampunk

So, we are at Fanny Ann's Saloon for divebar last night and there is a group of folks dressed up in 19th century garb. I say "Hey, did you just get off work from the Railroad Museum?". A guy says "No, we are the Steampunk Society." Steampunk? When I told Brandie, she asked "Stinkpump?".. haha. So, he explained that it's like Sci-Fi for the 19th Century. Think... H.G Wells, or Wild Wild West (with Will Smith). or Steamboy (Japanese anime). These guys sported real mutton chops and homemade ray guns, with top hats, leather straps, and biplane goggles. Crazy stuff... but at least it looked more fun than some dorky Renaissance Faire.

So, the first cool possibility I thought of with this genre is Steampunk Batman. I think putting the dark knight in leather on victorian cobblestone streets with some goggles and gunpowder powered gadgets with lots of gears, and maybe steam-powered bat-train would be sweet. Then, after some googling, turns out this has sort of been done (with villian Jack the Ripper, no less). Furthermore, fan-art has conjured up an entire steampunk Justice League.


Low, and behold... there is even Steampunk Star Wars


So, the next thing that should definitely be done steampunk is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. You have these genius inventors, and it's all centered around railroads. Unfortunately, it looks like the better-late-than-never making of the movie will be done in an alternate modern day where trains are somehow still relevant. Oh well, I hope it turns out to be a decent film for what it's budget allows. Heck, the video game BioShock (inspired by Atlas Shrugged) is quintessential steampunk. Perhaps one day, we'll see a reboot Atlas Steampunked... with Galt's Gulch filled with marvelous contraptions, and Dagnar could be sporting some goggles and mutton chops. It could be a tale of celebration of innovation and technology, dispelling the myths of the evil greed of the "gilded age".