Do you want to be a Millionaire?

MillionaireThat’s the question that I saw posted on Facebook and the vehemence of my reaction surprised me. Fuck no.

I want to earn millions of dollars. I write my books and I want people to love them. I love writing them. I want people to read my books and understand the philosophical ideology behind them. That we make our destiny in this world of ours. That those who work hard and treat others with honor earn their millions. Don’t give me a million dollars because I picked a randoms series of numbers.

I want people to buy my books by the millions. I want movie studios to understand the power of the words I write and offer me millions, tens of millions of dollars because turning my books into movies will entertain countless fans and earn money for other people. I don’t want you to spend your $2.99 on my books to make me a millionaire. I want you to spend that money because you love reading my books. I want you to spend that money because the ideas of decency, fair-play, hard-work, personal responsibility, and independent action resonate with you.

I do not pursue millions of dollars. I pursue doing things I love. I pursue writing books I love. I pursue a fulfilling life. I pursue spending my time with interesting people who enrich my life.

This is what Ayn Rand was writing about and she was right. Howard Rourke did not pursue wealth. He pursued the glory of his craft. John Galt did not pursue millions nor did Dagny Taggert and Francisco d’Anconia. Those who think the point Rand made was that money is the motivator don’t understand her and they won’t understand this post.

No!

No, I do not want to “be” a millionaire. I reject the notion out of hand. I want to earn millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions. I want you to read my books. I want you to love reading my books as much as I love writing them.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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How you Appear Changes how People Treat You

professional and unprofessionalI recently wrote a blog about catcalling and it elicited a reaction from reader that I found interesting.

… I just don’t think it should be a woman’s job to pick her outfits to avoid being catcalled …

The main gist of the argument against me was that women shouldn’t be judged by their appearance but for their intelligence and personality. I suppose this is a fine sentiment but it is completely unrealistic. We are all judged by our appearance and even within that there are nuances. While we certainly don’t have much control over the size of our nose we do have control over the clothes we wear and the way we present ourselves.

If a woman wears a low-cut blouse and a push-up bra she is choosing to present herself in a certain way and men are going to react in a certain way. There is no denying this fact. It’s like saying someone who goes to a funeral in ripped jeans and a t-shirt shouldn’t be considered rude and treated as such. The same goes if a bridesmaid arrives not in the dress the bride chose but in something completely different.

I’m certainly not suggesting that a woman is asking to be harassed by men yelling out crude comments but the reality is that men are encouraged to approach women and engage them in dialog. It’s not an easy line to define to be certain. The original article I wrote concerned a woman who found herself continually shouted out on her way to work while wearing a business outfit. There are plenty of men who catcall in an unwanted fashion and the woman did nothing to provoke such behavior. My point is that it’s unreasonable to expect all men to avoid saying something to a woman because it’s possible that woman might consider such an advance unwanted. If a woman attends a party and a fellow she isn’t interested in approaches her, she rebuffs him, but at the same event encourages a man she does find intriguing. How is the man supposed to know ahead of time whether he will be found acceptable or not?

Even that’s not really my point in this blog. We are judged by our appearance and to do so is completely human. We judge people by their appearance every day. It’s in our nature. A woman who wears certain types of clothes will be judged for wearing them. A man who wears certain types of clothes will also be judged for it. It’s certainly not the most accurate way to judge a person but it has value. Someone who dresses in a certain way is consciously presenting themselves in that fashion. It is fundamentally different from a large nose or big breasts. These are things we cannot easily control. Our dress speaks directly to conscious decisions we have made and it is therefore reasonable for people to judge us based on our clothes.

Don’t get me wrong. I think aggressive catcalling when it is apparent the woman isn’t interested in inexcusable. However, if a woman is looking particularly nice it’s not unreasonable for a man to offer a compliment or two.

It is a woman’s job to dress appropriately and be aware that her clothes will illicit certain responses. To pretend otherwise is to simply live in a fantasy world. It’s also the man’s job to be aware of signals when a woman is receptive and when she is not. It is certainly all of our jobs to communicate effectively when people around us are behaving in ways we don’t like. Even then we can’t control their reactions completely.

When I’m at the football game and a fan is behaving boorishly I can sit there and take it or I can say something. Once I’ve said something the situation is largely out of my hands. If the fan continues to act horribly I can escalate by bringing in authority figures or I can simply accept their behavior and attempt to ignore it. Life is rather messy in this way. If a man is catcalling a woman she can ask him to stop, tell him to stop, but she largely can’t make him stop. If he wants to continue he can, it’s rude, nasty, boorish, and just plain mean, but that’s life.

Dress how you will, but don’t pretend it will not illicit certain reactions, whether or not those reactions meet with your approval. Fair? No. Life? Yes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Frenchmen on the Podium at Tour de France for First Time in 30 Years

PERAUD_JEAN_CHRISTOPHEThe 2014 edition of the Tour de France is scheduled to end tomorrow afternoon and something rather remarkable is going to happen. Two Frenchmen,  Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, are likely going to finish in second and third place respectively. This will mark the first time since 1997 that a man from that nation has finished in the top three at the Tour de France.

Why is this notable? Because of events that occurred during the Tour de France in 1998 and the reaction of the sports federation of France to those events. In that year’s race there was a huge doping scandal in which virtually every rider of the race was implicated. During the race not a single rider was found to have illegal substances in their body but subsequent revelations and testing showed that virtually every sample taken during the race was contaminated. An exception was George Hincapie whose two samples were found to be clean although he has since admitted to using illegal substances before and during that race.

The aftermath of this event triggered cataclysmic changes from the anti-doping agency in France although other countries did not act with the same level of alacrity. Lance Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France began the next year in 1999 and those who wanted to compete with Armstrong and his doping machine had to take the same path. Frenchmen could not because of the stringent testing policies created by their federation after the scandal of the 1998 Tour.

Suddenly, after nearly a century of domination, not a single Frenchman could be found on the Podium at the conclusion of the race nor even frequently among the top-ten finishers. All because they were riding presumably without the aid of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). What does that tell you?

Of further interest is the nature of anti-doping regulations now in place for all of the riders of the Tour de France. They are subject to what are called Biological Passports which keep track of all vital information of an athlete and anything out of the normal range is considered a violation. This removes the element of masking filters which eliminate PEDs from the system and yet allow for their use and thus increased performance. The masking efforts are apparently always going to be ahead of the testing efforts and therefore the Biological Passport seems to be the best method to detect the use of PEDs.

The use of Biological Passports does not extend to the professional leagues of the United States.

If the authorities largely cannot catch those using PEDs then the result will always be the use of PEDs by athletes. All results are tainted. Athletes from nations with progressive testing can almost never defeat their counterparts who are using such methods.

The world cycling federation  now uses methods long in place in France. Frenchmen stand on the podium once again. I think that says it all.

What do you think would happen if the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and other top leagues in the United States adopted a Biological Passport? I know what I think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Catcalling – Compliment, Implicit Threat, or Just Annoying?

CatcallingThere’s an interesting news story making the rounds about a young, professional woman who took video of men catcalling towards her as she made her way to work each morning. Catcalling in this case is defined as a man whistling or otherwise commenting on how much he likes the appearance of a woman who happens to be passing by.

I’ve witnessed such behavior on any number of occasions and it always makes me uncomfortable but I’m an introvert by nature. I’ve certainly seen occasions were women seemed to enjoy the attention although more times than not they either ignored it or it appeared they were discomforted. In a strange way it reminds me of people at the gym who come up and offer unsolicited advice on how to properly use exercise equipment. It’s someone invading my space without an invitation to do so.

As I’ve said, there are times that women seem to not only appreciate such interactions but encourage them with their dress and mannerisms. I wonder is it ever appropriate to engage in catcalling? If the woman is dressed in a particular way does that invite such behavior? If a woman smiles and seems to enjoy mild catcalling is that in invitation for louder and more obnoxious attempts?

It’s all a bit confusing to this introvert.

It seems to me that it’s probably largely based on circumstance and personality. For the most part I think it is an uncomfortable practice that apparently gives men an excuse to say outlandish things without consequence. However, there do seem to be times when it is perfectly acceptable because the woman in question desires such attention. It gives men a chance to interact with women who they would otherwise not be able to engage for a variety of reasons.

Women rarely engage in such behavior although I have had my buttocks mentioned in a complimentary fashion by women in passing on a few occasions. I wasn’t offended although it was a bit disconcerting. I can imagine that if it happened frequently I would come to find it annoying although I suspect there is little chance of that occurring.

In this case the woman has printed cards which she hands out to the offenders and also offers for download to those who read her story. Is this wise? To confront the men who so annoy her? Certainly some of the reactions of the men are positive and include apologies but other men are not phased at all and I would imagine think they have increased their chances of furthering a relationship with Lindsey. Getting a woman to engage in conversation is certainly the first step in a relationship and their catcalling has achieved this purpose.

I’m particularly interested in the opinions of my female readership. Do you always hate catcalls? Hate them when it’s from someone who doesn’t interest you? Find them complimentary when used mildly although offensive when used more aggressively? Has you opinion changed over time?

Let me know in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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The Sun is Really Hot

Solar FlareI don’t know if this actually qualifies as a Misleading Headline because it is so obviously ridiculous that it’s hard to imagine anyone was fooled. The Sun Could’ve Destroyed Civilization Two Years Ago blares the headline from many-time winner of my weekly award, The Daily Caller.

Clearly they are talking about solar flares that have the potential to destroy electronic equipment. There was a big one a couple of years ago but it did not hit the earth. In reality the world is a lot better prepared for solar flares than in the past and much of our electronic infrastructure is shielded from such assaults. I’m certainly not saying that a flood of charged particles from the sun couldn’t do a lot of damage but destroying civilization is probably beyond it’s power for the next few billion years.

It’s also interesting to note that the solar flare mentioned in the article was rated as a X1.1 which, while large, is hardly the biggest in 150 years as the article claims. There have been significantly larger flares spotted on any number of occasions since we’ve been closely observing such events.

I am sort of curious if any of my readers saw the headline and clicked on the story with any expectation of reading about a real threat to civilization. Did you see the article? Were you tempted to click? Did you think it was obviously silly? If you did click it did you believe the nonsense about it being the largest such event in 150 years?

Let me know in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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The Ice Cream Sandwich that Defied the Power of the Sun!

Great Value Ice Cream SandwichI have an ice cream sandwich problem. I’ve written about it before and it’s haunted me since childhood. I’m a little less tempted now. It turns out the ingredients in some ice cream sandwiches make them resistant to the power of the sun, in other words, they don’t melt.

Technically, according to the article, they do melt, they just don’t lose their solid shape. This does make even an addict like myself begin to wonder what I’m putting into my body when I purchase those delightful treats and down them without hesitation. I will admit that I generally purchase a higher-class of ice cream sandwich simply because I’ve reached the point in my life where I prefer something tasty and more expensive over something cheap but rather icky.

I’ve never had the Great Value sandwiches from Walmart so I can’t speak to their flavor but I have enjoyed Klondike Bars which apparently have many of the same ingredients and are somewhat, although not completely, resistant to melting as well.

I think everyone tries to eat at least a little healthier to some degree or the other and the people of the United States spend a great deal of money on diet products. This indicates a desire to eat better food. The problem is that providing certain kinds of healthy food without particular ingredients is not so easy.

However, I’m willing to bet that the media storm surrounding the Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches will put a fairly big dent in the sales of the product. That Walmart will probably have to change the ingredients and perhaps even re-brand the product. What’s interesting is that the ice cream sandwiches were not hurting anyone. The ingredients have been tested by the FDA and approved for use in food. Such ingredients are tested fairly thoroughly and if they were toxic would be banned. So what we have is the sandwiches being judged in court of public opinion. I’m all for this. The more information people have about anything the better decision they are going to make.

It’s interesting because I came out with an article not long ago about how Monsanto is helping to feed the world safely using genetically modified food (GMF). There’s a significant body of evidence that they don’t do any harm, can be grown more easily in pest-heavy and environmentally unfriendly regions, increase yields, and can provide more nutrition than their counterparts. Those opposed to such products are vehement in their opinion despite the facts. Those that will boycott the Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches will likely be just as vehement.

The question I ask myself is how do I reconcile my rather immediate distaste at reading the article about the ice cream sandwiches with my complete lack of concern with GMF?

I guess it just that I’m comfortable with the idea of eating GMF because I’m aware of the amazing good they do in helping prevent starvation world-wide. If I want to eat a delicious ice cream sandwich without churning my own ice cream and baking my own sandwich material then I’m forced to put up with some chemicals in my food. There is a price to pay for the conveniences of modern society and the fact of the eight-billion people that inhabit our world.

In the end it’s best to avoid processed food as much as possible but it’s not so easy … especially when you have a problem.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Friendzone is Derogatory?

Friendzone WhedonAs of this morning at 6:33 Central Time Joss Whedon’s tweet about retiring the term Friendzone has nearly 10,000 retweets, 7,000 favorites, and is fast making its way through Facebook. I know I’m out of touch. I’m 50 and I’ve never been much, or at all, a ladies man but I don’t see why this is offensive.

Friendzone refers to, as far as I know, the person on the wrong side of an unrequited love relationship in which the parties remain on friendly terms despite the lack of romance. According to the comments I’m reading on Facebook it seems to somehow either mean a woman who is cruel for withholding sex or a wimpy man who can’t somehow woo a woman into having sex with him. It’s not the way I use the term or have ever heard anyone use the term but what do I know? I’m old and out of touch, or did I already say that? The memory isn’t what it used to be.

While I say I’m out of touch I am well-acquainted of the friendzone. There have been plenty of times I was attracted to a woman who wasn’t interested in me in a romantic way but enjoyed my company. Admittedly the number of women who weren’t interested in me in a romantic way and likewise weren’t interested in my company is a greater number but I’m nevertheless acquainted with the the idea.

I think it’s a pretty common zone from among all the zones. There’s the Relationship Zone when both parties are interested in one another, the Restraining Order Zone when one party is a little too eagerly interested in the other party who is not at all interested, there is the Bitch/Ass Zone where both parties dislike each other intensely which can, surprisingly, move to the relationship zone with astonishing speed, and there is the Who Are You Zone where one party has no idea who the other party is and that there was sexual interest at all. These are the dynamics of human relationships. It’s been going on for at least as long as I’ve been around and judging by books and movies, a lot longer.

So I ask, Joss, what’s the big deal? Why do we have to retire a term that pretty clearly describes the situation. “I’m in the Friendzone,” says I like her/him in a romantic way but they are not interested in me as anything other than a friend. Do we have to create a new term because, apparently, some people have turned the word into something else; not that I’ve ever heard it used in the way Whedon describes.

Maybe it’s a Hollywood thing. Maybe it’s a cool-kid thing, of which I’d clearly not have heard. I’m mystified not only by Whedon’s declaration but by those who seem to support it in ever-growing numbers.

Did I mention I’m old and out of touch?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Mysterious Hole not Mysterious – Disappointment Predictable

Siberia HoleI read a lot of science and nature stories in my endless quest to find something to blog about and I noted a plethora of stories about a mysterious hole that was spotted deep in Siberia. I didn’t bother to read about it because I figured that eventually they would get some observers out there and find out there was something perfectly natural going on.

When news surfaced today to that very effect I decided to check out the story, not so much to find out the actual cause but to read the comments on the story. I was not disappointed although those who predicted or were hoping for a conspiracy or world-wide disaster type explanation certainly were. I pretty much expected there to be a lot of denial and cover-up claims and, again, wasn’t disappointed.

It does make me wonder, again, why people want their to be sinister explanations, why they so desire a terrible conspiracy, and why they dream of world-shattering consequences every time such a story makes headlines. It’s certain that such stories attract interest because people click on them in huge numbers thus feeding the frenzy of more stories about what turns out to be a perfectly natural occurrence.

What’s really going on? A natural gas event likely created the crater and such processes formed the many lakes in the region with similar topology. Not too exciting although I find it interesting and will read eagerly the full report of what the scientists at the site find. I also expect to read many comments about how the government of Russia is covering up a much more dastardly explanation.

I’m actually a little concerned with the large number of people who are predicting such disaster with a fervor that seems fanatical. It’s not like they are analyzing the facts carefully and coming to a reasoned conclusion, it’ s like they desperately want there to be some horrible disaster in which millions if not billions of people are killed. They are combing the news looking for any story that gives the remotest whiff of potential danger and immediately begin to hope it is true.

I really like my life, my friends, my family, the games I play, writing novels, my work, and my co-workers. I don’t want there to be a zombie apocalypse or an apocalypse of any kind for that matter.  I don’t want the United States to crumble and then be forced to give up Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. I mean, who’s going to mass produce that when the people of the world are all falling into an ever-growing hole in the middle of Siberia?

I like my computer, my phone, my car, my food-service (down 16 lbs and feeling good, thanks My Metabolic Meals), and all the other luxuries of modern life brought to us by great innovators and unavailable in the world before now.

I want the world to prosper and become more magnificent. I want scientific breakthroughs in medicine, energy, transportation, and food. I want a world where everyone is free to make their own way, where there is less suffering, more energy, more food, more happiness, and more friendships.

So, that’s my question, I guess. Why all the euphoria and desire for disaster? Anyone?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Baby Pix – To Like or Not to Like?

Baby Pix on FacebookI’m single, never married, lacking immediate prospects, and have no children.

While I’m happy not to have any children myself I’m not unhappy to see baby pictures of friends and family on Facebook. I’m not one to begrudge a doting parent a bit of pride in their child. I have a policy that I don’t “Like” the pictures because I feel I’m leaping into an bottomless pit. If I like my sister’s baby pictures then what does that say if I don’t like my friend’s baby pictures?

What if I like it but don’t comment?

I probably worry to much, it’s a family trait, but still. Do my friends and family count up Likes on each baby picture. Is there a  pecking order? Tom gave me three likes but Bill gave me seven so I’m inviting him dinner this week. Tom didn’t give any Likes so he must hate that I post baby pictures on Facebook.

I’m certainly not saying that parents of young babies are trolling for Likes. I have no doubt they are proud of their little bundles of joy and the ability to post pictures online is very useful for grandmothers, grandfathers, and other interested parties. I think people should post pictures of things they love on Facebook. I’m just concerned when I find myself Liking the fact that ESPN is going to be televising the Dota2  Championship while completely overlooking the adorable picture of my friend Diana with her husband and baby. Is there something wrong with me?

Do my friends and family think I hate babies?

I will admit that I’m not a big fan of holding babies because goo tends to spill out of them at inopportune moments but that distaste doesn’t carry over to Facebook pictures.

What’s the rule in these matters? Should I Like pictures of nieces and nephew but refrain from more distantly related or unrelated pictures? Is my policy of no Likes the best policy? Should I just like every picture on general principle?

Help me out parents! Let me know what I should be doing.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Dallas Buyers Club – Objectivist Perspective Movie Review

Dallas-Buyers-ClubI recently watched Dallas Buyers Club and it occurred to me that I might start giving movie reviews from a Objectivist point of view. By this I mean not so much judging the acting, the story, and the cinematography as much as looking at what sort of message the movie delivers from the philosophical perspective of an Objectivist .

So, onto the review. Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who is diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 1980’s and given thirty days to live. Woodroof then acquires a drug called AZT which is in clinical trials to combat the disease. He immediately grows worse and ends up in Mexico seeking alternative treatment where the doctor thinks AZT is a poor choice of medicine and offers other options which seem to help.

Woodroof realizes these alternative therapies are illegal in the United States where they haven’t seen clinical trials, begins to bring them into the United States in bulk, and sells them to other AIDS patients using the front of a “Buyers Club”. It is illegal to sell drugs directly so patients pay a monthly fee and get all the drugs they require. This goes over very well and soon Woodroof is making money but also helping those in need. Eventually the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conspire to put him out of business. By now he is providing the drugs more to help the patients than to make money.

So, what did I think?

One of the core philosophies of the Objectivist ideology is that we must do our best regardless of circumstances and that by doing so we elevate those around us. Dallas Buyers Club certainly passes the muster in this regard. Woodroof doesn’t accept his diagnosis and fights for life although he certainly breaks a few laws to do so. He eventually comes into contact with an overbearing government agency and works to circumvent it.

It must be pointed out that the FDA has stringent policies in place to prevent fly-by-night drugs from entering the mainstream marketplace. There is a testing procedure and it is good that such is in place. However, as a result of Woodroof’s activities new laws were enacted for the terminally ill where they can take such untested drugs at their own risk. The idea being that they have nothing to lose. Therefore its seems to me that Woodroof’s struggle was in the very spirit of the Objectivist Ideal. Not to say he didn’t do a few shady things along the way.

Another major theme of the movie is Woodroof’s friendship with Rayon who is a transgender man with AIDS and eventually Woodroof’s business partner. In the movie Woodroof is rather homophobic although there is some debate about his feelings in real life. That doesn’t really matter to my review. In this movie there is a man who dislikes another man not because of his actions but because of his sexuality. Over the course of the movie this changes because of their growing understanding that they are pursuing the same course. Again we see a positive Objectivist message. You should dislike someone because they don’t do their job properly. You should dislike someone based on their deeds, not on their appearance or sexual persuasion. This is wholly a Objectivist philosophy.

Another character in the movie, Dr. Eve Saks, initially refuses to help Woodroof because of her own loyalty to the medical community and her supervisor. This in itself is good. Loyalty is an excellent trait and when the movie begins Saks has no reason to trust Woodroof over her colleagues. As the movie progresses it becomes clear that large doses of AZT are more harmful than helpful and she begins to change her attitude as well.  The change in attitude of Saks is another classical idea in Objectivism. The willingness to discard preconceived notions and go where the facts lead.

In the end Woodroof dies but he has helped thousands of people and also become a better man. This is a very important idea. Woodroof begins bringing in the drugs to make money, a fine pursuit, but in doing so ends up helping many other people. This is very typical of Objectivist ideas. That by making money we end up helping those around us. By being a success we end up elevating those around us.

So from a Objectivist point of view: 5 stars!

What did you think of the movie?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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The Message – Buy Gold or Regret it – Beware the Messenger?

Gold PricesWhenever someone tells you something; whether it be in person or through one of the various forms of media available today, it’s a good idea to think about the motivation of the person delivering the message. I just read an article in that most foolish of websites Motley Fool wherein a fellow named Robert Baillieul tells his readers in no uncertain terms that the value of gold will skyrocket in comings months and they should purchase it now!

I wrote about another fellow named Jim Rogers and his advice about gold back in July of 2013. The article by Rogers describes men like Baillieul exactly. They are mystics who believe the price of gold must go up. This is based on the idea that the price of gold has rise from $35 an ounce in 1971 to it’s current price of $1,310 in the last forty-some years.

I wrote an article on the nature of the Gold Standard, our exit from which freed gold to be traded as a commodity instead of having a set price. This has resulted in a mystical outlook on gold from many people.

I’m not saying that gold won’t rise in the coming months. There are many mystics out there who believe that gold has inherent value, that it is a commodity that can be traded for goods when paper money is eschewed. The reality is that paper money has about an equal inherent value to gold. Gold has some value as medium for artists and some conductive value but it is otherwise equivelant to paper in that it cannot be eaten, burned, drunk, or otherwise used in the manner of water or a chicken.

This is not my point here today. My point is that your money, whatever form it takes, has real value. You want to grow that money so that you can retire securely. So that you can purchase the things you desire. When someone from Motley Fool tells you to sink a lot of money into a commodity like gold that has no dividend you should be wary.  Motley Fools makes a lot of their money through sensationalist headlines that people click. These stories are filled with advertisements that make Motley Fool money. The crazier the headline the more clicks and the more money.

So what should you do? If you like researching and learning about the financial markets I encourage you to spend time and effort learning what are good purchases and what are risky purchases. Just be aware that such a job is what many people do for a living. If you do it as a hobby think about how a hobbyist would do at your job. You studied for years and learned a craft and so does a reputable broker.

It’s your money. Do with it as you will. Just be aware that there are those out there who want to take it from you and they often dazzle with tales of profit taking.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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CYNK Technology – $6 Billion of Foolishness

Microcap-stocksHow much does being foolish cost? It’s not easy to count that high and this was demonstrated in a story that recently hit the news.

In this world there are publicly traded stocks and while much of this activity is regulated by the SEC there is another group of stocks often called Microcap, Nanocap, or penny stocks. These stocks have a great deal of appeal to investors with a relatively small amount of money to put into their portfolio.

The idea is that for a few thousand dollars you can purchase millions of shares of such a stock. Generally these companies promise they are working on some technology that will become mainstream and thus the stock will increase in value dramatically. This means for a minimal risk of a few thousand dollars you hope to reap a reward of millions of dollars. My father has invested in such companies and by coincidence just hours before I read this story I found out a friend is investing in such a way. The general attitude seems to be, what the heck, it’s a few thousand and I can afford it.

Now to the story in question. There is a Nanocap stock out there called CYNK Technology. According to their filing they have one employee and no revenue. That’s zero dollars in declared revenue. As recently as June the stock traded for about $.10, a dime. As of this afternoon, although this is extremely volatile information, it was trading at over $20 giving it a market cap of over $6 billion because of the hundreds of millions of share available.

What does all this mean? It’s essentially something called a Pump and Dump scheme. Generally the people involved in running the company, who own the vast majority of the shares, engage in practices designed to make the stock seem attractive. This brings in people like my father and my friend. They purchase the stock in huge amounts, although with a minimal outlay of cash, on the hopes the stock will rise. This sends the stock to a high value but the problem is that unless you time things perfectly you can’t really sell it. There aren’t that many buyers out there willing to purchase such an inflated stock, only those, like you, who are looking to sell it quick as soon as it rises to a certain point. This happens so quickly that most people are left holding millions of shares of worthless stock when it immediately plummets back down to its real value.

In the end a lot of people are out money and the scam artists who own the company abscond with the profits. There is an entire industry that preys on those who spend a few thousand on such investments. They are wolves in the forest watching you. Waiting for you.

Do I have a point here? I do.

Don’t be foolish even if it’s just a fraction of your net worth. When you make foolish decisions you set a pattern for yourself. I understand the temptation but it’s far easier to fall into patterns than we realize and we’re also setting an example for those around us. If I purchase these things on a flyer and lose a few thousand it’s not going to change my financial situation but perhaps someone who admires me, if such a person can be found, might emulate my actions. Perhaps I might even convince myself that I was going to hit it lucky eventually. That’s the compulsive gambler’s story. Just one more spin they say and eventually they have lost everything.

I’m certainly not saying that one Microcap investment is going to ruin my father, my buddy, or you. I’m just asking a simple question, why be foolish, even once? Making good decisions can be just as habit forming as making bad ones.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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How I Feel Talking to a True Believer

uzz_Aldrin_Describes_His_UFOI’m an atheist. I’m not a what I would call a fundamentalist atheist in that I’m not out there trying to convince every Christian, Jew, and Muslim that atheism is the only right thing to believe but I do get into conversations with religious people on occasion. I think religious freedom is extremely important to the survival of the United States and people have every right to believe what they want and every expectation that the government cannot try to influence those beliefs.

I just read an interesting article from Yahoo Finance, of all places, about Buzz Aldrin‘s supposed experience with an alien space-ship during the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was during this mission that Aldrin saw a light apparently moving in tandem with his own craft. His words on the experience have long fueled those who believe aliens are among us.

So what’s the connection between Aldrin’s supposed alien experience and my atheism? If you scroll down and read the comments on the Aldrin story you will encounter what I frequently see when discussing the existence of God with the faithful. In the article Aldrin states specifically that when debriefed by NASA after the mission both he and fellow astronauts were of the opinion the light was sunshine reflecting off just released panels. He was interviewed about the matter years later and during that interview said the same thing but the producers of the show left that out of what was later aired.

While reading the comments below the article I was struck by how often those who truly believe in aliens were willing discount Aldrin’s explanation. They believed the original quotes without their attendant explanation were his true opinion and that he was hiding something now by giving a new explanation. This, of course, defies the fact that Aldrin’s original explanation is the one that makes the most sense and is a story he has told from the beginning although it wasn’t always published.

I’m not here to discuss the merits of aliens or religion but simply the idea that it is all but impossible to convince someone that the thing they believe is false. I can present all the evidence I want for the lack of a divine being in the universe. I can trot out all the Flying Spaghetti Monster arguments that illustrate the bad logic of many religious claims. I can point out the huge gaps in logic in the Bible and other religious texts. I’m not getting anywhere with the True Believers. They have faith and you can’t argue logically with faith.

So what’s the point of my little blog? I’m speaking to those of religious faith who think the idea of aliens visiting the earth is a rather silly notion. Have you ever tried to convince a True Believer that their pet alien theory is nonsense? If you have, you know exactly what experience I have had trying to talk to people about the notion of God. I know this comes across as insulting, even demeaning but I hope that it will give those of faith some insight into what the atheists among you feel when discussing such topics.

Believe what you want, that’s not only your business but a Constitutionally guaranteed right. I’m not here to convince you you’re wrong. I’m here to tell you that I know you’re wrong. There’s a difference, however subtle.

Care to tell me that you know I’m wrong? The comment section awaits.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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The Magnus Carlsen Story – He Just Wanted to Beat his Sister – I Get It

Susan and Carlsen Family Bilbao 2008I just read a really nice story about a fellow named Magnus Carlsen who is the best chess player in the world. He might well be the best chess player in the history of the world. He also seems like a pretty nice guy.

The story goes into how Magnus took up chess at the age of five because he father was keen to teach both Magnus and his older sister, Ellen. According to Henrik Carlsen, Magnus didn’t immediately pick up the game as have other chess prodigies throughout history. He learned the moves but didn’t fall in love with the game and insist on playing it all the time. Then something happened.

About three years after learning the game his older sister started to get good at chess.

Now Magnus was interested in getting better at chess because, as Henrik says in the story, he just wanted to beat his sister. That’s a motivation I understand thoroughly. You see, I have an older sister also. I pushed her down the stairs once. I dumped an entire glass of water in her bed once, yes, she was in it at the time. I tried to beat her at Risk and Monopoly but generally came out on the short end of that stick.

If you look closely at the picture you’ll quickly note that Carlsen has two other sisters. The woman in the middle is mom who is not a chess player. I have five sisters including the half-sisters and step-sisters. So I’ve got Magnus beat there. If we just count up sisters I should be a significantly better Risk player than Magnus is a chess player. At least that’s the logic with which I’m running.

There’s not really a point to my blog today other than a shout out to my metaphorical sibling Magnus. I get it, my brother!

Now to try and figure out why I didn’t become the greatest Risk player in the history of the world. There’s got to be a reason.

Anyone other guys out there with a female, older sibling care to tell some stories in the comments?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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She's Doing Just Great and Happens to be Wearing a Bikini

meadow-walkerIck.

I’ve got nothing against a pretty girl in a bikini but when you paste a picture of a fifteen-year-old girl in a bikini on the front page of your site and claim it’s because you want to let the world know she’s doing fine then, well, ick.

That’s exactly what many media outlets did with a picture of Meadow Walker. In case you were worried about Walker, whose father Paul died in a horrific car wreck and who is now the subject of a nasty custody fight, well they want to let you know she’s just fine. Either that or they wanted to plaster a picture of a fifteen-year-old girl wearing a bikini on their front page hoping to get lots of clicks. You tell me.

A quick perusal of headlines show the picture on Yahoo Celebrity, Christian Today, Hello!, RadarOnline, ABC News, Good Morning America, Hollywood Life, Extra, and I’m sure plenty more.

Paul Walker was a star in the hit movies Fast and Furious and his death was big news. Following that there has been a nasty custody fight between Walker’s wife and his mother. Lots of news fueled by hungry clicks from people who relish in this sort of thing. Now we’ve got a picture of Meadow in a bikini. Well, if you’re a news outlet and you know how many men want to see pictures of young girls in bikinis and you can post one while pretending to be concerned for her mental state, win-win!

The world in general would like you to think it’s awful to look at girls that age with lust in your heart. They can’t just post pictures of various teenage celebrity daughters without a good reason or people would be up in arms. The reality is that men do like to look at well-shaped fifteen-year-old girls. They like to look at well shaped girls of just about any age. It’s really not such an awful thing to say, gosh, that young lady has a nice figure. She’s pleasing to look at.

Of course it’s another thing entirely for a man my age, or even thirty years younger, to try and get a date with such a young woman. Yet somehow it’s totally wrong of media outlets to post a picture of a pretty teenage girl if she isn’t somehow, however peripherally, making news. Everyone would scream about how they were posting pictures of underage girls online. However, once she’s in the news it’s apparently perfectly acceptable.

The only reason Meadow is on the cover is because she’s an attractive young girl and she’s wearing a bikini. You know it, I know it, and the media outlets know it.

I actually don’t mind the fact that they’re doing it for those reasons. Men like looking at pictures of this nature. It’s not an offensive picture. The bikini covers all the bits we’re not supposed to see. If the various outlets came out and said, “Look at Meadow Walker, she’s a hottie in a bikini”. I’d say a bit creepy but okay, it’s your show, she posted the picture on Instagram for all to see, whatever.

What really offends me, what makes my blood boil, is they’re trying to pretend they’re concerned for Meadow. That they just want to let us know she’s doing well. That’s a lie, pure and simple.

Am I overreacting? Do they really care about her? What do you think?

P.S. I posted a more appropriate picture of Meadow. If you want to see her in a bikini then go search for yourself. It’s not hard to find.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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She’s Doing Just Great and Happens to be Wearing a Bikini

meadow-walkerIck.

I’ve got nothing against a pretty girl in a bikini but when you paste a picture of a fifteen-year-old girl in a bikini on the front page of your site and claim it’s because you want to let the world know she’s doing fine then, well, ick.

That’s exactly what many media outlets did with a picture of Meadow Walker. In case you were worried about Walker, whose father Paul died in a horrific car wreck and who is now the subject of a nasty custody fight, well they want to let you know she’s just fine. Either that or they wanted to plaster a picture of a fifteen-year-old girl wearing a bikini on their front page hoping to get lots of clicks. You tell me.

A quick perusal of headlines show the picture on Yahoo Celebrity, Christian Today, Hello!, RadarOnline, ABC News, Good Morning America, Hollywood Life, Extra, and I’m sure plenty more.

Paul Walker was a star in the hit movies Fast and Furious and his death was big news. Following that there has been a nasty custody fight between Walker’s wife and his mother. Lots of news fueled by hungry clicks from people who relish in this sort of thing. Now we’ve got a picture of Meadow in a bikini. Well, if you’re a news outlet and you know how many men want to see pictures of young girls in bikinis and you can post one while pretending to be concerned for her mental state, win-win!

The world in general would like you to think it’s awful to look at girls that age with lust in your heart. They can’t just post pictures of various teenage celebrity daughters without a good reason or people would be up in arms. The reality is that men do like to look at well-shaped fifteen-year-old girls. They like to look at well shaped girls of just about any age. It’s really not such an awful thing to say, gosh, that young lady has a nice figure. She’s pleasing to look at.

Of course it’s another thing entirely for a man my age, or even thirty years younger, to try and get a date with such a young woman. Yet somehow it’s totally wrong of media outlets to post a picture of a pretty teenage girl if she isn’t somehow, however peripherally, making news. Everyone would scream about how they were posting pictures of underage girls online. However, once she’s in the news it’s apparently perfectly acceptable.

The only reason Meadow is on the cover is because she’s an attractive young girl and she’s wearing a bikini. You know it, I know it, and the media outlets know it.

I actually don’t mind the fact that they’re doing it for those reasons. Men like looking at pictures of this nature. It’s not an offensive picture. The bikini covers all the bits we’re not supposed to see. If the various outlets came out and said, “Look at Meadow Walker, she’s a hottie in a bikini”. I’d say a bit creepy but okay, it’s your show, she posted the picture on Instagram for all to see, whatever.

What really offends me, what makes my blood boil, is they’re trying to pretend they’re concerned for Meadow. That they just want to let us know she’s doing well. That’s a lie, pure and simple.

Am I overreacting? Do they really care about her? What do you think?

P.S. I posted a more appropriate picture of Meadow. If you want to see her in a bikini then go search for yourself. It’s not hard to find.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

That’s a lot of Butter!

23 Sticks of Butter per DayThe misleading headline of the week is more like a mistake than an intentionally misleading headline. Americans consume 23 sticks of butter a day screams the headline but when you click the article it switches from Day to Year and all is well.

The article goes on to state that Americans ate up to 72 sticks of a butter a year back in the 1920’s before processed food began to take over. It also makes note that most doctors don’t consider the fat in butter to increase the risk of heart disease so essentially the entire article is completely different than the headline indicates.

The headline would have us believe that Americans are eating a huge and dangerous amount of butter but the opposite seems to be true. More butter is actually good for you if it is exchanged for trans fat.

So, there you go. Don’t believe everything you read, particularly when you just read the headline.

Congratulations Wall Street Cheat Sheet, you win this week’s competition.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Is it the Media or Our Perceptions? Eugenia Bouchard

eugenie-bouchardI used to be a huge tennis fan and played in college and high school. I remember with great fondness my many games with friends during that time. I used to follow tennis very closely but I generally only watch the major events these days. Something that is happening in the tennis world today reminded me of the power that so many attribute to the media but in reality belongs to us.

At Wimbledon a rising young star by the name of Eugenia Bouchard got a lot of publicity as she made it all the way to the final match. Bouchard is pleasing to look upon, there were a number of stories written about her, and she quickly became a darling of the media. Just like Tiger Woods this feeding frenzy of stories was not created by the supposed “media” but by the interest of fans in the stories. The more people who read the stories, the more who clicked on links, and the more who commented led to even more stories being written. Greater and greater optimism was expressed about her chances of winning Wimbledon and becoming the next “big name” in tennis.

I wasn’t really aware of all of this until I read the story about her loss in the final. Until I read the comments under the story. In the story itself Bouchard seems very reasonable. After the match, as the roof was being moved into place because of oncoming rain, she was asked to wait in the room where the engraver puts the name of the champion onto the wall. She had to watch while her opponent’s name went up. Here are the quotes:

It was a little odd. I was in the engraver’s room, so I was watching them work, wishing one day, dreaming that he’ll write my name somewhere.

Maybe it’s a bit cruel. She just told me to go in there. I didn’t ask questions. I was in there when I won the juniors. I got to go in the Royal Box, so while waiting, I waited in the engraver’s room, as well. So I had flashbacks to that time.

The comments on the story essentially brutalized Bouchard. Very nasty stuff. I was immediately puzzled because the quotes in the story didn’t match what I was reading in the comments about her “arrogant” and “spoiled” attitude. What’s up?

As I read further in the comments it became clear that most of the people writing negatives things in the story were not responding particularly to this story but their overall perception of Bouchard. They didn’t like all the stories anointing her the next queen of tennis and reveled in the heavy defeat she suffered in the final to the superior Petra Kvitova. They associated the media frenzy over Bouchard with the young woman herself. They blamed her for the plethora of stories and in their minds made her to be selfish, spoiled, and just plain evil.

It’s an interesting situation to me because I so often hear people blame “the media” for fooling people politically or favoring one side or the other side. I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t plenty of bias out there in the media but I am saying we make up our own minds about things. Whatever the media has done to promote or denigrate Bouchard, President Obama, Senator Paul, or any other public figure the reality is that we make up our own minds about them. When we come to erroneous conclusions it is not the fault of the media but our own.

If we choose to have a preconceived notion about a young tennis player and vent our anger and hate then that is what we choose to do. If that hate is completely out-of-line with the story in question then the blame should fall squarely upon our shoulders. If we cannot read the facts of the story and come to rational conclusions then we have failed a test of critical thinking. Each time we fail such a test we hazard making a poor decision. Each poor decision leads to … well you get the point.

Would that everyone was judged by their actual actions. When reading something about a public figure it’s wise to check your preconceived notions at the door. Read the story for the story. Look for biased reported. Check facts. Take the time to look for another point of view. Come to an informed conclusions. And if you still hate Bouchard then so be it. Even if you still hate Bouchard take the time to read this particularly story and her words. Just because you dislike someone in general doesn’t mean everything they say is wrong.

I know it’s easy to rely on what we want to believe. Try not to and you’ll be a better person.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Self-Publishing, Friends, and Family

Self-publishingI read an interesting Dear Abby column about a woman asked by a friend to read their self-published novel and post a favorable review. It’s a topic that strikes home in one way because I’m a self-published author. On the other hand, I’ve never asked anyone to give me a favorable review.

When I published my first novel I did offer it for free to family and friends and asked them to write a review if they enjoyed it. No one took me up on the offer and I haven’t given my books away since. I gave away a copy of that first book to a professional reviewer but found I wasn’t particularly satisfied with their review and the entire process seemed somewhat seedy to me.

As of today my family and friends have largely avoided reading and telling me their thoughts on my novels and I think the reason is probably related to that which is expressed in the Dear Abby column. They are afraid that the books are going to be awful and they don’t want to be put into the position of having to tell me they didn’t like them. I can’t say I blame them. It’s certainly awkward to tell someone their passion and hard work is no good.

What reviews I have gotten from family and friends have been good and they usually point out typos so I can fix them. One of the nice things about self-publishing is that I just have to jump onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords and quickly upload changes. I don’t usually do so for a few typos but after a while they accumulate and I upload a new version.

I ended up largely rewriting my first novel and edited a useless chapter out of my third novel because of comments from friends family about the books so I don’t mind criticism. The other novels have gotten updates as far as typos thanks to notes from friends but are largely the same book as originally written.

I also understand that a lot of people just don’t have an interest in the genre in which I write, Sword and Sorcery, and therefore my books just aren’t something they want to read. Still, to be honest, it hurts a little bit that most of my family hasn’t taken the time to read any of my books. That most of my friends haven’t spent $2.99 to purchase one of my books. I certainly understand the awkward situation they put themselves into by reading my books and I don’t begrudge anyone the choice of not reading them.

I have two work friends who have read all my books and like them very much and encourage me to write more because they want to read the next story in the saga. My mother proof-reads and edits my books and I certainly appreciate that help.

It’s an interesting situation. Do you hurt my feelings by not reading my books or read them and risk being put into an awkward situation?

Believe me, I’m not angry at anyone for failing to read my books. Reading one of my books probably takes about seven or eight hours of your valuable time and if the novels are awful, they aren’t, that is a waste of time.

Please don’t take this as a plea to read my books and write a review. It’s not. It’s just me expressing my thoughts.

I am curious if my friends and family have consciously avoided reading my books because they don’t want to be put in the awkward position of having to tell me they didn’t like them and that they were poorly written. Or is it simply a case of my friends and family just aren’t much interested?

Probably a little of both.

If you do like Sword and Sorcery novels I recommend my books. It’s your $2.99 and your eight hours. I’ll keep writing with or without your input.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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Amazon v. Google and the Non-compete Clause

Non-compete agreement

I just read an interesting story about Amazon trying to enforce a non-compete clause for a former employee who went to work for Google. State rather than federal laws regulate Non-compete contracts and enforcement varies widely from state to state.

The reason I find this interesting is because the very nature of a non-compete contract goes against my Libertarian ideology. It undermines the capitalistic system by preventing people from selling their services to the higher bidder. The courts largely agree with me and generally refuse to enforce non-competes unless they involve the movement of trade-secrets or the poaching of clients. When a person simply moves from one job to another, and doesn’t approach clients from the first job, the courts have shown great reluctance to enforce the non-compete.

The entire purpose of a non-compete in anyone’s contract is to prevent other companies from coming in and paying that employee more money. I ask you, why shouldn’t anyone be able to sell his or her services to the highest bidder?  Would any employee sign such a document if they didn’t think their hiring depended upon such a concession? I don’t think so. No one would willingly sign away the right to go somewhere else if offered a better salary or a better situation. It’s essentially extortion. If you don’t sign this non-compete we’ll hire someone else.

Right now California is the only state to explicitly forbid such contracts although, as I mentioned earlier, judges have proven extremely reluctant to enforce the contracts except in specific situations.

When I read stories about enterprise corporations trying to enforce 18 month non-compete contracts it infuriates me and reminds me of why unions came into existence in the first place. If companies let individuals seek those who will compensate them properly for their skills it is better for corporations and it is better for employees. Capitalism in its unfettered state is an excellent system but those who would chain it come in many different uniforms.

There are unions who forget their original purpose and spend more time counting their dues then trying to help their members. There are corporate leaders who believe accumulating more money is of greater importance than treating employees as partners. There are employees who forget that they owe it to their employers to always do their best job. There are politicians who pass laws so that unscrupulous business owners can bankrupt their rivals. There is no single enemy to capitalism and those who seek to pervert it will likely always be with us.

What works best for people is the freedom to sell their services to whoever is willing to pay the most or offers the most rewarding work environment. What works best for companies is providing an excellent place to work for their highly skilled workers. What works best for society is businesses with hard-working employees and owners who treat them as family. This produces innovation, advancement, wealth, friendships, and success. This is objectively good. This is what we should strive to achieve.

Non-competes work against this idea. They should be illegal. Good for California at least, would that everyone else would do the same.

Shame on Amazon.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
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