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January 2013

DropBox: One of the Good Guys?




I just signed up for a DropBox account, so I can more efficiently put some of my "stuff" in the "cloud."  I haven't tried it out yet, but as one who cares about such things, this one phrase in their Terms of Service was all the endorsement I needed:

"To be clear, aside from the rare exceptions we identify in our Privacy Policy, no matter how the Services change, we won’t share your content with others, including law enforcement, for any purpose unless you direct us to. How we collect and use your information generally is also explained in our Privacy Policy."

It's pretty sad that a business has to explicitly inform its customers that it won't just randomly hand over their information to law enforcement.  But given the actions of Amazon, Visa and others, it has become necessary.

Anyway, for taking what has become an uncommon principled stance on this, I am wholeheartedly recommending them... even thought I haven't yet tried out the service.


Mila's Daydreams


...and while I'm on the topic of cool and beautiful things that help me procrastinate, I've just discovered that Adele Enerson - the mom from Helsinki who made these wonderful pictures of her baby daughter during her naps - has now produced a book of her sleeping baby images.  Also a calendar, which I've just ordered.  (HT: David Kramer for introducing me to Mila's Daydreams.)






Me, on Red Room



So now I'm an author on RedRoom.com.  Red Room is "...the only online bookstore that breaks down the “retail wall” between authors and readers. If you’re an author, Red Room shares its retail profits from your book sales with you, at least doubling your income, and connects you directly with all of your book buyers, something no other retailer in the world does."

I'm not entirely sure what this will mean, but it does mean that I get an additional commission when my books are purchased through the Red Room site (instead of Amazon, etc.)  So if you were going to buy one of my books anyway (by which I mean "Memoirs of a Gaijin", since "Why Peace" isn't my book so I don't get any royalties for that), you can help me out at no extra cost to yourself by going here to buy it.

That said, I can't recommend buying "Why Mommy Loves the State" from either Red Room or Amazon, since the price is just absurd.  Color printing is still pretty expensive, and this is a tiny little book.  Not worth the price if you ask me. Instead, you can download it for $1.99 right here.



"My Dream for Egypt" in Arabic


I've been very happy to see a bunch of Arabic translation requests in my traffic logs for my earlier post "My Dream for Egypt."  So to make it a little easier for people, I'm posting the translation (it's from Google Translate, and I don't speak a word of Arabic myself, so obviously I'm not vouching for the accuracy of this) right here.


حلمي لمصر


هذا هو الخيال. أنا أعرف ذلك. لذا يرجى عدم كتابة تقول لي في "ذلك لن يحدث" أو "المصريين ليسوا فوضويين"، وما إلى ذلك وأنا أعلم أنه ربما لن يحدث. انا لا اقول انه سيحدث. أنا أقول أود أن.

ما يحدث في مصر هو لالتقاط الأنفاس. ليس فقط الشجاعة والقدرة على التحمل من المحتجين، ولكن الكياسة بهم.حقيقة (الظاهر) أن، باستثناء العنف التي بدأتها الشرطة والشرطة، وليس التظاهر إلى الشرطة إلا أن مثل هذه المظاهرات كانت سلمية تماما. المعترف بها لن يكون كبيرا اذا الشعب المصري نظر حوله، وهذا، وقال لأنفسهم شيء كما يلي:

"يا. انتظر ثانية، وهذا يعمل بشكل جيد جدا، ونحن لم نصل بعد التخلص من مبارك، ولكن كنا هنا منذ أكثر من أسبوعين حتى الآن، وملء الشوارع، يتحرك، وإطعام أنفسنا، وإيواء أنفسنا وضع أنظمتنا حتى تصل الأمنية الخاصة لمنع دخول الموالية للحكومة المحرضين. نحن نفعل ما يرام.

"ونحن نعلم، ومبارك يعرف، أن يتم ترقيم أيام قضاها في السلطة أشياء يمكن الحصول على القبيح حقا قبل أن يذهب، لكنه سوف يتم هو السؤال الكبير: من الذي سيحل محله كان هناك الكثير من القلق في الصحافة الأجنبية؟ لدينا حوالي حركة تفتقر إلى القيادة، وحول حقيقة أن ليس لدينا استعداد شخص أو أشخاص لتقديم كبديل عملي للرئيس حسني مبارك.

"حسنا الانتظار ثانية ... لماذا نحن في حاجة واحدة؟ لماذا نحتاج إلى شخص يجلس فوقنا تقول لنا كيف نعيش حياتنا واتخاذ أموالنا منا؟ لحمايتنا؟ لقد تم القيام بعمل جيد جدا من حماية أنفسنا هذه الأيام الماضية. لماذا لا يمكن أن نستمر في فعل ذلك؟ ولحمايتنا من منظمة الصحة العالمية أو ماذا؟ التهديدات الوحيدة للسلام قد تأتي من الشرطة الحكومية يفرض نفسه، وربما تكون المشكلة. الحماية من المعتدين الأجانب؟ يبدو لنا أن أعداءنا الأجنبية وقد تم تشغيل حكومتنا على مدى السنوات ال 30 الماضية، وربما يكون لديهم صعوبة في القيام بذلك إذا لم يكن هناك رئيس الدولة. لا رافعة واحد لانتزاع عقد من.

"لتشغيل الاقتصاد؟ حكومتنا وتشغيله في الأرض، وتعتبر مصر واحدة من أفقر الدول في العالم من دون سبب وجيه. ويبدو لنا أن الاقتصادات التي توفر للشعب أكثر هي تلك التي أرين ' ر "تشغيل" من قبل شخص ما.

"لذلك ربما ردنا على 'الذي سيحل محل مبارك السؤال هو:. لا أحد أو بالأحرى، كل واحد منا نحن سيحل محل كل له في اتخاذ القرارات حول كيفية تشغيل حياتنا، وكيفية التداول مع بعضها البعض، حل صراعاتنا وحماية أنفسنا، وليس دمية أخرى أجنبية، وليس الجيش، ولا حتى "مشروع" رئيس منتخب ديمقراطيا في الدولة. لا شكرا. لقد تم القيام بعمل جيد جدا من نعيش حياتنا هذه الماضية 16 يوما، ونحن نعتقد أننا يمكن أن تستمر في القيام بذلك. سنفعل هذا أنفسنا. "





Not So Obvious

I'm re-reading "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" for a short story I'm working on, and a couple of things strike me:

1.  As I'm reading it, I keep thinking that this translation just doesn't seem to be as good as the translation of "Human Action", which I remember as being very clear and even lively, with the words practically jumping off the page.  So I do a little Googling and find out that "Human Action" - at least the version I read - never was translated into English.  Mises wrote it in English!  Which surprised me.

2.  Translation quality aside, this stuff isn't as obvious as I've come to think it is.  I've become so frustrated with people lately for not grasping simple concepts like subjective value and what money is and is not, etc. But the reality is that some of these ideas are actually pretty sophisticated, not obvious at all.  Even as I'm re-reading this, I'm finding that I still have to re-wrap my head around things like WHY private ownership is essential for economic calculation to take place.  It's NOT obvious.  So maybe I shouldn't be so annoyed with my friends who think the world would be so much better if we didn't have money.

Anyway, here's something that is pretty obvious.  This is a quote Mises uses in "Economic Calculation..."  It is Engels, explaining that what people actually want, need and value counts for nothing under socialism. You don't need to have read Mises to understand why the 20th Century's experiments with communism created so much misery.  It's right there in the blueprints:

"As soon as society takes possession of the means of production and applies them to production in their directly socialised form, each individual's labour, however different its specific utility may be, becomes a priori and directly social labour.  The amount of social labour invested in a product need not then be established indirectly; daily experience immediately tells us how much is necessary on an average.  Society can simply calculate how many hours of labour are invested in a steam engine, a quarter of last harvest's wheat, and a 100 yards of linen of given quality... To be sure, society will also have to know how much labour is needed to produce any consumption-good.  It will have to arrange its production plan according to its means of production, to which labour especialy belongs.  The utility yielded by the various consumption-goods, weighted against each other and against the amount of labour required to produce them, will ultimately determine the plan.  People will make everything simple without the mediation of the notorious 'value'."

(Friedrich Engels, Herrn Eugen Duhrings Umwalzung des Wissenschaft, 7th ed., pp. 335 f.) 






This is our new standard poodle puppy, Merlin.  It seems like all of the time I haven't been spending reading the news, posting on FaceBook, etc., I've been spending training him to be a Good Dog.  We're already seeing some positive results.



Privilege and Prejudice Redux


View of Pudong with lanterns and statue

In re-vamping and cleaning up my site, I've noticed that a number of the links I've posted are no longer active.  I'll be fixing that in the coming month or so, and also updating my "writing" page with links to my articles, short stories, etc.  For now, here is a working link to my article "Privilege and Prejudice" which originally appeared on MattCockerill.com on Sept. 10, 2010.