Things He Will do for Money

You pay him and he’ll travel for you so you can get that all important picture of the sky from St. Helena or something like that.

If you give me $1,626 I will go to the small Okinawan island called Iriomote and send you an envelope filled with star-sand (don’t worry, I’ve been there before, I know where to go). I will send it from there.

If you give me $30 I will walk around New York, and the first homeless person I see I will buy him or her whatever he or she wants to eat (as long as it is less than $30). I will mail you back the exact change (minus the paypal fee and the cost of the postage stamp) with the receipt for the food and the name of the person who ate it.

If you give me $400 I will take a train to a desolate area with a packed lunch and sit down and read Anna Karenina. I will do this for 6-10 hours. I will repeat the same thing the following days until I have finally read the entire book. Finally! I am only going to do this once, so this is an edition of one only. I will send you documentation of this from the closest mailbox to where I do this. I’ll also write the location of the mailbox on the envelope if you ever wish to go to where I will have sent it to you from.

How the CIA Played Dirty Tricks With Our Culture

From Common Dreams (Originally from the NY Times in 2000):

Many people remember reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in high school or college, with its chilling finale in which the farm animals looked back and forth at the tyrannical pigs and the exploitative human farmers but found it “impossible to say which was which.”

That ending was altered in the 1955 animated version, which removed the humans, leaving only the nasty pigs. Another example of Hollywood butchering great literature? Yes, but in this case the film’s secret producer was the Central Intelligence Agency.

The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be too influenced by Orwell’s pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame) to buy the film rights to “Animal Farm” from his widow to make its message more overtly anti-Communist.

Rewriting the end of “Animal Farm” is just one example of the often absurd lengths to which the C.I.A. went, as recounted in a new book, “The Cultural Cold War: The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and Letters” (The New Press) by Frances Stonor Saunders, a British journalist. Published in Britain last summer, the book will appear here next month.

Pareto Principle

From Wikipedia:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes. Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.”

It is worthy of note that some applications of the Pareto principle appeal to a pseudo-scientific “law of nature” to bolster non-quantifiable or non-verifiable assertions that are “painted with a broad brush”. The fact that hedges such as the 90/10, 70/30, and 95/5 “rules” exist is sufficient evidence of the non-exactness of the Pareto principle. On the other hand, there is adequate evidence that “clumping” of factors does occur in most phenomena.