Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Lost Seinfeld Episode

The Spear is a massive fan of Seinfeld, so he thought he would write his own episode as an homage.  He hopes you enjoy reading it as much as he enjoyed writing it!
Jerry Performing In the Comedy Club
The belt has got to be the most embarrassing invention of all time.  We, as a human species, literally need something whose sole function, is to stop our pants from falling down. 
What do you reckon people were doing before the invention of the belt? 
It must have been so annoying having to walk around, only being able to use one hand all day.  It would have been nearly impossible to give someone a hug without your pants falling down, which I guess is why you only tend to hug people who you are extremely close with.
Or did the rich people just hire somebody to follow them around, whose sole job was to hold their pants up for them? I bet you that’s how the first conga-line started, it was just a whole bunch of guys who had come to an agreement to hold each other’s pants up whenever they went out of the house.  (Imitating a conga line) “Hey you know what Bill, this is actually kinda fun”
Intro music plays
Jerry and George are sitting at the Coffee Shop
George:  So you know I’ve got an interview this afternoon at Elaine’s office.
Jerry:  Yeah I heard.  What position was it for again?
George:  Assistant to the Manager of Sales.  Or was it Manager of the Sales Assistant...  Ahh who am I kidding, I don’t know.
Jerry:  Way to go for her to come through on the friendship like that.  Especially after what happened at Pendant….
George:  Ya..
Jerry:  What?
George:  Yeah, huh, like she’s doing me a huge favour. 
Jerry:  You’d rather she didn’t set up the interview?
George:  You know I can tell she’s only doing it so she can claim the high-ground.
Jerry: What high-ground?
George:  You know.. oh hoh!
Jerry: Can’t you just be grateful for once that another human being has done you a favour?
George:  At this point in my life, I’ve had it with favours.  I’m all favoured out.  They always come with this unspoken obligation of reciprocity that I can never repay.
Jerry:  So if you can’t take a favour, what can you take?
George:  Pity.  I’ll take open pity any day over a veiled favour.  At least you know what you’re getting with pity.
Jerry:  And just like that, we’ve reached a new low.
Kramer enters the coffee shop, dishevelled and slightly smouldering
Jerry:  Hey, what happened to you?
Kramer:  Fire.. Dig-i-dig.
George & Jerry: A fire, what, what happened?
Kramer:  Ya, you know, a fire…  There I was, walking down 8th Avenue, when I see this bin.. smouldering.
George:  Smouldering?
Kramer:  Mmpop! Smouldering!  You know, like from a cigarette.  So as I get a bit closer, flames, start shooting out like a rocket, so I grabbed my jacket and started hitting it out, like a this, until eventually it dies out.
Jerry:  Why didn’t you call the fire brigade?
Kramer:  What, and wait for it to take out the entire block!  Sometimes you’ve got to take a little responsibility for what’s going on in your life!
George:  I never had the nerve to call 911.  I’m always afraid that my emergency won’t be important enough, and the operator will yell at me for wasting their time.
Kramer:  That’s why you should always deal with it yourself first.  Mmpop!  Like a real man!
Jerry:  That’s the problem…
Change scene to Elaine’s Workplace.  Elaine is sitting at her desk doing work.  Elaine’s colleague Peggy enters.
Peggy:  So Elaine, is your friend George still coming in for the interview this afternoon?
Elaine:  Mmm yup.  He will definitely be here.
Peggy:  Excellent.  I’m really looking forward to meeting him, he sounds like a real character.
Elaine:  Ya, he’s a real go-getter.
Peggy:  Great.  Oh, will you be able to make it to the lunchtime presentation today?
Elaine:  Oh no, sorry. I’ve got plans.
Peggy:  Oh, I see plans (looks uncomfortable).  Very well (leaves).
Elaine:  Very well? (consults calendar) LGBTI Solidarity Day.  (slaps hand to head, looks distressed)
Change scene to Jerry’s Apartment – Jerry and Elaine together in apartment
Elaine:  LGBTI Jerry!  I said I couldn’t attend the LGBTI solidarity event because I had plans!
Jerry:  I’m sure they’ll understand.
Elaine:  You don’t know the people I work with Jerry, they’re very much into this sort of thing!  I feel terrible!  Here’s your stupid belt back by the way – it was too big for Putty as well.
Jerry:  I don’t know what my grandmother was thinking.  You could gather the neighbourhood kids and play jump-rope with this thing.
Elaine:  What does the ‘i’ stand for in LGBTI anyway?
Jerry:  Inter-sex, I think.
Elaine:  Inter-sex?  What’s that?
Jerry:  I assume it is somebody who is in-between the sexes.
Elaine:  So then what’s Trans?
Jerry: I don’t know, why don’t you ask them?
Buzzer sounds
George: Yo.
Jerry:  Yo (buzzes him up).
Jerry:  So you and George working together again, that would be something, huh?
Elaine:  Yeah… You know, don’t say anything, but I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t get the job.  You know, after what happened last time at Pendant…
Jerry:  Well if you didn’t want him to get the job, then why did you arrange the interview?
Elaine:  I don’t know, he’s been unemployed for so long now, I just felt a bit sorry for him.
Jerry:  Would you say you did it out of pity?
Elaine:  Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Jerry: Interesting…
George enters
George:  Hey, so it’s all still on for this afternoon yeah?
Elaine:  Yeah, yeah.  They’re really looking forward to meeting you.
George:  They said that?  They said they’re ‘really looking forward’ to meeting me?
Elaine:  Ya..
George:  Wow.  I don’t think anyone’s ever said that about me before.  Not even my parents.
Elaine: Well there’s a first time for everything.  Look I’ve really got to get back to the office and see if I can make the end of this thing, I’ll see you this afternoon.
George:  (fake sincerity) You know, I just wanted to say thank you, Elaine, for setting this whole thing up. (shakes her hand)  I really owe you one.
Elaine: Don’t worry about it, I’ll see you later.
Jerry: Bye (closes door).
George: Did I overdo it there, with the thankyou?
Jerry: Yeah, that was a bit of an over-thankyou.
George:  I told you!  This whole thing isn’t going to work out!
Jerry:  Just relax, you know, she probably doesn’t even care if you get the job or not!
George:  What?  She doesn’t care!?  What kind of a friend wouldn’t care if their friend didn’t get the job?
Jerry: Huh…
George:  Did she say something?  She doesn’t want to work with me, does she?  Hell, I wouldn’t want to work with me!  Did she say something?  Did she Jerry?
Jerry: Alright! She told me she doesn’t really want you to get the job!  It’s no big deal. 
George: I knew it!
Jerry: At least now you’re on the same page!  Neither of you really want to work with each other, so now you can throw the interview and be done with it!
George:  Oohoh no!  She thinks she can do me a favour and not really mean it!  I’ll show her!  I’m gonna get that job!
Jerry: Out of spite?
George:  Damn straight out of spite!  (clicks his fingers) Did she say anything about the company that’ll help me in my interview?
Jerry: Well she said they’re pretty big on the whole LGBTI diversity thing, but I don’t really see how that’s going to help you.
George:  Yeah…
Knock on the door
Jerry walks over to door
Jerry: Who is it?
Newman: (through door) Hello Jerry.
Jerry: (through door) Hello Newman (opens door, Newman is there smiling).  What do you want?
Newman:  I happened to pass your friend Elaine in the hall before, and couldn’t help but notice that she had in her possession a certain item which piqued my interest.
Jerry: So what?
Newman:  (crumbling) The belt!  I want the belt!
Jerry:  Why?
Newman:  I’m a man with needs Jerry!  Pant-related needs!  You’ve got no idea how hard it is for a man of my stature to find a belt of the right proportions!  To spend your days with a permanent vice around your waist, squeezing the veritable life out of you one breath at a time!  Squeezing, and squeezing! Until one day, it all becomes too much!
Jerry:  Alright, alright!  Take the belt! (Newman greedily grabs the belt).  But let’s get this straight, you take that belt and you owe me a favour.
Newman:  (considering) To be in debt to a Seinfeld for a lifetime of comfort…  I don’t like it, but I’ll take it.
Jerry: Actually, come to think of it I don’t like the idea of being owed something by a Newman.  Tell you what, I’ll pass my favour on to Kramer.
Kramer barges through door
Kramer:  Favour?  Dig-i-dig! (Newman looks scared)
Change scene to Elaine’s work.  Everyone except her is wearing a purple ribbon or item of clothing.  She opens the door to Peterman’s office.
Elaine: You wanted to see me?
Peterman: Yes Elaine, please take a seat.
Elaine:  You know, I just wanted to say how sorry I am about missing the LGBTI event today.
Peterman:  I’m glad to hear it.  You’re absence was very noticeable.  What was it that you said you had to do again that was so important?
Elaine:  I had to... ah… return a belt… to a friend.
Peterman:  Return a belt… ah I see.  You know, Elaine, we take diversity very seriously in this workplace.
Elaine:  I know!
Peterman:  And to have you absent from this event which is so important to so many of your colleagues -  well - it just doesn’t send a good message, now does it?
Elaine:  I guess not…
Peterman: And I see you’re not wearing purple either.
Elaine:  I didn’t know!
Peterman:  Been too busy returning belts have we?  Oh no, this is a situation which must be rectified Elaine, and rectify it we shall (he gets up and starts heading for the door).
Elaine:  How?  Where are we going?
Peterman:  To a gay bar! (He drags her out of the office)
Change scene to Kramer and Newman in Kramer’s car with a contraption in the back seat
Newman: I really shouldn’t be letting you do this.  If anybody from the post office sees us I could lose my job!
Kramer: Now a favour’s a favour, Newman.
Newman:  Yeah, well I never would have taken the belt if I knew that’d it come with a Kramer favour!
Kramer:  What are you worried about?  I just want to take it out for a little spin, they’ll never notice it’s gone.  You said yourself they weren’t even using them yet!
Newman:  Yeah and for good reason.  These postal delivery drones are still in the development phase.  This is just a prototype!
Kramer:  But it can fly?
Newman:  Sure it can fly – like a hummingbird.
Kramer:  Now do hummingbirds hum, or is that just a bees?
Newman:  Bees don’t hum - they buzz.
Kramer:  Buzz?  I always thought that was mosquitoes…
Change scene to George at Elaine’s office being interviewed by Peggy and another manager
Peggy:  So George, looking at your CV here, it says you used to work for the Yankees?
George:  Yes, huhuh, I certainly did.
Manager:  What happened there?
George:  ….A competing franchise made an offer to my boss in return for my dismissal that he simply found too good to refuse.
Peggy:  Wow, you must really be quite the catch.
George:  Yeah. Something like that….
Peggy:  And the job at Play Now?
George:  There were some issues there regarding my physical disposition, that didn’t quite meet their expectations.
Manager:  You know to be honest George, your work experience isn’t ideal for the position, but I think I know what you’re hinting at here, and I just want you to know that this workplace, unlike some others, is very tolerant of all types (taps purple ribbon). 
Peggy:  Is there anything we should know about you that you’d like to share George?
George:  (pauses for a few moments, deadpan) I was born a woman.
Change scene to Jerry’s apartment
(Phone rings, Jerry answers)
Jerry: Hello.
George: (at the coffee shop payphone) I got the job!  They think I’m a woman!
Jerry:  Wait.  What!?
George:  They think I’m a woman who lives as a man!  I don’t know why I never thought of it before!
Jerry:  Why do they think you’re a woman?
George: I was talking about Play Now, and one thing led to another, and it just sort of happened.
Jerry:  So you use your experience pretending to be handicapped to help get you a job where you pretend to be transsexual?
George:  Well why should they get all the jobs?  They’ve already got all the sexes, now they want all the jobs too?
Jerry:  What are you going to tell Elaine?
George:  Hey!  You keep this in the vault, you hear me!  Elaine doesn’t need to know anything about this!
Jerry:  Oh sure (sarcastically).
George:  Oh hoh!  I’d like to see her try to claim the high-ground now!
Jerry:  Oh I don’t think that will be a problem.
George:  Look, I’ve got to go and meet the rest of the team for some welcome drinks after work.  I’ll see you later.
Change scene to Elaine and Peterman standing in line outside of a bar/club
Elaine:  Mr Peterman, this really isn’t necessary!  This was all just a big misunderstanding.  I’m a huge LGBTI fan.  I loooove all of the rainbow people.
Peterman:  I’m glad to hear it Elaine.  But as much as one may love the rainforests of the Congo, one will never truly understand them until they have plunged into that heart of darkness and stared directly into the eyes of its very soul.
Elaine:  What?
Peterman:  Time to get your boogie on Elaine.
Change scene to Kramer and Newman in the park, Kramer is holding a remote control
Newman:  Now take it easy, I want this thing back in one piece.
Kramer:  Relax – I used to fly model planes all the time as a kid.
Newman:  Really?
Kramer:  Well, they didn’t have any motors in them, but it’s essentially the same thing.
Kramer starts to operate the drone
Newman: Easy… Easy…
A look of wonder comes over their faces as the drone becomes airborne.
Kramer:  Like a hummingbird!
Montage of Kramer flying the drone around central park with happy music
Shots of the drone being used in comical ways, such as being used to buy food from a street vendor, knocking a ball out from a tree, carrying a small dog away from his owner, etc.
Eventually the drone starts sounding and moving weirdly.
Newman:  What’s wrong?  What did you do to it?
Kramer:  I don’t know, perhaps it was that pigeon we hit (starts hitting the remote with his hand).
Newman:  Bring her down!
Kramer: I can’t!  She’s outta control!  (drone swoops them and they make a run for it)
Change scene to Elaine and Peterman in a club, loud music, various drag-queen types dancing around Elaine, a butch woman grabs her and starts dancing vigorously with her, Elaine tries to be polite.

Change scene to George back at Elaine’s office with colleagues in the lobby

Peggy:  I’m so glad you could make it back here to come out with the rest of the team tonight George.

George:  (takes her hands in his) I’m just so happy to finally find a group of people who are willing to accept me for who I am.

Manager:  (shaking hand) Welcome aboard George.  Now let’s go get a couple of drinks.

They walk towards the door but a man bursts in.

Man:  Everybody stay inside!  There’s an out-of-control drone out there wreaking havoc.  Somebody call 911!

George:  (Breathing heavily, looking very serious) No, you know what, I’ve got this, I’ve got this (he calmly walks outside while all of his colleagues look on).

A few moments pass and everybody gasps.

Change scene to the coffee shop the next morning, Jerry and George.

Jerry:  So what happened?

George:  So I remembered what Kramer told us yesterday, about being real men and taking control of the situation, so I decided to take care of the drone myself.

Jerry:  And!?

George:  So I walk outside, and there are people running left and right, away from this out of control drone!  And the thing is, I can see it’s only a few feet out of reach.  So I think to myself, how I can I get this thing down?  And I don’t know if it was from Newman in your apartment yesterday, but all I can think of is, to use my belt, to hit its propellers.

Jerry:  Just like MacGyver!

George:  Yeah… So I take my belt off, get in close under it and take a mighty swing.  Unfortunately, as I do so, my pants proceed to fall down.  My feet get tripped up and I fall over.

Jerry:  Oh.

George:  And I was wearing boxersLoose ones.

Jerry:  Ohhh.  So did everyone see your –

George: Yeah.

Jerry:  So now they know you’re not a –

George: Yeah.

Jerry:  And the job’s now -

George: Nope.

Jerry:  Oh…  Well at least now you’ve progressed to getting fired before you’ve even officially started.

George:  I guess that’s something.

Elaine enters looking haggard and wearing a pink feather boa around her neck

Jerry: Where have you been?

Elaine:  Out all night at every gay bar in New York City.

Jerry:  Why?

Elaine:  ...Peterman… So did you get the job?

George: No.

Elaine:  What happened?

Jerry:  It turned out he wasn’t quite the woman they thought he was.

Elaine: What?

George:  (face in hands, broken) Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Outro Music

Jerry Performing In the Comedy Club

The only thing worse than a belt that doesn’t fit, are those days when you forget to put your belt on in the morning.
You’re walking around, all insecure, afraid nobody’s going to take you seriously, or perhaps they’ll mistake you for a homeless person.  You almost feel naked when you forget your belt, which is weird, considering that the only thing it covers is that little button at the top of your pants.
I think what this sensation comes down to, is the realisation that, without a belt, we’re essentially just wearing fancy pyjamas.  With belt - suit.  Without belt – pyjamas.  Suit – pyjamas – suit – pyjamas.  I guess that’s why dressing gowns have those sashes: they’re kind of like a compromise-belt, for when you’re in the general area of the bedroom, but you still need to get things done.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Top 10 Mini-Horror

1. You get called to your Principal's office.  It's only as the door clicks shut that you realise there is no trace of the girl who entered before you.

2. The woman walked further into the darkness towards the sole illumination of the small screen.  She was just able to identify her own shape in the monitor before the light died and she heard the breathing behind her.

3. So, I fell down a shaft and now there is a pole sticking out of my chest... What a way to learn that you're more circuit-board than human.

4. "Are you sure everything is alright dear?" asked the boy's mother.  He tried to say no, but even at the mere thought the hand gripped him tighter through the mattress.

5. I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with 't'.... The back of your head.

6. You were invited around to dinner and finally got to meet your best friend's boyfriend.  Or what was left of him.

7. He told me if I ever told anyone he'd kill me.  He's looking at me right now, sitting on the couch, chewing on a bone and menacingly wagging his tail.

8. Your adrenaline is pumping as you wave to the other skydiver in the distance.  It takes you a moment to realise that he isn't waving, and his tandem harness is streaking behind him empty.

9. Flicking through your old selfies you realise there is a stranger in all of your photos.  They always seem to be the one holding the camera...

10. Nobody has ever had the heart to tell you, but you're actually dead.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Perspectives on a Free Lunch

The Spear: There is no such thing as a free lunch, although you can make a pretty mean sandwich on the cheap.

Engineer: There is no such thing as a free lunch, however given the right ingredients, I will be able to give you twice the calories for half the cost in a quarter of the time.

Financier:  There is no such thing as a free lunch, but a lunch today is worth more than a lunch a year from now, a diversified lunch is preferable to a single asset lunch, and given enough leverage you should be able to buy the lunch for virtually no money down.

Lawyer:  There is no such thing as a free lunch, given (i) a contract requires some form of consideration, (ii) a reasonable person in similar circumstances would not assume the lunch to be free and (iii) common law dictates that it would be a civil wrong unfairly causing someone else to suffer loss or harm.

Doctor: There is no such thing as a free lunch, but who needs lunch when you’ve got coffee and access to all these meds?

Philosopher: There is no such thing as a free lunch, for if lunch were able to be free, that would mean that it must also be equally possible for lunch to be a slave, and since it is not possible for lunch to be a slave, it is thus impossible for lunch to be free.

Mathematician: There is no such thing as a free lunch, although I can mathematically prove that it is possible for one to exist in a higher dimension.

Russian Author:  There is no such thing as a free lunch. Such is life.

Economist: There is no such thing as a free lunch, but assuming rational actors in a perfect competitive market economy under equilibrium conditions, there should exist such a producer who will supply lunch for zero profit.

An Australian:  What are you talking about, it’s called fuckin Real Estate, mate.  Get on that shit, ey.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Martian Number Systems

As The Spear has previously written, sometimes all he needs to synthesise something interesting for a blog post is to associate several things which happen to be going on in his life.  He is once again hoping that staid formula holds true as he endeavours to link Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster, The Martian, with the 1996 book by Peter L. Bernstein that he is currently reading, entitled Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk.

While The Spear could have chosen to compare the similarities between Matt Damon ‘scienceing the shit’ out of Mars, and The Spear’s own science-based approach to opening a jar of salsa today (for those readers with a penchant for salsa, let it be known that pressure-equalisation is the trick of the day), he has instead chosen to write about the slightly more interesting topic of number systems.  It’s hardly growing potatoes out of shit and rocket fuel, but fairly interesting nonetheless.

During one scene of The Martian, Matt Damon has to use his knowledge of a hexadecimal number system to overcome a certain problem.  Now it’s a good thing that Matt Damon’s character is a smart guy, because thanks to the Australian education system, The Spear would still be on Mars scratching his head about how to tackle the problem, sans knowledge of other number systems.

As The ignorant Spear is finding out, thanks to the opening chapters of Against the Gods which summarise the historical development of our number system, the prevalent positional base-10 system which he takes for granted is just one among many.  Once again, The Spear has identified yet another mysterious foundation stone in his tower of knowledge, upon which his psyche and his understanding of the world is built.

The Spear vaguely remembers being taught numbers, how to count and basic arithmetic at primary school, with the focus on learning THE system and its application via examples.  He remembers limited discussion in his high school years about more complex notions such as zero and negatives, etc, but by that stage the core idea of the number system itself was long taken for granted.

It was only by the time The Spear got to university and was exposed to maths PhDs that he was made somewhat more aware of the concept of mathematics itself as a language of logic, rather than its mere practicalities.  Nevertheless, he then dutifully proceeded to throw out most of that insight and focused solely on the practical application of numbers for many years. 

Now The Spear finds himself trying to fill in the gaps via self-education, long after the ship has sailed.

Apparently, so The Spear reads, you could have more than 10 digits if you wanted.  Hell, if our memories were good enough, we could give each number its own unique name, couldn’t we?  Or, on the contrary, you could have no digits at all, and merely represent each number with some type unary tally system of counting, such as / for 1, // for 2 and /// for 3 etc.  

The problem with these systems is they require a good memory, and a lot of it, and are just not very practical for anything other than the most basic of calculations, such as divvying up the spoils of the hunt (there is some similarity here to the difficulty in learning a complex pictorial written language with a different symbol for each word vs the ease of use of the 26 letter alphabet based on constructing basic significant sounds).

To get around this problem we need to use a number system with a base, such as ten, which resets the count at our desired frequency.  So when we get to 10, we start again and use the position of the digits to help us out (something the Romans never quite mastered as they did not have the concept of the null space-holder Zero), but it by no means has to be every 10.  It could have been every 8, 12 or 60 even, all of which have been used throughout history, and indeed some still remain with us to this day (such as time and degrees in base 60 and pounds and feet in base 12).

For instance, in a base-12 system you would count 1 though to 9, then some symbol A (representative of our 10), then some symbol B (representative of our 11) then 10 (representative of our 12).  Therefore the number 20 would be our 24, the number 35 would be our 41 (3x12 + 5), and the number 1A would be our 22 (12 + 10) etc.  Computers, for hardware reasons primarily, use a base 2 system, with 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111, 1000 and 1001 representing the numbers 1 through 9. 

All of these systems are just other ways of looking at the exact same problem, and The Spear would draw similarities to learning the logic of a different language (although all other languages he has previously learnt have used base-10 number systems).

At the end of the day, while it is good to expand our knowledge of the possibilities out there and experience the opportunity to think in a new way, we humans ultimately need a number system we can use, not one that is merely theoretically possible.  We need something that is easy to learn, easy to remember, easy to manipulate and easy to calculate with.  Our current system has clearly evolved over time to satisfy these needs quite well, and is uniquely human, as opposed to Martian, in the sense that the prevalent base of 10 matches the number of digits on our hands!

Now, to science the shit out of a packet of chips…

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Fear of Failing Alone

From Wikipedia:

Fear of missing out or FoMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing". FoMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.

While you are likely familiar with the FoMO and have probably experienced it firsthand, resulting in your following fashion trends, going to popular clubs/festivals and jumping on the latest investment bandwagon, you may be less acquainted with FoMO’s ugly cousin, FoFA (The Fear of Failing Alone).

Where FoMO is characterised by the belief that everyone else is onto a good thing which must be replicated immediately lest one be left behind, FoFA has a much more cynical bent, for it begins with the belief that you actually know better than others.

In a pessimistic inversion of FoMO, FoFA focuses on failure as the base case of outcomes.  Whereas a person experiencing FoMO is likely to think to themselves “I want a piece of this success and don’t want to be left behind”, someone with the FoFA instead thinks “I think the herd is wrong, but in the event that I was going to fail, would I rather fail with the herd, or alone?”  Naturally, someone with the FoFA is steered away from their natural instincts by the gravity of the herd, whereas someone with FoMO actively seeks to join the herd.

A great example of FoFA is the Asch Conformity Experiment whereby around one-third of respondents to a very simple question about the lengths of lines on a page were made to respond incorrectly when the rest of the group were secretly instructed to give the incorrect response (as opposed to 1% incorrect response rate when the rest of the group were instructed to give the obviously correct response).  It is this internal conflict surely felt by some participants that characterises FoFA.

The logic is, if you join the herd and fail, at least most other people will fail too.  You will be comparatively no worse off than your neighbour, and it is hard to blame any particular person for the group’s failure (except maybe ‘the government’ or ‘the system’).  But if you were to fail alone, while others became comparatively better off, you would feel like it was your own purposeful fault, and not the mere laziness of inaction.

Now perhaps you are the kind of individual who doesn’t mind failing alone, a person who doesn’t mind risking missing out on something which most other people are a part of.  This can be both a blessing and a curse, as in general there is a reason why herd mentality is so prevalent: most of the time following the crowd is the right thing to do.

During ‘business as usual’ periods of stability, following the herd is not a bad game plan.  Sticking to the beaten path has the advantages of benefiting from the errors of those who have come before you, and typically enjoying a relatively hassle-free experience as the infrastructure has developed around the standardised process with the inherent benefits of scale. 

But you don’t want to fool yourself into believing that the herd always knows what’s best.  If you can withstand rather high levels of social pain, going against the herd in a selective manner can pay off in a really big way. 

There is unlikely to be much untouched ground in the herd.  Opportunities for advancement are largely forsaken in a trade-off for limited opportunities for individual failure.  It is a mass of mediocrity, whereby not much risk is taken and thus not much is either gained or lost, comparatively.  Outside of the herd with limited competition, you can lose and be damned, or win and win big.

It is for this reason The Spear at least tries to be somewhat contrarian in his thinking.  He figures if he can selectively go against the grain whilst trying to keep with the herd in most circumstances, he can possibly produce an asymmetric payoff profile for life in general.  Or to put it another way, The Spear likes to try and create his own luck.

The aim should be to set up camp in that limited ground whereby the potential benefits of drifting from the herd outweigh the nagging fear of failing alone.  Just don’t set up in the same paddock as The Spear!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Fashion & Try-Hards

As he sat on the metro on a Saturday night, The Spear couldn’t help but notice that once again, his attire had indeed become ‘dated’.  The once dorky had become popular, leaving The Spear, with his clothes still several fashion cycles away from becoming ‘retro’, in a veritable sphere of anachronistic fashion shame.  The profusion of shirts with their top buttons done up (sans tie), boat-shoes and chinos, signalled that the fashion cycle had well and truly moved on.

Almost by definition, someone’s place in the social hierarchy can be judged by the ‘hipness’ of their attire.  The Spear has often thought that it is the popularity of the person which imbues the ‘coolness’ to the fashion, with new trends trickling their way down through the classes like popular baby names.  Alas, by the time The Spear adopts a particular fashion, it is usually already going out of style (although to be fair, he doesn’t try very hard, typically buying clothes out of necessity or receiving them as gifts).

Which brings The Spear to his most loathed of fashion classes: the Try-Hards.

So far as The Spear is concerned, being a Try Hard is even worse than being out of fashion: it’s just sad.  They spend all that money and take such care with their branding and grooming, but at the end of the day, the boost in status they crave is fleeting, if not illusory.  Theirs is a fa├žade of popularity, undone by the insecurity on display by paying too much attention to getting the look ‘just right’ (for if the look is off, how then will they ever be accepted?).  It is symptomatic of a lack of character.  At least the out-of-fashion are typically just antisocials being true to their obliviousness to humanity in general.

That said, nobody enjoys being a target.  Antisocials need to buy clothes too, and when they do, it will generally be from some generic rack somewhat resembling the ‘in’ fashion of the day, as opposed to being determinedly anti-fashion.  Even among the explicitly antisocial fashions such as alternative/goth, The Spear is sure there is generally a desire to fit in with the anti-fashion ‘look’ (don’t tell them, but anti-fashion is just another fashion).

So the moral of the story is, if you are not concerned about fashion, then you are either an incredibly popular trend-setter, or a late trend follower by default.  Whereas on the other hand, if you find yourself quite concerned with fashion, you are either in the industry of creating and pushing new fashions, or else quite possibly a try-hard. 

The real question is, do you have that look ‘just right’?

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Idiot Tax

After saying that he rarely bought luxury goods and was all about value, The Spear was recently paraphrased as saying that he ‘disapproves’ of luxury stores.  When he got thinking about it a bit more, The Spear came to the conclusion that this impression was incorrect.  Although he would not personally frequent one, The Spear far from disapproves of luxury stores as they play a vital role in modern society: the imposition of ‘the idiot tax’.

Up there with gambling, the lottery, pyramid schemes and other quite obvious scams, high-end brand-name retail could be thought of as yet another avenue of separating a fool and their money.  Although you will end up with a status symbol, and may even derive pleasure from owning ‘the best’ or an object of beauty, when it comes down to it, are most luxury purchases simply a sign that one has too much money?

Surely, the base needs of those purchasing these high-end items are being met (although perhaps not sustainably).  Either that, or the consumer has some serious psychological problems whereby they place the purchase of luxury goods above their own physical well-being, in some crazy inversion of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  With this in mind, could luxury items be thought of as an efficient way of redeploying the idle funds of the wealthy, to those who may perhaps put it to better use?

While luxury goods may be a symbol of inequality, to disapprove of them would be to confuse the cause with the effect.  As opposed to ‘trickle-down’ Reagonomic tax-cuts for the wealthy, which may result in furthering inequality, idiot tax style luxury goods are more-so an automatic stabiliser, helping to prevent the accumulation of too much wealth by individuals.  If you can’t legislate higher taxes on the rich, you may as well take their money for trinkets.

Bring on the Madison Avenue sales - let The Spear hear those cash registers go KA-CHING!  It’s the beautiful sound of sales tax to his ears, and the employment of a retail sector.