Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Archive for July, 2009

Outrage: Flash Trading is leeching profits from investors

Posted by jaystile on July 27, 2009

I started learning about flash trading when an accusation that the source code for these auto-trading applications was stolen. As I continued to read the news, I found another article describing how these auto-trading applications behave.

If you’re not willing to read the article, let me sum it up for you. The large brokerage houses get to look at all orders for 30 milliseconds before those orders are released for execution to the market. Their auto-trading programs inject trades (buying or canceling) before the original trade was executed. This is called ‘Flash Trading’. The injected trades can drive up the price of the stock you want to purchase or sell before you can sell. This takes some of the profit from you and gives it directly to one of the large brokerage firms. And they didn’t even have to do any research, just pay for the creation of smart algorithms.

I liken this to being able to place a bet on a roulette wheel just before the ball comes to rest. Except, you don’t have to use your own money. You get to borrow the bet placed by the other gamblers and take some of their winnings. Right now, I feel like the ‘other’ gambler. And I am pissed about it.

I suggest writing your representatives as a first step in exercising our democracy.
Senators: www.senate.gov
Representatives: www.house.gov


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Parenting: The effect of false myths

Posted by jaystile on July 23, 2009

I ran across this while reading this news: Paralysed Kids Buried For Solar Eclipse Cure. As a parent and an atheist it makes my heart so sad for these children.

Imagine being these kids
Your parents tell you that you might be able to walk and run with the other children. The solar eclipse has magical healing powers along with the power of god. The excitement and hope begins to build. A joyous and miraculous thing is about to happen. God is going to fix you. A holy man is praying over you while an astronomical event takes place. And then nothing happens.

What is going through these people’s minds? (I can’t say to know, but I have an idea)
What do the kids think?

  • Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault?
  • Why does god continue to punish me?
  • Why does god not hear me?

What do the parents think?

  • God is punishing us for our sins
  • What can we do to make god fix our child?
  • Should I pray more devoutly?
  • Do I need to teach my children more about god?
  • Do I need to believe more?

What does the holy man think?

  • Sinners.
  • God is all powerful, it must be their fault if they are not healed.

I feel helpless
What can I do about such a situation? I could scoff and call them uneducated, but this kind of thing happens in my own country. I feel so bad for these kids. I want to shout ‘STOP LYING TO YOUR KIDS!’ They really need support from their community and family. I’d take a pair of helping hands over praying hands anytime.

Posted in Atheism, Parenting | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Book Review: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Posted by jaystile on July 22, 2009

Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Free Range Kids – Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy is a non-fiction book about parenting and allowing children to be independent. This book was a fun and entertaining read weighing in at just under 200 pages. It is slathered with humor and sarcasm just the way I like it when reading material breaking down ‘conventional wisdom (Did you know it is a derogatory term?)’. Lenore also keeps a blog http://freerangekids.wordpress.com with the latest triumphs and tragedies that confront Free Range Parents.

The TV is Lying to You
Lenore Skenazy talks about the over reporting and dramatization of abductions. If you watch (take your pick: CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Bones, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU) or the news there is a 100% chance are you are going to be bombarded by psychopathic monsters (and I’m not just talking about Bill O’Reilly). There is a reason for this. Fear, like sex, sells. Don’t believe me? Can you tell me the stories of JonBenet Ramsey, O.J. Simpson, and Caylee Anthony? Now, can you summarize Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist? I find, like Lenore, that people pay way too much attention to television and not enough to their actual neighborhood. It’s safe even if the TV says it is not. Crime statistics are available for your neighborhood.

Responsibility & Independence
Kids want to be independent. I don’t know how many times my preschoolers (soon to start Kindergarten!) have shouted, “NO, DAD! I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” A key notion in this book is about giving your kids responsibility and independence commensurate with their ability. You teach your child the skills they need to know then you allow them to practice what they’ve learned. For instance, my oldest daughter uses the super sharp vegetable peeler and helps peel carrots for dinner. That is because I taught her how. Supervised her a couple of times and then let her do it herself. Did you know what happened? SHE CUT HERSELF! A cheap lesson. A few tears and a band-aide later we were back peeling vegetables. But she is so happy when she gets to help make dinner. As Lenore put it she learned ‘self-confidence’ not ‘parent-supplied-confidence’ (a.k.a. Here is your trophy for being second winner!) When we take walks in the evening I have my daughters take turns telling me when it is safe to cross. Teach them the skills and let them practice. It is hard to let go but they keep showing me they are smarter than I give them credit for.

Stranger Danger!
Again, on our walks we talk about strangers. Dad asks, “Is it OK to talk to strangers?” My kids say, “Yes.” Dad says, “That’s right!” Another key theme in Lenore’s book is that not every stranger is a going to snatch you away as soon as Mom & Dad aren’t looking. Some parents might be aghast, “YOU SHOULD NEVER LET YOU CHILD TALK TO STRANGERS!” Yeah, you see… that’s just dumb. Back to the principle of not assuming people are crazy child snatchers. One positive note about my kids talking to strangers is that the strangers want to talk back! I’ve met many normal (non kiddie snatchers) in my neighborhood because they are happy to talk to little girls (even if their dad is a scary stranger). Again, it is important to teach your children the skills they need in case they are confronted with that creepy person. Dad asks, “Do we ever go near a strangers car?” Kids say, “No.” Dad asks, “Do we ever go anywhere with a stranger?” Kids say, “No.” Dad asks, “Would mom and dad ever send a stranger to come and get you?” Kids say, “No.” Dad says, “That’s right I would send … ” and I give them examples of the people we know that we would send to get them. What are the chances that my girls are going to need to use their skill of not going away with a stranger? About 1:1500000. They should know these things just in case. Just like using “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, “Get out of the house first if there is a fire, go to the neighbors, then dial 911”, “If you get lost just sit down and we’ll find you or ask a STRANGER for help”.

Odds of Dying

Odds of Dying

Calculating the Odds or Parenting by Evidence
I tried to find a reference and failed about how people can’t tell the difference between 1:1000 odds and 1:100000. It ‘feels’ the same to them. Maybe this is why parents don’t want to let their kids outside because they can’t tell that being abducted by a stranger (odds 1:1500000) is statistically insignificant. What parents really need to be worried about are things like obesity, getting exercise, wearing helmets and seatbelts, and sunblock. OH! What is this? Here is some evidence to back up my assertion. This is a nice little article talking the about the odds of dying. I’m laying out the odds for the top five ways you are going to die.

  1. Heart Disease: 1-in-5
  2. Cancer: 1-in-7
  3. Stroke: 1-in-23
  4. Accidental Injury: 1-in-36
  5. Motor Vehicle Accident:1-in-100

I’m personally hoping for the 1:79746 Lightning Strike on my 120th birthday. So… controlling obesity, getting exercise, wearing helmets and seatbelts, and sunblock helps cut into those odds. And I even get to let my daughters out to play on the sidewalk all by themselves.

This book was a great little read and helps bring things back into perspective as a parent. There are so many experts out there trying to scare you into using the products or captivating you while TV stations try to sell you other products. So, turn off the TV, boot the kids outside, and start reading.

Posted in Book Review, Parenting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Parenting: Children and Money

Posted by jaystile on July 17, 2009

This post is in response to Lenore (America’s Worst Mom) Skenazy’s request: Giving Kids Control of Money (So They Don’t Always Need Yours)

Money seems like it is a very difficult concept for parents to discuss with their children. I’m guessing it is because it is usually a difficult topic in general for the household (i.e. WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH OF IT!). I’m providing my two cents on what I’m planning on teaching my girls about money.

Learn to Earn
I think the most important lesson for a child to learn is to earn the things they want. Delayed gratification will set them up to be better investors in the future. My family is well off and I can buy my kids any toys that they want. My daughters are currently 3 and 4. They see the neighborhood kids with their scooters flying up and down the sidewalk. They tried them out (with their helmets on of course!) and really enjoyed them. I bought two scooters at the store for them. All they have to do to earn them is get ready in the morning: Make their bed; get dressed, brush their teeth and brush their hair. If they do all that without me or my wife telling them to they get a stamp. Seven stamps = 1 Scooter. They haven’t earned those scooters yet with only two stamps each, but they want them, and they beg and plead. Dad says to them, “Of course you can have your scooter as soon as you get seven stamps. How do we earn stamps?” The kids groan “Make our bed, get dressed, brush our teeth and hair.” Dad says, “Great! Then do that and you can get a scooter!” This technique worked for earning a bicycle bell by finishing reading lessons.

Buy for Value
I really don’t have a problem with my kids wasting money on items that will soon lose their interest. It is my job as a parent to point out that the toy will become boring once they get it home and offer them alternate suggestions. Give your kids a choice. Dad says, “Are you sure you don’t want to save your money for that new bike you wanted?” Its a good lesson to teach to children to buy things that have lasting value. It’s hard from them to see a toy go for sale for $.25 at the yard sale when they used their hard earned money to buy it. The same goes for adults who put a $25 sticker on a $800 treadmill they only used once.

As kids get older the toys will become more expensive. I’m sure I will hear the whine at the store, “~DAD~, I REALLY WANT THIS GAME! They are sold out everywhere!” Fine, I say. I’ll break out the wallet and buy the game (because honestly, it is a pain in the ass to find high demand products. Nintendo Wii near it’s release date, anyone?). However, it will go on lay-a-way. For those who didn’t grow up with parents that were out of work frequently and couldn’t get credit (as easy as it is to right now) a store would hold an item for you. You would make weekly payments until the purchase price was fulfilled. Then you got to take home your item. The same works for the game. Your child can earn the game (back to the earning concept) by doing extra work around the house or paying you back when they get cash from grandma and grandpa. As long as they keep making weekly payments, you’ll keep holding the item. If not, there is always E-bay or craigslist.

Get a job!
As your kids get a little older (10yrs and up) it is time to learn the value of money. I don’t really like the concept of an allowance. I especially don’t like tying an allowance to jobs that have to be done around the house. Everyone lives in the house, everyone has to help out with the weekly chores according to their ability (dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, toilets, laundry, etc). If my child needs something (food, clothes, shoes, etc) I buy it for them. If they want something above and beyond their daily needs they can again earn it. They say “~DAD~, I REALLY NEED THESE JEANS! Everyone is wearing pre-ripped, pre-strained, overlarge ones and I don’t have any!” Dad says, “I’m not buying those, they’re stupid looking. But if you want to do extra work around the house…” Give them the choice, do they not want the jeans or do they want to work for them? I’m all about getting extra work done around the house. It would make my life easier if they took out the garbage. But let us be honest about how much money is deserved for each task. If they want to take out the garbage for me, great! That is unskilled labor worth minimum wage. I take the minimum wage rate and calculate their earnings for the 10 minute task. According to the current federal minimum wage of $6.55 they earned $1.09 (and that is tax free!). That is learning the value of a dollar. Now, if they decide to do more unpleasant work like scrubbing out the trash cans, I’m willing to negotiate (because I don’t want to do it myself!). Just keep the rates honest with the work they are doing. If they make an honest effort at trying to earn the money, I see no problem helping them out by paying $20 of their $60 stupid looking jeans.

One issue confronting our youngsters is that they can’t get a job even if they want a job. Child labor laws have really hurt companies ability to hire anyone under 18 years of age. That’s fine, because it is time to sell your child out. Sell your offspring’s skills to friends, neighbors, and relatives. I know a lot of people who could use help shoveling snow, mowing grass, walking dogs (and picking up said dog’s dookie), ironing, being a second pair of hands, washing windows, washing floors, painting, pulling weeds, raking leaves, watching children, lifting heavy objects, emptying gutters, washing cars, cooking, cleaning and all those other skills you have taught them. Also, make your kids work cheap. The neighbor kid offered to cut my grass for $50. It only takes me 45 minutes, get off my grass you little cretin. However, cheap labor will get you more jobs in the future. If he had said $10 he’d probably be cutting my grass twice a week.

I had some more to say on teaching your child budgeting. But we’ll save that for another article.

Posted in Parenting, Solutions | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

CHOOSE FREEDOM! Happy 4th of July!

Posted by jaystile on July 4, 2009

I am a citizen of the United States of America. If you ask my fellow citizens if we are free, they might respond with, “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!“. We do have many freedoms in this country, and for those I am thankful, but those freedoms are slowly being eroded, given away, or taken away from us. I think most Americans need a refresher course on what freedom means and I am hear to provide that refresher. Happy 4th of July. My general definition of freedom is that everyone should be able to do what they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Or you can read dictionary.com’s definition.

What should I be able to do?
Let’s start with an example. I would like to have a cigarette. Should I be allowed to smoke? I know it is bad for me. It is addictive, hurts your lungs, and contains carcinogens. A free society says, yes, I should be allowed to smoke because it is only hurting me. Should I be allowed to drink alcohol? It is bad for me. It impairs my motor skills and damages my liver. Yes, I should be allowed to drink alcohol. Should I be able to use other currently illegal drugs? Real freedom means, yes, I should be allowed to abuse drugs because they would only hurt me. (FYI, this is all hypothetical, I don’t smoke or use illegal drugs.)

Choosing Freedom also means Choosing Responsibility
Should I be allowed to smoke by my children? As a parent, I would not smoke around my children. But should you be able to smoke around your children? Again, I say choose freedom, but by choosing freedom you are also choosing responsibility and that means you still don’t get to hurt others. There is damage caused by second hand smoke. Then, should I be allowed to drink alcohol by my children? Ingesting alcohol only hurts the person who is doing it. So yes, I should be able to drink by my children. However, having freedom also means using responsibility. If I’m prone to violence while drinking should I do it? The answer is an obvious no, and we have laws on the books criminalizing assault and battery. Should I drive after drinking? Again, impaired driving causes accidents hurting others. That’s why laws criminalizing driving under the influence make sense.

Personal Safety
We have laws in this country that make it illegal to NOT wear a helmet, to NOT wear a seatbelt, to NOT use a child safety seat, and to NOT have automatic rifles and hand guns. These laws are meant to save lives. Let’s look at it through the freedom lens again. Does it hurt anyone beside myself to not wear a helmet? If I crash it’s my brains being splattered on the asphalt not yours. This law should be stricken down. Should I have to wear a seatbelt? Again, it would be me thrown out of my vehicle or thrown through the windshield not anyone else. This type of law should be stricken down. I do see some gray area here though if by wearing a seatbelt you are able to keep your vehicle in control to limit further property/personal damage. But what are the statistics on people who are not wearing a seatbelt causing further damage than just damage to themselves? If it is huge then I think a law is important to protect others. If it is small, then it just doesn’t make sense. Should I have my child in a booster seat until they are 12 years old in the back seat even though most of the protection comes from just being in the back seat with a seatbelt on? (see Freakonomics for most statistics on child safety (Here is my Review) ) Again, choosing freedom means choosing responsibility: it is important to put your infant and toddler in child safety seats, apply sunblock, and read to them every day. But be pragmatic, what are the real chances of your child being stolen away by a stranger if they are playing in the front yard by themselves. Oh! Oh! I have an answer 1:1.5 million. Don’t let CNN scare you into keeping your kids inside. In fact you shouldn’t even be watching T.V. unless you want to waste time (but that is a rant for another time). So let kids have age appropriate freedoms too. As for weapons, I am of the opinion that any arms that could be brought to bear against me I should have the right to own myself. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But it is my responsibility to make sure that I know how to operate those weapons safely and that I secure them from theft and misuse.

What You Can Do
There is something you can do to help this country maintain its freedom. Use your authority of as a member of the jury. This is the one time you are above the law. When someone is prosecuted for breaking the law, you get to not only judge whether the defendant is guilty/innocent of the law but whether the law is correct. Vote for like minded individuals in every level of government. Know your candidates and support those who cherish freedom (not control). Use your right to protest peacefully, when is the last time your protested for freedom? I’m still appalled by the most of the provisions in the ‘Patriot Act’. A real patriot does not give up freedoms for anyone!

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