30 June 2007

Review of Babel (2006)

Babel is a film by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who was also the director of 21 Grams. Like 21 Grams, Babel is about different stories of people's lives, and all these stories are linked in some way. The movie stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as American tourists. Elle Fanning, little sister of Dakota Fanning, plays one of the American parents' kids.

After watching the film, the message that I took from it was that even though bad things happen, often there's nobody to blame. The tragedy happens because of a chain reaction of unfortunate events and bad luck.

The title makes reference to the Tower of Babel, which is from the bible. According to the bible, everyone spoke one language but God confused the people by changing languages. This of course is at odds with the idea that language evolved (see linguistic evolution). The movie seems to show conflict because of different languages or cultures. The movie seems to suggest that this happens because many are not willing to listen or understand others. This theme in the movie can perhaps be summed up with one biblical quote from Hebrews 13:2 that says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Unlike in 21 Grams, the different plotlines seem too independent. As a result, the film ends up looking like a collection of multiple short stories rather than one whole film itself.

The movie, I though, felt very superficial and sometimes stereotypical. The American are just so superficially American with all the imagery and stereotypes emphasized to the extreme. The same can be said of the Mexicans and the Japanese. The real world is a complex mess, but while watching the movie I had the impression that the writer had a simplified perception of reality in his mind: Japanese people are like this, Americans are like that, a tragedy is supposed to use this kind of music, this kind of camera work, etc.

While watching The Door in the Floor, another film with Elle Fanning, one of the characters in that movie talks about the art of telling a story. He says the following: "Everything in fiction is a tool: pain, betrayal, even death. These are, you know, these are like, uh, different colors on a painter's palette. You need to use them." The problem with this film is that, for me, it really seems as if the writer knew he wanted the film to be tragic and just dabbed the usual elements of a tragedy, lost kids, close-ups of people's faces as they cried, etc. With solemn music and scene after scene of people crying and walking around dazed, the film has all the imagery and tone of a tragedy. For me this story really felt like a story, as if all the parts were just put there for the sole purpose of manipulating the audience.

29 June 2007

Review of The Italian Job (2003)

The Italian Job is about a robbery done for money and for revenge on a man who betrayed them in an earlier robbery.

First off, this is a very entertaining, very cool movie. It glamorizes thievery but also shows a noble side among thieves. Charlize Theron is by far the most attractive woman ever, and in this movie she is just sizzling hot. From every angle she is a work of art.

One of the things about this movie that annoyed was the branding. I don't know whether the brands were deliberately there for marketing purposes or whether they were essential for the plot. At the beginning of the film we notice the divers are wearing Casio G-Shocks. One hypothesis is that the film is marketing Casio watches. The other hypothesis is that G-Shocks are normally what divers use anyway because of the brand's shock resistance. There are plenty of references made to Aston Martins, and the film probably help market many new MINIs. Of course, they're not going to use a Ford Suburban for this robbery because of the SUV's size and slowness, so the MINI was probably necessary. The MINI is an icon for many people. Even though MINI is owned by BMW many believe the MINI is a symbol of Britishness. The car's status as a cultural icon is probably what justifies its price premium, as it is about double the price of a Corolla. Probably not worth it for a small car if you were totally utilitarian, but most people don't buy cars just to get from A to B.

While watching The Italian Job, I kept thinking to myself how unrealistic the whole plot was. Everything was planned to perfection and only one small thing had to go wrong for everything to fail. For everything to fall into place so perfectly is like flipping a coin twenty times and getting it to land heads up every single time. The film is definitely over-the-top but that was probably what made it so entertaining in the first place.

28 June 2007

Why Buy an Expensive Pen?

There are two kinds of snobbery. One kind of snobbery comes from purchasing an expensive product. The other kind of snobbery comes from purchasing a cheap product. You see, some people wear their thriftiness on their shoulders as a badge of honor. My brother, for example, drives an expensive Lexus yet, when I speak about expensive watches, he proudly says, "What is the point of buying a $10,000 watch when you can buy one for just $20?" The same applies to pen. Whenever I whip my pens out people usually see the chrome and ask me why I would use an expensive pen.

The reality is that I don't use expensive pens. Many fountain pens cost in excess of $500 or even more and I certainly don't buy any of those. Pens are usually regarded as such cheap items that people usually look at you strange if you buy anything over 50 cents. Pretty much all the pens I use are about $4, which means they're expensive for a pen. Many ask, "Why get a $4 pen when you can get a BIC for just 30 cents?" The thing is, pens are not like watches. Watches usually get worse as you pay more for them. A cheap $200 quartz watch has greater accuracy than an old-fashioned $10,000 mechanical watch, but many watch enthusiasts buy expensive mechanical watches for emotional reasons. Likewise, there are many pen enthusiasts who buy old-fashioned fountain pens for purely emotional reasons, whether it is emotional attachment to a brand or whatever. But I am not one of those people. I buy pens slightly more expensive than your average BIC pen for quite sensible reasons.

Cheap pens are usually bad pens. Their design is influenced by economy, not ergonomics, which means after lots of writing your hands will strain. A poor pen will damage your finger if you use it for a while. I used BIC Cristal pens initially simply because they were the cheapest I could find. My fingers started to bulge in areas that pressed against the pen. Some of my joints have warped a little. These areas are usually hard, inflamed, and bits of skin are starting to fall off. You usually have to press really hard on a cheap pen to get it to write. This means your hands and fingers sustain more strain. So cheap pens are bad for your fingers' health and well-being.

Another reason I don't like cheap pens is because of their leakages. Cheap pens also use cheap ink, which means the ink usually does not dry quickly and it smears all over the paper. It smears all over your hands, on your clothes, and on your desk.

See Norak's Pen Ranking for a list of my favorite pens.

27 June 2007

John Howard's Immigration Policies

John Howard won the election after the children overboard incident because he was able to attract many working class votes away from Labor.

With recent controversy over IR, the working class seems to have turned their backs on Howard whose popularity has plummeted. When the working class think of themselves as working class people fighting against big business they will align themselves against Liberal, which is the political party of the ruling class.

John Howard's biggest challenge then is shifting perceptions of the working class, making them think on events not as a conflict between economics classes but a conflict between locals and foreigners. If John Howard makes a big deal about Muslims, boat people, and Aborigines, the working class of Australia will perceive the ruling class of Australia not as an opposing economic group but as a united team of Australians. The working class will embrace the ruling class.

It seems, however, that Sydney Morning Herald Editor Ross Gittens has caught onto Howard's games. In a piece titled Back-Scratching at a National Level, Gittens says the following:
There's a saying among journalists that news is anything someone doesn't want you to know. So let me tell you all about John Howard's immigration program. It's a key part of the Government's economic policy, but one it rarely talks about.

Why? Because Howard wants his Battlers to think he shares their dislike and distrust of foreigners, especially boat people. And it wouldn't help his image for people to know he's running the biggest immigration program we've ever had.

The fact is, however, that immigration is playing a big part in keeping the economy growing strongly, preventing shortages of skilled labour from causing a wages blowout, keeping inflation under control, limiting the rise in interest rates and keeping house prices rising rather than falling.

When Howard was elected in 1996 he cut the planned immigrant intake to 68,000, but by last financial year he'd more than doubled it. His planned intake for next financial year is almost 153,000 - plus 13,000 under the humanitarian program. To that you can add about 24,000 New Zealanders - who don't need visas and will be arriving to join the 470,000 of their fellow countrypersons who are here.

Last calendar year was the eighth straight year of net immigration (that is, net of permanent departures) in excess of 100,000.

Actually, thanks to a burst of high migration in the late 1980s, net immigration has exceeded 100,000 a year in 12 of the past 20 years, having exceeded 100,000 only 12 times in the previous two centuries. Another way to put it is that the program is running at a lot more than a million immigrants a decade.
The reality is that Howard is playing a tricky game. While he has to pretend dislike foreigners for the sake of the working class he has to also boost immigration for the ruling class who care about money and therefore want more workers.

Further Reading: Marxist Theory of Racism and Racial Inequality

Abolishing the Weekends

I'm an economics major myself. Many economists believe that by abolishing weekends (i.e. laws that force people to stop working over the weekends), the economy will improve. You don't need a PhD in economics I know this will work because more time on the weekend will free up time to work more. More work means better economy. In It's Not Rational to be Rational, Ross Gittens has a go at the economics fraternity and makes the following argument against abolishing weekends:
There's no doubt that a most effective way of raising the productivity of our factories, offices and shops is to keep them working as close as possible to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To that end we've deregulated shopping hours and made great strides in getting rid of weekend penalty rates. But the more of us who're required to work at weekends, the more the weekend ceases to be the weekend.

Parents will have trouble getting together with their kids on any day of the week and it will be hard for friends or relatives to get together, even after work, because there'll be no common after work.

Hands up anyone who thinks that's a good idea. It's a social end we're in the process of sacrificing to advance narrowly economic means. It's happening because rationalists don't bother their heads with non-rational ends like togetherness.
Suppose there were no weekend leisure time. Now suppose you and your friend worked seven days a week. You can still meet your friend simply by ringing him up and asking him whether he is free at a particular time when both of you are free. This is exactly the same thing most of us already do if we want to schedule an appointment with an accountant or a dentist or a physician. Gittens seems to be suggesting that certain days be days when we meet friends. He says that by getting rid of weekends the convenience of relying on weekends as days when we meet friends is gone. Well, if we are going to create convenience for people to meet to do certain things, then why stop at the meeting of friends and also extend this concept to the meeting of dentists and patients? Suppose the Government designated Monday as a day off and declared Monday to be "Dentist's Day." This day is designed to allow people to meet their dentists to have their teeth fixed. If they don't have dentists, they can just laze around watching TV all day similarly to how people with no friends don't meet friends on the weekend and probably watch TV on the weekend as well. If anyone argues that Dentist's Day be banned then Gittens can use the same argument he did before. He can say that banning Dentist's Day will make it hard for people to arrange time with their dentists. Yes, he's right, but not everyone wants to go to the dentist once every week and those who don't just laze about doing nothing when they want to work. By liberalizing, people get more choice. Anyway, why stop at Dentist's Day? Why not have Accountant's Day or any other day? Before long nobody will be working.

Some people make the argument the making people work on weekends does not help the economy because the extra work people do will wear them out and make them less productive. Suppose this were true. Suppose I normally worked from Monday to Friday as a car salesman. Suppose on a five-day week I sell 10 cars. Now suppose new laws come in and the boss asks me to work Saturdays and Sundays as well, so now I work seven days a week. Because I had less leisure, my productivity decreases and suppose I sell only 5 cars per week now. If this were to happen, the boss would suspect that my not resting is causing the problem and tell me to rest. You see, the employer wants to maximize his profits too, and he does so by asking you to work what he thinks is the optimal hours, which takes into account the leisure-work ratio.

Why I Like Paris Hilton

It's very strange to witness so many people ranting and raving about how much they hate Paris Hilton, yet at the same time so many people are eager to know what she is up to. I am sure there are many people who both admit hating her and are curious about her at the same time.

When I first heard about Paris Hilton it was from the sex tape scandal. I have seen the sex tapes myself. It's nothing special. I never watched the first episode of The Simple Life when it came out on TV. I went to watch with my brother the movie House of Wax, which had a Paris Hilton death scene.

I am a car enthusiast. I first became interested in Paris after learning that she drove a Bentley Continental GT. She has since sold her Bentley and gotten herself a Mercedes McLaren SLR worth about half a million dollars. Of course, I don't automatically like someone just because they drive an expensive car, but this sparked my curiosity, so I watched some episodes of The Simple Life, which happened to be on. While watching the fourth season of The Simple Life, I started to notice that Paris is not really that dumb. Rather, she displayed signs of creativity. For example, in one episode her hosts, the Contreras Family, wanted to go camping in the wilderness. Instead, Paris drives the Toyota minivan all the way to a nearby Hilton hotel. Paris tells the family to go camping in the hotel instead. The family, including the two little boys, were disappointed at not being able to go camping in the wilderness. Saddened by the family's disappointment, Paris told them to go out to the cafeteria to eat. What Paris did next was stunning. While the family was away, she ordered truckloads of stuff to be delivered to the hotel room where they were staying and she completely changed the hotel room into a forest. The room had a tent, real trees, an animated fire, wood, and even stuffed animals. It wasn't as real as the real wilderness, but it was close enough, and it illustrated the lengths that Paris would go to to please the children. This event shows not only how creative Paris is but also how kind and generous she is.

Paris's creativity is further proved in later episode in which she directed a music video about the difficulties of being a mother. Nicole Richie's purpose during the fourth season seemed to be to shock people with rude language, and Nicole provided the lyrics for this music video, which was obscenity laden. Paris, on the other hand, tried to dilute the negativity of the lyrics by infusing the visuals with humor. She succeeded, and the host family was extremely grateful for her attempts.

Paris Hilton, it seems, is a misunderstood girl. In prison when she said she had been acting dumb all the time, it came as no surprise. Those who know her should know that she is smarter than what the mob would lead people to believe. Some criticize her for not achieving anything substantial in her life and not earning her celebrity status, but for me and many others Paris is a simple and sweet girl who excels in just being herself.

26 June 2007

Pen Ranking

Below is a ranking of all the pens I have used. I will add to the list as I use more pens. If I have time I will add reviews for each pen, detailing the pros and cons.

1. Uni-Ball Jetstream
2. Uni-Ball UM-120
3. Pilot V Pen
4. Papermate Gel Roller II
5. Pilot Dr. Grip
6. Uni-Ball 207
7. BIC Cristal

23 June 2007

The Diesel Cancer Threat

The bad news is that emissions from diesel engines are harmful to your health. That includes the latest generation of so-called "clean" diesels.

The Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide, which ranks vehicles on their greenhouse gas and air pollution performance, doesn't have a single diesel vehicle in its top 50 list of low polluters.

Just one makes the top 150 and there are only five in the top 200 vehicles.

Jon Real, a spokesman for the Federal Department of Transport, which maintains the guide, says diesel cars are marked down because they have a "much more significant health effect".

He says diesels produce about the same amount of hydrocarbons as petrol but significantly more nitrogen oxides (NOx) - a precursor to smog - and particulate matter.

Air quality experts estimate that diesel engines produce particles at about 20 times the rate of petrol engines and it is those emissions that are bad for your health.

Particulate matter has been linked with thousands of deaths worldwide. Side effects range from cancer to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. NOx have also been linked to serious health problems, including asthma, respiratory disease, infections and reduced lung function in children....

Source: http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=40556&s_cid=mktgedm&IsPgd=0

20 June 2007

Protecting Freedom by Destroying Freedom

Inspired by Maddy McCann's kidnapping, Alan Burkhart wrote a piece in the National Ledger detailing many atrocities done to children. He then suggests some solutions to the problem:
Draconian enforcement of drug and immigration laws is desperately needed. Tons of illegal drugs and thousands of sexual predators cross our border with Mexico each year. Research by "Americans for Legal Immigration" shows that as many as 240,000 illegal alien sex offenders currently reside in the USA. Could your gardener be one of them?


Most importantly, Americans must return to the moral and societal norms of past decades. Our proud nation survived a brutal civil war and broke the chains of slavery. We fought and won two major wars against totalitarianism and later broke the back of the Soviet Union. But in our quest to become the freest nation on Earth, we have also freed those among us who would do harm to some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens, and we have lost the sense of personal responsibility that governs the actions of otherwise good people. It is not a loss of freedom or civil rights to penalize irresponsible behavior. It is not "cruel and unusual" to lock sex offenders and drug dealers away for the rest of their lives. By keeping repeat offenders in prison, we are protecting the rights of those who might otherwise perish in the dead of night while their families try in vain to find them.

We are constantly told by our so-called leaders that we must be tolerant and understanding of those who behave or believe differently from the rest of us. To a point, I agree. But when our young people become targets of opportunity, the line must be drawn.

Tolerance is a two-edged sword. The more tolerant we become, the more we will be expected to tolerate in the future. I don't know about you, but I'm done with being tolerant. I want my country back.

To Alan Burkhart,

Your article Madeleine McCann Mystery Highlights Modern Day Barbarism was very well written. All those cases of children being abused is sad, but your solutions seem very lacking. First of all you say that immigration needs to be tightened, e.g. the US-Mexico border. Automatically you suggest that American children are more important than Mexican children because, if sexual predators can't move from Mexico to America then they will stay and abuse children in Mexico. This would only be preferable if Mexican children are worth less than American children. Secondly, this solution suggests that Mexicans are more likely to harm children than Americans are. It is certainly possible that a Mexican migrant crossing the border may be a child molestor, but it is also possible that a baby born in the US will grow up to be a child molestor as well. So why stop at banning immigration, why not ban childbirth altogether?

You also say that America must return to the moral and societal norms of the past. You say, "Our proud nation survived a brutal civil war and broke the chains of slavery. We fought and won two major wars against totalitarianism and later broke the back of the Soviet Union." In other words, this country emerged as a force against dictatorship to preserve freedom. Child molestation and pedophilia occur because of too much freedom. In most countries, stories involving children being raped is illegal, but in America it is protected by the constitution. Pedophiles are allowed to organize, spread their views, and do anything they please so long as they don't actually have sex with children. All this is protected by the Supreme Court.

You want a society of morality and social norms, but in order to enforce and maintain morality and social norms you need force, you need totalitarianism. You needs cameras monitoring children 24 hours a day. Yet this is exactly the things that America was formed to prevent. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

What is the Price You'd Pay for Financial Security?

There are many sites on the Internet that tell you that being financially secure means you have to save up heaps and cut your costs. This is all fairly obvious. Many of these sites offer many creative ideas on how to lower expenses, such as reusing old newspapers as Christmas wrapping paper. A lot of these thrift sites seem to promote a simple life (no relation to the Paris Hilton show) consisting of serene and harmonious things like meditation and reusing clothes. However, achieving financial security and achieving it fast, in my opinion, is not as serene and happy as these thrift gurus pretend it is. I will list below some proven behavioral changes you will need to make to achieve financial security fast. These points I make here tend to be mistakes that most people make on their quest for financial security

1. Don't Have Children
Depending on whether you want to pamper your child or deprive her (e.g. send her to an elite private school or just dump her in some government school) an extra child will cost you from $250,000 to $1,000,000 throughout your life. Many people might think, "Aww, but I love children! They're so cute!" This is understandable as humans evolved to propagate their genes and evolution has preserved within us a desire for children to encourage us to propagate our genes. In other words, we were made to make children. Since we were made to make children, we have to do it, right? Not necessarily. The average person's thirst for children can be quenched at a lower cost. I call this concept finding a low cost substitute. Let me move from children and talk about something else so that I can make an analogy. I will talk about cars. Unless you live right next to work, everyone needs a car to travel. However, why buy a Ferrari F430 for $250,000 when you can buy a Toyota Camry for $30,000? Substitute the expensive Ferrari for the lower cost Camry and save money. The same concept applies to children. Instead of producing your own children, derive pleasure from other people's children. E.g. find another couple that has a child and simply pretend that their child is your child. This will feed your biological desire for nurturing or protecting or whatever at a lower cost. Because you can easily switch from one child to another, this technique also benefits from financial diversification. If you invest only in BHP shares and BHP share prices nosedive the next day, you've lost everything. However, if you don't put all your eggs in one basket and instead buy shares in BHP and, say, ABC, then if your BHP investment stuffs up then you still have ABC shares that may do well. Applying this concept to children, if you pretend that the Joneses' child is yours and if the Joneses' child later turns out to be really evil (e.g. his favorite hobby is smearing his feces on the wall) then simply walk out and go to the Changs' child. Satiating your desire for children by pretending that other people's children are your children is a good idea, but a better idea is to start your own childcare centre. Either run one yourself if you have nothing better to do or at least own one and get someone else to manage it. This way you get a huge pool of children and it will seem like you have a really huge family. Plus you'll be earning money.

2. Live With Mommy and Daddy
Consider moving out of your parents home only when they pass away. For most people this means moving out at about 40. The benefits of living with your parents are obvious. If your parents are nice enough, and most are, then they will give you free accomodation, free food, free water, free gas, free electricity, free broadband connection, free phone line, and many other free goodies. They will pretty much cover all your living expenses so that you can direct all the money you earn into your investments.

There are usually exceptions to rules, and there are many exceptions here. Suppose you live in Australia and you get a job in America or Japan. Then you have no choice but to move out of your parents home. But even if you get a job in the city and your parents' home is all the way in the suburbs, you might want to consider renting or buying an apartment in the city if the cost of commuting everyday is too high. This will all depend on individual circumstances.

I should also mention the negatives. Living with your parents may not be a good idea if your parents are just bad parents. For example, maybe the food they are serving you is too fatty and unhealthy. In the long run this might inflate your medical bills. You also have to be wary of any resentment your parents might have. If you stay for too long they might think you're exploiting them. To fix this you will need to apply some marketing skills. Many parents produce offspring because they want to nurture and protect a child, but if you become an adult and start acting too much like an adult then they can't do these things. Perhaps by acting a little bit like a child you can earn more love from your parents. But perhaps not. As the wise Aristotle said, "Bashfulness is an ornament on children, but a reproach to old age." In other words, a kid actings like a kid is cute, but an adult acting like a kid is just sad. Use your own discretion.

Another problem I find with living with parents is that it is just too comfortable. Basically, if you're in the city, everyone around you is running around and getting things done. People on the streets are honking their horns and screaming, eager to get somewhere to get something done. This sort of environment and atmosphere heightens your concentration and increases your productivity. However, if you commute from the city to the peaceful suburbs and come home to a nice fine meal and sit on the sofa to watch another episode of the Simpsons then that high-productivity atmosphere and environment vanishes. You'll want to laze around, sleep in all day, do the gardening, and spy on the neighbours. Basically, you get nothing done.

3. Drive a Second-Hand Car
Never ever buy a new car. Many people say, "I can afford it, so I'll do it!" It doesn't matter if you have enough money to buy it because the cheaper you car is the more you can put into your investments. Ideally if you want to achieve financial security fast you need to put into your investments as much as possible as quickly as possible.

What is wrong with a new car? The reason why a new car is a financial deathtrap is because of its rate of depreciation. After you drive your new car out from the show room, about $3000 or so of its value will vanish into thin air and from then it will rapidly depreciate because dealers are constantly cutting the costs of their new cars to clear inventory. The best things to do is to buy a second-hand car. I always look for a car that's about AU$5000 to AU$7000. It'll usually be about ten years old. Many people think that because I buy ten-year-old cars I am getting a crappy bombs that will break down the minute I touch them. The reality is that if you choose wisely and have your second-hand car inspected by a third-party mechanic (e.g. RACV) it will likely run just as well as a new car.

Many people in the market for second-hand cars look around, notice that cars like Toyotas are more expensive than prestige cars like Mercedes, and then think, "Well, if I can buy a Toyota for about the same price as a Merc then why not just get a Merc?" They want the snob value for low cost. I have noticed this around and I think it is because many years ago Mercedes decided to cut costs to increase profits and as a result their quality suffered big time. Toyota, on the other hand, is usually consistent in terms of car quality according to the JD Power and Asociates survey, and so most customers may feel comfortable buying second-hand Toyotas. Furthermore, common cars like Toyotas tend to have cheaper parts whereas exotic cars like a Mercedes CLS will need expensive imported parts. Cost of repairs of prestige cars will usually be high as well.

Before I spoke about not having children. Buying a second-hand car is a lot like not having children. A car is just a like a child. They can be lovely and you can be proud of them. There are also downsides. They can be unreliable, they can be noisy, they are expensive, you have to wash them, you have to maintain them, you have to repair them, and as they get old their value drops (i.e. they depreciate). Earlier I recommended not having a child and instead enjoying other people's children. This is similar to getting a second-hand car. Instead of producing a new child you get satisfaction from a second-hand child, i.e. another person's child. It may not be a perfect substitute but it will satisfy your biological needs. Likewise, a second-hand Camry may not be a perfect substitute for a brand new Ferrari but it will satisfy your transport needs.

4. Don't Get Married
Marriage looks lovely on TV. Couples stay with each other through all obstacles, each one giving selflessly to the other. The man rescues the woman when she is in trouble, and when he does this there is smooth uplifting music in the background and the action is done in slow motion to emphasize its significance. Unfortunately, real life is often nothing like that. Real life is a lot more sterile, a lot more boring, and a lot messier. In most rich countries, about 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce and with divorce comes bitter court battles and high family lawyer fees. If you're a rich person marrying a poor person, you could lose a lot. There are many gold diggers out there who marry only for the cash. They are the ones who win from marriage because, by marrying someone richer, they lock in the wealth.

Wedding ceremonies tend to be very expensive. I'm not talking about $6 million weddings like the James Packer's wedding with celebrities like Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes and even Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Chen. Statistically, your average wedding costs $21,000. Many females will also demand the man buy her a diamond ring, which will set you back even more.

Of course, the desire for marriage is like the desire for having children. Sometimes you get lonely. You drift through university and work with a lot of stress. You feel isolated and depressed. You feel worthless and insignificant. Scientists will convinced you that you're just another animal. The physicians will say you're just a lump of chemicals, tissues, and organs. Economists will say you're not even a human. You are a Homo economicus, a machine-like consumer, one small and insignificant part in the capitalist machine. The halls of academia paint a bleak picture of humanity. You are nothing, and you are worthless. So what is the solution to this problem? Sadly, there is none. At least, there is none I can think of. Except maybe one: delusion. There is where religion, marriage, etc comes in. I'd better move on to the next topic before I stumble into an abyss of nihilism and fatalism, which of course leads to nowhere except suicide.

Some people marry because they have sexual thirsts they need to quench. However, you don't need to marry to quench your sexual thirst. You can simply seek the services of a prostitute. Some people argue that prostitutes are more expensive, but you don't need to get a prostitute. If you have the ability to convince a female to marry you then you should have the ability to convince a female to be your girlfriend, and from this girlfriend-boyfriend relationship comes sexual activity. Many men, however, say that after marriage, sexual interest dies.

Seeking the services of a prostitute can be expensive, so a very cheap way of quenching sexual thirst is to do it yourself using your own hands. I won't say anymore as I believe this discussion is starting to get X-rated and I want to keep things clean because I don't want to offend too many people.

I have spoken about explicit after-marriage costs like weddings and children, but there are also significant before-marriage costs. Basically, to get marriged you have to show to a female that you are worthy of marriage. The same applies to males. For males, signalling to the female that you are worthy of marriage usually requires costly investment in status symbols like prestige cars. If you have no desire for marriage then the need to project status symbols may dimininish and this will lower living expenses. However, even after marriage many people go on projecting status symbols. Some might argue that marriage and children are status symbols themselves or at least most people use marriage and children as status symbols. For example, I spoke to my brother about not getting married and not having children to lower costs and he said to me, "So you're going to live like a loser?" Basically, he thinks that being a winner means you have a trophy wife and a couple of kids as well as a big house, a prestige car in the driveway, etc. This mindset I'm sure is ingrained into the minds of just about everyone. If you switch to a life of thrift, virtually everyone you meet will put you down. You are only human and being the victim of other people's negative opinions might lower your self-esteem. How do you fix this problem? Well, one way to give yourself a confidence boost is to remember that even if you don't have a trophy wife or other status symbols, you have saved heaps of money by depriving yourself of these things, and that money in the bank should make you happy. Remember there is a big difference between looking rich and actually being rich.

5. Work Heaps
When it comes to education, keep moving up the education ladder until you can take no more. After high school, go to university and get a Bachelors degree. It is better to work while you study but if this is going to reduce your grades then consider not working as much. When selecting a university, look at THES (Times Higher Educaton Supplement) rankings and go to the most elite university you can get yourself into. Get your Bachelors degree, then get your Masters degree, and then get a job. Don't get a PhD as usually it's not worth it. A Masters degree costs only one year and it increases your wage quite a bit. A PhD increases your wage but only by a little bit and it costs three years minimum to get. I wouldn't bother. Occupations like physician, lawyer, engineering, and finance tend to have higher pay, but be careful about generalizations and shoddy advice from friends and family. Do your own careful research on the Internet. I can't provide any here as labor market conditions change constantly (e.g. studying computer science may have been lucrative in 1999 but after the dot-com bubble burst it is not as lucrative anymore). Analyze the census statistics as well as graduate destination surveys. Don't think, "Oh, yeah, scientists wear nice lab coats so they must get paid heaps!" or "Mathematics is so difficult! I bet being a mathematician is a high-paying job!" If you are unable to get into university or if you are unable to get a Masters degree after you've gotten a Bachelors degree, there's nothing to worry about because it doesn't matter that much. You won't be able to earn as much, but you will have the advantage of getting into the labor market earlier.

Once you get a job, work heaps. If you are a physician or investment banker then that will be no problem because you will pretty much be forced to work almost 24 hours a day. If you have a more comfortable job with normal 40 hour weeks, i.e. nine to five Mondays to Fridays, then consider getting a second job. What matters when getting a second job is that you don't get a job that is too stressful. If your normal job is stressful as it is and you sign up for even more stress then that can't be good on your health. If you are, say, a statistician who works 40 hours a week then consider also working as a keyboard operator and work six in the afternoon until about ten at night from Mondays to Fridays. Right after you finish your day job as a statistician you drive to your second area of employment and do your night job. Then you go home, sleep, and come back to work. Throughout your weekdays you will do nothing but eat, sleep, and work. On the weekend consider getting a job as a junk mail distributor, i.e. a walker. You walk around people's neighborhoods and stuff junk mail into their letterboxes. This I find is excellent as a way to make a little extra cash on the side. Plus walking around on the weekends admiring people's houses and cars is very pleasant and theraputic. It lowers stress as well as giving you exercise.

Work as much as possible, but consider your health. You should get about eight hours of sleep every day, you should try to get into a habit of eating healthy food, and you should mix your jobs so that you don't do too much of something too stressful. When choosing jobs, it's good to increase your wage rate, but many people forget that simply by working more hours they can make more money. If the employer doesn't allow you to increase your hours, just get another job.

6. Invest Heaps
Set up your bank account so that as soon as your pay is sent in it automatically gets transferred to some investment account. By depriving yourself quickly you reduce the desire to spend money. What do you invest in? Many people like to invest in property. They get a mortgage and watch the house price rise. Plus they get rental income. There is a huge shares versus property debate and I am a fence sitter, even though I invest in shares. I don't invest in shares directly. I recommend you put your money into a managed fund or an index fund. These tend to give you a 10 per cent rate of return per year. Which managed fund you should use is up to you, but I recommend an index fund that tracks an S&P index, e.g. the S&P500 or the S&P/ASX 300. You might want to put some money into shares and some into property. You might want to get a margin loan to get even more money while being exposed to more risk. If you're uncertain about invesment, play it safe by putting all your money into a widely diversified index fund. Otherwise, talk to a financial advisor.

To sum it up, in order to achieve financial security as quickly as possible, you must live like a bum. Live as if you have no money, work as much as possible, and invest most if not all of your money.

Job Earnings in Australia

When most young people decide what career they want to pursue often they think about how much money they will be earning. For a lot of people, guesses of how much money they will make is based on imagery. For example, specialist medical practitioners are paid the highest in this survey, and many people know this. However, physicians tend to look a lot like medical scientists, podiatrists, and chiropractors. They all work in medical health or biology and they all wear white coats, and so I have met many science students and podiatry students who genuinely believe they will grow up to earn big bucks like the physicians do. A quick look at the earnings table below will reveal otherwise. That'll teach them for being so superficial.

19 June 2007

Brendan Keilar Dead after Melbourne Shooting

FRIENDS of solicitor Brendan Keilar, gunned down as he tried to rescue model Kara Douglas as she was being assaulted, say his last act was typically brave and selfless.

Mr Keilar, 43, was on his way to work when he came across a man dragging Ms Douglas from a cab by the hair in central Melbourne during the morning peak yesterday.

In the blink of an eye the man pulled out a gun and opened fire, fatally wounding Mr Keilar and seriously injuring Ms Douglas and a second, unidentified man who also went to assist.

The father of three died despite the efforts of paramedics, who fought for an hour to revive him at the scene.

Mr Keilar's family gathered at his Hawthorn East home to comfort his widow, Alice, son Charlie, eight, and daughters Phoebe and Lucy, aged six and four, The Herald Sun reported today.

Brendan Keilar grew up in Warrnambool, in Victoria's south-west. He was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1988 after completing law and commerce degrees at the University of Melbourne, Fairfax newspapers reported.

He was a partner at commercial legal firm Norton Gledhill and specialised in property law.

Mr Keilar was also a member of the University Blacks football club. The club's reserves coach, Justin Gray, said his friend was a fearless rover for the team in the 1980s and naturally showed the same fearlessness yesterday.

"That is exactly the sort of thing you would expect him to do," he told the Herald Sun.

"He was caring for others. He always came to the fore."

Source: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21930003-1702,00.html

Sexual Nationalism and Pedophile Nationalism

One of the arguments for nationalism is that if you allow different groups to live together then conflict will erupt. For example, Jews and Muslims living in the Middle East just don't seem to get along. The answer, according to nationalists is to divide people up so they can live among their "own people." Jews live among Jews and Muslims live among Muslims.

Every day I hear about homophobia. Most people in the world are religious and most people tend to follow an Abrahamic religion, i.e. Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Abrahamic religions all seem to denounce homosexuality. Throughout history this has been the case. Sometimes I wonder why so many Christians hate homosexuals because it seems to go against the teachings of Christ of the New Testament who taught about love and tolerance, etc. But anyway, because of the influence of the Abrahamic religion, it is probably not surprising that many people are homophobic.

If Jews and Muslims can't get along and the answer is to separate them into their own nations, then why don't we apply the same concept to the conflict between homosexuals and heterosexuals? If homosexuals and heterosexuals cannot get along then why not just create a separate nation for homosexuals? Maybe slowly change an existing nation (e.g. America) into one that is fully tolerant of homosexuals or establish a country where homosexuality is actively practiced and is declared as the state sexual orientation.

There are many pedophile activists around and many pro-pedophile organizations like NAMBLA. Pedophile activism has created a lot of controversy, as you can imagine. There are websites like Perverted Justice that tries to bait pedophiles and shame them using public humiliation. Another site that I think is strong on child protection is Warriors for Innocence. These people claim that they are the "only thing that stands between evil and the innocent." Pedophiles can be divided into two groups: those who are attracted to little boys and those who are attracted to little girls. The former are labelled boylovers, and there is a wiki available called BoyWiki that, according to the site, is designed to "record and preserve our own history, culture, and heritage." This sort of language is very similar to the language of other nationalists.

Given that there seems to be so much conflict between pro-pedophiles and anti-pedophiles, why not just allow pedophiles to have their own country where they can do whatever they want? This may not work because, for most people, even just the thought that a child in another country is abused causes discomfort. However, even a Muslim who believes that some child in Israel is reading the Torah instead of the Koran might be uncomfortable as well, so if nationalism applies to religion then why shouldn't it apply to sexual orientation?

Update 3/7/2007:
What I would like to know is how pedophile nationalism fits into Christian morality. The bible says that followers must submit themselves to the authorities. Romans 13 says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong." In other words, do what the government does. However, what if the government in power is corrupt. Does a Christian have to submit to the power of a dictatorship? No, because there are exceptions to this rule of following the government. Acts 5:29 says, "We must obey God rather than men." Therefore, if any country were formed that supports pedophilia and child molestation, Christian citizens can refuse to submit to it if pedophilia is forbidden by God. But is it? Does the bible condemn pedophilia? According to Positive Liberty, the bible does not actually condemn pedophilia. However, even though the bible doesn't explicitly condemn pedophilia, it does condemn fornication and sins of the flesh, which would include pedophilia.

Update 3/12/07:
Note that this entry is not pro-pedophilia. It is an exercise in reductio ad absurdum that highlights how silly nationalism is.

Image: Girl is Alice Liddell, photograph by Lewis Carroll

18 June 2007

What is Real Culture?

I spoke to someone named Lupus who said the following:
The goal of the capitalist/liberal democracy method is commerce. Culture, heritage and language are assimilated and blended out with this method. The final output of a civilization that only exists for commerce is a monoculture whose highest purpose is to consume.

Basically, he thinks that commercialism is destroying culture, which he doesn't like. My understand of culture is that it is the set of characteristics of a group of people. Suppose we had a capitalist or libertarian system whereby private property is defended, individual rights are defended, free trade is defended, and so on. I would think this would be the perfect political system for the preservation of any culture. This is because if there is any demand for a certain culture by consumers then because of economic interests there will likely be businesses willing to supply that culture. The American nation-state is not absolutely perfectly capitalistic but it is relative to other nation-states, so I will use it as an example. In America there is rich and diverse culture, e.g. hip hop culture, classical music culture, homosexual culture, and even pedophile culture. I doubt this sort of diversity and level of cultural preservation would exist in a totalitarian communist state because people are not free to consume as they please, hence some cultures are dead already and because the incentive to produce and supply culture is not there.

Of course, Lupus responded by saying the following:
Culture is not products and services, thus it cannot be marketed, bought, sold and remain genuine culture. Do not confuse modern entertainment and consumerism with any legitimate form of culture. Heritage and language are also not products and services. Culture, heritage and language have always been developed free of charge by countless generations devoting their lives selflessly to build something meaningful, lasting and larger than themselves.

But I don't know. Now that Lupas has said that culture cannot be bought or sold, I don't really understand what culture is now. One definition of culture says it is "the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization." Of course, different definitions say different things.

Take European culture. European culture is the attitudes and behavior characteristic of Europeans. So take the actions, attitudes, behavior, traditions, etc of all Europeans, find some similarities, and that is European culture. Now take homosexual culture. Using the same approach, homosexual culture or gay culture is the attitudes and behavior characteristic of gay people. So take the actions, attitudes, behavior, traditions, etc of all gay people, find some similarities, and that is gay culture. Gay culture may include things like mardi gras and different sexual positions just as European culture may include the teachings of Plato and other Ancient Greeks. In fact, there may be overlap as many Ancient Greeks were homosexual and Ancient Greek philosophers and great thinkers were known to practice pederasty, i.e. sex with young boys. So my main argument is what constitutes real culture? How do you distinguish between real meaningful culture and "entertainment or hedonism"? I have just shown how homosexual culture has all the characteristics I think are necessary for a culture.

Questioning Nationalism

Some people label themselves nationalists, which means they believe in the significance and value of the nation. What I want to know is what is the nation? Is it defined by genetics, traditions, political power, or a mixture of many things, and if a mixture then what weighting is given to each component? E.g. to be black do you need to have, say, skin lightness that refracts a certain amount of light plus willingness to practice some ritual or custom? Are nations just subjective definitions or are nations ingrained in reality?

Living organisms can be categorized at many levels. E.g. You have species, subspecies, and sub-sub-species, and you can continually divide humans until you reach a terminal level, the individual. Suppose the ideal of nationalism is achieved, i.e. a nation is segregated and allowed to exist by itself. Within that nation there are subnations and each of those subnations may then assert their uniqueness and each subnation will have sub-sub-nations ad infinitum. It seems then that nations are just a subjective and arbitrary way of categorizing humanity when what seems to be the case is that we are just a bunch of individuals. This idea of us humans being just a bunch of individuals fits well within the capitalist and libertarian political systems that dominate the world today.

I'd also like to ask another question, and this is in reference to ethnic nationalism, the idea that ethnic groups are significant. Did God make ethnic groups or did they evolve? Suppose they evolved. If so, say, the Tibetan ethnic groups may be a recent phenomenon because of evolution. But many scientists say that before many Asians and European people were around their ancestors were dark-skinned people from Africa. Before these dark-skinned Africans, humans were non-human apes and going back even further in time we were bacteria. Many people say things like "I am 1/2 Mexican" but that assumes that your nationality or ethnicity is defined by your parents one generation back. If you say you are "1/4 Mexican" then that assumes that your nationality or ethnicity is defined by your grandparents two generations back. But the decision to define ethnicity based on x generations back is arbitrary. You could easily just choose 100 or 10,000 or more generations back and say something like "I am 1/100,000,000 e coli bacterium." Before we were humans we may have been some sort of ape and that species of ape may have had subspecies and ethnic groups as well, so do you go back to when we were ape and define your ethnicity according to the ethnicities of these apes?

17 June 2007

Web Addiction can Decrease Attention Span

I have already spoke about how TV can lower attention span but it seems as if surfing the Internet can have the same effect.

"If you are spending too much time on the internet and are concerned that it is affecting your concentration, you are not alone.

"The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds - the same as a goldfish."

"'Our attention span gets affected by the way we do things,' says Ted Selker, an expert in the online equivalent of body language at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US."

See Turning into Digital Goldfish

TV Linked with Reduced Attention Span in Children

A pediatric study has found a link between watching TV and short attention span in children.

See Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children -- Christakis et al. 113 (4): 708 -- Pediatrics

14 June 2007

How Immigration Connects with Standard Economics

I said the following to a friend: "Thinking abstractly, you moving out of your house to go shopping is immigration since nation-states are mere legal entities that have no effect on the economics."

He didn't understand me, so now I will explain this idea more clearly in this post.

Firstly, think about you going out to the mall or a shop and buying something. Why do you do this? Why buy an apple from the mall instead of growing your own apples? The answer is because of the law of comparative advantage. If I grew my own apple then it's too expensive. It's better to let someone else specialize in making apples. You buy the apply using money you get form specializing in something else, whether it's being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.

This is why existence of barriers to trade can be harmful. Suppose there is a wall or border around your house preventing you from buying apples. Then the cost of getting apples from someone else rises and it becomes cheaper for you to make your own apples. Then you do something you are not specialized in, which damages your production of your core tasks. E.g. if I am an accountant then all the time I put into growing my own apples will mean I have to work less as an accountant which means my overall wealth decreases.

Just scale this concept up a bit and it applies to immigration and outsourcing. Banning immigration means drawing a line somewhere and stopping people moving.

Many people argue that immigration can cause certain groups of people to lose and this is true. Wages can change, but this is all part of the free trade process. For example, today we see many car companies, Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, etc. Suppose only one existed. Suppose only Ford existed. Because Ford has no competition, it can lower quality and increase prices with little effect on profitability. If the Government created cars then this is communism. Now suppose other companies were allowed to compete. Will this lower wages? Yes, those working for Ford will suffer from lower wages. The same applies for immigration or outsourcing except we think not about cars as commodities but human labor as the commodity. Immigration restriction is a form of protectionism.

12 June 2007

Volkswagon Lupo Versus Toyota Prius

In terms of fuel efficiency, the Prius is not the best. This is because although the Prius drinks 4.4L/100km, the Volkswagon Lupo 1.2L turbo diesel consumes 3.0L/100km. However, although the Prius is classified as a midsized car, the Lupo is a supermini. The length of a Lupo (3529mm) is about one meter less than that of a Prius (4450mm). The kerb weight of a Lupo is 854kg compared to the Prius's weight of 1325kg, which makes the Lupo less safe. Although the Prius received a five-star Euro NCAP rating the Lupo recieved a still respectable four-star rating.

10 June 2007

Problems with Hydrogen Cars

One of the problems with hydrogen is the availability. If you had a hydrogen car today, virtually no service station has hydrogen available. Plug-in electric cars, however, can be plugged into a power point at home.

Hydrogen also has low energy density. Ten liters of petrol will bring a sedan 100km but 16 liters of LPG is needed to bring the same car the same distance. Even more hydrogen is needed, which means bigger tanks. This presents a major problem in terms of carrying the stuff in your car as well as transporting it one trucks from one place to another. Solutions to the problem include compression of the hydrogen, but that will create more emissions.

Hydrogen is also scarce and is usually made from electrolysis of water, which requires electricity, which usually requires coal, which produces emissions. Many scientists believe converting electricity to hydrogen, compressing it, distributing it, and then passing it through a fuel cell again to create electricity is a lot more wasteful than simply bringing the electricity straight from the power plant into an electric car.

06 June 2007

Cap'n Awesome's Criticism of Buddhism

Cap'n Awesome criticizes Buddhism in the video above, but I will detail below flaws with his argument. I am not religious myself. I am non-religion like Captain Awesome is. Watch the video first before reading anything below.

That rich countries on average have higher happiness than poor countries does not prove that more money makes you happy. Correlation does not imply causation.

Also, many poor people may be unhappy with their poverty because they have an attachment or desire for material goods. They may witness richer people and envy them. Had they not had any attachment to wealth they wouldn't be bothered. Captain Awesome simply assumed that all poor people were not attached to wealth.

Captain Awesome says that in Cambodia the state religion is Buddhism. He then says that Cambodia is filled with war, etc. But of course this does not prove that Buddhism caused those wars. Remember the Simpsons? Homer sets up a bear patrol and observes no bears in the neighborhood. Therefore, he concludes, the bear patrol must be working.

Captain Awesome then says that Thailand is well known for its child sex trade and then says "Buddhism is doing so well to suppress that." He seems to be suggesting that the presence of Buddhism causes the child sex trade. Once again this is confusing correlation for causation.

Then Captain Awesome says that some people in Tibet can't get medicine and says that Buddhism is the cause of this. It could be many other reasons, e.g. lack of ports, influence from China, etc, yet he just points the finger at Buddhism. Once again, using the Simpsons, it's like saying some rock lying on the ground is the reason why Homer's bear patrol works.

He then goes on about Buddhist theocracies. This argument is pretty much: Here are some evil Buddhists. Therefore, Buddhism is evil. Quite simply, he hasn't made a distinction between Buddhists and Buddhism. Anyone can call himself a Buddhist. For example, I may be a mathematician who claims that 1+1=2. Then all of a sudden I go into a milk bar and shoot innocent people. Then someone says the following: "Mathematicians are evil and wrong. The mathematician who said that 1+1=2 went into a milk bar and murdered innocent people. Therefore, mathematics is evil and 1+1 is not 2." My point is that the actions of a mathematician have nothing to do with mathematics itself. Likewise, the actions of a Buddhist don't have anything to do with the philosophy of Buddhism.

05 June 2007

Prius v. Hummer

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."
- Bertrand Russell

An average sedan consumes about 10 liters of petrol per 100km traveled. A small car does about 7 liters. The Toyota Prius hybrid car, however, has a rated fuel efficiency of 4.4 liters per 100km. Even though it has low fuel consumption, the Prius in Australia is priced at $37,000. This means that it is about double the price of a Yaris. The Prius then is not exactly a mainstream car like the Corolla is. Research by J.D. Power shows that the average Prius buyer's income is over $100,000 and this suggests an intention by Toyota to sell the car as a environmental status symbol for the wealthy.

The Prius has been popular among celebrities. Titanic star Leonardo Di Caprio says, "I own a Toyota Prius; it's a step in the right direction. It's a gasoline-electric midsize car that gets about 50 miles per gallon. We have the technology to make every car produced in America today just as clean, cheap and efficient." Cameron Diaz says, "It gets 52 miles per gallon. In the city. Isn't that exciting?" Other celebrity Prius drivers include Alicia Silverstone, Billy Crystal, Billy Joel, Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Ellen DeGeneres, Ewan McGregor, Harrison Ford, Jack Black, Jack Nicholson, Larry David, Kevin Bacon, Kirk Douglas, Kurt Russell, Patricia Arquette, Prince Charles, Robin Williams, Salma Hayek, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Ted Danson, Tom Hanks, and Woody Harrelson.

Some time ago, a study by CNW Marketing Research claimed that the Toyota Prius hybrid car is more environmentally harmful than the Hummer SUV. The study claims that the Prius only lasts for about 100,000 miles whereas the apparently more durable Hummer lasts over 300,000 miles, meaning its environmental costs are spread out more over its lifetime.

According to the study, the Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles while the Hummer costs $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles.

This is all very perplexing because I remember reading a paper in which Toyota expects the batteries to last the life of the car and to date not one battery has been replaced.

"Toyota claims that not one has required a battery replacement due to malfunction or 'wearing out.' The only replacement batteries sold--at the retail price of $3000--have been for cars that were involved in accidents. Toyota further claims that the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery packs used in all Prius models are expected to last the life of the car with very little to no degradation in power capability.

"According to Toyota, the life of the Prius battery pack is determined more by mileage than by time, and it has been tested to 180,000 miles. Supporting this are first- and second-generation Prius taxis in Canada that have reportedly traveled more than 200,000 miles without suffering any battery problems."

Source: http://consumerguideauto.howstuffworks.com/...

"Toyota have lab data showing the Prius battery can do 290,000km of normal driving with absolutely no degradation of the battery’s performance. To give some real life examples, there is a Taxi driver from British Columbia, Jatinder Parhar, who has done over 410,000km in his Prius Taxi and has had to do nothing to his Prius other than standard servicing. Toyota has sold over 500,000 Generation II and III Prius worldwide and say they have never had to supply a battery pack for replacement due to wear and tear. Given all this, the price of a replacement battery is probably irrelevant, however in the extremely unlikely event you needed to replace the battery in your Prius, current cost, at time of writing (Oct 2006), is NZ$3900.00 for a Generation II Prius and NZ$2700 for a Generation III Prius. However this is coming down all the time."

Source: http://www.cleangreencar.co.nz/page/faq-prius

So of course we'll just have to wait and see whether some taxi can clock more than 300,000 miles. The Prius taxi in Canada has done 410,000km, which is 254,901 miles.

The CNW Marketing study stated that the Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles and the Hummer costed $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. Assuming that the Prius taxi with over 200,000 miles on the odometer was not an anomaly and that its results are representative, then the initial reported cost of the Prius of $3.25 per mile assuming 100,000 expected lifespan would now be $1.63 per mile assuming the Prius can last till 200,000 miles (which it has done). At $1.63 the Prius is better environmentally than the Hummer. However, if the Hummer lasts longer than 300,000 miles then the results change.

As I said, the study that claims Hummers were greener than Priuses was done by CNW Marketing Research. The study did not have any peer review and had no support from mainstream scientific papers. The results of the CNW Marketing Research firm contradict data from MIT and the Argonne National Laboratory (see the Pacific Institute paper).

According to Gleick from the Pacific Institute, "A quick re-analysis with peer-reviewed data leads to completely opposite conclusions: the life-cycle energy requirements of hybrids and smaller cars are far lower than Hummers and other large SUVs."

The CNW study provides no explanation for where they got the assumption that the Prius only lasts for 100,000 miles, so it could be that they just plucked it out of the air or, if you are cynical, selected it to artificially skew the results and conclusions.

The Prius taxi in Canada clocked 410,000km, but I don't know anyone who drives a car until 410,000km. When the RACV does analysis on car operating costs they use 15,000km per year as the number of kilometers done by the average driver. So if we assume that the Prius taxi in Canada is representative of all Priuses then a Prius should last you over 27 years (=410000/15000).

Some people, like Jeremy Clarkson, claim that diesel is better than hybrid. But according to HybridCars.com it is not an either-or situation: "It's technically possible to use a hybrid drivetrain with a diesel engine. In fact, PSA Peugeot Citroën recently showed a diesel-hybrid prototype: the 307 CC Hybride HDi, a compact convertible that gets 70 miles per gallon, about 30 percent better fuel economy than the existing diesel version."

A diesel hybrid truck has been made by Hino and will be available in Australia.

While a diesel's fuel economy is similar to that of hybrids, there are health worries associated with diesel. Studies into pre-1990 diesel engines have found a link between diesel emissions and cancer. Modern diesel engines, however, are cleaner but more stringent regulation from the US EPA means many diesel-engined cars will be banned in the US and maybe other governments will pass similar laws in an effort to improve air quality.

Further Reading:

More on the Prius Taxi:
Cab Driver Passes 400,000km Mark in Prius
Hybrid taxi paid for itself in no time