Ok, I’ll join the fold

Napster was great! It let us stick it to the man by making all music free. Screw the studios, screw the musicians, man, music belongs to the people!

And how awesome are BitTorrent and P2P? Forget about having to save up money for that new CD, DVD or anything else. Now it's freely available to everyone, even before it's officially released. Democracy of digital media, man. To hell with the days of people making a living producing media. Power to the people!

Didn't you hear? It's talk like a pirate day.

The 10 Million Dollar Question

What would you do if you won $10 million, after taxes. I've seen this on a few people's journals, and feel compelled to answer.

First off, I would not make it public knowledge. I would wait as long as possible before telling even my closest friends or family. Partially to give myself time to adjust to the change before dealing with other people's reactions, and partly to make sure it had as little impact on how people treat me as possible. Once I did start spending the money, however, it would probably go something like this:

  • $2 million to buy a house for my mom to live in. This would include about $1 million to buy a nice estate in Shingle Spring (like this one, this one, this one, or this one) and another $1 million in a joint savings account, the interest on which she could use to pay for housekeeping, gardening, maintenance, and such. After the life she's lived, she deserves to spend her last few decades in style.

  • $1 million to buy a home in the bay area for myself to live in. Although I would have to hunt for quite some time to find one that I really, really liked, since I still think that's a disgusting amount of money to spend on a home, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere *too* ritzy-looking. And my options might be a little limited, since I would still want to live within bike riding distance of work.

  • $500,000 would be dedicated for stuff that would make me happy. This includes paying off my debt, upgrading the hell out of my electronics, visiting Italy, Australia, and a few other places, and paying off the credit card debt of several people I know whose lives would be imminently more satisfying if they didn't have that weight around their neck (this includes my family and several friends).

  • $500,000 would go into a savings account to be used for paying off my nieces/nephews (and kids, should that ever happen) college fees. Although they and their parents would not be informed of this until they were already in college, and they would not have access to the money until after they had completed their degree. The last thing I want is for the next generation of my family to grow up spoiled and never work an honest job because they didn't have to. If they want to go to college, they'll still have to bust their ass to do it, so they're not just pissing away the money and not really paying attention, like several rich kids I know. But at the same time, they wouldn't have to abandon their college plans for fear of lifetime debt, like I did.

  • $1 million would go into a savings account, so that I could live off of the interest. This would be supplemental income, since I would not want to quit my job. I might eventually decide to use this fund as a nest egg for starting my own company, but for at least the next several years I'd want to keep working at eBay, since I get a lot of personal satisfaction from helping small business succeed, and working at eBay is a great way to contribute to that goal.

  • The remaining $5 million would go into a separate savings account, with the interest from that account being donated to whatever charity or worthy cause I decide to support each year. And, of course, the amount in that account would probably go down steadily year to year, as I am unable to resist donating more than just the interest amount to particular causes I hear about on NPR or through friends (I have a hunch both of the Alison's would inspire me quite a bit in this area).

What have we learned from this experience? Housing and credit card debt are the two biggest money sinks in most people's lives. Remove those, and most people can support themselves without a lot of stress. But beyond that, $10 million is a disgustingly huge amount of money, that no real person could ever really spend on anything worthwhile, beyond charity. Which just makes me sick to think that there are so many people out there for whom $10 million is a small amount. Just think of the good that could be done if people like Bill Gates or George Lucas were to keep $10 million to support their lifestyle and dedicate the remainder of their wealth to solving some of the more fundamental problems in our world.

The more I think about this, the more sick I feel.