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Old 03-31-2008
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They could buy mosquito nets for people dying of malaria. They could provide free HIV medication for anyone who needs it. They could quietly underwrite the arts, support job-skills training for the people their ruthless outsourcing put out of work, endow scholarships for the next generation of citizens. All of the above are tax write-offs as well. As for using a 415 foot yacht for business meetings -- see "rich idiots trying to cow and impress other rich idiots" comment. Real business can be conducted in a corner deli, in a laundromat.

I ain't a fan of Bill Gates, but he and Melinda have done genuine good with their Foundation. On his side, Gates' compadre Paul Allen built the Octopus -- perhaps because his Tatoosh (301 ft) and Meduse (200 ft) just weren't, well, yachty enuf.



Story for you, regards a very high-ranking software honcho. He and trophy wife were building a trophy home (their fourth such mansionette) in Montana. A mere 10,000 sqft, many millions of dollars. They wanted it to feel 'lodgey' -- including interior log facing with the bark left on.

Guy I knew went up there to work as a finish carpenter. Said the owners flew in on one of their jets (had two) to check progress. Looked at the bark in the great room, said "It's a bit too rustic. Take the bark off." So they did. Scraped and varnished the logs. But understanding who they were dealing with, the builders peeled the bark off in order, numbering and stacking each piece.

Owners flew in a couple weeks later, said "It's funny, it looked better with the bark on." So the carpenters glued each piece of bark back in place. "Sixty dollars an hour," is what they chanted to themselves. "They're a**holes, but this bark is putting my kid thru college. Sixty dollars an hour."

It was never about tree bark, or aesthetics. The couple will probably spend one month a year in this lodge. It's about having so much money you can do anything you want on a caprice. Also reminding everyone in the vicinity who holds the aces. For some people, that's a reasonable definition of freedom or happiness. Other people find those qualities in a 10x10 ft cabin they built by hand, or in a gaff-rigged catboat they bought with lawn-mowing money.
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