31 August 2005

Ronald and Me.

I haven't seen the "documentary", but I really want to. Apparently, Spurlock goes on a 30 day McDonald's binge and gains 30 lbs. Everyone I've talked to says it was a pretty gross film.

I bring this up because I am becoming addicted to McDonald's here in Brasil for the following reasons

  • Adds variety to my diet. I didn't see this one coming, but it is true.
  • It is super close to my house and nearly everywhere else I go.
  • The employees at the one near my house are cool. They sing music while working, laugh a lot, smile, are friendly, etc. Generally more energetic than other restaurant alternatives.
  • McDia Feliz
Also, I've had a great time reading this Anti-Spurlock website. I find I tend to enjoy well done anti- sites because they try to debunk well-packaged arguments which, when the audience lacks sufficient information, may become widely accepted even if they are not credible. Here is Q&A with the lady that lost weight on the McD's diet.

Me with Ronald at McD's on McDia Feliz.

I got a shout out from the DJ for being a "gringo." I corrected him with the proper term, "amerioca."

30 August 2005

Juggle for Nothing: Spring 2005 version

This video is a rough cut of my juggling skills as of early this Spring. It shows the extent of my skills and lack thereof. I hope to create another video while in Rio that will show some marked improvements.

NOTE: The download is 4.6 MB, which is compressed from 26 MB, so the quality is a bit low. But you can see the balls, which is really all that matters.

29 August 2005

Beats watching re-runs

Admittantly it is not that exciting unless you like chess, though I've found reading commentary on famous chess games to be an interesting mind exercise. Two examples of such are The Game of the Century and The Immortal Game (A chess board is suggested though java version are available here and here respectively).

Here is an article on why Chinese Chess (XiangQi) is better and a partial rebuttal.

27 August 2005

Stop this horrible injustice.

I have learned a lot of things here in Brazil but this past week I've solved a life-long mystery. It was one of those little mysteries that you don't think about at all most of the time. It usually formed itself in my mind as, "Why do so many people have cigarette burns on their arms?"

I guess being exposed to Terminator II at a young age formed some connection in my mind between round scars and cigarette burns. I was outraged when I saw people with these scars on their arms. Who was going around mutilating the epidermis of so many people? They must be stopped! But until I came to Brazil, seeing some with such a scar was a relatively rare occurence.

I must say, before I arrived here, I was more than a little skeptical of my initial cigarette burn theory. But after a few days in Brazil, I abandoned it completely. Not knowing if it was a social taboo, I eventually gathered the courage to ask some one what the scar was all about.

Turns out it forms in response to the Bacillus of Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine. It is given to millions of children around the world to lower the risk of contracting Tuberculosis. In the more developed world, includingd the US, it is not recommended.

Knowing the truth about the scars did little to squelch my rage directed at those propogating this injustice. I am not arguing against the use of the vaccine, which I assume has saved many lives. I am arguing against the location. To what end are we scarring the beautiful arms of our people? Why not give it in the bum or some other more discrete location? The only responses I could find to these questions were
By convention BCG scars are looked for over the left arm & hence it is easier to recognize for the doctor when parents do not remember whether BCG was given in the past or not.

Reading and interpreting ...[the test] is as much an art as a science. And the results are dependent on many things, one of which is probably the site at which the test is done. If the test is done on thicker, hairier skin it may be more difficult to read and know what the reading means - so to get the best and most useful results it's probably best to have it done on the inside of the forearm.
I was very unimpressed by the "convention" argument because we can easily start a new convention! The second argument at least sounds more reasonable (the scar is one sign that the vaccine worked; a benefit -- not without a cost -- of its being visible). Comments are open for suggestions of alternative sites. How about the side of the hip or inner thigh?

In any event, the scar is so ubiquotous here that it doesn't seem to bother anyone too much. This is a phenomenom that accompanies another massive mutilation technique that will be the topic of a future blog.

25 August 2005


In my ongoing attempts to understand my role in Brasil's opaque social script, I've decided to start learning Xiangqi, or Chinese Chess. Initial observations include

  • There is a whole lot more space than in International Chess
  • It is crazy hard to figure out which pieces are which (all pieces are identified by characters, each team having slightly different ones)
  • I cannot defeat the java program on "too easy" (i.e., the difficulty settings are relative and they are not scaled according to my abilities)
You can play here. If you find a free download, link in the comments section. If you read this and you are not my Mom, Alex Rixey, or Matt Olsen, add a comment so I can get an idea of my readership.

Parabéns, you are still alive

In Brazil the Happy Birthday song (sung to the same tune as ours) is

Parabéns pra você
Nessa data querida
Muitas felicidades
Muitas anos de vida
or in English

Congratulations to you
On this special day
Much happiness
Many years of life
I find it interesting that they congratulate on birthdays, whereas in the US, we just say happy birthday. So instead of wishing well, they acknowledge an accomplishment, namely, survival. My first thought was that this difference was due to culture differences arising from a lower general life expectancy. However, at 71yrs, Brasil does not rank far behind the US at 77yrs. Although when the song was written (shrouded in mystery but probably around the turn of the 20th century), life expectancy in the US was only 49yrs. So that theory can be safely trashed.

So it seems to me that we should use the American version on peoples birthdays, but every year that life expectancy rises we should have a national/world wide singing of the Brasillian version to congratulate the world on its accomplishment.

24 August 2005

Missing the Point

All the work I've done so far for my first Blockbuster novel fits on half a page of unlined paper in the form of a web diagram (The best thing I learned in 4th grade). I've come up with a lot of scenes and even outlined the core themes I would like to address. What I don't have is a reason to write the story in the first place.

According to Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method (which is loosely "based" on fractals), the first step is to
...take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your story. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.
So while I feel like I have the take away message ("think like me, muahahah"), I lack the crucial part that would complete the following dialogue...

Genuinely Curious Guy: "Hey reader of obscure novice literature, whatcha reading?"
Semi-literate Fan: "Shepley's new Blockbuster Thriller!"
Genuinely Curious (soon to be disappointed) Guy: "Oh, yeah! What's it about?"
Semi-literate Fan: "Oh, its about..." *insert Snowflake step 1 here.

Right now I have, "A vacationing professor discovers the secret behind Rio's darkest favela." Needs work... maybe it will receive some.

22 August 2005

How to know if you're a dork...

5. You attempt to calculate profit margins for every service you consume.
4. You ponder the opportunity costs of thinking about opportunity costs.
3. Your idol is Milton Friedman.
2. You hide your Introduction to Stochastic Processes book inside your Compreendo Trabalho para Transforma-ló book, so you can read it during class.
1. You "chat" with your Computer Chess opponent to try to find a weakness.

18 August 2005

Having too many choices is not so bad

Sometimes having just one standard makes life so much easier, one size scale for jeans, one DVD format, one system of messurament, and for goodness sakes, one instant messenging service. It is there, it gets the job done, there is no searching- now doesn't that sound easy?!

Oh my dear readers, it is not so. Life with choice is always better than life without. Choices allow us to support what we desire and complain against what we do not by our mere patronage. And in this case your complaints actually are felt in the suppliers bottom line - a great impetus for change. But we are still left with this difficulty in getting these systems to mesh. How can you stay connected with your friends and family when you have 3 e-mail accounts to check, 3 instant messenging services to log onto, and a work and personal cellphone?

The answer is what I call Multiple Open Source Access Information Consentrated Systems (MOSAICS). In many cases, we already have them. The little plaque at the department store with size comparisons from brand-to-brand, multi-format DVD drives, and trillian for instant messenging.

One problem is that these systems allow people to turn many choices back into one big choice and we start losing the patronage system where the best services wins out. Second-class services will survive longer because they don't "cost" us so much to keep them, but even so their effect is diminished. So long as the MOSAICS can adopt the features of the best services then this shouldn't be a problem at all.

Having too many choices is not so bad

No, this is not going to be one of those rants asking why we need so many brands of everything. If you feel like you have too many choices, let's say in the toothpaste isle, what it really means is that you feel like you are spending too much time looking for toothpaste. There is a simple solution; don't take so long. If you are deciding between three potential contenders, pick the one that is closest to you RIGHT NOW. If it is so hard to decide, it is because the differences between the products (whitening & cavity protection vs. 10x fluoride & tartar control) are so small that your mind is sent into a nearly endless loop of "what if's." Save frustration and do an impulse buy -- its toothpaste after all!!!

17 August 2005

Meninas de Engenharia de Produção

Here I am demonstrating, for the benefit of several classmates, the cognitive shortcomings of group photos. Note that limited cognition transfer of the photo boundary between the affected agents (camera man and photo subjects) elicitates a "scrunching" manuveur in an unnecessary attempt to complete the desired task. This description is not a red herring.

Uses of Barbed Wire #43: Snag unsuspecting students

Ilha de Fundão, the island that comprises UFRJ has an interesting method for promoting academic excellence; make the students feel like cattle. A far cry from the well-kept gardens and wavy brick walls of UVA, here one is well advised to look twice before leaning against a fence.

Barbed wire is always put up for a purpose (if not, why not just use regular wire), typically to deter crossing of the boundary it creates. So I am a little befuddled that a university would decide to use low-level barbed fences for common fences. In fact, some portions of these fences have fallen, so beware where you place your foot as well. Obviously these wires are not fulfilling a current security need, so my first move as self-elected UFRJ grounds keeper would be their immediate removal. But I'm not the grounds-keeper -- nor do I believe this position exists -- so the barbs stay.

Photos would elucidate the obserdity of this easy to fix problem... coming at some indeterminate time in the future.

16 August 2005

Concisely conveying cognition's can Kill

Don't try to read this, unless you are ready for a cognitively complex discussion on cognitively complex systems. Although the paper has some interesting ideas, it is too difficult to read. I believe it could benefit from a thorough trimming, rewording of various individual sentences, reformatting, and so on. This post is just to let off steam.

15 August 2005

Monday Morning Mormon Madness

That's right folks, catch the next metro train to Flamengo porque estamos jogando basquete lá! Just get there around 7am... hold up, did you say 7 A M ?

Hey when you are playing with LDS missionaries, that's when you got to ball it up. But it is certainly worth it, just ask my feet. Luckily Elder Robinson's blisters burst first so I could bow out gracefully and save the pain/face.

It's great having basketball courts in a country where the only sport is soccer because they are always open (unless people are playing soccer on them).

13 August 2005

Are the 80's back?

I don't know if I am ahead or behind the curve on this one because I am kind of sheltered here in Brasil. One thing I am not sheltered from is American music which pervades the airwaves of Rio more than any other local variety. However, utilizing WMP and iTunes radio option, and sadly listening to Top 40, has left me feeling the rhythm of the music has some 80's undertones (I am struck by my inadequecy at describing the sound of music). "Stacy's Mom" and "Cool" come to mind, though the feeling is subtle.

On a similar but different note, I'm not sure when the term "oldies" arose in its present significance, but I certainly remember the term being used in the early 90's. This means it could not have been more than perhaps 15-20 years after those hits from the 60's and 70's (if you consider 70's oldies). Does anyone know the date the term came into use?

Wishes & Rainbows

Alex and I received our first installment of the Federal Reserve Comics. This issue challenges kids (and perhaps older readers) to tackle the problem of unlimited wants in the face of scarce resources. You can order your comics online, as well as many other materials. They are essentially free to you, at a cost to the Fed of about $2.50. If that last sentence was unsettling... good! But rather than feel bad about spending everyone's money on comics, I've ordered a bunch of other materials from the catalog, again at the expense of the Fed, that will help me learn more about the organization. I expect these materials will help me add more value to our society and economy than they cost at the margin, so don't yell at me for spending your tax dollars! In fact, I don't even know how the Federal Reserve is funded... better order some more materials!

11 August 2005

I'm famous...

If you know where to look and you look hard. That's right, a recent article for UFRJ's Polytechnical School features an article about my exchange program (you can almost see me in the photo). If you can't read portuguese, don't sweat it, it contains about the same level of imformation you would expect from a similiar article in America.

10 August 2005

Sweet dreams of chocolate and mathematics

I often that find articulating my dreams to others is a frustrating endeavor because its so difficult to convey the realism without sounding overly passionate. But this is more about dreams in general than the content of my particular dream.

I was at a restaurant in Brasil and was offered some chocolates by a candy vendor who was, incedentally, a sweet, intelligent friend from high school named Katelyn Keefe... hey, dreams are weird. The price was $0.78 for one type and $0.83 for another. I decided, out of pity for my unsucessful colleague, to purchase 5 of each. Arthimetic gives 5*($0.78+$0.83)=$8.05. The cashier in the group (it took three people to sell me a handful of chocolate), asked for "dez reai" which I assumed meant "dez reais" or R$10. I obliged.

I should note that I did not do the calculation of the cost precisely in my dream. In fact, I am wondering if it is even possible to do a problem of this "complexity" in a dream. I knew in the dream that it was going to be less than $10, simply because 10 items for under $1 each will be less than $10. So I had some general deductive powers, but I'm not sure if I had particular mathematical powers. If I were better at mental math would I have been able to do it? Can you use pen and paper in a dream?

In short I felt in the dream as if I deserved change, but the cashier was not forthcoming. Did my friend rip me off? Or was there some unspoken tax? I guess we'll never know because those are questions that can only be answered in terms relative to the particular dream (unless you believe there are universal dream laws...which I highly doubt).

And to top it off it was diet chocolate so I ended up giving it away. Hey, diet chocolate stinks in dreams too!

09 August 2005

Opportunity cost on Copacabana beach

I finally purchased a soccerball last night, ending a 21 year drought between my foot and the most popular sport in the world. So I was quite excited this morning to go out to the beach and start aquainting myself with the physics of the game. It started slow but got a big boost when a walking beach vendor stopped by to kick around with me. I thought we'd mess around for a couple minutes and then he would go back to selling trinkets on the beach. So I was suprised that we kept playing for more than 30 minutes. "Don't you have to work?" was my unspoken question.

I've held back one important detail; it rained last night. And though the sand had dried out, the beaches were still very sparsely populated. So the vendor, named Van, was not losing a lot of business by having a little fun. This is a not benefit afforded Van's office bound equivalents, yet it is also not a number that gets registered into Brasil's GDP or any statistic recording worker benfits. Leisure never does.

The never ending summer(y): Part II

The unspoken norms of brazilian educational culture strike again. Of course a little communication would clear all this up, but that would be too easy. In a previous post, I mentioned the 39-page chapter, 5-page summary I had due for yesterday. Following the example of some other students I observed last week, I wrote out the entire thing. Apparently the rules change for the second week of class where everything is require to be typed. It is interesting to feel like such an outsider in these situations. In the U.S., I would be the one with the summary all nice and typed out and longer than it needed to be. But here I'm lucky I even knew I was supposed to be 5-pages in the first place.

Ethanol vs. Gasoline, Unsolved Mystery

After reading about the inefficiencies of ethanol, but also noting that one of the researchers draws some funds from the oil industry, I decided to search the web for more info. I ended up generally frustrated with the results, though I am not really suprised. Lots of "science" relavent to political hot topics is mired in a jumble of conflicting studies. This is because many studies are conducted at the request and with the funds of special interest groups and lobbies. Since they have the most to gain from convincing the public and Congress, their (mis-)information is what floods the lines. An independent group is both difficult to find and difficult to fund.

So if you've already found some good information on this topic, post the info in the comments, and thank you for reducing my info-gathering costs on this isssue.

07 August 2005

This is one part of the bus that is not going anywhere...

I refer here to the cobrador, which in English is "ticket seller."

Most buses in Rio have both a bus driver and a cobrador. When you get on the bus you pay the cobrador, who then lets you pass through the turnstile at the front of the bus. This system contrasts greatly with my experience in the U.S. There you simply drop you coins into a little machine and go find your seat. Why doesn't Rio (and Brasil in general) use the "U.S." system?

The cobrador has some useful functions

  • He or she is able to make change (usually) if you don't have exact fare.
  • He can help you find out where you need to get off the bus (again, mostly).
  • He can control entrance through the turnstile, essentially enforcing correct payment.
  • He can control the exit doors, which is convenient if you want to get off the bus outside a regular stop, but don't want to distract the driver.
Those benefits sound pretty good. Alas, a free lunch generally does. Unfortunately, the cobradores are not volunteer workers. But I'm not here to say cobradores are a waste of money and that their jobs should be eliminated. Perhaps with cheap labor here, the machines that would replace the cobrador are not cost effective. Though I'd say if an automated coin machine cost less than R$20-25k, it would be probably be profitable to make the switich.

But there is another problem in getting rid of the cobrador. The bus fares are typically R$1.80 to R$2.20. You will almost never have this kind of money available in coinage, because the coins are just not valuable enough. Plus each value of coin in use has an old and new version which can be remarkably different. So you are always going to be dealing with paper money or about 10 different types of coins, something that I don't see a machine handling that well, especially on a bumpy bus. So for now it seems, the cobrador stays.

06 August 2005

Writing my first Blockbuster Novel

I've decided that I'm going to write a novel.

Since this may be my only novel I'll need to make it of Best Seller quality. I've decided I could write a decent "intelligent thriller" after reading all of Dan Brown's books and Temple, a Matthew Reilly thriller (all Best Sellers). All that I lack before beginning my work is time, a plot and skill.

Time is probably the biggest obstacle, because with a sufficient amount I could overcome the other two deficiencies. I figure Brown and Reilly write on average one book every 1.5 to 2 years. As best selling writers, I would hope they could support themselves solely on their writing. This being the case and supposing they worked 40hr weeks for 1.5 years researching/writing/admin/etc, that would be 3000hr per book.

If my determination holds out I may average 8 hours per week writing. At such a rate it would take me 5x longer to finish or 7.5 years. That assuming I am as efficient and skillful as these popular writers (a quite unsubstantiated claim). Perhaps utilizing some other time saving techniques I could produce my thriller even quicker.

  • Novels average around 80,000 words. By writing a brisk 45,000 words (the minimum to advance beyond novella), I could cut down the writing time in half. So maybe now I'm at 4yrs.
  • The plot of these thrillers are built upon an underlying set of "realistic" but little known facts and weaved with several clever, quick twists. Mine would largely revolve around my experience here in Brazil. So hopefully I'll have built up a nice reserve of little known facts. I'm at 3.5yrs.
  • Read, Writing the Blockbuster Novel. I could learn a few tricks that will save me time down the line. (Technically, I should already know this stuff if I am Brown/Reilly material). So without this I'd be at 6 yrs again. With it... how about 3.49yrs.
  • Hire a co-author. Outsource character development or if I get stuck in a tricky plot knot. 3yrs
  • Plagerism. A very efficient way of producing words. 1-2 yrs.
These strategies will get me down to my "under 3 years" goal. Unfortunately, I already cut out a lot of what would probably make my book worth reading, profitable, fun to write, and legal. But hey I'd have "my" first novel!

05 August 2005

Purposed Exercise vs. Team Sports

I can hear the (still small) audience cry, "Obviously these are too different to compare." Perhaps for some they are, but in my experience one is often considered a substitute for the other. So now if we must compare the two let's see how they compare on several different levels:

Efficiency of exercise

Purposed exercise is the the clear winner in this category. Weight-lifting and running will always get the affected muscles worked out faster than the more indirect sports (isn't that the goal of purposed exercise). Although it should be mentioned that the indirect nature of exercise in sports can often aid duration of activity.


Its hard to argue that this doesn't go to Team Sports. Although great friendships can be developed during partner or team exercise (think EMWO), the goals almost always are individual. Whereas team sports not only bring together more people, they goals are largely social as well.

Skills and Development

This gets a little fuzzy. Depeding on the circumstances swimming for a team is obviously a sport (although it does not differ much from simple exercise) and it obviously requires skills. But in general the skills learned in team sports are longer lasting. Indeed "skill" in weight-lifting, running, and the such is often a measure of how long you have been doing it at a stretch. Every one that has taken summer vacation as a vacation from the gym knows that little "skill" returns with you to school the next fall. Compare that to more cognitive and muscle-learning sports like football, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Here off-season training is often not practice in the sport so much as development using purposed exercise. Skills again goes to Team Sports.

Considering the above categories, team sports is a decisive winner. So why is there purposeful exercise at all. Here are a few reasons:
  • Not everyone wants to be social all the time. Alone time is underrated.
  • It is relatively difficult outside of organized leagues to put together a team sport.
  • Stress of potential failure on the field contrasts knowledge of self-betterment in the gym.

04 August 2005

Instead of going to the movies, watch this!

I have just listened to a debate on globalization and the preservation of cultural diversity between Tyler Cowen of George Mason Univ and of MarginalRevolution.com and Benjamin Barber of Univ of Maryland. Basically, Cowen argues the liberal market paradigm while Barber critques this approach in favor of a democratic state solutions. (It is 2hrs long, but highly suggested if you are interested cultural diversity).

I'm guessing that most of you will not watch the debate, so I'm quite free interpret with little consequence. One of the big arguments is over whether culture can be considered a consumable good/service. Cowen argues that it is and thus that globalization is an important tool in the dissemination of diverse cultural products to consumers around the world. Barber argues that globalization is causing a "McWorld," in which perhaps we are sacrificing culture for diversity of choice, and hence ending up with just plain diversity rather than cultural diversity.

There was a lot of good point brought up so I'll leave the specifics to later posts and not bog you down here!

03 August 2005

The never-ending summer(y)

Yeah, I know it should be summary. So the five students taking classes at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) all failed our first homework assignment for Engineering of Work. We were asked to read the introduction to the text. I almost completed the six pages, as the going was slow translating from the portuguese. When we arrived at class we noticed everyone turning in a page, some typed, others handwritten. Then the professor, Orlando Gomez, comes by and asks for our summary. Well goodness!

So none of had done it because it wasn't explicitly assigned. Appearantly all readings must be accompanied by summaries. Not that I would have been able to finish it considering a page of portuguese text could take me several hours to write.

Assignment for Monday, read (oh and summarize) chapter 2. Number of pages: 39

02 August 2005

Can't lose(ios) in Buzios

Buzios is a popular vacation spot about 2.5 hrs east of Rio de Janeiro. I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend. Thankfully it is winter time and the place is relatively empty. Why go to the beach during the Brazilian winter? Because it regularly reaches 27 Celsius (80F)! The picture above is of the inn where I stayed. It cost US$8 per night and was within 200 meters of a beautiful beach. Not bad!

Mars is better than the moon

This address to congress by Robert Zubrin is quite impressive (For a lighter read, try the FAQs on the Mars Society website). Ever since reading his The Case for Mars and attending the International Space Settlement and Design Competition, I have had a interest in Mars and more specifically on getting there.

Every few weeks I have a flare up of irritation toward big government spending that is mired in special interests and bureaucracy. Today the prize goes to NASA's space shuttle program. Knowledge of the $1.3 billion average launch price dampened my awe of the Enterprise on a recent trip to Udvar-Hazy Space Center in Chantilly, Virginia (but otherwise I highly recommend the museum). Zubrin's words sum it up nicely

Contrasting these two approaches, we see that the Apollo Mode is destination driven, while the Shuttle Mode pretends to be technology driven, but is actually constituency driven. In the Apollo Mode, technology development is done for mission directed reasons. In the Shuttle Mode, projects are undertaken on behalf of various internal and external technical community pressure groups and then defended using rationales. In the Apollo Mode, the space agency's efforts are focused and directed. In the Shuttle Mode, NASA's efforts are random and entropic.

So let's put some direction back into our space program and stop wasting money going nowhere.

01 August 2005

Buffet vs. Pay-By-Weight

Okay, so everyone is familiar with the buffet style eating. All my Charlottesville amigos will know The Wood Grill Buffet and surely everyone has been to Ruby Tuesdays or similar restaurants with a buffet option. Basic concept: Pay a set fee upfront and eat as much as you like.

In Brazil a more common option is the pay-by-weight where they weigh your plate after you've piled on all you like and pay a per gram fee. The arrangement however looks much like a typical American buffet.

Obviously the restaurant is in business to make money. To make money they need to make profit off customers. So let's look at how you make profit off customers with each model.

With the buffet, the fee has been paid up front. The goal is to get the customer to eat as little as possible. So if you can get the customer to purchase the buffet without providing expensive foods (good meats, quality fruits, etc) all the better. So the "looks good from far, but is far from good" principle applies here very well.

With the pay-by-weight, the fee is paid on food taken. Here the restaurant wants the customer to take more of the heavy, cheap foods and less of the light expensive foods. There are a few ways to do this. A clever way is to stock good fruit. Fruit is cheap but heavy with water. Getting the customer to load up on fruit (or similar cheap, heavy items) off-sets reduced profits from meats, sushi and the such. Rice is always profitable. You'll never find the meat and sushi near the enterance! Indeed, they have a different scale for desserts because it is just too light.