Saturday, May 28, 2016

My part is.........................


15.  Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to keep myself good;  just as a gold piece, or an emerald, or a purple robe insists perpetually, "Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to remain an emerald and keep my color true."

-Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations,  Book VII

the more mundane challenge.........


     Economies that are capable of sending men to the moon and producing goods and service of extraordinary complexity and innovation seem to struggle with the more mundane challenge of handling money and banking.  The frequency, and certainly severity, of crises has, if anything, increased rather than decreased over time.  In the heat of the crisis in October 2008, nation states took over responsibility for all the obligations and debts of the global banking system.  In terms of its balance sheet, the banking system had been virtually nationalize but without collective control over its operations.  That government rescue cannot conveniently be forgotten.  When push came to shove,  the very sector that had espoused the merits of market discipline was allowed to carry on only by dint of taxpayer support.  The creditworthiness of the state was put on the line, and in some cases, such as Iceland and Ireland, lost.  God may have created the universe, but we mortals created paper money and risky banks.  They are  man-made institutions, important sources of innovation, prosperity, and material progress, but also of greed, corruption, and crises.  For better or worse, they materially affect human welfare.

-Mervyn King,  The End of Alchemy:  Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

Vive l'empereur..............................


     On March 12 (1815), Adams recorded an astonishing rumor he had heard:  Napoleon was at Lyons with an army of twelve thousand.  A year earlier, Napoleon's generals, hopelessly outnumbered by an alliance of all Europe, had finally turned against the emperor and forced him to abdicate.  Napoleon had accepted exile on the tiny Mediterranean island of Elba.  His brilliant and bloody twenty-year campaign of conquest had finally reached what Adams and so many others viewed as its foreordained end.  But it hadn't - not quite.  Napoleon escaped from Elba on February 26, arriving at Golfe-Juan with barely a thousand men.  The troops sent to capture him instead had flocked to his side.  He and his men began the five-hundred-mile march northward to Paris.  On March19, Adams wrote to Abigail to say that Napoleon was believed to be only six days from the capital.  "The Government," he reported, "has been collecting a force upon which they could depend which will meet him before he can arrive here, and the first actual resistance he meets will I think determine his fate."  For once Adams erred on the side of optimism: perhaps he could not bring himself to believe that this man who had littered Europe with corpses still enjoyed the favor of his own people.
     He wasn't the only one, of course, to underestimate Napoleon's appeal.  Louis XVIII sent Marshall Ney, who had forced the Emperor to abdicate, to deliver the final blow, and Ney, too, defected.  On March 20, Adams watched in wonder as the king and his court fled northward.  The following day, Napoleon's advance guard marched to the royal palace in the Tuileries.  The crowds lined the streets to shout "Vive l'empereur!"  Adams wrote to his father that "the walls of all the public places were covered with the proclamations of Napoleon...pasted over the proclamations scarcely dry of Louis 18 declaring Napoleon Buonaparte a traitor and rebel."  A huge bonfire in the middle of the Palais Royal consumed all the books and pamphlets denouncing Napoleon - no doubt kindled, Adams drily noted, by the same people who had printed them in the first place.  It was much the same scene he had witnessed twenty years earlier when the good republicans of Holland had woken up one fine morning as French revolutionaries in tricorne hats.  Personal experience had taught Adams to distrust fine professions of faith;  few men had the courage of their convictions when they were put to the test.

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

learn how to trust.......................


     "Creativity is just problem solving,"  Ed Catmull told me.  "One people see it as problem solving, it stops seeming like magic, because it's not.  Brokers are just people who pay more attention to what problems look like and how they've been solved before.  People we are most creative are the ones who have learned that feeling scared is a good sign.  We just have to learn how to trust ourselves enough to let the creativity out."

-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Drugs may have been involved................



Spirit..............................................................I Got A Line On You




Spengler........................



....................................opines on the neo-conservatives:


"Kristol makes the mistake of thinking that he still matters. The neo-conservatives enforced party discipline in the media and foundations they control with the same inquisitorial zeal that the Left applies to the persecution of conservatives at American universities. They crushed dissent ruthlessly, and declared anathema upon anyone who questioned them.


"Now the American people have vomited them out. No candidate who took ownership of the Bush Freedom Agenda got past first base in the Republican primaries...."


"I feel no schadenfreude at Bill Kristol's embarrassment. The neo-conservatives built the closest thing that America has had to a conservative intellectual movement, and it is sad that it has failed. What we have in its place is Donald Trump, a man who has no books in his palatial New York penthouse. Let's hope that God continues to look out for drunks, small children, and the United States of America."


-as excerpted from here.

Fifty years ago.................................



Crispian St. Peters...............................You Were On My Mind




A valuable historical memory...................





The War of 1812 has largely disappeared from American historical memory.  Neither side won; no great principles were settled.  And yet the Treaty of Ghent marked the end of the first, and very fragile, stage of American political history.  First England, then France, and then England once again had seemed poised to crush the infant republic with its vastly superior military might.  At the same time, both powers played on American sympathies to advance their cause.  The English had exploited the Anglophilia of the New England Federalists, while France had played on the Jeffersonian admiration for the Revolution.  American politics had become precisely what George Washington had feared:  a contest between partisans of foreign powers.  The great statesmen - Washington and Adams, Jefferson and Madison - had tried to rise above this bitter debate, ideological as well as sectional.  And some of them paid a bitter price.  John Adams had ended his political career despised as a turncoat by many in his own party.  His son had been so battered by abuse from the Essex Junto that he had been only too happy to leave for Russia.


     And now, finally, it was over and the nationalists had won.   The bitter-enders of the Junto met at Harford in December 1814 with the hopes of finally realizing their dream of separation.  But the delegates of the Hartford Convention refused to call for secession; and the subsequent news of Andrew Jackson's great victory at New Orleans in January 1815, and then of the Treaty of Ghent, made even the more modest demands of the separatists sound ludicrous.  The treaty was universally embraced by a nation sick of war and happy to escape without humiliating concessions.  America was at last free to pursue the destiny its most farsighted and ambitious leaders, very much including John Quincy Adams, had foreseen.  No longer burdened by the fear of foreign invasion, America would become a continental nation with a size and a power to rival Europe's great powers and ultimately Europe itself.


-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit



Friday, May 27, 2016

Finding one's voice..............................





They were badly misled............................



     Since the crisis, many have been tempted to play the game of deciding who was to blame for such a disastrous outcome.  But blaming individuals is counterproductive - it leads you to think that if just a few, or indeed many, of those people were punished then we would never experience a crisis again.  If only it were that simple.  A generation of the brightest and best were lured into banking, and especially into trading, by the promise of immense financial rewards and by the intellectual challenge of the work that created such returns.  They were badly misled.  The crisis was a failure of a system, and the ideas that underpinned it, not of individual policy-makers or bankers, incompetent and greedy though some of them undoubtedly were. There was a general misunderstanding of how the world economy worked.  Given the size and political influence of the banking sector, is it too late to put the genie back in the bottle?  No - it is never too late to ask the right questions, and in this book I try to do so.


-Mervyn King,   The End of Alchemy:  Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

unity from multiplicity........................



9.  All things are interwoven with one another; a sacred bond unites them; there is scarcely one thing that is isolated from another.  Everything is coordinated, everything works together in giving form to the one universe.  The world-order is a unity made up of multiplicity;  God is one, pervading all things;  all being is one, all law is one (namely the common reason which all thinking creatures possess) and all truth is one - if as we believe, there can be but one path to perfection for beings that are alike in kind and reason.


-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations,  Book VII

Disturbance............................


"When strong ideas take root, they can sometimes crowd out competitors so thoroughly that alternatives can't prosper.  Sometimes the best way to spark creativity is by disturbing things just enough to let some light through."

-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

And the unamazing thing,..............................


.....................................he is still going to vote for him:

"Trump is either dishonest, naive, or thinks like a ten-year-old."

middlemen..................................


"Creativity is just connecting things."
-Steve Jobs

     "A lot of people we think of as exceptionally creative are essentially intellectual middlemen...They've learned how to transfer knowledge between different industries or groups.  They've seen a lot of different people attack the same problems in different settings, and so they know which kids of ideas are more likely to work."

-Brian Uzzi

The more things change.........................





Understand my son.........................................



Smokey Robinson and the Miracles................Shop Around


Worth..............................



3.  An empty pageant; a stage play; flocks of sheep; herds of cattle; a tussle of spearmen; a bone flung among a pack of curs; a crumb tossed into a pond of fish; ants, loaded and laboring; mice, scared and scampering; puppets, jerking on a string - that is life.  In the midst of it all you must take your stand, good-temperedly and without disdain, yet always aware that a man's worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.


-Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations, Book VII

Fifty years ago................................


Manfred Mann...............................................Pretty Flamingo



Enjoy responsibly...........................





Thursday, May 26, 2016


David Sanborn...................................................................Pearls


Explaination............................



The point is not to whitewash Trump’s crudity and outlandishness, but to explain why it so far has not eliminated him as a candidate.  Obama’s outright destruction of presidential protocols created candidate Trump. The media, which in Faustian fashion mortgaged its soul to empower Obama, has now lost all credibility as a legitimate critic and arbiter of the dangers of narcissism, half-educated pop knowledge, polarizing politics, and demonization of one’s critics.


-Victor Davis Hanson, as excerpted from here.  I admire Hanson's writing and thoughtfulness.  I don't read him as much as I used to, as one tries to limit the negative vibes one imbibes.  He just hasn't been in much of a happy place lately.

Good questions, all.................................





On change...................................



"Change happens at the speed of trust."
-attributed to Lee Fisher, who may have been channeling


Better decisions.................Part One


How do we learn to make better decisions?  In part, by training ourselves to think probabilistically.  To do that, we must force ourselves to envision various futures - to hold contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously - and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true.

-Charles Duhigg,   Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Better decisions............................Part Two


     We can develop this intuition by studying statistics, playing games like poker, thinking through life's potential pitfalls and successes, or helping our kids work through their anxieties by writing them down and patiently calculating the odds.  There are numerous ways to build a Bayesian instinct.  Some of them are as simple as looking at our past choices and asking ourselves:  Why was I so certain things would turn out one way?  Why was I wrong?

-Charles Duhigg,  Faster Smarter Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Better decisions.....................Part Three


     Regardless of our methods, the goals are the same:  to see the future as multiple possibilities rather than one predetermined outcome;  to identify what you do and don't know;  to ask yourself, which choice gets you the best odds?  Fortune-telling isn't real.  No one can predict tomorrow with absolute confidence.  But the mistake some people make is trying to avoid making any predictions because their thirst for certainty is so strong and their fear of doubt too overwhelming.

-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

the openness of history............


“Life and study have persuaded me of the openness of history. There is no inevitability in history. Thinking about what might have happened, what could have happened, is a necessary element in trying to understand what did happen. And if, as I believe, individual acts of decency and courage make a difference, then they need to be recorded and remembered.” 

-Fritz Stern


David Sanborn..........................................................The Dream


Longing for simplicity.............................



     In simple environments, people acquire new capabilities by acquiring new objects.  In complex environments, people acquire new capabilities by using new services.  And as anyone who's busily added apps to their smartphones knows, the one problem apps are no good at solving is the problem of having too many apps.  Environments with rising complexity always create business opportunities for third parties to step in and manage that complexity,  One form of success in a complex environment is someone who consistently pays you to keep at bay the very complexity you cause.  Achieving that state is Xiaomi's long term goal.


-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Fifty years ago.............................


The Alan Price Set.................................I Put A Spell On You

Not sure how I missed it..................


..............but Kurt reminded us that yesterday was National Wine Day, or as USA Today put it, it was "wine o'clock" all day yesterday.  Damn...









Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Even a pig can fly................................



As he later put it, he learned that "doing the right thing is more important than doing things right."  When a company is riding a growing trend, management is under less pressure to do everything perfectly.  (Another saying of his from those years is, "Even a pig can fly if it finds itself in the eye of the storm.")


-Clay Shirky,  as excerpted from Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream.  The he quoted in this passage is Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi

The odds...................................



When Annie started playing poker seriously, it was her brother who sat her down and explained what separated the winners form everyone else.  Losers, Howard said, are always looking for certainty at the table.  Winners are comfortable admitting to themselves what they don't know.  In fact, knowing what you don't know is a huge advantage - something that can be used against other players.  When Annie would call Howard and complain that she had lost, had suffered bad luck, that the cards had gone against her, he would tell her to stop whining.
     "Have you considered that you might be the idiot at the table who's looking for certainty?"  he asked...


      "A lot of poker comes down to luck,"  Annie told me.  "Just like life.  You never know where you'll end up.  When I checked myself into the psych hospital my sophomore year, there's no way I would have guessed I would end up as a professional poker player.  But you have to be comfortable not knowing exactly where life is going.  That's how I've learned to keep the anxiety away.  All we can do is learn how to make the best decisions that are in front of us, and trust that, over time, the odds will be in our favor."


-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, as excerpted from the chapter highlighting poker player Annie Duke

Assurances.........................................





Studies show..................................

...............................that "science" has been taking a beating lately.  John Oliver tries to help us sort it all out.  As a bonus, at the 14:45 mark, he explains the difference between religion and "science."





via

On "the sheer joy of movement"............................



..........................."The only way to start is to begin."

Opening paragraphs........................



From the Prologue:


     As a fast-moving ship approached the Dauphin off the coast of Portugal, Captain Richard O'Brien saw no cause for alarm.  On this warm July day in 1785, America was at peace, and there were many innocent reasons for a friendly ship to come alongside.  Perhaps it was a fellow merchant ship needing information or supplies.  Perhaps the ship's captain wanted to warn him of nearby pirates.


Chapter One


     In 1785, the same year Richard O'Brien was captured by pirates, Thomas Jefferson learned that all politics, even transatlantic politics, are personal.




And a bonus excerpt from the Author's Note:


     This is the story of how a new nation, saddled with war debt and desperate to establish credibility, was challenged by four Muslim powers.  Our merchant ships were captured and the crews enslaved.  Despite its youth, America would do what established western powers chose not to do:  stand up to intimidation and lawlessness
     Tired of Americans being captured and held for ransom, our third president decided to take on the Barbary powers in a war that is barely remembered today but is one that, in many ways, we are still fighting.


-Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger,  Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates:  The Forgotten War That Changed American History

Beauty..........................








Votey McVoteface...............................



The Economist takes note of the growing trend towards referendums.  Color them skeptical.  To wit:


Because referendums treat each issue in isolation, they allow voters to ignore the trade-offs inherent in policy choices and can thus render government incoherent. California, which has had referendums for a century, has been crippled by voters’ simultaneous demands for high spending and low taxes. A second danger is that fringe groups or vested interests use referendums to exercise outsize influence, particularly if few signatures are needed to call one and voter turnout is low

On judgment...........................



"Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."


-Edmund Burke, as excerpted from this 1774 speech


thanks John

Dreaming............................


Phil and Don, slowing it down.........................


Well, sometimes....................


Fifty years ago..................................


Roy Orbison....................................................Too Soon To Know


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Checking in with a guy who.....................


...................................regularly restores my faith in us human types.

It's not always about you............


Personalizing successes sets people up for disastrous failure. They begin to treat the success as a personal reflection rather than the result of capitalizing on a good opportunity, being at the right place at the right time or even being just plain lucky.

-Jim Paul, as excerpted from here

On dealing with smugness....................



Trump appeals to all those who think that the American Establishment, the Great and the Good of both parties, has worked its way into a dead end of ideas that don’t work and values that can’t save us. He is the candidate of Control-Alt-Delete. His election would sweep away the smug generational certainties that Clinton embodies, the Boomer Progressive Synthesis that hasn’t solved the problems of the world or of the United States, but which nevertheless persists in regarding itself as the highest and only form of truth. . . .


-Walter Russell Mead, as excerpted from here.  As they say, read the whole thing.

A few more quotes........................................



.......................................from Ashleigh Brilliant:


“Be kind to unkind people, they need it the most.”  


“Nothing we do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.”  


“The closest you will ever come in this life to an orderly universe is a good library.”


“Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can.”

Beauty...................................




You can't delegate thinking.................



     Mental models help us by providing a scaffold for the torrent of information that constantly surrounds us.  Models help us choose where to direct our attention, so we can make decisions, rather than just react...


     So what is the solution?  If you want to do a better job of paying attention to what really matters, of not getting overwhelmed and distracted by the constant flow of emails and conversations and interruptions that are part of every day, of knowing where to focus and what to ignore, get into the habit of telling yourself stories.  Narrate your life as it's occurring, and then when your boss suddenly asks a question or an urgent note arrives and you only have minutes to reply, the spotlight inside your head will be ready to shine the right way,
     To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge.  When you're driving to work, force yourself to envision your day.  While you're sitting in a meeting or at lunch, describe to yourself what you are seeing and what it means.  Find other people to hear your theories and challenge them.  Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what's next.  If you are a parent, anticipate what your children will say at the dinner table.  Then  you'll notice what goes unmentioned or if there's a stray comment that you should see as a warning sign.
     "You can't delegate thinking," de Crespigny told me.  "Computers fail, checklists fail, everything can fail.  But people can't.  We have to make decisions, and that includes deciding what deserves our attention.  The key is forcing yourself to think.  As long as you're thinking, you're halfway home."


-Charles Duhigg,   Faster Smarter Better:  The Secret of Being Productive in Life and Business

On rereading..............................


I spent ten days in the pulmonary ward, while the fever turned into pneumonia.  A flood of intravenous antibiotics eventually got on top of it, but meanwhile the problem of boredom loomed.  I staved it off by rereading Lord Jim, a copy of which, along with the usual epics about swords and dragons, was on the library cart which a very sweet and obviously fulfilled senior female volunteer was wheeling around the wards.  More than half a century ago Lord Jim had been one of the set novels for my first-year English class at Sydney University, and I remembered it as a boring book.  I suppose I had a plan to stave off one kind of boredom with another, as a kind of inoculation.
   On the strength of this long-delayed second reading, the book struck me as no more exciting than it had once seemed, but a lot more interesting.   I had long known Conrad to be a great writer:  on the strength of Under Western Eyes alone, he would have to be ranked high among those English writers - well, Polish writers resident in England - who, dealing with eastern Europe, analyzed the struggle between the imbecility of autocracy and the imbecility of revolution.

-Clive James,  Latest Readings

Just saying...........................


"A man is more of man because of what he does not say than what he does say."
-Albert Camus

Fifty years ago.........................


The Young Rascals................................In The Midnight Hour