Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Understanding...............

Kevin Kelly asks some interesting questions..........

Kevin discusses the "known unknowns" and the certain
uncertainties hereThe idea is that there are some serious
questions to be asked that have elusive answers.  The
italicized questions and the thoughts after the questions
all come from Kevin.   And.....as always, the comments
section is half the fun.

What, if anything, will slow down China?
Possible answers: internal revolution, population decline,
environmental realities, absolutely nothing.

What information will people not share with each other?
They share medical records, purchases, dreams, sex fantasies.
What about their taxes?

How many devices do we want to carry?
Ten, two, one, or none?

What will modernize Islam?
Will Islam's "Reformation" be political, theological, violent,
or glacial?

How much bandwidth is enough?
We have enough pixels in a camera, enough hi-fi in our music,
how many gigs/s before we no long think about it?

Will we trust governments or corporations more?
Who do we want to run our education, libraries, police, press,
courts, licenses, and communication networks?

What is the "natural" price of a book, movie, or song?
Once distribution and production costs fall or disappear,
what will we charge for creations?

Will (or where will) the future ever become cool again?
Optimism is a necessary ingredient for innovation. What will
renew it?

How bad are the harmful effects of surfing the net?
Are the bad effects of short attention temporary, inconvenient,
or fatal?

Is nuclear fusion (synthetic solar) economically possible?
Making energy like the sun does might too cheap to meter or
as uneconomical as a perpetual motion machine.

When will Moore's Law stop?
At least 90% of our progress today hinges on cheaper,
faster computation every year. Stop one, stop the other.

The investment wisdom of Joel Ross...............

Joel Ross argues it is time for both sanity and an accurate bench-
mark to return to the investment real estate world.  He is afraid
that too many people think that 2007 was normal and the way it
should be, instead of the biggest bubble in memory.  I like his
writing.  My only quibble is that instead of using 2004 as the
benchmark for normalcy, I would push the date back to 2003
or maybe even 1999.  Other than that, enjoy these excerpts:

"...measuring against 2007 which was clearly a number that reflected nothing other than stupid underwriting, gross over leveraging, and totally irrational exuberance brought about by far too much money in the hands of mostly young fund managers who had no idea what real estate ownership and operation is really all about. Securitization and enormous flows of funds into all sorts of investment vehicles, drove a historic rush of capital into what is really a long term asset play, converting it into a trading card. Real estate is not a security or a commodity. It takes intense and intelligent management even for multifamily and office that may be well rented. Value increases through good management, good lease strategy, good maintenance and smart marketing of space, be it office, hotel rooms or apartments. It also means a good economy and some good luck in the evolution of a local market."

"While there will be good returns generated if you can buy a solid distressed note or asset at a good price today, and if you have very good operational skills to rework that asset and the debt to produce a solid return, then you will do well, but that is all based on how good the buy is, which is always what really matters. With too much money chasing too few deals, really good buys are hard to find today."

"Forget what something was worth in the biggest bubble in history. It does not matter, and is irrelevant. What is it worth today based on what can I realistically expect to do with that asset over time, based on the very uncertain world we live in today, and based on proper leverage levels. How can I protect my downside if the world really does go badly. Those are the metrics you need to be looking at."

A commencement decree........do not be bullied

"Here is what awaits you:  You will be offered the option of now becoming exhausted adults, convinced that no achievement is large enough, with resumes as long as short stories.  But what if that feels like a betrayal of self, a forced march down a road trodden by other feed, at the end of which is - nothing you truly care for?  Fear not.  Remember Pinocchio?  There is a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder.  It is you, your best self, the one you can trust.  The only problem is that it is sometimes hard to hear what it says because all the external voices and messages are so loud, so insistent, so adamant.  Voices that loud are always meant to bully.  Do not be bullied."
-Anna Quindlen,  2005 speech at Barnard College

Unbelievable talent.............




































M. C. Escher draws a Hand with Reflecting Sphere, or a
Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror, January 1935

Thanks Dave

The genius of M. C. Escher...............




















M. C. Escher was the master of the impossible.  Info here.
Interesting quotes here:

Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?


Mathematicians have opened the gate leading to an
extensive domain.

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.


I don't use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.

Originality is merely an illusion

My work is a game, a very serious game.


Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the
impossible. I think it's in my basement... let me go upstairs
and check.

Order is repetition of units. Chaos is multiplicity without
rhythm.We adore chaos because we love to produce order.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A nice evening for a little piano music...............

On happiness...........

“Sentient beings are strange, although wishing happiness
they avoid its causes. Although wishing to avoid suffering,
they constantly create its causes.”

-Shantideva

On belief and bubbles..................or the killing of Santa Claus

I posted this chart from Mark Perry once before.  He posted it
again, with an interesting essay from Sarah Lacy attached- here.
If Carpe Diem can do re-runs, so can I.  Enjoy the chart and the
essay excerpts below:






















"Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. 'A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,' he says. 'Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.'

"Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe. The excesses of both were always excused by a core national belief that no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated."

"Thiel thinks there’s been a sea-change in the last three years, as debt has mounted and the economy has faltered. 'This wouldn’t have been feasible in 2007,' he says. 'Parents see kids moving back home after college and they’re thinking, ‘Something is not working. This was not part of the deal.’"

Speaking of Brazil.............

WRM tours the country and finds much to like.  Actually, it
sounds fairly familiar. Full post here.  Excerpt here:

Both countries are multiracial democracies; both are exporters of culture and athletics (Brazil’s style of soccer has hypnotized the world); both are intensely religious, sexually and socially experimental and fun-loving, and not quite sure how to reconcile their inner puritan and playboy selves. Like the US, Brazil is an individualistic society with a tradition of strong regions, a weak central government, and settlement by pioneers and prospectors who wanted to leave the oppressive bureaucrats and snooty elites back east while they ventured west into undiscovered lands. Brazil is a nation of immigrants with a proud cowboy tradition; Brazil took a lot of land from its weaker Spanish speaking neighbors in the nineteenth century and isn’t quite sure what to think about them today. Brazil is instinctively moderate and gradualist when it comes to politics; there has been very little violence in its political history since it bloodlessly separated from Portugal almost 200 years ago

On Democracy.....................

That rascal H. L. Mencken wrote some fun stuff.  Like this:

"........it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying to the vast majority of men than what is true. Truth has a harshness that alarms them, and an air of finality that collides with their incurable romanticism."

"I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself—that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. How can any man be a democrat who is sincerely a democrat?"


Mencken's A Short Essay on Democracy here
Thanks Mungo for bringing it to our attention.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unmoved..........

Whenever I wish to move or speak,
First I shall examine my state of mind
And then act firmly in a suitable manner.
Whenever my mind becomes attached or angry,
I shall not react in kind;
I shall remain unmoved, like a tree.

-Shantideva

Two quotes that were not in my history books.....................

Tuesday was the 150th Anniversary of the bombardment of
Fort Sumter, the beginning of our Civil War.  David Zincavage
wrote a great essay on the subject, here.  Excerpts here:

Quote #1

When the Confederate cabinet in Montgomery debated, Robert
Toombs of Georgia warned President Davis:
























"The firing on that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen… Mr. President, at this time it is suicide, murder, and you will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornets’ nest which extends from mountains to ocean. Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal."

 Quote #2:

 As secession fever raged, back in December, William Tecumseh
Sherman, A West Point graduate and Ohioan serving as super-
intendent of the Louisiana State Military Academy, exploded to a
Southern guest at hearing of South Carolina’s secession:
























"You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you are talking about. War is a terrible thing!


You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides where are your men and appliance of war to contend with them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or a pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with on of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth—right at your doors.


You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people would stop and think, they must see that in the end you will surely fail."

 
Thanks Maggie's Farm for pointing to NYM

Walter Russell Mead..............

........is becoming one of my favorite essayists.  Try this one on.

The headline: Gloomy Greens Miss Bright Global Future

A couple of fun paragraphs:

"That’s what happens when green Malthusian panic meets the political system. At Rio back in 1992 I first began to dimly suspect what now seems sadly clear: that green political activists are afflicted with a kind of reverse Midas curse. Whatever they touch turns to — compost.

"In the twenty years I’ve been tracking the global green movement since the Rio summit, the scientific evidence for climate change, still controversial and incomplete, became more convincing — even as the evidence that the environmental movement is headless and clueless became overwhelming. There is far more evidence that environmentalists in general have no idea how to address climate change than there is that the climate is actually changing. Between the greenhouse gasses emitted by green activists globetrotting to international conferences and the unexpected side effects of green policy fiascoes (like the ethanol from corn program in the US), the environmental movement as a whole may well be responsible for a modest net increase in greenhouse gas production over the last twenty years. The planet, in other words, might be slightly cooler if the greens had all just shut up and stayed home. Certainly the world’s taxpayers would be better off."

You go, Brazil!

More highlights from Walter Russell Mead's recent essay:

















"This trip to Brazil I learned more about why the green
Malthusians are barking up the wrong policy tree. It turns
out that global warming may increase the Earth’s food
supply rather than decrease it. Why?

Because Brazilian scientists, among others, have discovered
ways to make formerly temperate zone crops (first soybeans
and now wheat) grow in the tropics. The green panic scenario
holds that as the earth’s temperature rises, the productivity
of agriculture will fall. This always struck me as a little
counter-intuitive; even a bad gardener like me knows that
longer growing seasons make for better yields from more
varieties of plants. You can grow more tomatoes in
Louisiana than in Greenland.

But the green argument rests on the idea that the main
sources of the world’s food supply — particularly wheat and
soybeans — don’t grow well in the tropics. And they didn’t —
until recently. Today Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of
soybeans, growing them in the tropical climate zone on land
once thought to be hopelessly infertile. A combination of
better agricultural techniques and new varieties of soybeans
adapted to the tropics has turned a wasteland into whatever
one calls the tofu equivalent of a breadbasket.

Happy 70th Birthday Pete Rose.........

Growing up in Philadelphia in the late 50's and 60's, the words
"hapless" and "Phillies" were used so often together that I was
twelve years old before I realized they were two words and
not one.  The team was fun, but since winning was reported to
be the object of the game, they were not very good.  In 1964
they were good; holding a six game lead with ten games left
in the season.  A remarkable swoon left them finishing in
fourth place.  That was a wound, leaving psychic scars all across
a city, that healed very slowly.

The healing physician was Pete Rose.

















The Phillies had gotten close to the top in 1977 and 1978,
but the Reds knocked them out in the National League
Championship (if I remember correctly in both years the Reds
won on late inning infield hits by Ken Griffey). In 1979 the
Phillies lured Rose to Philadelphia with the idea that he could
lead them to the World Series.  In 1980 he did just that.

Your blogger had the enviable opportunity of being offered a
ticket to the sixth game of the series.  As fate would have it, the
sixth game was the one that sealed the World Series for the
Phillies, and I was there.

There are several beautiful and interesting memories from that
game. The first was watching a stunning sun set from our seats
in the seriously nose bleed section.  The next was watching the
K-9 units and the Mounted Police line the sidelines after the
eighth inning (in earlier years, victorious fans had taken to
storming the field after winning the Series, the powers that be in
Philadelphia said, "not in our town").  The next was watching Tug
McGraw, with his worn out arm, willing balls over the plate.  But,
the greatest memory....In the 6th inning, The Royals' Frank White
hit a high foul pop-up near the first base dugout.  Phillie catcher
Bob Boone raced to get in position for the catch, only to have
the ball pop out of his mitt.  Just before the ball hit the ground,
hustling Pete Rose, playing first base and backing up Boone on
the play, reached out and grabbed the ball for the out. At that
moment, the Phillies became winners, and the Royals were done.
Hapless no more.

Pete, I don't care about the rest of your career.  That one play
laid a lot of ghosts to rest in Philadelphia. Thanks, and happy
birthday.

True colorblindness...............

Thanks Ka-Ching

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On suffering...............

Without exception,
All suffering comes from wanting happiness for yourself.
Perfect Buddhas are born from wishing to benefit others.
-Ngulchu Thogme

Thomas Sowell goes all populist on us..............

.....and I think it is a good thing.  In his latest column, he tries his
hand at deficit reduction, here.  Excerpts here:

"My plan would start by cutting off all government transfer
payments to billionaires. Many, if not most, people are
probably unaware that the government is handing out the
taxpayers' money to billionaires. But agricultural subsidies
go to a number of billionaires. Very little goes to the ordinary
farmer.

"Big corporations also get big bucks from the government,
not only in agricultural subsidies but also in the name of
"green" policies, in the name of "alternative energy" policies,
and in the name of whatever else will rationalize shoveling
the taxpayers' money out the door to whomever the
administration designates, for its own political reasons."

"It would also be eye-opening to many people to discover
how much government money is going into subsidizing all
sorts of things that have nothing to do with helping "the
poor" or protecting the public. This would include
government-subsidized insurance for posh and pricey
coastal resorts, located too dangerously close to the ocean
for a private insurance company to risk insuring them.

When I become king, one of the first things to happen will
be the modification of the flood insurance program.  If your
property is located within the flood plain and you file a
claim then that parcel of land loses the ability to ever participate
in the government subsidized flood insurance program again.

Jack Casady turns 67 today........

The bassist for Jefferson Airplane and so much more.....

Emerson, the quote machine...................

Faithful readers will know that this blogger is fond of the wisdom
emanating from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  A post by
Tigerhawk, here, sent me scurrying for my copy of Self-Reliance
(found also here) for this dandy quote:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored
by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With
consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as
well concern himself with his shadow on the wall."

While thumbing through Emerson's essay looking for the
hobgoblin quote, these gems appeared:

"There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at
the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide;
that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion;
that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of
nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil
bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till."

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string."

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."

" I like the silent church before the service begins, better
than any preaching."

"We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us
receivers of its truth and organs of its activity."

"The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak
curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act."

"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can
present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole
life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you
have only an extemporaneous, half possession."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Nothing..............

Summers growing up, Mom would ask, "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," would come the reply.  When we told her we were
bored, she responded, "Good.  Go find something to do."  We
sure had a ton of fun doing nothing and being bored.  Dad helped,
tacitly encouraging this sort of thing by bringing home a copy of
How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself.

The Furniture Guy, whose blogs are like a national treasure,
expounds on the concept here.  Excerpt here:

"Oh how they squander their nothing. Not dolce far niente.
They smother their nothing in the cradle with activities. They
drive nowhere while typing with their thumbs like they're the
leader of some great enterprise. They know in their hearts
that to be left alone with their thoughts for a moment would
expose a great void, and so fill the hole with endless
distractions. "


Editor's Note: The old liberal arts education was of little help in
providing the exact meaning of dolce far niente.  Google to the
rescue:  dolce far niente Italian [ˈdoltʃe far ˈnjɛnte]. n. pleasant
 idleness. [literally: sweet doing nothing].

99 word story.................

Arising two minutes before the alarm sounds, he pads quietly
down the hallway to the study, fires up the Dell, and enters his
corner of the blogosphere.  In the still of the morning, he follows
a well known path: from Nicholas, to Michael, to Kurt, to Doug.
Spending a few moments with each, gaining inspiration, insights,
intelligence, introductions, ideas, and entertainment.  Food for
the mind, heart, and soul, suitable for mulling and savoring,
served with a light hearted touch.  Refocused and recharged,
he exits the intertunnel and heads for the shower, ready to
accept the challenges of the day.

With apologies to Sir Nicholas

Too much....................





















Thanks Sirelena

No imaginary friends..........?









Thanks Jeff for pointing me to Scott

Feeling lucky................





Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday's Poem


     
   TWO TRAMPS IN MUD TIME



Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

-Robert Frost

For those who prefer having their poetry read aloud to them..........

Just in the nick of time........Spring

So true.................















Thanks Jessica

Now I know how the union rank and file feels...............

While news does come slowly to my corner of the blogosphere,
it eventually gets here.  Apparently the National Association of
Realtors (NAR) is going to raise its members' (i.e. mine) dues by
$40 a year so that it can spend more money electioneering. 
Faithful readers will remember that I think the Realtors'
insistence on defending, to the death, its sacred cow - the
mortgage interest deduction - is shortsighted (posts here and
here). Now, they are going to use my money to do it.  Without
even asking or saying "please."

A version of the story is here.  Excerpt is here:

In the 2010 election cycle, it appears that NAR used only
“hard money” dollars for political advocacy raised through
RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) and other vehicles
under which individual REALTOR members donate funds
specifically for political action. Going forward, NAR will use
“soft money” — in other words, the money in its treasury
collected directly from member dues — for political action.

As Politico touches on, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens
United, will allow NAR and other industry trade organizations
to use whatever funds it has and wants to on directly
supporting individual political candidates........

This NAR will do.

Considering that in 2008 (the last year in which I can find a
Form 990 for NAR), NAR’s political lobbying expenditures
(what we’d normally consider political action) were $18.2
million vs. a total operating expenses of $182 million, the
announcement that NAR will start to use its general funds
for political action is indeed a game-changer. (Incidentally,
NAR itself reports that it spent $12 million in the last
election cycle; one would expect that a presidential year,
2012, will be huge indeed.)

And in order to do that, NAR has announced that it will raise
membership dues by $40 per year, effective in 2012.
Assuming that NAR maintains its 1 million or so membership,
that would equate to an additional $40 million for political
action, on top of whatever other funds NAR has already
invested and will invest. And maybe I’m not reading this right,
but the talking points memo mentions that once the $40
increase goes into effect, fully half of NAR’s total budget will
be dedicated to political advocacy. Based on 2008 numbers,
that means NAR will spend over $110 million a year ($182
million + $40 million = $222 million, and half of that) on
local, state, and federal races.

Yeah, that’s a game changer all right.

This feels like a rather large mistake.

UPDATE:  Checking other sources, apparently NAR
will be asking.  A Web based "townhall meeting" will
be taking place April 13th.  NAR's Board of Directors
then votes on the plan in May.  I stand corrected.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From the Ragamuffin.............


















“I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows
out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t
change God, it changes me.”

— C.S. Lewis

From a wonderful blog- here

A Father's love......

Detours...............

Sunday's Verse..............

5.  The Master said, A country of a thousand war-chariots
cannot be administered unless the ruler attends strictly to
business, punctually observes his promises, is economical
in expenses, shows affection towards his subjects in
general, and uses the labour of the peasantry only at the
proper times of the year.

6.  The Master said, A young man's duty is to behave well
to his parents at home and to his elders abroad, to be
cautious in giving promises and punctual in keeping them,
to have kindly feelings towards everyone, but seek the
intimacy of the Good.  If, when all that is done, he has
any energy to spare, then let him study the polite arts.

8.  The Master said, If a gentleman is frivolous, he will
lose the respect of his inferiors and lack firm grounds
upon which to build up his education.  First and foremost
he must learn to be faithful to his superiors, to keep
promises, to refuse the friendship of all who are not like
him.  And if he finds he has made a mistake, then he must
not be afraid of admitting the fact and amending his ways.

The Analects of Confucius   Book I:5,6,8

The Horse Breeder.......

Pen Lo had bred horses for the duke for many years.  Now he
was getting old and the duke asked him if there was anyone
in his family who would be able to take over for him.

Pen Lo said, "You can tell a high-quality horse by looking at
its muscles and appearance, but the best horses are the ones
that cannot be judged by their appearance only.  You must
be able to see their inner nature.  No one in my family has
this ability, but I do know of one mane who might be able to
help you.  He is a poor man who hauls wood and vegetables
for a living yet he has the ability to differentiate the great
horse from the merely good."

The duke was happy then and sent for the man and asked
him to find him a special horse.  The man was gone for three
months and then sent word to the duke that he had found
such a horse.

"What kind of horse is it?" asked the duke.

"It is a yellow mare," came the answer.

So the duke sent for the horse and it turned out to be a black
stallion.  He was angry then and sent for Pen Lo.  "This man
you sent to me know nothing about horses," he said.  "He
cannot even tell a mare from a stallion, never mind yellow
from black."

Pen Lo's face lit up.  "Ah," he said, "it is even better than I
had hoped.  His ability is now ten thousand times greater
than mine.  He has completely transcended judging a horse
by its appearance and sees only its inner nature.  When he
looks at the horse he does not see male or female or what
color it is but looks instead to its very essence.  In this way
he can see the potential for greatness in a horse."

Indeed, when he had sent for the horse he found that it was
the greatest horse he had ever seen.

-Lieh Tzu
excerpted from Tales from the Tao