Saturday, March 24, 2018

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


Where better to launch a patriotic uprising than Faneuil Hall in Boston?   Colonists had gathered amid its Doric columns to protest the Boston Massacre and plot the overthrow of British rule.  Abolitionists had denounced slavery from its stage.  It is a lodestone of American liberty, a cathedral for freedom fighters.
     That is why a handful of eminent Bostonians chose Faneuil Hall as the place to begin a new rebellion on the sunny afternoon of June 15, 1898.  Like all Americans, they had been dizzied by the astonishing events of recent weeks.  Their country had suddenly burst beyond its natural borders.  American troops had landed in Cuba.  American warships had bombarded Puerto Rico.  An American expeditionary force was streaming toward the distant Philippine Islands.  Hawaii seemed about to fall to American power.  President William McKinley had called for two hundred thousand volunteers to fight in foreign wars.  Fervor for the new idea of overseas expansion gripped the United States.
     This appalled the organizers of the Faneuil Hall meeting.  They could not bear to see their country setting out to capture foreign nations.  That afternoon, they rose in protest.

-Stephen Kinzer,  The True Flag:  Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire

On excellence......................


     Our overriding objective is excellence, or more precisely, constant improvement, a superb and constantly improving company in all respects.
     Conflict in the pursuit of excellence is a terrific thing.  There should be no hierarchy based on age or seniority.  Power should lie in the reasoning, not the position, of the individual.  The best ideas win no matter who they come from.
     Criticism (by oneself and by others) is an essential ingredient in the improvement process, yet, if handled incorrectly, can be destructive.  It should be handled objectively.  There should be no hierarchy in the giving or receiving of criticism.
     Teamwork and team spirit are essential, including intolerance of substandard performance.  This is referring to 1) one's recognition of the responsibilities one has to help the team achieve its common goals and 2) the willingness to help others (work within a group) towards those common goals.  Our fates are intertwined.  One should know that others can relied upon to help.  As a corollary, substandard performance cannot be tolerated anywhere because it would hurt everyone.
     Long-term relationships are both a) intrinsically gratifying and b) efficient, and should be intentionally built.  Turnover requires re-training and therefore creates setbacks.
     Money is a byproduct of excellence, not a goal.

Ray Dalio,  as excerpted from a 1996 office memo reprinted in  Principles

Be careful what you wish for......................


“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

-attributed to C. S. Lewis

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"Some of the most dangerous people in the world are those who want to save the world."

-Michael Wade

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an invitation...........................


Declaring our uncertainty in our beliefs to others makes us more credible communicators.  We assume that if we don't come off as 100% confident, others will value our opinions less.  The opposite is usually true.  If one person expresses a belief as absolutely true, and someone else expresses a belief by saying, "I believe this is true, and I'm 80% on it,"  who are you more likely to believe?  The fact that the person is expressing their confidence as less than 100% signals that they are trying to get at the truth, that they have considered the quantity and quality of their information with thoughtfulness and self-awareness.  And thoughtful and self-aware people are more believable.
     Expressing our level of confidence also invites people to be our collaborators. ... By saying, "I'm 80%" and thereby communicating we aren't sure, we open the door for others to tell us what they know.  They realize they can contribute without having to confront us  by saying or implying , "You're wrong."  Admitting we are not sure is an invitation for help in refining our beliefs, and that will make our beliefs much more accurate over time as we are more likely to gather relevant information.

-Annie Duke,  Thinking In Bets:  Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All The Facts

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


The Monkees.....................................................................Valleri

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

More on risk, luck and decisions...................



....................at this post from Morgan Housel.  A wee excerpt:


If risk is what happens when you make good decisions but end up with a bad outcome, luck is what happens when you make bad or mediocre decisions but end up with a great outcome. They both happen because the world is too complex to allow 100% of your actions dictate 100% of your outcomes. They are mirrored cousins, driven by the same thing: You are one person in a 7 billion player game, and the accidental impact of other people’s actions can be more consequential than your own.


via

Relatively speaking...........................


............................I am prepared to say goodbye to winter.


an inherent messiness..............


“The beginning of wisdom, I believe, is our ability to accept an inherent messiness in our explanation of what's going on. Nowhere is it written that human minds should be able to give a full accounting of creation in all dimensions and on all levels. Ludwig Wittgenstein had the idea that philosophy should be what he called "true enough." I think that's a great idea. True enough is as true as can be gotten. The imagination is chaos. New forms are fetched out of it. The creative act is to let down the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended and then to attempt to bring out of it ideas.” 

-Rupert Sheldrake

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


The Fifth Dimension...........................................Sweet Blindness

 

Recommended........................




     "Happiness never comes to us;  it can only be achieved.   We have to attain it, which is why the tools of the spiritual life - metánoia, self-discipline, solitude, prayerfulness, acts of love and forgiveness - are necessary ingredients to that end.  And by the way, don't doubt for a second the fact that if we're not happy in this world, which is where heaven begins, then hell begins here.  We must come to understand that God has put it into our power to attain happiness, that this is what he wants of and for us, and that it is entirely up to us to obtain it.  No one can or will provide us with happiness.  If we truly desire happiness, then we must struggle to do the best we can at each moment of life.  Our happiness doesn't depend on somebody else's action or on anything else.  It doesn't depend on our success, but rather on the effort we're willing to put into everything we do.  Even if people disappoint us or fail us left and right, even if people turn against us, hurt us, lie about us, don't understand us, even if they think they know everything about us and judge us unfairly, they can't infringe upon our happiness.  True happiness means that we have a deep-seated peace and tranquility that transcends all the difficulties of life, that cannot be disturbed by the chaos and warfare that might touch our lives."

Acceptance.....................


...........................of Seven Brutal Truths may improve your life.

via

David Kanigan posts a quote................


..............on his wondrous Thrive that sure sounds familiar:

 Bob Marley..............................................Redemption Song

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It is still hard to tell...........................


...........................................................................what season it is.



via

This is something.......................


.................................................you don't see every night.

This is mostly true.........................


There are no bad jobs when you’re just starting out. Most young people starting out in the workforce are miserable because they’re not working for their dream company or doing exactly what they’d like with their career. Sometimes this stage in your career is where you learn what you don’t want to do or the types of people you don’t want to work with. The process of elimination can be useful early on in your career.

-Ben Carlson, as copied from here

The heading says "mostly" because of the second sentence.  My first three jobs in the three years after I graduated from college were house painter, grill cook and sandwich maker, and a newspaper deliverer.   I don't remember ever being miserable.

On secrecy...................................


“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to enquire. We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.” 

-Robert Oppenheimer

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


Georgie Fame..................................The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde

 

On uncertainty.....................


“I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.” 

-Richard Feynman

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


"We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought."

-Bertrand Russell,  Skeptical Essays  (1928)

Monday, March 19, 2018

A little better...........................


The preservation of peace and the improvement of the lot of all people require us to have faith in the rationality of humans. If we have this faith and if we pursue understanding, we have not the promise but at least the possibility of success. We should not be misled by promises. Humanity in all its history has repeatedly escaped disaster by a hair's breadth. Total security has never been available to anyone. To expect it is unrealistic; to imagine that it can exist is to invite disaster. What we do have in our technological capacities is an opportunity to use our inventiveness, our creativity, our wisdom and our understanding of our fellow beings to create a future world that is a little better than the one in which we live today.

-Edward Teller,  The Pursuit of Simplicity

A matter of trust....................


"There are people whom I would not entrust with watching paint dry who host national television programs."

-Michael Wade

On positive change.....................


"As long as you feel good about yourself, you can do anything!"   That's a total lie.  You never made one positive change in your whole life when you felt good about yourself.  You make positive change in your life when you get uncomfortable with yourself.

-Larry Winget,  No Time For Tact

Say it ain't so..........................


................................the end of toys?  Or just the end of toy stores?


This week, Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. finally died. ...

Seeking a cause for its demise, Toys ‘R’ Us has cast the blame upon its competitors -- particularly Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart -- which is a little like saying I’d have won the golf tournament if not for all those guys with the lower scores. ...

But the chain’s biggest foe was neither nimbler retailers nor that heavy debt load. It was the undermining of the very concept of the toy. For most of recorded history, toys have been physical things with which children play and create, telling themselves stories about the world and their place in it. ...

Well, toys that talk and blink a chain could still stock, albeit at a fearsome discount to compete with online retailers. But when a toy as a tangible thing to be manipulated yielded to a toy as a digital presence with which a child interacted via a multipurpose device, the idea of a toy store was in its death throes. As we learned from the demise of video and record chains, that which is downloadable needs no physical presence to be sold. And nowadays even very young children prefer the touchable screen to the touchable toy. Apart from a niche here and there, toy stores no longer serve any discernible function.

photo via

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


At the book store..........Will & Ariel Durant's  The Lessons of History



Morals are the rules by which a society exhorts (as laws are the rules by which it seeks to compel) its members and associations to behavior consistent with its order, security, and growth.  So for sixteen centuries the Jewish enclaves in Christendom maintained their continuity and internal peace by a strict and detailed moral code, almost without help from the state and its laws.
     A little knowledge of history stresses the variability of moral codes, and concludes that they are negligible because they differ in time and place, and sometimes contradict each other.  A larger knowledge stresses the universality of moral codes, and concludes their necessity.
     Moral codes differ because they adjust themselves to historical and environmental conditions.  If we divide economic history into three stages - hunting, agriculture, industry - we may expect that the moral code of one stage will be changed in the next.  In the hunting stage a man had to be ready to chase and fight and kill.  When he had caught his prey he ate to the cubic capacity of his stomach, being uncertain when he might eat again; insecurity is the mother of greed, as cruelty is the memory - if only in the blood - of a time when the test of survival (as now between states) was the ability to kill.  Presumably the death rate in men - so often risking their lives in the hunt - was higher than in women;  some men had to take several women, and every man was expected to help women to frequent pregnancy.  Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence.  Probably every vice was once a virtue - i.e., a quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the group.  Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.

A positive narrative.................


     A lot of the way we feel about ourselves comes from how we think we compare with others.  This robust and pervasive habit of mind impedes learning.  Luckily, habits can be changed, whether the habit is biting your nails or decrying your terrible luck when you lose.  By shifting what it is that makes us feel good about ourselves, we can move toward a more rational fielding of outcomes and a more compassionate view of others.  We can learn better and be more open-minded if we work toward a positive narrative driven by engagement in truthseeking and striving toward accuracy and objectivity:  giving others credit when it's due, admitting when our decisions could have been better, and acknowledging that almost nothing is black and white.

-Annie Duke,   Thinking In Bets:  Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

On changing a habit..................


     Habits operate on a neurological loop consisting of three parts:  the cue, the routine, and the reward.  A habit could involve eating cookies:  the cue might be hunger, the routine going to the pantry and grabbing a cookie, and the reward a sugar high.  Or, in poker, the cue might be winning a hand, the routine taking credit for it, the reward a boost to our ego.  Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habits, offers the golden rule of habit change - that the best way to deal with a habit is to respect the habit loop;  "To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine."

-Annie Duke,  Thinking In Bets:  Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

On rituals.................................



     "If you're speaking of tribal societies in primitive cultures, weren't their rituals often based on fear and superstition?" asked Rob, a middle-school teacher.
     "Sometimes, but that's not what matters here.  Why they did it is not as important as the fact that they did it.  Their coming together reveals something essential for human life, even for all of us today.   It comes from here," he said, tapping his heart, "from the guts.  When you study history and human nature, when you look at how we human beings have always lived together, you see this need for familiar and recurring rituals, regular ceremonial and formal commemoration, which express, strengthen, and define the state of our relationships, our common ideals, our shared triumphs and griefs.  That's something we can't afford to forget, for it's just as true for us."

-The Monks of New Skete,  In the Spirit of Happiness

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Oriented.............................

















     In one civilization after another, the translation of certain realities into representation - symbolic images - of other realities, originates from something deep and inherent in human nature, a sense of awe and wonder, a perception demanding expression.  Symbols may differ, as well as our understanding, interpretation, and use of rituals, but the impulse to use them itself is a universal drive 
in human life.  We are oriented toward meaning, and to the celebration of it, and ultimately our individual taste for the "really real" will be satisfied only when we join our fellow human beings in recognition of our common search for the essential truths of human life.
     We may scoff at primitive man's need for symbolism and ritual, dismissing it as nothing more than superstitious mumbo jumbo that our scientific era has made obsolete.  But a closer look at our own lives reveals that we, too, are inescapably creatures of symbols.   From language to dance, wedding rings to diplomas, military medals to flags, in art and music, in secular culture as well as religious practice, symbols not only represent and express deeper, often more elusive thoughts and feelings, but actually stimulate and refine our experience of these realities.

-The Monks of New Skete,  In The Spirit of Happiness

Faithful readers......................


................may remember that we acquired an old school building in 2012 (has it really been that long?).   It took a while to get our minds wrapped around the project, but we finally did. 




As a quick recap:  It is a 30,000 square foot, three story building, constructed in 1939.  It was built on the site of the original 1880's Newark High School (actually sharing a bit of the original foundation).  Attached to, but not part of, the building is a 20,000 square foot gymnasium that could have been used as a set for the movie Hoosiers. The Newark Board of Education made good use of the buildings until 2012, when they considered demolishing them.  Wiser heads prevailed, and the buildings were auctioned.  We bought them.  A few years later we sold the gym to the Granville Christian Academy.  They were desperate for gym space and the building needed improvements that we were ill-equipped to make.  They have truly been faithful stewards of the old gym.  Qualifies as a win-win. 
      The decision to convert the school building to an apartment complex was made early on, but figuring out how to get it done took like forever.  We applied twice for State Historic Tax Credits, and were turned down both times.  Old buildings are expensive to fix.  The tax credits go a long way toward making such a project economically viable.  Several months after the second rejection, we received encouragement from both the City of Newark and the State to apply yet again.   The third time was the charm. 
     We actually started work in earnest last fall.   The plan is to have nice folks move into the apartments early this summer.   Future posts will contain progress photos.   Stay tuned.


A path...............................


Whatever circumstances life brings you, you will be more likely to succeed and find happiness if you take responsibility for making your decisions well instead of complaining about things being beyond your control.

-Ray Dalio

Fifty years ago.................................For Ray


Jethro Tull......................................................My Sunday Feeling

Schadenfreude.........................


Taking credit for a win lifts our personal narrative.  So too does knocking down a peer by finding them at fault for a loss.  That's schadenfreude:  deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune.  Schadenfreude is basically the opposite of compassion.
     Ideally, our happiness would depend on how things turn out for us regardless of how things turn out for anyone else.  Yet, on a fundamental level, fielding someone's bad outcome as their fault feels good to us.  On a fundamental level, fielding someone's good outcome as luck helps our narrative alone.

-Annie Duke:  Thinking In Bets:  Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

Schadenfreude...............Part 2








Self.........................




"Our capacity for self-deception has few boundaries."

-Annie Duke