Saturday, December 22, 2018


Dave Koz & Friends.....Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Life its ownself......................


..................................................................a full house.

On nonlinearities...........................


. . . even the simplest human events constitute complex systems ruled by nonlinearities.  Within such systems, teasing out a single episode and proclaiming it the prime mover makes as much sense as to pick a grain of sand and calling it "the beach."

-Martin Gurri,  The Revolt Of The Public:  And The Crisis Of Authority In The New Millennium

On action following principles.............


But the exhortation that all development discussions must lead within five minutes to a recommended philanthropic action inhibits clear thinking.  Actions follow principles and understanding. . . . There is a fear of inaction and indifference on the tragic problems of global poverty, which I share.  But wrong actions are equally a danger, and they may create more indifference and disillusionment when they fail.  It is critical to get the principles of action right before acting . . .

-William Easterly,  The Tyranny of Experts:  Economists, Dictators, and The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor

Criteria................................


The question before us is a relatively simple one: What would be the criteria for removing our remaining troops from the Iraqi, Syrian, and more general Middle Eastern conflicts? Or, for that matter, from Afghanistan, where we have been trapped for more than 17 long years of still open-ended occupation?
If the answer to that question is that only when each of these countries is a healthy pro-American democracy, and Islamist terrorism has ceased to be an “enduring” threat to the West, then the answer, as the old Bob Mankoff joke has it, is “How about never — is never good for you?”
-Andrew Sullivan, as he begins this essay

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


Spirit...........................................................................Taurus
(parts of this tune may sound familiar)

Unguarded..........................


"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded.  But once mastered, no one can help you as much, not even your father or your mother."

-Buddha, as copied from the epigraphs to this book

Arduous...........................


     What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.  It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better that you know it.  It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion;  it is easy in solitude to live after our own;  but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, as culled from his Essay On Self-Reliance

Friday, December 21, 2018

One percent............................


It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.   Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.  Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everybody will talk about.
     Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn't particularly notable - sometimes it isn't even noticeable - but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run.  The difference a tiny improvement can make overtime is astounding.

-James Clear, Atomic Habits:  Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results:  An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

If you doubt the truth of this...................


......ask an adult family member what they want for Christmas:

What do people want?

If you ask them, you probably won't find what you're looking for.  You certainly won't find a breakthrough.  It's our job to watch people, figure out what they dream of, and then create a transaction that can deliver that feeling.

-Seth Godin, as extracted from This Is Marketing:  You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See

And we weren't even consulted..........


"It is a big day when a person realizes that the world has its own set of rules."

-Michael Wade


David Sanborn.........................................Rain on Christmas

Benign..............................




“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.”

-Albert Camus

image via

Comedy for the ages....................


Abbott & Costello..............................................Who's On First

Spirit...........................


“The problem that we have with a victim mentality is that we forget to see the blessings of the day. Because of this, our spirit is poisoned instead of nourished.” 

-Steve Maraboli

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


Stevie Wonder............................................For Once In My Life

My Mom's favorite day of the year......


.......Starting tomorrow, daylight time starts increasing:


"In terms of daylight, this day is 5 hours, 50 minutes shorter than on June Solstice."

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Fun with the language..........................




Lessons learned...................


"Never taunt your enemies; especially when they are more numerous and have been drinking."

-David Warren, from this post (in which he sent me scurrying to the dictionary, looking up the word usufructuary)


Mannheim Steamroller........................................Pat a Pan

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



When TV and music were really first rate.....


From season #3 of Miami Vice, with a Dire Straits soundtrack:

What if..............................




“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, 
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 


-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

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


Stevie Wonder..............................................................My Girl

Elites......................................


I can't predict whether top-down democracy will endure:  but the momentum of events over the past decade and more is pushing the democratic world in a specific direction.  First, the great hierarchical institutions of the industrial age are toppling -- the political parties, as we have seen, are in a state of dissolution, and even chunks of the nation-state are splintering off.  The times favor fragmentation, if not disintegration.  Second, the present elite class has disqualified itself from reforming the system.  It has no interest in taking on the job, and would have no clue how to proceed if it tried.  The elites, like Icarus, appear content to glide above the masses until it's too late to avoid a crash.

-Martin Gurri,  The Revolt Of The Public

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The beginning of the Columbian Exchange...


Whereas in March 1520, when the Spanish fleet arrived, Mexico was home to 22 million people, by December only 14 million were still alive.  Smallpox was only the first blow.  While the new Spanish masters were busy enriching themselves and exploiting the natives, deadly waves of flu, measles and other infectious diseases struck Mexico one after the other, until in 1580 its population was down to less than 2 million.

-Yuval Noah Harari,  Homo Deus:  A Brief History of Tomorrow

Epidemic..................................


That Summer Rush published his own 363-page opus on the epidemic:  An Account of the Bilious Remitting Yellow Fever, as It Appeared in the City of Philadelphia in the Year 1793.  He explained in the preface that it had been delayed "by the want of health" and that he had gone ahead and published it "under the great disadvantages, of having been hastily copied from my notes, amid frequent professional interruptions," only because the end of summer was fast approaching, and if the yellow fever returned, he wanted the nations's capital, and all American port cities, to have his account as a resource.

-Stephen Fried,  Rush:  Revolution, Madness & The Visionary Doctor Who Became A Founding Father

So, imagine you are the leading medical practitioner in a city of 50,000 and five thousand citizens die in a single summer from yellow fever.  Further, you have no idea of its actual cause (a virus spread by infected mosquitoes.  Please remember that the existence of viruses wasn't discovered for another hundred years), nor do you have any idea of a cure (there still isn't one).   Although he tried various concoctions, including the use of mercury chloride, purging and blood-letting were the main tools in his medicine bag.  It is a miracle more didn't die. 

Laugh and play.......................


The Ronettes........................................Frosty The Snowman

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


..............will have noticed a name change in the header above.   My long-term partner in the real estate brokerage business recently decided it was time for him to retire.  He has kindly allowed his name to be connected to this blog, with no editorial input, for the past nine years.  It just seemed appropriate, out of respect to him, to retire his name from these pages as well.

Not sure much has been learned..........


Elites today have no idea how to speak to the public, or what to say to it.  They have shown little interest in trying.  The hyper-educated individuals who ran the Clinton campaign were utterly indifferent to public opinion:  they believed in big data.  An algorithm nicknamed "Ada" delivered "simulations" of opinion to the campaign staff.  Ada was the public as elites wish it would be:  safe, clean, and speaking only when spoken to.  The voter in the flesh was clearly perceived by this group as an alien and frightening brute.  His very existence was deplorable.  The shock of election day followed naturally from such distortions of distance.

-Martin Gurri,   The Revolt Of The Public

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


Shorty Long..........................................................Night Fo' Last

Different perspectives..........................


"My answer to this question led me to express my hearty disapprobation of the mode of education which makes the first knowledge of boys to consist in fables, and thereby leads them to reject the truth."
-Benjamin Rush

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” 
-a popular paraphrase of a G.K. Chesterton passage from here


Must be something in the nature of man .....


     "I thank you for your polite wishes to see me restored to public life.  There was a time when I would have accepted of an Appointment Abroad. . . . But the time is past -- for my accepting of that or of any other appointment in the Government of the United States. -- I already see a System of influence bordering upon corruption established in our Country, which seems to proclaim to innocence & patriotism to keep their distance."

Benjamin Rush, as excerpted from a 1789 letter to John Adams, as printed here

Gratitude...............................


“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” 

-G. K. Chesterton, as lifted from here

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The technocratic illusion...................


 Morally neutral approaches to poverty do not exist.  Any approach to development will either respect the rights of the poor or it will violate them.  One cannot avoid this moral choice by appealing to "nonideological evidence-based policies" (a popular phrase in development today).
     Authoritarian development is also a pragmatic tragedy.  History and modern experience suggest that free individuals with political and economic rights -- call it free development -- make up a remarkably successful problem-solving systemFree development gives us the right to choose amongst a myriad of spontaneous problem-solvers, rewarding those that solve our problems.  These public and private problem-solvers accomplish far more than dictators who implement solutions provided by experts.   We will see how free development allows the squeaky wheel to get the grease, while authoritarian development silences the squeaky wheel -- perhaps with a police raid and a prison term.
     The technocratic illusion is that poverty results from a shortage of expertise, whereas poverty is really about a shortage of rights.

-William Easterly, as excerpted from the introduction to The Tyranny of Experts:  Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor

A brief synopsis of the human condition...


It is important to appreciate that the financial system is complex, not merely complicated. A complicated system, such as a smartphone, has a fixed structure, so it behaves in ways that are predictable and controllable. A complex system has an evolving structure, so it can evolve in ways that no one anticipates. We will never have a proven understanding of what caused the financial crisis, just as we will never have a proven understanding of what caused the first World War.

-Arnold Kling, as culled from this ten year old essay

Twofer.................................


Little Richard.............................Santa Claus Is Coming To Town



Springsteen...................................................Ditto




thanks michael

G. E. ..............................


Musings on Markets has an interesting post about how one might think about General Electric today.  In between the lines are lessons for all businesses.   Two excerpts:

"If there is a lesson to learn from GE's fall from grace, it is that even the best conglomerates are built on foundations of sand. Note, though, that while this lesson may be learned for the moment, it will be forgotten soon, as are most other business lessons are, and we will surely repeat the cycle again in the future."

"Don't get me wrong! Jack Welch was an inspirational top manager, a man with vision and drive, but he was also an imperial CEO, who made his board of directors a rubber stamp for his actions. As we look at a new generation of successful companies, this time in the technology space (the FANG stocks and the Chinese giants), with visionary founders at the top, it is worth remembering that power left unchecked in any person (no matter how smart and visionary) is dangerous."

via

The two answers...............................


.............................................to the two essential questions.

He got a lot right...........................


     On October 10, Rush spoke to promote his candidacy as a delegate pledged to support the Constitution and the ratification process.   He spoke in a style that the next day's newspaper called "elegant and pathetic (meant as a compliment, in the sense of evoking pathos) about all the "advantages which would flow from the adoption of the new system, of federal government."  He highlighted the "advancement of commerce, agriculture, manufactures, arts and sciences, the encouragement of immigration, the abolition of paper money, the annihilation of party, and the prevention of war" having been "ingeniously considered" in the document, and argued that ratification was crucial.
     Rush ended his remarks with a dramatic flourish.  "Where this the last moment of my existence," he proclaimed, "my dying request and injunction to my fellow citizens would be to accept and support the offered Constitution."

-Stephen Fried,  Rush:  Revolution, Madness & The Visionary Doctor Who Became A Founding Father

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


Archie Bells & The Drells........................I Just Can't Stop Dancing
(with a special guest appearance by the Nicholas Brothers)

Why am I not surprised..................?


................Organic farming (and biofuels) are less than optimal for the environment.  Science is a wonderful thing.

"Forests sequester a lot more carbon than farmland, and this is a critical component to any overall strategy to mitigate climate change."

-Read all about it at this Steven Novella post



Monday, December 17, 2018

Not all change is for the better.................


"It used to be we didn't treat stuff coming out of the mouths of 20-year-olds very seriously for a good reason."

-From a Dear World letter at the Coyote Blog

Robert B. Parker,....................


.............the dean of American crime fiction, before he died in 2010, mastered the art of minimalist witty repartee.  His main characters, over 57 some novels, were rugged individuals, dogged in the pursuit of their interpretation of justice.  His books brought many hours of escapist pleasure.   Apparently, good things do not have to end.  Parker's Estate has gone with the practice of hiring other writers to keep the old characters alive.  To date, there have been at least seven new Spenser novels, eight new Jesse Stone novels, and five new Cole/Hitch westerns written since Parker's death.   Sunny Randall is my favorite Parker character.  After a long wait,  hot off the presses is the first new Sunny Randall novel.  The Estate hired Mike Lupica, a pretty fair sportswriter, to continue her story.   I recommend it to you.  Here are the opening paragraphs:

I said to Spike, "Do I look as if I'm getting older?"
"This is some kind of trap," he said.
"I'm being serious," I said.  "The UPS kid ma'amed me the other day."
"I assume you shot him,"  Spike said.
"No," I said.  "But I thought about it."

Actually, this isn't possible...................


...................................................without the wonders of technology.  Martina was eleven when Elvis died.

Elvis Presley with Martina McBride sitting in....Blue Christmas

About all those coming "predictions".........


"But I’ve always found it’s more useful as an investor to prepare than to predict."

-Ben Carlson, from this post

Where investing means.........................


....................................making "your future life easier."

A really good first step.......................


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

Might be more than "simply a tool".......


.........................................."And the cognitive load is enormous."

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


Archie Bell & The Drells........................................Tighten Up

Wondering if the second act has closed...


"There is nothing more common," he began, "then to confound the terms of the American revolution with those of the late American war.  The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution.  On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.  It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government."

-Stephen Fried,  Rush:  Revolution, Madness & The Visionary Doctor Who Became A Founding Father

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Us humans..............................




"The human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject, till it has first reached the extremity of error."

-Benjamin Rush

Every Mother's child........................


Nat King Cole.............................................The Christmas Song

Wisdom.....................





"And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know"

-Kerry Livgren and Kansas from this beauty

One after another...................




"The Earth is littered with the ruins of empires that believed they were eternal."

Camille Paglia

A sign of the times......................?















via

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


Dion..................................................Abraham, Martin and John