Luck

September 5, 2008 — 6 Comments

Taleb, writes that hard work and planning gets you a Mercedes. Black Swans get you a private jet. What do you try to take from this? Humility in the face of things I can’t control. And to learn to be happy and content with the results of the parts I can.

What is the ‘classic’ book of the 80′s and 90s?

September 3, 2008 — 40 Comments

When I was in high school our reading list went something like this:

The Scarlet Letter (colonial America)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (slavery)

The Red Badge of Courage (sometimes for civil war)

The Jungle (turn of the century)

All Quiet on the Western Front (WWI)

The Great Gatsby (20′s)

Of Mice and Men (30s)

Catcher in the Rye (50′s and 60′s)

Fahrenheit 451 (Cold War)

And then if I remember correctly, it sort of dribbles off from there to miscellaneous short stories (The Things They Carried, etc) Yours might be a little different so plug in The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible or Invisible Man as needed.

So what book will be required reading for the 80′s and 90′s? The qualifications being that it says something about those decades, not where it’s publication date happens to fall.

I’m almost positive that it will be American Pyscho or Fight Club and although most people disagree with me, none of them can suggest a decent alternative.

Update: Tyler Cowen picked it up which is awesome

People as a Proper Occupation

September 1, 2008 — 12 Comments

What would happen if you started being effusively pleasant to other people. You smiled. Said hello without provocation. Introduced yourself. Apologized or said excuse me. What if you tried to really empathize. Used explanation instead of authority. If you met the world more than halfway.

Ask this guy. He’s a totally different person. I don’t mean it condescendingly, it is profoundly inspiring.

Being a malcontent is like a disease. It eats at you. You stew and rage and bitch and whine and yell. It’s awful. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place, but it’s generally awful. And being the opposite – not just tolerating people but actively accepting and enjoying them – it’s like an injection into your life.

When psychologists force patients to contact facial muscles to emulate, say, happiness or anger, subjects report increased feelings of that actual emotion. In other words, your externalities can become your reality.

I’m not very good at it. But when I do it, it’s transformative.

What I’m Reading

August 31, 2008 — 6 Comments

His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S. by Geraldo Rivera (actually a very intelligent book)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (again. might be my favorite book and i think perhaps, the greatest work of fiction)

‘Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (does anyone know if McCourts of New York is worth seeing?)

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler (design with intent is a fascinating topic. Architectures of Control is one of my favorite blogs)

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (metafiction like this is very creative. also, it’s about weird animals)

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (rereading with a clean copy)

What Could Make Someone Want to Leave New York and Move to Buffalo? — New York Magazine (great piece)

LA’s Hidden Homeless — LA Times

Seth Robert’s thoroughly dismantles a NY Time’s reporter who has no idea what he’s talking about

My buddy made this site, and I want to know where you get a blanket like that

List of unusual animal anecdotes

August 28, 2008 — 8 Comments

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I’ve been working on that for the last month or so with the help of my wonderful intern. And I think there might just be an awesome book there. Almost every single one of those sources in the article comes from books in my library or articles I tracked down.

I’m not sure it’s even possible to comprehend the spectacle that is 260 fighting lions, or a dying elephant flinging legionaries into the air like rag dolls and watching their shields fall in perfect symmetry. Or, what it would feel like to repel into Harlem apartment and find yourself face to face with a 400 pound Bengal tiger and an alligator the size of a 4th grader. My little puppy regularly shocks me with her cuteness and creativity, so I can only begin to imagine a private white elephants, baby tigers and okapis. We talk about violent breeds of dogs, but just a century and a half ago, kings had lions as house pets. The Romans, despite their violence, seem to have understood this much better than us. There is something there that is very surreal, deeply biological and awe-inspiring that has never quite been captured in text aside from rare glimpses and passages.

If it’s something that interests you, it’s there for you to edit or add to. It still has a long way to go but hopefully it sticks around. And if you get a chance, read Pliny’s Natural History – it’s stunning.