Non-financial: January - March 2016 articles archive home
What greater evil could you wish a miser than long life? - Syrus Publilius

Once there was a miser, who to save money would eat nothing but oatmeal. And what's more, he would make a great big batch of it at the start of every week, and put it in a drawer, and when he wanted a meal he would slice off a piece and eat it cold; thus he saved on firewood. Now, by the end of the week, the oatmeal would be somewhat mouldy and not very appetising; and so to make himself eat it, the miser would take out a bottle of good whiskey, and pour himself a glass, and say "All right, Olai, eat your oatmeal and when you're done, you can have a dram."
Friday, March 18, 2016 ... more
The market as God
In days of old, seers entered a trance state and then informed anxious seekers what kind of mood the gods were in, and whether this was an auspicious time to begin a journey, get married, or start a war. The prophets of Israel repaired to the desert and then returned to announce whether Yahweh was feeling benevolent or wrathful. Today The Market's fickle will is clarified by daily reports from Wall Street and other sensory organs of finance. Thus we can learn on a day-to-day basis that The Market is "apprehensive," "relieved," "nervous," or even at times "jubilant." On the basis of this revelation awed adepts make critical decisions about whether to buy or sell.
Monday, March 14, 2016 ... more
First published in 1902
Extracts of Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to his Son:

“I don’t care how good old methods are, new ones are better, even if they’re only just as good.”

“… anything that teaches a boy to get the answer before the other fellow gets through biting the pencil pays. College doesn’t make fools it develops them.
Friday, March 11, 2016 ... more
The Bronze Rat
A Wharton alumnus had a few hours to kill after meeting with the legal representatives of his venture partners in San Francisco. To pass the time he wandered around Chinatown, and he eventually found himself in a back-alley antique shop. As he considered the objects on display, the alum spotted an exotic item that seemed particularly amusing. It was an antique bronze sculpture of a rat. The piece seemed worth owning, so the alum inquired about the price.
Monday, March 7, 2016 ... more
Not without effort
The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds … Or you could simply throw down a few inches of compost and fake it. That's what we do, isn't it? Do the best with what we have? It's not lying, dear. Don't look at it that way. It's hopeful pretending.

― An Na

The legend of our times, it has been suggested, might be "The Revenge of Failure".
Friday, March 4, 2016 ... more
High achievers
Until recently, the scientific literature on self-control focused almost exclusively on the benefits of having a lot of it, understandably so. People who are good at keeping themselves in line also tend to be more successful. Newer studies, however, are finding a downside to having a high level of self-control. One of these was led by Duke University psychologist Christy Zhou Koval.
Friday, February 26, 2016 ... more
The motive behind criticism often determines its validity. Those who care criticize where necessary. Those who envy criticize the moment they think that they have found a weak spot. - Criss Jami

Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it soothes their worries, and finally it rots their souls ...
Friday, February 19, 2016 ... more
Without purpose
At present l am a blank, and I admit it. So I am just going to go on being a blank, till something nudges me from within, and makes me know I am not blank any longer … [In the meantime] life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, we ourselves flash and yearn, and moreover my mother told me as a boy (repeatedly) "Ever to confess you're bored means you have no Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored.

- DH Lawrence
Friday, February 12, 2016 ... more
Against us
Sometimes, it seems, our devices are actively working against us. The phone that spontaneously reboots when you need it most; the computer that crashes when you have unsaved changes ...

This tendency for things to seemingly fail out of spite was labelled resistentialism by the British humourist Paul Jennings in the '60s, but similar terms have been coined since. We are FOBIO (frequently outwitted by inanimate objects) or FOILED (frequently outwitted by inanimate, lame electronic devices). Edward Tenner coined the phrase revenge effect to refer to an unintended and negative consequence of new technology...
Friday, February 5, 2016 ... more
One small difference
It is uncontroversial that the human brain has capabilities that are, in some respects, far superior to those of all other known objects in the cosmos. It is the only kind of object capable of understanding that the cosmos is even there, or why there are infinitely many prime numbers, or that apples fall because of the curvature of space-time, or that obeying its own inborn instincts can be morally wrong, or that it itself exists. Nor are its unique abilities confined to such cerebral matters. The cold, physical fact is that it is the only kind of object that can propel itself into space and back without harm, or predict and prevent a meteor strike on itself, or detect others of its kind across galactic distances.
Friday, January 29, 2016 ... more
Left to themselves they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern ... heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds.
Monday, January 25, 2016 ... more
Without rhyme or reason
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.
― Richard Dawkins
Friday, January 22, 2016 ... more
Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group ...
Monday, January 18, 2016 ... more
The A Hole effect
There is a reliable correlation between wealth and inconsiderate behaviour. Wealthy people are more likely to exhibit rudeness in cars, take more than equal shares of available goods, and think they deserve special treatment.
Friday, January 15, 2016 ... more
It seems …
In modern history and science, never has there been a verified occasion of a god appearing or demonstrating the powers ascribed throughout history to deities. Always, there is a prophet who speaks for the god. Why cannot the god speak?
Monday, January 11, 2016 ... more
Anyone can fail at something they really don’t want. What really takes courage is going after something you want and then failing. There is more fulfilment in life knowing that you tried, rather than settled without a fight …
Friday, January 8, 2016 ... more
It’s ironic, really - you want to die because you can't be bothered to go on living - but then you're expected to get all energetic and move furniture and stand on chairs and hoist ropes and do complicated knots and attach things to other things...
Monday, January 4, 2016 ... more
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