Saturday, January 24, 2015

ECB QE

Telling point about FLG.   Obviously, he pays attention to the currency markets and he knew the ECB was expected to announce quantitative easing.    He also knew that this would drive the euro down against the dollar.   FLG's first thought?  Time to order shoes.  160 euros minus VAT is 132 euros.   132 euros is less than a $150.  Full grain leather, goodyear welted shoes for less than $150?   Yeah, gonna take advantage of that.

If the exchange rate stays this low for a bit, FLG might even buy these.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sightings

Saw David Muir in front of the White House.  FLG is about 75% sure he saw Chris Matthews as well.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sightings

FLG saw John Ashcroft this morning and Nouriel Roubini while walking back from lunch.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Euthyphro

Reread Euthyphro last night.

Not FLG's favorite dialogue.  Phaedrus probably is.  Followed closely by Meno, Apology, and Crito. But it reminded FLG why philosophy professors so often assign Euthyphro.  It demonstrates the Socratic Method; it raises a key theological dilemma; and, probably most important for Phil 101 professors, it's short.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Quotes About Finance

FLG ran across this Motley Fool article with 122 Things Everyone Should Know About Investing and the Economy.

Really liked this one regarding investing:
"In expert tennis, 80% of the points are won, while in amateur tennis, 80% are lost. The same is true for wrestling, chess, and investing: Beginners should focus on avoiding mistakes, experts on making great moves."
FLG also liked this one, which applies to finance and economics:
"We're all just guessing, but some of us have fancier math," writes Josh Brown. 

But of all the quotes, FLG like this the best because it applies pretty much to any field of human endeavor:
John Reed once wrote, "When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don't. What you need is to identify the core principles -- generally three to twelve of them -- that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles." Keep that in mind when getting frustrated over complicated financial formulas.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Time Horizons: NOW!

FLG read this article with interest because of the obvious overlap with his time horizons theory.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

State Robustness

Nassim Taleb co-authored a piece in Foreign Affairs that articulates a concept that FLG has been thinking about for a long time -- states that appear stable are actually less stable.   Italy, for example, is more adept at absorbing shocks and change than Saudi Arabia.

According to the article, these are the signs of a fragile state:
Centralized power
Economic specialization (ex. tourism or oil)
Being highly indebted and highly leveraged
Lack of moderate levels of political change
Lack of a record of surviving big shock

These five markers function best as warning signals. They cannot indicate with high confidence whether a given country is stable—no methodology can—but they certainly can reveal if a given country should cause worry.

FLG is completely fascinated by the idea of entropy in both economic and political systems.  One could use either of two definitions:
A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.


The following passage from the article expresses FLG's thoughts on the matter far more concisely than he could on his own:
Although centralization reduces deviations from the norm, making things appear to run more smoothly, it magnifies the consequences of those deviations that do occur. It concentrates turmoil in fewer but more severe episodes, which are disproportionately more harmful than cumulative small variations.
FLG has previously used the idea of pressure in a system to articulate this.  The entropy in any system creates pressure.  Trying to contain the pressure is only a temporary solution.  There needs to be some sort of release valve or the entire system will be destroyed.

This means that a political system, including say central banks trying to manage the economy, that tries to tweak the system over time to preserve or optimize the status quo is deluding itself, as this continual optimization results in a sub-optimal long-term outcome.  The best rebuttal FLG has seen, not surprisingly for long-time readers a time horizons-based one based on Thomas Jefferson -- maybe a series of stable regimes that last for several decades, only to be violently replaced, is actually the best solution.  FLG doesn't agree, but it is a compelling argument.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Strauss

FLG enjoyed this review of Leo Strauss: Man of Peace because it reminded him of many of the things he so enjoys about the study of political philosophy.

It also reminded FLG of the part of Phaedrus where writing itself is called into question.  This most often used as the jumping off point for the concept of esoteric philosophical writing.  For FLG it is that, but also a warning about the limits and consequences of technology.  Every once and a while, it's healthy to step back and consider the effects of technology, not just computers, Internet, and smart phones, but to think about one of the most fundamental -- the written word.

I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

DC Celebrity Sighting

Saw Paul Begala in front of the Loews Madison Hotel.

Updating the list.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrity Sighting

Saw Michele Bachmann at Pennsylvania Ave and 15th.

Updating the list.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote of the day


The division of labor is the essence of civilization, the underlying source of practically every good thing about the material conditions of the modern world. It is why civilized countries do not have famine any more, why we are surrounded by technological wonders, why things like air travel and mobile phones go from being restricted to millionaires to being ho-hum over a short course of years. Most of the technological ingredients for the Industrial Revolution had been in place not only in Britain but in Spain, France, Italy, etc., for years. But British subjects and American colonists had the opportunity and the inclination to begin a finer and more robust division of labor than did their European counterparts. They were just a little bit more free — and a little bit more determined to be free — and that little bit made an incalculable difference, not only to them, but to the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means


GQ's Douchiest College list.

Harvard at 4?  OK.
Princeton 3?  Gotcha.
Duke number 2?   Fine.
Brown topping the list?  Of course.  (Sorry, JTL)

But University of Colorado cracking the top 10?  Bob Jones?   University of Chicago?  University of Phoenix?!   Each have their issues, but douchy?  FLG doesn't think so.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Politics and the English Language

Peggy Noonan inspired FLG to read "Politics and the English Language" with this passage:
I mentioned last week that the president has taken to filibustering, to long, rambling answers in planned sit-down settings—no questions on the fly walking from here to there, as other presidents have always faced. The press generally allows him to ramble on, rarely fighting back as they did with Nixon. But I have noticed Mr. Obama uses a lot of words as padding. He always has, but now he does it more. There’s a sense of indirection and obfuscation. You can say, “I love you,” or you can say, “You know, feelings will develop, that happens among humans and it’s good it happens, and I have always said, and I said it again just last week, that you are a good friend, I care about you, and it’s fair to say in terms of emotional responses that mine has escalated or increased somewhat, and ‘love’ would not be a wholly inappropriate word to use to describe where I’m coming from.”
When politicians do this they’re trying to mush words up so nothing breaks through. They’re leaving you dazed and trying to make it harder for you to understand what’s truly being said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Foreign Service Officer Test

FLG just learned that the State Department offers an online practice version of the Foreign Service Officer Test.   Apparently, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service really does prepare its graduates well (at least for the test):


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FLG Hadn't Seen This

FLG was reading this piece by George Will about Hillary in 2016 when he came across this:

In October, Clinton was campaigning, with characteristic futility, for Martha Coakley, the losing candidate for Massachusetts governor, when she said:
"Don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."
Watch her on YouTube. When saying this, she glances down, not at a text but at notes, and proceeds with the hesitancy of someone gathering her thoughts. She is not reading a speechwriter's blunder. When she said those 13 words she actually was thinking.


FLG found the clip.  She clearly read the line and then started second guessing it in real-time.   It reinforces FLG's opinion that Hillary will basically say anything to get elected (although he's not sure this statement is particularly helpful), but also smart and resilient enough to carry on.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Robot Sex

What robot sex enthusiasts forget is that there's far more to sex than the mechanical act

Regular readers will remember that he welcomes the development of sex robots, as he thinks it will dramatically reduce sex slavery and other horrible sex-related crimes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Conversation

FLG:  Hey FLG, isn't that David Boies over there in front of the U. S. Court of Federal Claims?

FLG:  Why, yes, FLG, I do believe it is.  You should add him to the celebrity sightings list.

FLG:  Is he widely known enough to be called a celebrity?

FLG:  Have you looked at the list lately?  He is more famous than a lot of other people who made your list?

FLG:  Okay, I'll do it.

FLG:  Can I ask why are you talking to yourself?

FLG:  I was about to ask you the same question.

Could've Been Appeared in a London Paper in the 1770s

FLG read this David Ignatius column and thought to himself, if you change a few names around, this could've appeared in a London paper in the 1770s.   To be clear, FLG is NOT drawing a moral equivalency between ISIS and American Revolutionaries.  Far from it.  But from a military perspective, sentences like this:

When the jihadists stand and fight, as they have done in the northern Syrian town of Kobane, they get pounded. U.S. officials estimate the jihadists have lost 400 fighters in that battle.

Could just as easily have been:
 When the American rebels stand and fight, as they have done in the Battle of Long Island, they get pounded. Crown officials estimate the rebels have lost 3,000 fighters in that battle.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DAGOR

FLG wants one.   But he'll probably just end up buying a Jeep Wrangler, which he knows from previous ownership, is as good an off-road vehicle as he'll ever need because, well, he doesn't go off-roading all that much and Wranglers can go pretty much anywhere anyway.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ya Don't Say?

FLG watched this video, which reveals the closely held secret that when you deposit money in the bank it isn't placed in some super-secure vault and left there.  No, the bank...wait for it...lends the money out.   At, you'll never believe this, a higher rate of interest than they are paying you on your deposit.  This all leads to some sort of financial voodoo by way of fractional reserve banking and the money multiplier.

Thanks.  FLG had no idea.  Oh, neither did fucking Aristotle back in 300 something BC.

Also, while in theory this is maybe slightly interesting, there's this thing called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that backstops all this.  So, for retail investors, you know, depositing bank notes as described in the video, this is all more or less irrelevant.

If, however, he wanted to do an educational video on the repurchase agreement or Eurodollar markets and how these both affected and were affected by the financial crisis in 2008, well, that might actually be relevant.

FLG Is Intrigued

Thursday, October 23, 2014

FLG's Prediction

Jeff Bezos will be recognized as one of the most influential business people of all time.  Up in the pantheon with the likes of John Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, and Sam Walton.  Steve Jobs will probably end up close behind, but despite what most people currently think, FLG is convinced Bill Gates will be light-years down the list.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quote of the day II

Peter Weinberg:
Haters insist that Humanities majors graduate with no marketable skills. But what about the ability to bullshit? 

Funny article, but gets at the point FLG has been trying to make for years.   Technical skills are valuable, but soft, people skills are far, far more valuable.  And if you can understand what people want and need, even if they don't fully understand it themselves, and then turn that into a product that engineers can make, well,  the world will beat a path to your door.

Quote of the day

C.S. Perry:
I just need to meet a girl who smells of campfires and whiskey.

Object Sex Inspiring Art

Un "plug anal" géant installé place Vendôme

Video is in English with French subtitles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quote of the day

David Brooks:
Politics is slow drilling through hard boards. It is a series of messy compromises. The core functions of government are negative — putting out fires, arresting criminals, settling disputes — and much of what government does is the unromantic work of preventing bad situations from getting worse.

Amen. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

WTF!

FLG minor was watching a cartoon where the characters were making a time capsule.   This reminded FLG that when he was in elementary school it was the 25th anniversary of the school's founding and they had us put together a time capsule to be opened on the 50th anniversary.   After doing a bit of math in his head, FLG realized that would have been 2010.   So...FLG started googling for local news articles.  He found one.

It has been 25 years since teachers and students at Cranbury Elementary School buried a metal time capsule behind the school's main building, in ground now overrun by the root network of a tree that is flush with late spring greenery. [...]
Though they couldn't retrieve the original time capsule because of the position of the tree, parents, teachers, students and administrators last Friday afternoon celebrated the school's 50th Anniversary by burying a second time capsule -- this one made of plastic -- on the Cranbury grounds.

Couldn't retrieve the time capsule?   WTF?!  We worked hard on that thing.  Get a freaking backhoe or something.

Friday, October 3, 2014

FLG Still Thinks It's Time Horizons

David Brooks highlights the problems with pragmatism:

“This pragmatic liberalism,” Mumford writes, “was vastly preoccupied with the machinery of life. It was characteristic of this creed to overemphasize the part played by political and mechanical invention, by abstract thought and practical contrivance. And, accordingly, it minimized the role of instinct, tradition, history; it was unaware of the dark forces of the unconscious; it was suspicious of either the capricious or the incalculable, for the only universe it could rule was a measured one, and the only type of human character it could understand was the utilitarian one."

FLG concurs.  Although, his take goes back to the time horizons thing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FLG's Stream of Consciousness Brain Dump

FLG has been having some conflicts at work.  He has only had conflicts at work very rarely, so this threw him for a bit of a loop.  It's a fundamental personality difference, but he had trouble explaining to the other party because they couldn't get beyond the minutiae of the proximate issue of conflict.   Straight-up could not understand what FLG was saying.  This led FLG to try and find some sort of framework to analyze and hopefully explain the situation, which in turn led him to the DISC model.

The DISC model is a bit like Myers-Briggs, but less complicated.  There are two axes  -- task-focused versus people-focused and then active versus thoughtful.  In case you are wondering, FLG squarely in the people-focused and active camp.   The person he is having conflict with is task-focused and thoughtful or Type C in the lingo.

"The C DISC Styles are accurate, precise, detail-oriented, and conscientious."  Also,  "The C may need to focus more on people in order to build strong relationships, as they may have a tendency to focus on tasks more than people and to want to work alone. At times, the C will need to push themselves to be decisive and take risks, even if all the research isn't there to support it."

Since FLG is so action and people-focused, analysis paralysis as well as seeing people pretty much solely as means and not ends, drives him fucking batshit.  As he tried to explain any of this, it was like trying to explain a desert to a polar bear.  There was just no frame of reference to even build upon.   People are important to get tasks done, so clearly they care about people.  All very weird for FLG.

Anyway, as FLG was pondering this further, he began to think of the Type C's he has encountered before and it occurred to him that they are all hostages to their insecurities.    Now, we all have insecurities.  Even action-oriented, people-focused FLG has insecurities, but he thinks the most insecure people are Type C's.

And then he began to think of the careers that appeal to Type C's -- technology, bureaucracy, and academia.  Anybody who has been around college professors can tell you that accurate, precise, detail-oriented people who try to "right" and "accurate" and worry about credentials.  Bureaucracy has plenty of risk-averse, overanalyzers, who are sticklers for rules, order, and hierarchy.   Technology, particularly programmers, same deal.  It's more or less why FLG left engineering school.

But then FLG went back to the model and the three types break up along these key lines:

Dominance
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
Inducement
Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Submission
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
Compliance
Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.

Therefore, the Type C's think of themselves as less powerful and the environment is unfavorable.   This, oddly, came back to FLG as he was watching Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  He realized that the absurdity of everything was trying to imply that deeper meaning was non-existent.  Or to state the opposite, the present and objective reality is the most real.  So, then the question is whether Type C's believe that.  And if we assume that they are focused on objective fact and afraid to take risks because of potential future adverse consequences, then that may very well be true.

FLG started thinking about this and realized that his time horizons theory would predict, through his corollary about empirical fact, that Type C's, if they are focused on empirical fact, have to be focused on short time horizons, then this means that Type C's would most often be liberal in their orientation.  And this holds for academics and bureaucrats, although probably for a lot of self-interested reasons in addition to the short time horizons.  Technology folks are probably a little different.

But then he went back to the model again.  It makes sense that somebody who perceives their environment as unfavorable and they lack the power to change would be political liberal, right?

See, but then FLG remembered Jacob T Levy's talk about taking politics less seriously in which he uses Augustine (and by extension FLG's homeboy Plato) to call for acceptance of the political environment and order, even if it is unfavorable.  FLG was confused.  But then he said, Ah!   That's Submission -- less powerful than environment, but environment is favorable.   What's interesting about Augustine in that argument is how he frames the environment.  It's not that Hippo was less powerful than the Vandals, for example,  and that environment is unfavorable.  No, no, no.  It is that we are less powerful than God and since we exist in his love the environment is favorable.

So then FLG started asking himself, if he is conservative and Type I and the argument about Submission is really a conservative argument, then does perceiving the environment as favorable make you a conservative?  On the face, it would seem yes.  If one likes the existing order and presumably one wants to conserve it.

Here's the thing though.   The Type I and Type S have people and relationship orientation in common.  That's where FLG started thinking some more.   He always asks the following question to try to downplay the importance of objective fact -- In what way would my life be negatively impacted if I believed the Sun revolves around the Earth?   Liberals have the most trouble with that question.  They know there's no negative impact, but they reject the falsehood purely for non-consequential reasons.  So, are people who are focused on objective fact, entirely separate from a facts meaning, more liberal?   FLG would argue yes from the individuals he knows personally and his time horizons theory, but that's just a collection of anecdotes and his crazy theory.   But let's say it's true.

If that is true and relationship-oriented people are conservative and task-oriented people are liberal, then conservatives would fall into Type I and Type S and liberals into Type D and Type C.  FLG no no way thinks that's 100% the case, but he's going to keep an eye out while trying to keep himself from confirmation biasing the whole damn experiment.

Just so you know, FLG feels like he just walked around in a mental circle.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Objective Journalism

As regular readers will remember, FLG is deeply skeptical of the idea of objective journalism.  Nobody is objective and trying to create the illusion of it is, at least in FLG's opinion, more insidious than being upfront about the point of view.   This story about a real estate developer who wants to buy a bankrupt Atlantic City casino and turn it into a university for "white" geniuses provides an example.

Here's the gist:
A Florida developer interested in remaking the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel told Reuters his vision for the empty Atlantic City property includes a university that would ideally be attended by students who are "white and over 21."
Next sentence:
Glenn Straub made the incendiary remark, which was his way of describing someone with no financial obligations, during a larger interview about his ambitious plan for the vacant property, Reuters reported.

FLG is okay there.  Incendiary, while getting closer to subjective thoughts by the reporter about the statements, can factually describe that some people are upset, not necessarily the reporter.

Ah, but then we get to the last sentence:
Despite his unsavory comment, his $90 million bid remains on the table.
Now, it is unambiguously clear where the reporter stands.  FLG is fine with that, but the language at the beginning is trying to keep it objective, only at the end does the reporters personal feelings get outed.

FLG would be more comfortable if the reporter had just started the story off with : Racist asshole wants to buy casino.   Regardless of where FLG or anybody stands, best to know where the reporter stands so you can take that into consideration. 

BTW, this is completely separate from the questionable choice to write a story solely using information from another news story, but that's neither here nor there in this case.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Anthony Bourdain:

There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed and smoke weed all day and watch cartoons and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MBA, Innovation, & Selection Bias

Nathan Furr makes the case over at Slate that many notable innovators have qualms about hiring MBAs because, he thinks, the MBA curriculum teaches skills used in large, industrial corporations where there is more certainty, at least in comparison to innovative, start-up-ish companies.

FLG, who has an MBA, largely agrees, but thinks Furr misses something more fundamental -- selection bias.  People who chose to get MBAs, particularly name brand MBAs, are those who, pretty much by definition, are choosing the safe, well-worn path.  The stereotypical Harvard and Stanford MBA is somebody who did an Ivy League undergrad, then worked for McKinsey or Goldman for a couple of years, before heading to Palo Alto or Boston to punch their ticket one more time.   Basically, somebody who is extremely good at working within the established system, not the against the grain type that is needed to innovate.   The content of the coursework only further intensifies this, but the root is there at the selection bias.

Also, FLG realizes this reality flies in the face of the elite B-School marketing that emphasizes the social anthropology grad who did a tour in the peace corps and then successfully launches a company that produces cheap, solar powered toilets that produce potable water for the developing world, but that is just too bad. 

BookBook

This is fantastic:
 
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