from yesterday’s Washington Post
from today’s WSJ
My New Years’ resolution this year was to learn business. So I finally took off the shelf and read this one, which had been recommended to me years ago by a business school graduate.
Friends, this book is fantastic. Funny and informative and clarifying. Shortly after finishing it, I overheard a loud, obnoxious conversation between two young businessmen at a bar, and I was able to follow all the acronyms and MBA gibberish they spewed at each other, as well as see many flaws in their thinking.
I thought this was a funny part. The chapter on ethics is of course the shortest, and much of it is devoted to a “I’m telling you this so you know not to do it” kind of moral reasoning.
How about Genichi Taguchi, from the chapter on Operations?:
This book is worth the cost just for the summaries of leadership and public speaking books included at the end.
Highest praise to author Steven Silbiger. I don’t know how much business you can learn from a book but this felt like a good start.
Has any writer ever distilled his key ideas into his titles so well?
Great example from this book. Casinos employ all kinds of mathematicians to build sophisticated models of probability to ensure their edge. These probabilities work within the rule-bound world of games, but to imagine life exists within the controlled parameters of a game is what Taleb calls “the ludic fallacy” (from the Latin for game). In real life, crazy things you couldn’t have predicted may happen:
You almost don’t need to read these books, once you grasp the implications of the titles. Our brains have difficulty grasping the implications of probability.
Prepare yourself and live a life that accepts and can absorb risk.
You’d be crazy to armchair psychoanalyze as feisty a Twitter arguer as Nassim Nicholas Taleb, but I did feel like this passage in Fooled By Randomness suggests hints to an origin story for a man obsessed with probability:
I’ve now read all these books and found them entertaining, eccentric, inventive, infectious, and fun. I even liked:
Felt like my brain was getting steady nutrition as well as entertainment from these books.
This movie is on HBO this month. I saw the movie in the theater and thought it was pretty good. It really captured the batty, Lewis Carroll eccentricity element of Churchill and the British Parliament.
But one thing that I was wondering about was the title. I remembered a story I’d heard years ago about Churchill visiting Harrow in 1941. The schoolboys sang a new verse to an old song:
When Churchill visited Harrow on October 29 to hear the traditional songs again, he discovered that an additional verse had been added to one of them. It ran:
“Not less we praise in darker days
The leader of our nation,
And Churchill’s name shall win acclaim
From each new generation.
For you have power in danger’s hour
Our freedom to defend, Sir!
Though long the fight we know that right
Will triumph in the end, Sir!”
Churchill didn’t care for the word darker. In his speech to the school he said:
You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honour, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter – I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: “Not less we praise in darker days.”
I have obtained the Head Master’s permission to alter darker to sterner. “Not less we praise in sterner days.”
Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.
Getting all that from the National Churchill Museum.
I believe this Wikipedia page is inaccurate:
“The Darkest Hour” is a phrase coined by British prime minister
Did he coin this phrase?
Winston Churchill to describe the period of World War II between the Fall of France in June 1940 and the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (totaling 363 days, or 11 months and 28 days), when the British Empire stood alone (or almost alone after the Italian invasion of Greece) against the Axis Powers in Europe.
Perhaps he uses it in his volumes of history, which I don’t have at hand. But that’s not the source Wiki cites. In the cited “Finest Hour” speech, Churchill did use the phrase “darkest hour,” but to refer to what a sad period this was in French history:
The House will have read the historic declaration in which, at the desire of many Frenchmen-and of our own hearts-we have proclaimed our willingness at the darkest hour in French history to conclude a union of common citizenship in this struggle.
I bought screenwriter Anthony McCarten’s book:
on Kindle and did a search. Unless I’m missing something, I can find no other time in the book where Churchill himself is quoted using the phrase “darkest hour.”
So, the movie about Churchill uses for its title a term that Churchill himself specifically asked people not to use.
My question as always: is this interesting?
“Good story” means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Finding this is your lonely task. It begins with talent… But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be a good story well told.
What is a story? What makes something a story? It’s a question of personal and professional interest here at Helytimes. The dictionary gives me this for narrative:
a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
The human brain is wired to look for patterns and connections. Humans think in stories and seem to prefer a story, even a troubling story, to random or unrelated events. This can trick us as well as bring us wisdom and pleasure.
Nicholas Nassem Taleb discusses this in The Black Swan:
Narrative is a way to compress and store information.
From some investing site or Twitter or something, I came across this paper:
“Cracking the enigma of asset bubbles with narratives,” by Preston Teeter and Jörgen Sandberg in Strategic Organization. You can download a PDF for free.
Teeter and Sandberg suggest that “mathematical deductivist models and tightly controlled, reductionist experiments” only get you so far in understanding asset bubbles. What really drives a bubble is the narrative that infects and influences investors.
Clearly, under such circumstances, individuals are not making rational, cool-headed decisions based upon careful and cautious fundamental analysis, nor are their decisions isolated from the communities in which they live or the institutions that govern their lives. As such, only by incorporating the role of narratives into our research efforts and theoretical constructs will we be able to make substantial progress toward better understanding, predicting, and preventing asset bubbles.
Cool! But, of course, we need a definition of narrative:
But first, in order to develop a more structured view of how bubbles form, we also need a means of identifying the structural features of the narratives that emerge before, during, and after asset bubbles. The most widely used method of evaluating the structural characteristics of a narrative is that based on Formalist theories (see Fiol, 1989; Hartz and Steger, 2010; Pentland, 1999; Propp, 1958). From a structural point of view, a narrative contains three essential elements: a “narrative subject,” which is in search of or destined for a certain object; a “destinator” or source of the subject’s ideology; and a set of “enabling and impeding forces.” As an example of how to operationalize these elements, consider the following excerpt from another Greenspan (1988) speech:
More adequate capital, risk-based capital, and increased securities powers for bank holding companies would provide a solid beginning for our efforts to ensure financial stability. (p. 11)
OK great. Let’s get to the source here. Fiol, Hartz and Steger, and Pentland are all articles about “narrative” in business settings. Propp is the source here. Propp is this man:
Vladimir Propp, a Soviet analyst of folktales, and his book is this:
I’ve now examined this book, and find it mostly incomprehensible:
Propp’s 31 functions (summarized here on Wikipedia) are pretty interesting. How a Soviet theorist would feel about his work on Russian folktales being used by Australian economists to assess asset bubbles in capitalist markets is a fun question. Maybe he’d be horrified, maybe he’d be delighted. Perhaps he’d file it under Function 6:
TRICKERY: The villain attempts to deceive the victim to acquire something valuable. They press further, aiming to con the protagonists and earn their trust. Sometimes the villain make little or no deception and instead ransoms one valuable thing for another.
There’s some connection here to Dan Harmon’s story circles.
But when it comes to the definition of what makes a story go, I like the blunter version, expressed by David Mamet in this legendary memo to the writers of The Unit::
QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES *OF EVERY SCENE* THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
Cracking the enigma of narrative is a fun project.
ps don’t talk to me about Aristotle unless you’ve REALLY read The Poetics.
a spontaneous Helytimes Book Prize For Excellence is awarded to God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright. Absolutely fantastic. The Alamo, Marfa, Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, how the legislature works, the Kennedy assassination, Spindletop, everything you’d want to read about in a book about Texas is succinctly, thoughtfully, humorously explored.
A special bonus: this book has a firsthand account of the 1999 Matthew McConaughey “bongos incident.”
If you read anything at all about investing, pretty soon you will hear about Ben Graham, father of value investing and teacher of Warren Buffett.
Young Warren Buffett got an A+ in Graham’s class at Columbia Business School, and would later work for Graham. But when he first asked Graham for a job, in fact offered to work for free, Graham (born Grossbaum) wouldn’t hire Buffett. Why? The story in Buffett’s own words:
I’d never heard that one before. It’s in:
Later, Graham would hire Buffett, and he got to wear the signature gray jacket that absorbed ink stains from writing down rows of figures.
I found this book more compelling than I expected. By the time Buffett was in tenth grade he owned a forty acre farm in Nebraska he’d bought with paper route money. You can read an interesting interview with author Alice Schroeder here:
Miguel: Give us advice to becoming better communicators.
Alice: Well…this is not anything profound. But you see that he uses very short parables, stories, and analogies. He chooses key words that resonate with people —that will stick in their heads, like Aesop’s fables, and fairytale imagery. He’s good at conjuring up pictures in people’s minds that trigger archetypal thinking. It enables him to very quickly make a point … without having to expend a lot of verbiage.
He’s also conscientious about weaving humor into his material. He’s naturally witty, but he’s aware that humor is enjoyable and disarming if you’re trying to teach something.
And here’s Michael Lewis reviewing the book.
Ben Graham by the way ultimately got kinda bored of investing and retired to California where he had a relationship with his late son’s girlfriend.
A great detail:
Nestlé gets the water for Arrowhead in the San Bernadino National Forest, owned by you and me, the American people.
In 2016, Nestlé took 32 million gallons of water from the national forest, in an area not known for its abundance of fresh water.
How much did they pay for this? I found the answer in a recent issue of High Country News:
$2,050?! I feel like I’m getting ripped off!
Swung by Lake Arrowhead this weekend:
It’s 1539. Henry VIII is 48 years old and single. Wife 1 didn’t work out, Wife 2 got beheaded, Wife 3 died. The Hunt For Wife 4 is on:
King Henry VIII of England was considering a royal marriage with Cleves, so following negotiations with the duchy, Hans Holbein the Younger, Henry’s court painter, was dispatched to paint Amalia and Anne, both of whom were possible candidates, for the freshly widowed king in August 1539. After seeing both paintings, Henry chose Anne.
There is a tradition that Holbein’s portrait flattered Anne, derived from the testimony of Sir Anthony Browne.
Is this Amalia?:
Wikipedia says so but the Royal Collection won’t admit it.
When he met Anne in person Henry was bummed:
succinctly put in:
found that blunt history, which sounds like it would fit in a socio-anarchist pamphlet, in
Man I went through my old Tweets, and none of them were racist or anything, but they were terrible!
If you don’t look back on your old writing without disgust you’re not growing, so healthy enough I guess. But you’d think for something I spent so much time doing I’d’ve come up with some better ones.
Here are the only ones I felt like might be worth saving, putting them here as much for myself as for my small but influential readership.
When I don’t like writing it’s usually because it’s too writingy.
The Biblical story of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream: first case of a Jewish psychiatrist?
If there were a restaurant in LA that sold angel meat, Jonathan Gold would eat there.
Today’s surprising Supreme Court Fact: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a high school cheerleader.
Whenever I’m in New York, I visit this little shop know, down in the Flatiron, and have my shoes professionally tied.
Addition to Hely’s Great Things: When an old person says “blankety-blank” instead of swears.
An airport? A state forest? An interchange? All fine things to have named after you. But only Melba has a peach thing AND a toast.
One thing I’d like to see is a giant eating baked potatoes, one after another, like grapes.
Ate a piece of gum today that was in stick form, instead of hard, candied pill form. It was like visiting Old Sturbridge Village.
If I’m gonna see a play, by the end the stage better be a MESS.
What real-life show is “Game of Thrones” the porn parody of?
The taste of a drop of air conditioner water landing in your mouth. #mynewyork
There’s only one political issue I’m deeply passionate about: colonizing the moon with convicts. I’m opposed.
Let’s argue! I’ll start! All jazz is perfect.
my favorite cob food? corn, no brainer
It’s unreasonable of Don Cheadle to expect the other members of Ocean’s Eleven will understand his ludicrous slang.
Most of my money ($660) comes from my 1992 dance hit “It’s OK To Dress Up (When You’re The Birthday Girl)”
I think I could sell idiots salted coffee.
“Fine, FINE, we’ll just name ANOTHER one after John Muir, then we can all go home.” – another tense meeting at the US Forest Service.
In this age of baby carrots it’s such a power move to eat a regular carrot.
If you’re into immutable laws you pretty much have to go with physics, right?
TRIVIA: What is the most spilled beverage in the world? Give up? It’s water. (Trick question because I was counting waterfalls.)
Vali rolled with it admirably when he came back to our seats at the Arclight and found me telling the history of IKEA to a stranger.
Was bowling invented so teens of different genders could examine each other’s butts?
“I like your shirt!” = “I noticed your shirt!”
LA etiquette: it’s rude to point out that someone’s production company has never produced anything.
The most important ingredient in any recipe is money.
Movie pitch: Fuckboi Academy
Nothing pisses me off more than when some fuckface in my Instagram is having a nice vacation
My best hope for Olympic glory would be as the falling down guy someone helps in a true display of sportsmanship
What did the TV writer say when he arrived in Hell? “How’re the hours?”
You know what sounds terrible but is actually perfectly nice? The stall in the bathroom of the Yucca Valley Walmart, where I wrote this.
learned the origin of the word “drugs” from:
an intense book!
sent by Rhode Island desk
Most scholars seem to agree that Mark, Luke, and Matthew used a common source, a sayings source. A list or record of Jesus sayings. This now lost source is called Q, from the German Quelle, meaning source.
The stories about John Belushi in this book were written down at about the same time distance as the stories about Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.
Though the oldest written fragments of the Gospels are on papyrus from 100-200 CE, most scholars seem to agree Mark was written around 70 AD.
Richard Bauckham, author of this book:
and this one:
makes a strong case, I believe, that one of Mark’s main sources was Peter. Directly or indirectly, who knows. But in Mark we’re getting something like Peter’s version. Peter himself is a character in the story. Mark tells stories only Peter (or only Peter and a few others) could have known.
There are times in Mark when Jesus is angry and frustrated with Peter. In a way Mark tells Peter’s version of a story of a complicated bromance with Jesus.
How much was Mark getting his stuff from Peter? Or other eyewitnesses to Jesus? Here is a lowkey fiery debate on this topic. Gets very hot around 19:54 as these guys try to jab each other over how many people were literate in Palestine two thousand years ago. (Hard not to root for the American tbh.)
Luke alone has receipts:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
It feels infuriating that Paul says that the time he’s writing 1 Corinthians (15:6) there are 251 at least (?) eyewitnesses still alive who saw Jesus after the crucifixion:
New International Version
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
New Living Translation
After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
and yet Paul doesn’t bother interviewing any of them! Paul was a better philosopher than a reporter I guess.
Going back to the source is a passion here at Helytimes.
gotta check this out one of these days.
“The first $100,000 is a bitch, but you gotta do it. I don’t care what you have to do—if it means walking everywhere and not eating anything that wasn’t purchased with a coupon, find a way to get your hands on $100,000. After that, you can ease off the gas a little bit.”
found that Munger quote in this long but interesting post about Jim O’Shaughnessy on 25iq by Tren Griffin.
There’s a trick of capitalism, which is if you have capital, it’s not that hard to multiply it into more capital. The hard part is getting capital in the first place. Charlie Munger acknowledges that yes, that is a challenge, there’s no easy solution.
If you prefer Oprah to Munger, 25iq has a roundup on her lessons as well!