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Current Topic: Business

Banking with Bird and Fortune
Topic: Business 8:17 am EDT, Oct 15, 2009

John Bird and John Fortune:

Well, you know ... Ideas above their station, up to their ears in debt ... They thought that if they had a bigger mortgage they could get a bigger house. They thought if they had a bigger house, they would be happy. It's pathetic. I've got four houses and I'm not happy.

Louis CK on Conan:

Louis CK: When I read things like, "The foundations of capitalism are shattering," I'm like, "Maybe we need that." Maybe we need some time ...

Conan: You think that would just bring us back to reality?

Louis CK: Yeah, because, everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy ...

'CNN', from earlier this year:

The Dow and S&P 500 tumbled to levels not seen in nearly 12 years Monday, as investors slowly came to the realization that they have been living well beyond their means while harboring wildly inflated expectations about the viability of their future prospects.

Nicholas A. Christakis & James Fowler:

Each additional happy friend increases a person's probability of being happy by about 9%.

Nora Johnson:

In our unending search for panaceas, we believe that happiness and "success" -- which, loosely translated, means money -- are the things to strive for. People are constantly surprised that, even though they have acquired material things, discontent still gnaws.

Previously, on Bird and Fortune:

Somehow, this package of dodgy debts stops being a package of dodgy debts and starts being what we call a structured investment vehicle.

Banking with Bird and Fortune

Topic: Business 7:56 am EDT, Aug  6, 2009

From a slide deck about culture at Netflix:

You say what you think even if it is controversial

You are tenacious

You are quick to admit mistakes

It's about effectiveness -- not effort

Need a culture that avoids the rigidity, politics, mediocrity, and complacency that infects most organizations as they grow

Paul Graham:

It will always suck to work for large organizations, and the larger the organization, the more it will suck.

Donald Rumsfeld:

If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Ira Glass:

Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.

If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get super-lucky.

Benjamin Franklin:

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.


Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule
Topic: Business 7:02 am EDT, Jul 30, 2009

Paul Graham:

There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals.

When you use time that way, it's merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you're done.

But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon ...

From last year, more PG:

It will always suck to work for large organizations, and the larger the organization, the more it will suck.

Nicholas Dawidoff, on Freeman Dyson:

... always preaching the virtues of boredom ...

Samantha Power:

The French film director Jean Renoir once said, "The foundation of all great civilizations is loitering." But we have all stopped loitering. I don't mean we aren't lazy at times. I mean that no moment goes unoccupied.

From the archive:

To be sure, time marches on.

Yet for many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end of a more genteel era, when we all had time to share.

Maggie Jackson:

Despite our wondrous technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of diffusion, fragmentation, and detachment. In this new world, something crucial is missing -- attention.

Stefan Klein:

We are not stressed because we have no time, but rather, we have no time because we are stressed.

Walter Kirn:

Neuroscience is confirming what we all suspect: Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy.

Donald Rumsfeld:

Simply because a problem is shown to exist doesn't necessarily follow that there is a solution.

Ginia Bellafante:

There used to be a time if you didn't have money to buy something, you just didn't buy it.

Malcolm Gladwell:

Free is just another price, and prices are set by individual actors, in accordance with the aggregated particulars of marketplace power.

Michael Lopp, on Managing Humans:

This book isn't just about management, it's about creating places where people can comfortably build stuff. It's about what to do during the first ninety days of your new gig, and explains why you should pick a fight, because bright people often yell at each other.

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

Money Talks Back: The Linguistic Infrastructure of Corporatese
Topic: Business 10:57 pm EDT, Jul  6, 2009

David Schneider:

The problem is that as larger, better systems are grafted onto the older, smaller ones, like palimpsests, they become more and more complex; whereas the vast systems can protect themselves against superior competitors through equally vast reserves of marketing capital, and sheer ubiquity, which encourages inertia.

With the growth of the technocracy, with advanced industry and professionalization, and with the spread of the career into the private life, the toxic elements of industry jargon have infiltrated our mental environments just as mercury has leached into fish.

Leveraging human capital -- I wonder: who's the weight, what's providing the force, and how heavy is that debt load that needs to be lifted? Is the debt load really being lifted?

Ernie and Big Tom:

Is there anything fluffier than a cloud?

If there is, I don't want to know about it.

Alex Pang:

Tinkering is a bit like jazz.

Today we tinker with things; tomorrow, we will tinker with the world.

David Lynch:

Ideas are like fish. Originality is just the ideas you caught.

Andrew Revkin:

Sharks take years to reach sexual maturity and, unlike most other fishes, produce small numbers of young, making them particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

Did you know:

Fully 88% of the EU's stocks are overfished.

Nicholas Kristof:

More than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.

Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. Up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles.

Notes From A Meeting:

Underscoring the gravity of the situation, the President convened an early morning meeting.

At one point he urged everyone to do the "jazz clap," on the off beat.

Paul Graham:

It will always suck to work for large organizations, and the larger the organization, the more it will suck.

Money Talks Back: The Linguistic Infrastructure of Corporatese

The Man Who Crashed Wall Street
Topic: Business 7:26 am EDT, Jul  6, 2009

Michael Lewis:

For a brief moment you had a glimpse of how harshly financial people might be treated if Wall Street ever lost its political influence.

Jake DeSantis just wanted to know why the public perception ... was so different from the private perception of the people inside AIG FP, who actually knew what had happened.

It's unlikely that Obama did know what he was talking about, except in the broadest outlines. Nor, for that matter, did the people who had engineered the bailout. How could they?

Across AIG FP the view of Joseph Cassano was remarkably consistent: a guy with a crude feel for financial risk but a real talent for bullying people who doubted him. Every one of the people I spoke with admitted that the reason they hadn't taken a swing at Joe Cassano, before walking out the door, was that the money was simply too good.

It would be nice if Joe Cassano came out of hiding and tried to explain what he did and why, but there is little chance of that. The problem with Joe Cassano wasn't that he knew he was wrong. It was that it was too important to him that he be right.


Revolutionize your heart out. We'll still have this country by the balls.

More Truth:

AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

Nothing But The Truth:

The evidence suggests that from an executive perspective, the most desirable employees may no longer necessarily be those with proven ability and judgment, but those who can be counted on to follow orders and be good "team players."

The Man Who Crashed Wall Street

Priced To Sell
Topic: Business 7:50 am EDT, Jun 30, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell:

Free is just another price, and prices are set by individual actors, in accordance with the aggregated particulars of marketplace power.

The expensive part of making drugs has never been what happens in the laboratory.

On price points:

Generally, the farther away a country from the main producers and the more isolated it is, the higher the price charged.

James Surowiecki:

Consumer finance, in other words, is an industry in which keeping customers confused often seems to be a business strategy.

Anderson responds to Gladwell:

It's now clear that the bane of my next year will be questions about the future of the newspaper industry from journalists.

Priced To Sell

The Great American Bubble Machine
Topic: Business 7:59 am EDT, Jun 25, 2009

Matt Taibbi:

From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression.

And they're about to do it again.

If America is now circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain.


Revolutionize your heart out. We'll still have this country by the balls.


Are you sure the election was a fraud?” I asked him.

Susan Signe Morrison:

This interdisciplinary book integrates the historical practices regarding material excrement and its symbolic representation, with special focus on fecopoetics and Chaucer’s literary agenda. Filth in all its manifestations—material (including privies, dung on fields, and as alchemical ingredient), symbolic (sin, misogynist slander, and theological wrestling with the problem of filth in sacred contexts) and linguistic (a semantic range including dirt and dung)—helps us to see how excrement is vital to understanding the Middle Ages. Applying fecal theories to late medieval culture, Morrison concludes by proposing Waste Studies as a new field of ethical and moral criticism for literary scholars.

From a year ago:

American authorities may be deluding themselves into believing they can forestall the endgame of post-bubble adjustments.

Eric Janszen, from February 2008:

That the Internet and housing hyperinflations transpired within a period of ten years, each creating trillions of dollars in fake wealth, is, I believe, only the beginning. There will and must be many more such booms, for without them the economy of the United States can no longer function. The bubble cycle has replaced the business cycle.

Cory Doctorow:

The real reason to wear the mask is to spare others the discomfort of seeing your facial expression ... To make it possible to see without seeing.

The Great American Bubble Machine

On Criticism
Topic: Business 7:59 am EDT, Jun 22, 2009

Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Richard Hamming:

If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely you'll do important work.

Nora Johnson:

In our unending search for panaceas, we believe that happiness and "success" -- which, loosely translated, means money -- are the things to strive for. People are constantly surprised that, even though they have acquired material things, discontent still gnaws.

On Criticism

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Data-Entry Supervisor
Topic: Business 7:41 am EDT, Jun  3, 2009

Alain de Botton:

It is hard to have a conversation with a stranger for more than a few minutes before needing to ask, "What do you do?" - for herein lie clues not only to monetary status, but more broadly to one's entire outlook and character.

We may know the sliver of the working world that we ourselves occupy, but the wider picture grows obscure.

Curtis White:

Perhaps the most powerful way in which we conspire against ourselves is the simple fact that we have jobs. We are willingly part of a world designed for the convenience of what Shakespeare called “the visible God”: money. When I say we have jobs, I mean that we find in them our home, our sense of being grounded in the world, grounded in a vast social and economic order. It is a spectacularly complex, even breathtaking, order, and it has two enormous and related problems. First, it seems to be largely responsible for the destruction of the natural world. Second, it has the strong tendency to reduce the human beings inhabiting it to two functions, working and consuming. It tends to hollow us out.

Matthew Crawford:

Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real.

On the time of Jane Austen:

The sheer amount of sewing done by gentlewomen in those days sometimes takes us moderns aback, but it would probably generally be a mistake to view it either as merely constant joyless toiling, or as young ladies turning out highly embroidered ornamental knicknacks to show off their elegant but meaningless accomplishments. Sewing was something to do (during the long hours at home) that often had great practical utility, and that wasn't greatly mentally taxing, and could be done sitting down while engaging in light conversation, or listening to a novel being read.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Data-Entry Supervisor

Rattled in Ridgewood
Topic: Business 7:25 am EDT, May 11, 2009

Netflix is the new breadline.

Mark Clothier and John Heylar:

In early 2008, David Roberts' morning routine at the Ridgewood train station was as unchanged as the view from its platform, which overlooks a downtown anchored by the Daily Treat diner and a 77-year-old movie theater.

Roberts would sip coffee, eat a corn muffin, scan the Financial Times and step aboard the 7:50 train. This was not the same trip he had made for the 14 years he worked for three Wall Street firms.

This was a commute to nowhere.

Like many of his neighbors in Ridgewood, Roberts had been thrown out of work after the credit markets seized up last year, joining thousands of commuters in the competition for jobs that don't exist anymore.

Have you seen Tokyo Sonata?

Robert Shiller:

The ability to short is essential to an efficient market, otherwise there's nothing to stop zealots from pricing things abnormally high.

I'm worried about the anger that's developing. People have tolerated a lot of inequality, but in light of recent events, I could see social changes.

A note from Mike Rorty:

There’s a real tendency to Other subprime mortgage holders. They are idiots, crooks, dupes, minorities, single mothers, easily mislead, liars and criminals, etc. But right here, 28% of all mortgage foreclosures, and 60% of subprime foreclosures, are from people who started with a prime mortgage. Those are the Us – good credit scores, 20% down, pay the bills on time.

A mind grenade from Gertrude Himmelfarb:

It is said that we need the best as a measure against which to test the second-best, to show us how far we are deviating from the best. In this sense, the best is the ideal to which the second-best aspires. But if the ideal is impractical because inconsonant with human nature, how or why should we aspire to it? The case for the second-best goes beyond practicality. More serious is the fact that the attempt to realise the unrealisable is likely to be pernicious.

Rattled in Ridgewood

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