A good passage from the latest Nassim Taleb book “Skin in the Game”

The paradox of progress, and the paradox of choice: There is a familiar story of a New York banker vacationing in Greece, who, from talking to a fisherman and scrutinizing the fisherman’s business, comes up with a scheme to help the fisherman make it a big business. The fisherman asked what the benefits were; the banker answered that he could make a pile of money in New York and come back to vacation to Greece; something that seemed ludicrous to the fisherman, who was already there doing the kind of things bankers do when they do on vacation in Greece.

The story was well known in antiquity, under a more elegant form, as retold by Montaigne: When King Pyrrhus tried to cross into Italy, Cyneas, his wise adviser, tried to make him feel the vanity of such action. “To what end are you going into such enterprise?” he asked. Pyrrhus answered, “To make myself the master of Italy.” Cyneas: “And so?” Pyrrhus: “To get to Gaul, then Spain.” Cyneas: “Then?” Pyrrhus: “To conquer Africa, then.. come rest at ease.” Cyneas: “But you are already there; why take more risks?” Montaigne then cites the well-known passage in Lucretius De Rerum Natura, on how human nature knows no upper bound, as if to punish itself.


Ponies out, dogs in, says Sally Rosenflake

Fashion blogger, trendsetter, celebrity entrepreneur Sally Rosenflake took the World by surprise yesterday in a statement released via her blog announcing that she had gotten a dog. The publicity-shy superstar immediately reassured fans and critics alike by letting them know that she would not be “one of those pathetic dog owners that cries when their dogs die.” Continue reading

The friendliest form of bullying: How to crush your colleagues into submission by being chatty

In the corporate world, where friendliness is the minimum standard for inter-employee communications, and where everyone is instinctively paranoid about preserving the anonymity of their personal lives, some employees are predisposed to thrive better than others. Their killer traits: a bland personality, egos in constant need of reassurance and boring personal lives with nothing to hide. Subconsciously aware of their superpowers, these gentle morons take it upon themselves to punish the rest of us with their relentless office chatter. Continue reading

The Secret Physicality of White Collar Work

Jumping in taxis, smiling at receptionists, running through airport security, checking in hotels, pushing heavy doors and holding it for others, the savvy business traveler knows how to get from place to place in minimum time and with maximum efficiency. The business traveler is no ostrich, he is a feline. While having mastered the art of limiting exertion to what is strictly necessary, he has also honed his hunting skills. Always his eye on the prize, alert for an opportunity to cut a line, or make an impression, or move closer to his target. He is fast and opportunistic. His style is fluid and smooth like a cold drop a water, evenly and steadily running down a clean surface. He can eat faster, move faster, sleep faster, and smile whenever he needs to. He can pretend to be someone else, all the while keeping his key performance indicators top of mind. Continue reading

How to enjoy shark fin soup with a clear conscience

I was offered some shark fin soup last week at a Chinese New Year celebration. I found the soup rather bland but unlike some of the guests at my table, I did not see any reason to be upset at my host for putting it on the menu. Since Gordon Ramsay released his documentary on the shark fin trade last year, everyone and their mothers have been clamouring for the ban of the soup so I’ve decided to sift through this murky ethical dilemma and to play the devil’s advocate against this new army of shark huggers. Continue reading

Cuban American hardliners don’t know how to fight communism

Another Florida primary election, another opportunity for Republicans to pander to anti-Castro sentiment among bitter Cuban Americans. Mitt Romney and Newt Gringrich are chasing the votes of Miami hardliners who are still angry about losing their assets to the Castro regime 50 years ago. These people generally favour of a continued trade embargo, in spite of its well-documented failure, in the illusory hope of exacting some sense of revenge. Only Ron Paul has had to courage to state the obvious and to call for renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Continue reading

Quotes from The Rational Optimist

I wanted to share with you my favorite excerpts from the excellent new book by Matt Ridley, which debunks a number of toxic memes popular in the press these days. Many people call me cynical or pessimistic, but this book made me feel like an chirpy cheerleader in a crowd of academic doomsayers. See how he applies his rational thinking on the hot topics of precautionary principles, consumer society, innovation, trust, organic farming, the rise and fall of empires, the Malthusian crisis, pessimistic thinking, and many more… Continue reading