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Showing posts from June, 2016

Aesthetics of the Short Haul

Certainly it is easy to create a literary aesthetics of brevity. The haiku and the aphorism have their admirers.

Ernest Hemingway is widely thought to have invented a perfect short story in the form of a classified ad: "For sale, baby shoes, never used."

Edgar Allen Poe famously developed a theory for why short stories are superior to novels. His explanation of that theory was, IMHO, longer winded than it had to be. The point, though, was that a story should have a unitary impact and this could be achieved best with a work that could be read in a single sitting.

Yet one shouldn't let the aesthetics of the short haul have the last word. The world has room for Melville's and Tolstoy's and Victor Hugo's novels, and creating a Reader's Digest version thereof will never be the same.

As for Hemingway's six word story? He didn't really write it. It is the work of a playwright named  John deGroot who created a one-actor play about "Papa" in…

Inflated Ontology

This illustration is making its way around the more philosophical corners of the interwebs.

In case I've given you an illegible variant of it, here are the captions, in sequence:

1. Shop for a new tie
2. Make macaroni
3. Do cardio
4. Don't inflate your ontology
5. Don't do it.
6. Vacuum the rug.

The fifth cell includes an illustration of a unicorn and the square root of -1 as thoughts in the mind of the character doing various quotidian things.

The warning, then, is not to attribute reality either to imaginary beings or to imaginary numbers.

Leaving unicorns aside, I think there is something odd about the warning as it applies to numbers. The value of any number system, including the numbers we call real and those we call imaginary, consists entirely of its utility. So, for a pragmatist as to math, the square root of -1 stands on the same "ontological" footing as does -1, or as does 1.

But I do like the cute minimalism of the illustrations here. Take the phi…

That Awkward Moment When....

You think someone has just made a profound epistemological observation, but it turns out she was just referencing a song by Clarence Clarity.

Until quite recently I hadn't even heard of Clarence Clarity, as a natural consequence of my out-of-touchness with contemporary music. But I've looked into his video "Will to Believe," and it isn't half bad.

Here's the link.

Click here.

Dilbert and Schrodinger

As I believe I've mentioned, my day-by day calendar displays a different Dilbert cartoon strip each day. Here is the text from two recent such strips.

Day 1. Three characters: Dilbert, Personnel director Catbert (who is a cat, because they love to treat people as toys) and another cat.

CATBERT: "This is Wulf. He used to work for a famous physicist named Schrodinger. He escaped before the experiment was finished and now he's both alive and dead at the same time."

DILBERT: "Like a zombie?"

CATBERT: "uh-oh."

WULF: "Wow. I have half a mind to be offended by that."

Day 2. Wulf is sitting with Wally in the break room.

WULF: "I was Schrodinger's car back in the day. That's why I'm alive and dead at the same time. I know the truth about the afterlife because my dead half  told my living half all about it. Do you want to know what happens?"

WALLY: "Stop projecting your curiosity on me." [Drinks coffee.]

I love …

Thinking Back on Enron

Everybody's favorite avuncular billionaire, Warren Buffett, has said that the academic theory known as the capital asset pricing model and its underlying notion of beta  (the systemic risk of a particular portfolio versus the market as a whole) is worthless. After all, he says, “a stock that has dropped very sharply compared to t

The Petrodollar Deal of 1974

Bloomberg Business recently ran a retrospective by Andrea Wong about what she calls the “petrodollar deal” between the US and Saudi Arabia, a deal she says was created in the summer of 1974, when treasury Secretary William Simon and an assistant, Gerry Parsky, went on a diplomatic mission for the Nixon administration.
Simon passed away in 2000. Parsky, though, is still alive, and Wong seems to have been working in large part from Parsky’s recollections.
Simon “understood how to sell the Saudis on the idea that America was the safest place to park their petrodollars.” A “strikingly simply” barter developed. The US would buy Saudi oil, and would provide the Sauds with military and diplomatic cover.In return,