Monthly Archives: August 2011

How not to talk to your kids

Interesting article from the New York mag:

Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. Blackwell split her kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. “Even as I was teaching these ideas,” Blackwell noted, “I would hear the students joking, calling one another ‘dummy’ or ‘stupid.’ ” After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.

I think teaching kids the incredible plasticity of the brain is immensely important. It gives children a sense of hope and an attitude of action and creation (creativity—they think “I don’t have to wait for this to happen, I can make it happen.”). It also teaches them the adaptability of the human body. After all, if it wasn’t for adaptability and neural plasticity, we wouldn’t have survived. Continue reading

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean — Sometimes You Just Can’t Help

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Every once in a while you find a book that speaks to you in a way you don’t understand. The story in itself ebbs and flows like the tide of water on a beach of characters that teach you more about yourself than you can consciously comprehend. The elegant prose so enraptures you in its profundity that you find yourself questioning whether you are remembering a part of the book or a first-hand experience—or that you have imaginary dialogues with the characters, as if they entrusted to you a part of themselves that intimately found its way into your conscience—and the winding narrative contains in it a symbolism that intrigues in a uniquely unorthodox, enigmatic fashion.

I’ve found very few of those kind of books.

A River Runs Through It is one of those books.

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Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody — “Smart Enough to Realize I Was Getting Lucky”

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody

Remember Tripod.com? You know, back in the dinosaur age of the internets, when only the über-smart and curious intellectuals (read: nerds) were the ones who ventured into the land of dial-up? Yeah, I was there, and I’m pretty sure I had a “homepage” on Tripod.

Well the guy behind Tripod, it turns out, was a kid—Bo Peabody. After nursing Tripod as a pet project through college, he hired hippie programmers to wrangle the code that he himself didn’t know how to write. Supervised by his economics professor, Tripod.com began as a how-to site for-and-by college students. As soon as he unleashed the code monkeys, however, they transformed it into a publishing platform, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to create their own personal homepage.

Fast forward six years. Peabody sells his company to Lycos for a reported $58 million in stock. Rock on.

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The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco — See the Process Behind the Product

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

First, the bad: MJ DeMarco isn’t an elegant writer, nor is he particularly scholarly in the way some business-minded people are. Just take a look at his blog where he posts videos of himself sitting poolside in his mansion, wearing a backwards ball cap, and seriously discussing the parallels of a supermarket conveyor belt and business strategies.

DeMarco also seems to be a lucky dot-com millionaire. He started and sold a limousine chartering website for both limo rental companies and individuals looking for limos. Now that’s a pretty good gig, considering how most people looking for limos are also either looking to spend a bunch of money on a special occasion, or have a bunch of money to spend regardless. Continue reading

My Anti-library

My Anti-libraryPictured above is part of my anti-library. The first bottom row are unread or partly-read books. The back row and shelf are either read or reference books.

What’s an anti-library? In The Black Swan, Taleb talks about Umberto Eco’s collection of 30,000 unread books. These books represent Eco’s anti-library, the reservoir of information that Eco doesn’t yet possess. This unknown knowledge is of greater importance than what Eco does know because it represents the blind spots, the uncertainty, and the relative frailty of his knowledge. It also serves to humble and remind him of how much he really doesn’t know.

Awareness of one’s anti-library and the unknown information it holds is critical to any right-minded individual.

So, I am posting here my anti-library as of today, the 6th of August, 2011. A tip of the hat goes out to the inimitable James Steele II for posting his anti-library and giving me this idea. In about six months I’ll check back in with new books to read.

Forget About Black Swans, the One Ahead is Neon

From Forget About Black Swans, the One Ahead is Neon on the Wall Street Journal:

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s bestseller “The Black Swan” made clear, the human mind is poorly equipped to prepare us for rare, important and unpredictable events. But maybe our minds—and our markets—aren’t very well equipped to protect us against neon swans, either.

Many investors seem to be coping with what seems like an obvious risk simply by closing their eyes.

…If the U.S. defaults or its credit rating is downgraded, says William Bernstein of Efficient Frontier Advisors in Eastford, Conn., Treasury prices would probably “go to 97 or 98,” losing only a few percentage points in value. “You’re not going to wake up one morning over the next couple of weeks and find they’re priced at 50 cents on the dollar,” says Mr. Bernstein.

“It is absolutely inconceivable that we would flat-out default and not pay anything,” he adds. “The worst-case scenario is a very temporary payment problem, and I think the Treasury market knows that.”

But the ripple effects could be considerable. Mr. Bernstein expects corporate and municipal bonds to drop much more drastically if the Treasury market is hit by default or downgrade. And stocks, he says, could be massacred. For investors with cash and courage, a crisis in U.S. Treasurys might well pose a historic buying opportunity. If, instead, it turns out to be “like a giant asteroid hitting the earth, Mr. Bernstein says, “then there isn’t much of anything that’s likely to protect you.”

This article may be outdated since they raised the debt ceiling recently, but it’s still a good read.

Atheists, On Why They Don’t Believe In God

Our Galactic Neighborhood

A long time ago, I gave up believing in the Catholic man-in-the-sky that I was raised to believe in. I just figured, my life should be up to me, why would I need another entity to steer the course of my life?

If you ever struggle with the belief in a god or religion, then hopefully this post will help you think through some of the logic of your belief. It’s never a bad idea to challenge your own ways of thinking.

The quotes below are from this article, found via Michael Shermer. The whole piece is worth the read, but I quoted below the best parts with my emphasis.

Maryam Namazie, human rights activist

I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into…

But when the state sends a “Hezbollah” (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing in­discriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it – all of it.

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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — Follow Your Personal Legend

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. Because of school and work, I’m currently 13 books behind and playing catch-up. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For a long time I didn’t read fiction, even after some of my favorite authors and idols insisted that it helped them become better writers. I always believed that, aside from a few superstar novels, fiction couldn’t teach me anything I couldn’t learn from real-life.

I now see that as an extremely myopic view of fiction. When you read a book, you shouldn’t just read the book. Look deeper and try and get inside the author’s head. Why would she phrase a sentence this way, or why would he reveal such-and-such about this character at this point in the book? You don’t learn just from the words that are written on the page, but from which words are written, the way they are written, and the structure and story of the book in whole.

That said, The Alchemist is… Continue reading