February 18, 2012
I haven’t been blogging much but I’ve been reading many more articles lately online. Here’s what I’ve been queueing up on Instapaper (a mixture of some older articles and some newer ones):
- What I Lost In Libya
One reporters account of what happened when he and several other reporters were captured during the Arab Spring
- The Turnaround Men
The story of a con men and how he milked a number of investors (a la Madoff) in order to support his lifestyle and “companies”. Although Tom Petters is not a household name, some of his companies are known such as Redtag.com.
Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible
This article has been making headlines again recently, with its claim to fame being that it talked about Jobs’ forthcoming death in 2008. I haven’t read (and don’t plan to read) the his recent biography from Isaacson, but I found this article to be interesting and well written, revealing some insights into the motivations and personality of Jobs. It’s certainly a much shorter read and well written to boot.
This article talks about compound interest and a hobby amongst rich people in the 19th century to donate their fortune to a perpetual trust lasting centuries.
Beginning in 1936, he sluiced $2.8 million into a series of five-hundred- and thousand-year trusts—just one of which, allocated to the Unitarian Church, would be worth $2.5 quadrillion upon its maturation in the twenty-fifth century. A thousand-year fund dedicated to the state of Pennsylvania would yield $424 trillion; the money was to be applied to abolishing the state’s taxes. Holden didn’t even live in Pennsylvania—he’d picked the state as an homage to Franklin.
What You Don’t Know Can Kill You
This is an interesting article from Discover Magazine which discusses how humans are not very good at estimating risk; generally over-estimating risks that they can visualize.
But it is heuristics—the subtle mental strategies that often give rise to such biases—that do much of the heavy lifting in risk perception. The “availability” heuristic says that the easier a scenario is to conjure, the more common it must be. It is easy to imagine a tornado ripping through a house; that is a scene we see every spring on the news, and all the time on reality TV and in movies. Now try imagining someone dying of heart disease. You probably cannot conjure many breaking-news images for that one, and the drawn-out process of atherosclerosis will most likely never be the subject of a summer thriller. The effect? Twisters feel like an immediate threat, although we have only a 1-in-46,000 chance of being killed by a cataclysmic storm. Even a terrible tornado season like the one last spring typically yields fewer than 500 tornado fatalities. Heart disease, on the other hand, which eventually kills 1 in every 6 people in this country, and 800,000 annually, hardly even rates with our gut.
February 24, 2011
This article on the Social Animal from the New Yorker is the best article I’ve read in a while. It’s packed with interesting tidbits from research results.
On a mother’s attention to their babies:
Researchers at the University of Minnesota can look at attachment patterns of children at forty-two months, and predict with seventy-seven-per-cent accuracy who will graduate from high school. People who were securely attached as infants tend to have more friends at school and at summer camp. They tend to be more truthful through life, feeling less need to puff themselves up in others’ eyes.
On how we develop social intuition:
Scientists used to think that we understand each other by observing each other and building hypotheses from the accumulated data. Now it seems more likely that we are, essentially, method actors who understand others by simulating the responses we see in them.
A simple idea to improve education:
We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love.
On being a
nerd a know-it-all:
Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were ninety-per-cent confident were correct. In fact, their answers were wrong sixty-one per cent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a ninety-five per cent chance of being right; in fact, eighty per cent of them were wrong.
On why you should bring a ruler to a first date:
Despite the saying about opposites attracting, people usually fall in love with people like themselves. There’s even some evidence that people tend to pick partners with noses of similar breadth to their own and eyes about the same distance apart.
Wow, I feel like I just wrote a movie trailer for an article.
August 25, 2010
Interesting thought of the day, why do nerds play video games? Is it because, as the article states, there are well defined societal rules?
Another explanation is that while nerds like to socialize, they are terrified of making social mistakes. This explains why they tend to avoid eye-contact – it is too easy to make the wrong eye contacts. Games let nerds interact socially, yet avoid mistakes via well-defined rules, and a social norm that all legal moves are “fair game.”
I think that’s a good explanation. By extension, maybe that is why nerds are more comfortable chatting online. There are less social cues to pick up when all you see are words.
May 18, 2010
When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:
February 26, 2010
I got a Valentine’s Day card in the mail this year, guess who it was from?
Oh alright, I’ll spill the beans. It wasn’t from a secret admirer but from big brother Google. And it wasn’t really a Valentine’s Day card but an advertisement for Google AdWords. My virtual heart has been crushed by a Googleplex.
As an AdSense publisher who has never dabbled in AdWords, Google sent me $100 to pique my interest. And I was interested, thinking about which of my little projects I could promote. But then I read the terms and conditions and decided not to use my credit because it was like those 1-month free AOL CDs from 10 years ago, they keep charging you after you’re done your initial promotion.
But this ad did catch my eye, not only because it was a direct (snail) mail from Google, nor because it was a Valentine’s Day card; but because of a couple of things on it. First, they used a QR code as a mechanism to redeem your offer. Wave of the future? Maybe but do they expect me to sign up for AdWords on my cell phone? Then they also put a OMG TAKE ADVANTAGE BEFORE YOU LOSE $25 clause into their offer for psychological effect. I had decided that I wasn’t going to use the coupon, but the $25-less gave me a quick pause. Well I wasn’t fooled, but it’s a good strategy.
February 25, 2010
I came across an interesting link that said people are happy to just plan a vacation (I suppose in addition to taking the vacation). I think it’s true, except when you can’t plan it properly.
That was our issue earlier this week. We wanted to plan a vacation for March break, but because we were busy earlier this month, we probably missed the best time to plan. A bunch of airlines (Air France, KLM) were having sales but the dates we wanted were in low supply so the prices were still quite expensive. It was a waiting game until finally today, Air Canada put on a sale that was useful to us. Air Canada has had a couple of sales recently to celebrate Canada’s Olympic gold medals, like a 50% off Canadian destinations, but today’s sale was a 50% off international destinations.
We ended up booking a flight to Heathrow. It wasn’t cheap at all, but it was a lot cheaper than when I priced the same tickets earlier; and we maxed out our available time so we will be able to head to Amsterdam and Brussels as well.
So now we can actually book hotels, trains, regional flights oh my. And if we’re not happy, we can go to The Netherlands and let the researchers know.
December 10, 2009
It irks me that when shopping in Asia markets (i.e., markets within Asia), you have to bargain a heck of a lot in order to not be ripped off. Whenever I ask the price of something, I have to be ready to do some mental math to come up with an offering price. Maybe it is just unbelievable to my Canadian sensibilities that someone would be willing to sell something below 50% of the “sale” price (although at least my Chinese sensibilities and dealings with Rogers et al realize that there can be some unbelievable margins in industries).
It is fascinating though, that this game is built into shopping in certain cultures. While I know it happens in Chinese culture, I somewhat associated my knowledge with my background. Although it is not surprising that this also occurs in societies where there is a large gap between rich and poor (especially if the rich are transient). Here are some observations of bargaining from other countries:
* Ethiopia: 0.7 with 2 rounds
* Argentina: no less than 0.9 and 1 round.
* Canada: 1 and 0
* Uganda: 0.5 and 4 rounds
* Liberia: 0.1 and 8 rounds
* Morocco: 0.001 and upwards of 754 rounds (including mint tea).
Based on my trip to China in 2006, where I blogged that you had to start at 20% of the price for clothing; for certain things in China it looks like 0.2 with 2 rounds.
I wonder if growing gap between the rich and poor in the USA will bring more bargaining into American culture (and are cancellations/retentions an example of bargaining?)
June 14, 2007
Taking a page from the Marginal Revolution school of blogging; the most interesting thing I’ve read today:
In a long term relationship, I think of there being at least five legs to the table:
safety: financial and physical, can you meet your needs together, are you healthy for each other?
sexual: well, you know what that is.
friendship: do you entertain and interest each other when you are not having sex?
social: do you make a unit that reinforces your standing in the context of work, family, friends?
domestic: is daily life more pleasant, do you enjoy and provide each other with food, comfortable bedding, other everyday human comforts and considerations?
With all five legs you can dance on the table like a crazy fool, and it will still stand. It will stand even with three legs, but then you will have to be more careful not to tip it over.