Quote of the Day 2009-2-25

You stupid fucking cunt. You, Williamson, I’m talking to you, shithead. You just cost me $6,000. Six thousand dollars, and one Cadillac. That’s right. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it, asshole? You’re fucking shit. Where did you learn your trade, you stupid fucking cunt, you idiot? Who ever told you that you could work with men? Oh, I’m gonna have your job, shithead.

What you’re hired for, is to help us… does that seem clear to you? To HELP us, not to… FUCK-US-UP… to help men who are going out there to try to earn a living. You fairy. You company man.

You want to learn the first rule, you’d know if you ever spent a day in your life. You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is. You fucking child.

-Al Pacino as Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross

Inspiring Place of the Day – University College London

Rather than stick to another hero of the day, I was inspired today by Aki’s alma mater, University College London. It is the first British university to accept students that were not Christian, for which Londoners referred to their student body as “the godless scum of Gower Street”. It was also the first British university to accept women. It peers itself with Oxford and Cambridge, but without the prim British snobbery.

Its real claim to fame, however, is that its alumni are known as “the Great and the Good”. UCL’s favorite sons include Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Graham Bell, and the guy that invented the right hand rule in physics. UCL grads represent the heads of state in a dozen countries, captains of industry in several areas, and have notable achievements in art, medicine, and science. All five noble gases were discovered at UCL, Francis Crick researched DNA, and it’s even said that Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution there. As a research university, more UCL grads go into academia than any other university in Britain.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired.

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Kinda looks like an ugly version of Congress…

Quote of the Day 2009-2-23

The study of economics does not seem to require any specialized gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy or pure science? An easy subject, at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.

-John Maynard Keynes

Profile of a Hero: John Maynard Keynes

Today’s inspiring hero is John Maynard Keynes, whose economic theories are dominating the solutions for the current recession. He was born in the same year that Karl Marx died, a fitting connection for the man who would kill Marxist theories of Capitalism Doomed and replace it with a theme of Capitalism Viable. Marx was also a bitter man, heavy and constantly disappointed; Keynes was a man alight, happily sailing through life, buoyant and consummately successful.

He showed economic genius from a young age, wheeling and dealing in preparatory school so that he had a “slave” who carried his books and formed a “commercial treaty” with a boy he disliked that he would get books for him from the library in exchange for the boy agreeing to never approach within fifteen yards of him. He bloomed in high school and was a phenom at university, winning awards by the armful and showing excellence in mathematics, classics, and history. Excellence as in he wrote textbooks in those subjects. He rubbed elbows with Max Planck, who told him that he decided to do theoretical physics because economics was too hard, and Bertrand Russell, who told him that he decided to write literature because economics was too easy.

He tried industry, saying “I want to manage a railway or organize a Trust or at least swindle the investing public. It is so easy and fascinating to master the principles of these things.” He tried civil service examinations and scored second of all examinees – his weakness had been in economics, to which he proclaimed that he knew more about the subject than the test writers. But he hated running an office, except for the fact that it allowed him to write treatises on probability and finance in India. He decided to go to Cambridge, where he was immediately selected to join a Royal commission to deal with an Indian currency crisis. Even then, he still had a myriad of interests – he ran the local theater troupe and joined an intellectual circle of friends that included names like Virginia Woolf and EM Forster.

During World War I, he operated on British overseas finances, where he broke the Spanish economy with currency manipulation and managed to buy an impressive collection of French art at happily depressed prices. He represented the British Treasury at the peace negotiations at Versailles, but resigned in despair at what he considered outrageous and impossible terms in the Treaty of Versailles. He became a household name with his work The Economic Consequences of the Peace, which was brilliant and crushing. Some excerpts:

-of French prime minister Georges Clemenceau: “He had only one illusion – France; and one disillusion – mankind, including his own colleagues”
-of American president Woodrow Wilson: “like Odysseus, he looked wiser when seated”
-of the negotiations: “The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others – Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to do a deal and bring home something that would pass muster for a week, the President to do nothing that was not just and right. It is an extraordinary fact that the fundamental problems of a Europe starving and disintegrating before their eyes, was the one question in which it was impossible to arouse the interest of the Four. Reparation was their main excursion into the economic field, and they settled it as a problem of theology, of politics, of electoral chicane, from every point of view except that of the economic future of the States whose destiny they were handling”

In the 1920s, he ventured into stocks and turned 30,000 pounds sterling into 380,000. His oracle was nothing more than a minute scrutiny of balance sheets, an encyclopedic knowledge of finance, an intuition into personalities, and a certain flair for trading. He would read financial papers in the morning when he woke up, phone in his orders, then move on to start his day with more important matters, like economic theory. He became bursar for his alma mater, managed an investment trust, and guided the finances of a life insurance company. Meanwhile, he was a frequent columnist at a newspaper, lectured at Cambridge, bought pictures, and read books voraciously.

He wrote his magnus opum (the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money) during the Great Depression and is widely regarded as one of the greatest economists in history. Quite a career.

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Lessons Learned 2009-2-22

It’s been a little while, but here come the lessons learned!

1) It’s all about the basics

No matter what you’re doing, it’s all about the fundamentals. Hard work, discipline, building that good foundation. It’s all typical stuff, but it’s nice to remind myself every now and then.

2) I am aging in reverse, like Benjamin Button.

I’ve had to take passport photos for the last year, sort of like school pictures. The next time I go home, I’d like to get a nice sequence of my profile shots from every year and put them in one place. I’ll try scanning my pictures tomorrow, but it’s weird that I look younger in 2009 than I did in 2004. Part of it is the fact that I’ve slimmed down after joining the TKD competition team and a huge part of it is my haircut. On second thought, maybe I won’t scan my photos. I am hilariously ashamed of the photos on my high school ID cards. My God, no wonder I was going at myself four, five times a day.

3) I have an enormous capacity for binging.

Just as a whim, I decided to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches to give myself some reward snacks as I met my weight loss goals. That lasted a grand total of eighteen minutes before I ate 8 ice cream sandwiches in one go and put on another 3 lbs. I quietly wept and threw a tantrum in a pile of ice cream sandwich wrappers.

And goals for the week:

-cook every day this week, no meals out
-work down to waking up at 6 AM

Quote of the Day 2009-2-20

You don’t seem to want to accept who you are dealing with. You are dealing with a man who is an expert—with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, to ignore weather. To live off the land and eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Vietnam, his mission was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill, period. Win by attrition. Well, Rambo was the best.

-Colonel Trautman, Rambo: First Blood

Quote of the Day 2009-2-17

Mathematics presented as a closed, linearly ordered, system of truths without reference to origin and purpose has its charm and satisfies a philosophical need. But the attitude of introverted science is unsuitable for students who seek intellectual independence rather than indoctrination; disregard for applications and intuition leads to isolation and atrophy of mathematics. It seems extremely important that students and instructors should be protected from smug purism.

-Richard Courant