Friday, February 28, 2014

When Bill Clinton stops by for dinner

As described by Meghan Love:
I was handpicked to wait on Bill Clinton. I guess I was chosen because I was Southern and bubbly. My manager said, “There’s someone coming who is big, the biggest person you can imagine.” Michael Jackson? No, bigger. Oprah? No. They wouldn’t tell me but all of a sudden a security team arrived. They said, “Bill Clinton is going to be here in 45 minutes.” We gave him a wing of the restaurant. When he walked in, I had my back to the door. All of the sudden the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I thought, What the fuck just happened? Well, Bill Clinton had walked in the door. I had never experienced such pure magnetism from a human. I remember a Bangladeshi busser crying. He had been in the country for a couple of months but had a real affinity and love of this man. Clinton shook every single person’s hand in the restaurant. Every waiter, every patron. He ordered an omelette and a hamburger. He wanted them on the same plate, with French fries. But when he ordered, he got up and came over to me. He held me. He touched me while he ordered. It was very intimate.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How money can buy happiness

If you study what happens in blind tastings, you get the same result over and over and over again. You can try this at home, if you like; I’ve done that many times, with friends, and it’s a lot of fun. You can do a scientific analysis of more than 6,000 wine tastings, which found a negative correlation between price and quality. Or you can look at the wines which win medals at wine competitions, where it turns out that winning one competition gives you no greater likelihood of winning the next one, and where if you enter the same wine two or three times in the same competition, it can appear all over the place in the final results. 
But here’s the trick: if you can’t buy happiness by spending more money on higher quality, then you can buy happiness by spending money taking advantage of all the reasons why people still engage in blind tastings, despite the fact that they are a very bad way to judge a wine’s quality. If you know what the wine you’re tasting is, if you know where it comes from, if you know who made it, if you’ve met the winemaker, and in general, if you know how expensive it is — then that knowledge deeply affects — nearly always to the upside — the way in which you taste and appreciate the wine in question. 
Fortunately, nearly all of the time that we taste wine in the real world, we do know what we’re drinking — and we do know (at least roughly) how expensive it is. In those situations, the evidenceis clear: When we know how much we spent on what we’re drinking, then the correlation between price and enjoyment is incredibly strong. 
The more you spend on a wine, the more you like it. It really doesn’t matter what the wine is at all. But when you’re primed to taste a wine which you know a bit about, including the fact that you spent a significant amount of money on, then you’ll find things in that bottle which you love. You can call this Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome if you want, but I like to think that there’s something real going on. After all, what you see on the label, including what you see on the price tag, is important information which can tell you a lot about what you’re drinking. And the key to any kind of connoisseurship is informed appreciation of something beautiful.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ernest Hemingway's conception of heaven

From a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald:
To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on 9 different floors and one house would be fitted up with special copies of the Dial printed on soft tissue and kept in the toilets on every floor and in the other house we would use the American Mercury and the New Republic. Then there would be a fine church like in Pamplona where I could go and be confessed on the way from one house to the other and I would get on my horse and ride out with my son to my bull ranch named Hacienda Hadley and toss coins to all my illegitimate children that lined the road. I would write out at the Hacienda and send my son in to lock the chastity belts onto my mistresses because someone had just galloped up with the news that a notorious monogamist named Fitzgerald had been seen riding toward the town at the head of a company of strolling drinkers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Work, Life and Happiness

There is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness, and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. In such a career, you feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. You feel you are making a contribution. It is not work.
An excerpt from How to Avoid Work, written by William J. Reilly in 1949.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wine tasting is bullshit

In 2001, researcher Frédéric Brochet invited 54 wine experts to give their opinions on what were ostensibly two glasses of different wine: one red, and one white. In actuality, the two wines were identical, with one exception: the "red" wine had been dyed with food coloring. 
The experts described the "red" wine in language typically reserved for characterizing reds. They called it "jammy," for example, and noted the flavors imparted by its "crushed red fruit." Not one of the 54 experts surveyed noticed that it was, in fact a white wine.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Don't follow your passion

Advice from Cal Newport:
I set out to research a simple question: How do people end up loving what they do? If you ask people, the most common answer you’ll get is, “They followed their passion.” So I went out and researched: “Is this true?” From what I found, “Follow your passion” is terrible advice. If your goal is to end up passionate about what you do, “Follow your passion” is terrible advice. 
So the first fundamental misunderstanding is this idea that we all have a pre-existing passion that’s relevant to a career, and if we could just discover it, then we would be fine. Research says actually most people don’t have one. 
The second problem is that it’s built on this misbelief that matching your work to something you have a very strong interest in is going to lead to a long-term satisfaction and engagement in your career. It sounds obvious that it should be true, but actually the research shows that’s not at all the reality of how people end up really enjoying and gaining great satisfaction and meaning out of their career. 
If you study people who end up loving what they do, here’s what you find and if you study the research on it, you find the same thing: Long-term career satisfaction requires traits like a real sense of autonomy, a real sense of impact on the world, a sense of mastery that you’re good at what you do, and a sense of connection in relation to other people.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Desmond Tutu on drones

Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it. 
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.