From Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan: The Antilibrary
“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market will allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”
I am blessed to live in a community with a high quality local library system and, as a result, I am able to access an antilibrary well beyond anything my own personal financial means could provide (including the works of Umberto Eco). Here are some books currently on my antilibrary shelf:
The prevailing wisdom of economists is that the collapse of the housing bubble is the main contributor to the current downturn in the economy. It is no surprise that the Homeowner Stability Initiative is a big ($75 billion big) portion of the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment economic stimulus plan (a.k.a. The Bailout). However, the fear is that money, tax dollars borrowed from our children and grandchildren, will be used not to aid those who through no fault of their own have been victimized by predatory lenders, terrible misfortunes and the out-of-control speculation of others, but to reward those buyers who did not ‘beware,’ purchased homes they could not afford, and acted without thought about what may happen to their home investment in the short term much less in the long.
That is why statements like this make my skin crawl:
“The plan also offers financial incentives for lenders to reduce the mortgage payments of as many as 4 million homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes. Under the $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative, lenders would cut mortgage payments to no more than 31 percent of the borrower’s income.”
I’m not saying that people in real need shouldn’t be helped, but the thought of even one person who through greed or stupidity gets to call a ‘do-over’ when the rest of us who acted with forethought and invested wisely (actually our children and grandchildren) get to pay the price for it makes my blood boil.
That said, President Obama did at the end of his speech explaining the Initiative Wednesday sound the note that everyone needs to hear:
“Our housing crisis was born of eroding home values, but it was also an erosion of our common values, and in some case, common sense. It was brought about by big banks that traded in risky mortgages in return for profits that were literally too good to be true; by lenders who knowingly took advantage of homebuyers; by homebuyers who knowingly borrowed too much from lenders; by speculators who gambled on ever-rising prices; and by leaders in our nation’s capital who failed to act amidst a deepening crisis. (Applause.)
So solving this crisis will require more than resources; it will require all of us to step back and take responsibility. Government has to take responsibility for setting rules of the road that are fair and fairly enforced. Banks and lenders must be held accountable for ending the practices that got us into this crisis in the first place. And each of us, as individuals, have to take responsibility for their own actions. That means all of us have to learn to live within our means again and not assume that — (applause) — and not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year.
Those core values of common sense and responsibility, those are the values that have defined this nation. Those are the values that have given substance to our faith in the American Dream. Those are the values we have to restore now at this defining moment.”
Though not the message that was picked up by the media, acting with common sense and responsibility is the key point that needs to be drilled into every single one of us. For too long many Americans have lived well beyond their means. They think too much in the ‘now,’ and ignore the ‘future’ and the consequences their actions may bring not only to themselves but to those around them. They buy their homes and their cars not based on what they can afford, but by how much they can borrow, then make up the difference with credit cards and other forms of easy credit. They save too little and when they stumble financially or are economically jostled by a market downturn, the dangerous debt they juggle can slip from their grasp. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are good as long as we pay for them and we learn from them. All too often, when you don’t have to pay you end up making the same mistake again. It sounds harsh to say that these people need to fail, but their failure is their responsibility and not that of future taxpayers.
(hat tip: TDAXP)
An Example of Different Gradients of Doctrine Being Used at Different Levels of the Expression of Force.
From NPR News:
“CIA-directed airstrikes against al-Qaida leaders and facilities in Pakistan over the past six to nine months have been so successful, according to senior U.S. officials, that it is now possible to foresee a ‘complete al-Qaida defeat’ in the mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan.
The officials say the terrorist network’s leadership cadre has been ‘decimated’ with up to a dozen senior and midlevel operatives killed as a result of the strikes and the remaining leaders reeling from the repeated attacks.
‘The enemy is really, really struggling,’ says one senior U.S. counterterrorism official. ‘These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we’ve seen in several years.’ “
The CIA is apparently using MQ-9 Reaper UAVs combined with improved intelligence to find and target the leadership of Al-Qaida in the mountainous areas along the Afganistan and Pakistan border. This particular scenario is a perfect illustration of two different gradients of doctrine in the XGW framework (3GW and 4GW) being used simultaneously at two different levels of the expression of Force (Tactical and Operational).
A ) I don’t really condone this level of wine snobbery (although if your excitement about wine leads you to talk at it in such passionate terms, and to not only have a spitoon, but a spitoon cam, more power to you).
Update 1/31/09: The complete interview/story may be found here:
“‘Some people might shy away from drinking wine because they think it’s “foofy-foofy, it’s serious, you have to learn a lot,’ Vaynerchuk says. His advice? Trust your own palate and don’t focus so much on what the experts recommend.”
This quote is from the full story and I really can’t argue with it. His advice is spot on (See ‘B’ below). Knowledge is always a good thing to have but I still think this guy is a too aggressive and intimidating with his knowledge. Wine ‘experts’ should never intimidate, that’s snobbery. People should be able to feel comfortable with what knowledge they do have and gradually expand their horizons (and palate). Wine should never be intimidating.
B ) Drink the kind of wine that you like, with the kind of things that you like. Experiment at every opportunity because there are no wrong answers.
C ) In my (oh so humble) opinion the best kind of wine for a good red chili is a nice Spanish Tempranillo or a spicy dry red like a Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Sirah or Zinfandel. The key is to match flavors. Spicy chili and spicy wine is a great combination.