Ask me anything — ISO 8601 edition

Some standards in the US are really absurdly eccentric and irrational. It’s the only advanced industrialized country that uses the British system of weights and measures. It uses foot, pound, gallon, degrees Fahrenheit instead of meter, kilo, liter, degrees Celsius. (Please stop with the centigrade thing already.)

The other two countries — Liberia and Myanmar –which have the same insanity are not exactly technologically advanced. Even the UK follows the metric system (with a few exceptions such as it is illegal for metric road signs and illegal to sell draught beer in metric.) Continue reading “Ask me anything — ISO 8601 edition”

Ask Me Anything — Is Economics Hard?

There’s a funny story in Robert Heilbroner’s 1953 book The Worldly Philosophers (which has been republished dozens of times):

One evening Keynes was having dinner with Max Planck, the physicist who was responsible for the development of quantum mechanics. Planck turned to Keynes and told him that he had once considered going into economics himself. But he decided against it – it was too hard. Keynes repeated this story with relish to a friend back at Cambridge. “Why, that’s odd,” said the friend. “Bertrand Russell was telling me just the other day that he’d also thought about going into economics. But he decided it was too easy.” Continue reading “Ask Me Anything — Is Economics Hard?”

Ask me Anything: The Knowledge Edition

Knowledge is power. It’s trite because it is almost trivially true. After all, knowledge is the foundation for technology, and technology gives your power. The  world depends on knowledge, and on so much of it that no single person can know it all; therefore the division of knowledge (which is implied by the division of labor that is at the heart of economic prosperity) becomes critically important.

Continue reading “Ask me Anything: The Knowledge Edition”

AMA — the Milton Friedman edition

Well, you have to admit that Milton Friedman was the nicest, most gentlemanly economist ever. Even when heckled by his student audience, his smile always accompanied his razor-sharp wit and wisdom. Here’s a sample:

Ask me anything. Maybe I’ll smile. Or maybe not.

Ask Me Anything — The Bodhidharma Edition

Porcelain statuette of Bodhidharma from the late Ming dynasty, 17th century

I am partial to Zen stories and koans. Zen is a Japanese tradition but I delight in the fact that its roots are Indian. That great tradition actually started in India as dhyana — which in English roughly translates into meditation. From India, the practice was taken to China. There is a famous Zen koan which says, “Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?” Meaning, why did Bodhidharma go from India to China.

The all knowing wiki quotes some esoteric source:

The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path, and so he put aside his white layman’s robe for the black robe of a monk […] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei. Continue reading “Ask Me Anything — The Bodhidharma Edition”

Ask me anything — The Elections Edition

“The state—or, to make the matter more concrete, the government—consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

“Government, of course, has other functions, and some of them are useful and even valuable. It is supposed, in theory, to keep the peace, and also to protect the citizen against acts of God and the public enemy.” — Henry Louis Mencken.[1] Continue reading “Ask me anything — The Elections Edition”

Ask Me Anything: Owl in the Plane edition

So I am back at home after wandering around in India. I flew Jet Airways between BOM and LHR, and Virgin Atlantic between LHR and IAD. Talking of Jet Airways, an owl had offered to pilot one of their 777s.

An owl was waiting for pilots this morning in Boeing 777-300ER’s cockpit prior flight to London.

I found a nice little poem in the comments to that squawk:

A wise old owl sat on an oak,
The more he saw, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?

Continue reading “Ask Me Anything: Owl in the Plane edition”