Feb

21

 I read this article called "Where Have The Good Men Gone?" recently, and found it quite interesting. Here is the beginning:

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.

Between his lack of responsibilities and an entertainment media devoted to his every pleasure, today's young man has no reason to grow up, says author Kay Hymowitz. She discusses her book, "Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys."

"We are sick of hooking up with guys," writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book, "I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I've Dated." What Ms. Klausner means by "guys" is males who are not boys or men but something in between. "Guys talk about 'Star Wars' like it's not a movie made for people half their age; a guy's idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home." One female reviewer of Ms. Kausner's book wrote, "I had to stop several times while reading and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?"

For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like "Singles," "Reality Bites," "Single White Female" and "Swingers." Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.

But for all its familiarity, pre-adulthood represents a momentous sociological development. It's no exaggeration to say that having large numbers of single young men and women living independently, while also having enough disposable income to avoid ever messing up their kitchens, is something entirely new in human experience. Yes, at other points in Western history young people have waited well into their 20s to marry, and yes, office girls and bachelor lawyers have been working and finding amusement in cities for more than a century. But their numbers and their money supply were always relatively small. Today's pre-adults are a different matter. They are a major demographic event.

John Watson writes:

As a member of the generation Dr. Zussman is describing, he has it totally wrong, but then again most people over age 35 don't understand us, nor do they have a clue.

Countless tomes have been written about our generation and most are wrong. Philosophers ever since Plato have been complaining about the laxness and laziness of the following generations and I expect this trend to continue until the Revelation or whatever the disciples of Dawkins believe. As I'm fond of telling my father (who, like you, doesn't get it either), we will get it right, the economy and world will muddle along, and I will still choose his retirement home. As for the debt crisis, as my dad says, nobody's going to pay it in real dollars anyways, so why worry, life will go on. Things will go on as always, except the media is managing to have a bit more control and people who take them seriously will get frightened by all the editorial.

As for addressing Dr. Zussman's shared article, one thing that really sticks out is it has an anti-male bias which I find very strange. In answer to that, I work quite hard and am preserving two languages and cultures most modernists consider irrelevant. I don't find many females in my field, and it's impossible to recruit them beyond doing restoration work, which is a different discipline. I am quite serious about my studies and future, and most of my associates and fellow students are just as serious as I am. We are not all dilletantes as described in this essay, and all of us are rather serious. We are your caretakers in your dotage and nonage, which should be stressed.

Anyways, what the article avoids mentioning is that the Asians are completely taking over academia, which is something I've noticed since I was 14 years old. That is the real issue that needs to be discussed, and my dad has theories but you'd have to ask him as I am not willing to go on record quoting his radical ideas regarding the Asians. There is a paradigm shift going on that is the most important discussion, that everyone just dances around. Dr. Zussman, you wouldn't happen to be a French intellectual would you?

Dec

14

 Aristotle once said, "All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind" Is there any way of quantifying this, and are there any implications in the markets, life, and trade?

Aristotle also said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Does this extol the virtue of practicing until we get it right? How does one know if they are getting it right, and if they have the proper tutor.

Aristotle wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." I've been wringing my head trying to figure out all of the different philosophers who have borrowed this idea, and have come up with a list of at least 20. Any help in compiling a complete list would be appreciated.

He also wrote in Nichomachean Ethics, "It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way." I would like to disprove this as there are more than one path to success.

Kim Zussman replies:

Do a twin study:

Find pairs of identical twins (same genes) with different employment histories. Best would be congressman vs. doctor. Failing that, find pairs with large differences in total hours worked to date.

Perform intelligence testing on the pairs, and use paired t-test to check for difference as a function of high vs low prior work/brain wear.

A related study could be done on the productivity effects of wearing robes and fondness for little boys.

Jim Sogi writes:

At the risk of disagreeing with Aristotle, excellence is a constant struggle. At least for me it is. Habit implies some sort of easy continuation. Constant vigilance is very very difficult. Excellence also connotes superiority over others. Thus there is a the constant pushing and straining to excel over others who try even harder.

J.T. Holley replies:

I don't think Mankind or Aristotle (all thought is a mere footnote to him in Philosophy circles) should be given a break at their points in time now that we've evolved Capitalism to the point it is today. Seems to me that the most important principle here is that what was shared by Susan Niederhoffer the other day "everyday seek out knowledge". In the agrarian society that was around in Ari's time we can certainly understand that doing some "meaningless paid job" took away from the devotion, persistence, focus and the ability that Ari had at driving forward to thought and knowledge. He is reluctant to realize though that the underlying power of Capitalism and his own mind freed him up to pursue his own thoughts and not degrade his mind.

"We are what we repeatedly do."

I happen to agree with this but not in totality. His teacher Plato spoke of to paraphrase "to know the good is to be the good". Much more objective than Aristotle's "do do the good is to know the good" of which leans towards being subjective. I think both are acceptable in "being". Case in point is Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Being tied to the post the man competed and "repeatedly" learned to beat his peers at guessing at the shadows, but once freed and outside the cave he saw the light! The objective in this allegory trumped the subjective that was thought to be the truth. The objective with the subjective seems to be balanced though if we apply Aristotle's "golden mean" that he also mentions in Nich. Ethics. A wonderful balance of both instead of just one or the other.

"Nicomachean Ethics," he said, "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen."

Kierkegaard found and wrote of this as well. He found great power, strength, and lessons in the paradox and hypocrisies of life. His three stages of life's way is a good example of this with the movement from aesthete to ethical to final religious. In the final stage of religious for Kierkegaard he used the Paradox of Abraham to find his strength. Being told by Gawd to go to the mountain and sacrifice his son what thoughts must have been in his mind and that of his town or family? He was either a lunatic by most or the most devout believer in Gawd's word. Kierkegaard spoke of the "fear and trembling" that must've been going on as the knife was thrust to the air to the point to where it was almost at apex to come down into his young son's chest. "good man" or "good citizen"? "religious" or "crazy"? Of course as the passage goes he didn't have to ultimately sacrifice his son but the lamb. The paradox was there though when thought and decision was made to be true to himself.

He also wrote in"Nichomachean Ethics," "It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way"

to quote the Chair "The best way to achieve victory is to master all the rules for disaster, and then concentrate on avoiding them." Trial and error is important in life and speculation. The pain from failing can often lead us to being better individuals and profit takers.

Nigel Davies writes:

GMI think there are a number of problems in discussing 'ancient wisdom', for example culture, language and context. One might ask what defined paid and unpaid work in Aristotle's time? I'd argue that to really understand what he was saying one would have to be a several thousand year old Greek.

As for the internalization of excellence (i.e. habits), the valuation of such may depend on whether one prefers 'reason' to 'intuition born of vast experience (ie habits)'. Taking a different angle on this, does an inexperienced but opinionated newcomer deserve to win against an old hand? Humans value their reason, but maybe this is just vanity talking.

Peter Grieve adds:

I bow to no man in my admiration for the literature of classical Attica, but Nigel has put his finger on a weakness. The surviving philosophical writers did tend to value reason over experience. This may be why they made tremendous progress in mathematics, but were dreadful scientists and mediocre engineers (Archimedes came later, and was a Syracusean). Their mathematics was largely intended to support astrology, for heavens sake. This is in line with their feeling that people who actually produced anything were of a lower order. Apparently people were amazed when Socrates spoke to artisans in an attempt to find answers. Aristotle's attitudes about paid work may reflect this bias.

Dec

7

 I was wondering if one could be taken off the street, with no experience, and taught to be a profitable trader. My father says no, with a few added conditions. He believes there's a genetic component combined with many early childhood predictors that indicate a propensity for success in trading. He cites games, sports, competition, and the willingness to accept risk as major predictors of success. He also believes that if one doesn't exhibit these characteristics by adolescence, it would be very improbable that one would become a successful trader later on in life. He also says that mentors are not enough if you don't have a "fire in your belly." My uncle, on the other hand, says he could take a monkey off the street and teach him how to trade successfully within a year. What do you think?

George Parkanyi responds:

I think the question becomes can you teach creative thinking, self-motivation, self-discipline, courage, patience, and self-confidence? If you believe that these can be taught (which I do, but it's not simple or easy), then I believe you could teach someone to successfully speculate. Good ideas and opportunities abound in speculation and are recognizable to many people, and the mechanics of trading are fairly straightforward. But actually implementing them and managing the risks are altogether something else.

Also I think that to be good at anything you just have to do it — warts and all, and make the necessary adjustments as you gain experience. You would never be able to teach the things I mentioned above without a heavy dose of hands-on application.

Paolo Pezzutti writes:

I agree that being good at sports and in particular at sports competitions is an indicator of predisposition to trading. Determination, ability to remain focused, to implement a game plan, to understand weaknesses and strengths, the self-confidence that allows to take reasonable risks with a winning attitude and so forth. However, that there is not only the "fire in your belly" component. I do not think that one can trade only by instinct or intuition. There are also analytical qualities that are more intellectual and less related to the guts. Can technology help somehow? However, if one is a great mind and finds certain market inefficiencies that a computer can exploit, does one need to have the great athlete's qualities? Those who develop successful algorithms need to to have the "fire in their belly"? I am not a trader so I cannot say for sure, but I tend to believe that mechanical trading can be successful. Besides that, if your father believes that he could teach a monkey how to trade in a year, I think I am better than a monkey and if he wants he can try with me!

Craig Mee replies:

No doubt a few of you have heard of Dennis and Eckhardt… these days different rules, different times, maybe if there had been tasty markets for it, before the rules of ever changing cycles kicked in. I believe Richard Dennis has struggled to replicate his results.

Dave Goodboy replies on behalf of Michael Covel: 

M Covel"Whether you agree or disagree with my book The Complete TurtleTrader it is one of the most unique "training" experiments ever conducted on Wall Street. It is the true story of literally taking novice traders off the street, injecting them with trading rules, and then watching millions be made. 25 years later it is also interesting to note which of the originally group thrived and which imploded. As far as the genetic component debate goes there are some great books out now about "talent" (see: "The Talent Code" and "Talent Is Overrated") making a very convincing case that success is far less genetics and much more about deliberate practice –which backs much of my research."

- Michael Covel

Dec

2

 I like to browse online for goods that I want to purchase, but I rarely buy things online. Sure, it's handy to have goodies end up on my doorstep and on occasion I'll go this way. There is a lot of downside to ordering things online that I think people should keep those things in mind. A local store in my community, chain or otherwise has several things going for it. They pay taxes and employ my neighbors. This improves my local community in a variety of ways, usually including keeping property taxes low. Without employed residents, the quality of life for everyone in my community is reduced — think Detroit, and parts of Appalachia.

In a real store I can walk in and complain, and/or get answers or action to make things right. If the product is defective or otherwise unsuitable, as is often the case by mail, the return process is immediate, and I save on shipping costs and time. Local merchants also try to maintain goodwill, which cannot be matched, even with those discount codes the online retailers try to lure you in with. Those discount codes are something else, they seem to work on every item in their virtual store except the particular item I want.

If I make a purchase online, few if any taxes go to my local community. Nobody from my town is employed, with the exception of the FedEx guy. The online company has lower margins as they primarily need only warehouse workers and customer service employees. Your local big box retailer probably hires more employees per store than many of these internet companies do for their entire operation. By reducing payroll, it saves the online retailers a great deal of money and is good business for them to cut costs as much as possible. Good for them, but what does it do me?

What do I, the consumer, get out of the internet experience besides convenience and a little saved gas? Online retailers often offer discounts of 5%-20% off retail. Cool! After the purchase is made, then the shipping costs must be added in. These costs are never what the company really pays for shipping and the shipping markup is another profit center to be managed. So the online company saves 30%-60% on operational costs when broken down for each item, and for that I get a measly few percent discount (maybe) after charges.

As the consumer, my job is to maximize what I get out of the purchase. After shipping I end up in many cases having paid roughly the same had I kept my purchase local. My purchase benefits the online company but does little for me or my community. In fact it can be considered counterproductive for me, given the loss of jobs and taxes to my local community.

All in all, I think it's best in most cases to take the time to stop by the neighborhood store if only for the exercise value. If Amazon wants to give me 35% off on the grand total including shipping then we should talk. In the meantime the money that is allegedly saved that doesn't go into my community or my pocket goes to some company outside the community. No thanks from this student. This holiday season, I'll hit Barnes and Noble, where I can have a cup of coffee, a seat, and check out all of the books I want. If you don't have a compelling reason to avoid stopping by a local store, why not give your local economy a boost and ignore those online retailers who offer you no real incentive to shop with them?

Spending money for Christmas in America equals love, and remember that when you shop. Love for family is important, but so is love for your neighbor who might happen to work at that big box retailer. Spend locally and watch the community grow.

Ken Drees comments:

When you walk into a store you may see or check something out that you didn't intend to. You may notice something featured that you never knew about. Maybe now that item you cared nothing for is suddenly appealing. You may interact with other shoppers, ask questions and find out about something even better. You might see something that you forgot that you needed. Reading a physical newspaper is similar, turn the page and suddenly you may find yourself reading an article that you would never choose from an online menu. You may even like the article. You may view a black and white display ad, that would never had appeared as a targeted pop-up on a digital version.

I went to the library the other evening, waiting for my son who was enrolled in a local library program about black bears. I just walked through a stack and found a book about Chicago underground homeless who thrive in their underground, off the books, existence. I read the book for a half hour, forgot about time — found myself thinking about totally non-typical choosable topics. I would not have chosen this book from a list, but there in the library on a random walk, I found a nugget. Digital and virtual are funnels — dropping you into niche. Stores and newspapers have their place. Libraries too.

George Parkanyi adds:

Yeah, and try haggling online…

'Fifteen dollars for a video! Fifteen? What man with a family can afford this? If I had two children maybe, but I have four. And a sick grandmother. My wife would not have s_x with me if I paid $15. A serious person might think about their own grandmother, and consider asking something more like — nine dollars.'

This doesn't even fit in an eBay feedback comment block.

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