How to pick horses and other stuff

I first read this story within a story about forty years ago. I still think about it to this day.

Part of Salinger’s “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”, this is a bedtime story Seymour reads to Franny. Here it is in its entirety:

Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo: “You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?” Po Lo replied: “A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talents of my sons lie on a lower plane altogether; they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.” Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. “It is now in Shach’iu” he added. “What kind of a horse is it?” asked the Duke. “Oh, it is a dun-colored mare,” was the reply. However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. “That friend of yours,” he said, “whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a fine mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s color or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?” Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. “Has he really got as far as that?” he cried. “Ah, then he is worth ten thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.” When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative animal.

CIA SIMPLE SABOTAGE FIELD MANUAL (UNCLASSIFIED)

According to this declassified CIA document from 1944 (PDF), many of my previous bosses and coworkers were CIA operatives, actively engaged in sabotaging their own operations.

Excerpts:

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.

  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

Source: “Timeless Tips for ‘Simple Sabotage'”, CIA.gov

Marina Diamandis is my new musical crush

My new musical crush is Marina Diamandis, better known by her stage name Marina and the Diamonds. Marina is a Welsh singer-songwriter of Greek heritage. She writes all her songs, and I love every single one of them. I particularly like how she switches between major and minor scales — a popular (if formulaic) device that she uses consistently throughout her songs, and which gives them a recognizable pattern.

Her third album “Froot” was originally scheduled to be released on April 3, 2015, although it was ultimately released on March 13, 2015 in reaction to unauthorized internet leaks. (source: Wikipedia)

Below is the official video for track 12 of Froot, “Immortal”. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Choose Your Ride — $8,000 vs. $20

A clever and visually effective campaign from the North Brunswick (New Jersey) Police Department compares the price (and other effects) of a DWI against the cost of a taxicab ride.

Choose Your Ride -- $8,000 vs. $20
Choose Your Ride — $8,000 vs. $20

Avoid compulsively making things worse — schlimmbesserung, farpotshket

Schlimmbesserung is a German word for an effort to make something better that actually makes it worse. Farpotshket means the same in Yiddish. Why is there no English equivalent word for an activity so common?

 

Today’s fortune. #managerlife

A photo posted by Jason Wong (@attack_gecko) on

What if you get pwned?

The New York Times piece “How My Mom Got Hacked” (google it, I don’t link to NYT) reminded me that too many people I know create a single point of failure by storing all their digital data in one place only — be it their phone or their PC. I’ve heard plenty of rationalizations for this behavior, but none of them makes sense.

Unless you are Gus Fring, you should back up your data to the cloud of your choice. Yes, the NSA will have it, and Kim Jong-un will have it (just kidding, he won’t), but so will you when your phone crashes, or when you get pwned by CryptoWall (like the mother of the NYT journalist). If you have privacy concerns, there are solutions (like encryption). If you don’t know how to use encryption, I am available for consulting. But don’t delay — backup today.

Pro tip: Never open email attachments, no matter who the sender appears to be. If you must view the content of that Word document your cousin emailed you, do not open the file on your PC. Save the document to your Google Drive and open it there with Google Drive Viewer.

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