Archive for the ‘Vanity’ Category

Why not Implicit Minimum Return for investors?

February 2, 2009


Implicit minimum bonus? (to use an expression that Basab Pradhan acknowledges if not defends) Huh, that sounds like a boy thing. Mine’s bigger than yours sort of `entitlement’…Why do CEOs need extravagant perks even when they are firing staff and pleading for taxpayer bailouts? Can it be shrugged off as weird DNA makeup?

It takes arrogance and narcissism to become leader of a Fortune 500 company. Those same traits, however, have become their undoing during the deepest recession in decades.

How about the `ticket items’ mortgages, kids’ schools etc. of the staff that get fired by the dour suits that mess up business strategies?  I think their sense of `entitlements’  should be perched a few notches higher because they likely don’t have much `retained earnings’ (excesses of yesteryears) to fall back on while they sit at home after having lost their jobs.


And then, why not Implicit Minimum Return for investors?  How many C-level executives will brave that diligence?


That’s a tangent the Wall Street “High Performers” never recognize.  It suits them not to.  It kind of gets wired into their DNA.  But you can never blame the suits’ instincts alone for being so haughty. When they arrive at that position, they have all kinds of toadies toasting them what geniuses they are, and then of course they begin to feel their lifelong feelings of self-importance have been confirmed. There begins the grand ride of delusion, taking credit for pure serendipity (or ancestral good karma) driven good years propelled by overall good sentiment, supported by acquiescent or similarly deluding credit rating agencies stamping away `AAA’ even on toilet paper coming out of a certain Bear Stearns masking their near absent appraisal criteria and redundant evaluation metrics.


For such muck up, the Wall Street suits express no sense of remorse to the investors/other stakeholders they wronged but have the gumption to stand up and claim Implicit Minimum Bonus.  Well the show can go on until some day soon a bunch of harried bondholders will suddenly get physically generous and allow their thighs to be used as ear muffs for the Wall Street bonus claimant.


Getting it wrong and still be loved

April 2, 2008

Paul Graham dwells on a hierarchy of disagreements.  Sarah Perez gives it a web twist.

I recall Tim O’Reilly in this old post recounting a story from a speech by Charlie Munger, a long time associate of Warren Buffet.  That story elucidates knowledge gained by rote and the one got by conscious labor. 

I quote –

“After winning the Nobel Prize, Max Planck went around Germany giving talks. His chauffeur heard the talk so many times that he had it by heart, and so one time, he asked Max Planck if he could give the address. Planck agreed, they changed places, and the lecture came off famously. But then came the Q&A, with the very first question being one that the chauffeur had no hope of answering. The chauffeur replied: “I’m surprised to hear such an elementary question on high energy physics here in Munich. It’s so simple; I’ll let my chauffeur answer it.”  

Munger went on to point out that what went wrong in oversight of Enron was a lot of chauffeur knowledge, great ability to give a presentation, but no deep knowledge.

As Graham says –

“the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier…..Most people don’t really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can’t help it.”

To those haters of discord, I would just say this.  Most bloggers that we know are amateurs. They must entertain dissent while canceling those that go over the edge. Readers don’t expect professional quality in their output. So just they need be tolerant of dissent and be grateful to acknowledge a mistake when pointed out.  They can of course outwit a scathing comment by adding a dose of humor.  But never try to get around that by pleading you were way too busy and wrote in a hurry.  That makes you look like a stinking orifice.  You may well be one but why that secret be made public knowledge?  

Admit ignorance where you were. You need not be  Dr.Samuel Johnson for that! .

“Let’s swap watches, Mr.Ambani”

March 7, 2008

So, my favorite hate list for 2008 is here.

Billionaires are getting younger. Forbes magazine released its list of the world’s mega-rich Wednesday and said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 23, became the youngest ever self-made billionaire.  Buffett is 77, Gates is 52 and Slim is 68, but there are now 50 billionaires younger than 40, and 34 of them are self-made. The average age of all billionaires has dropped to 61 from 64 in 2004, partly because of the growth of young, self-made Russian and Chinese billionaires. Mainland China’s richest person is 26-year-old real estate heiress Yang Huiyan (No. 125), worth $7.4 billion.

The biggest gainer over the last year is 48-year-old Indian businessman Anil Ambani. Now here is something that drives me ever so jealous.  His wealth jumped $24 billion, or nearly $3 million an hour.  Friggin’ cool ! 

That gives me one quick way to make that list…. “Mr.Ambani, how about swapping watches…:-)” 


Are you sure…?

November 24, 2007

According to a famous paraphrase of a quote by James D Nicoll, “English doesn’t borrow from other languages.  It follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.” And loose vocabulary, we might add, wondering at two-thirds of English filled with foreign loanwords.  (Repayment is not likely in this lifetime, I guess).

Not content with that indebtedness of English language, upstart writers use their limited grasp of foreign language words and use them liberally often becoming les objets de raillerie (objects of ridicule).  Those you know well, you can correct. The others that you know only too well (out to claim “look, how versatile am I”) – allow yourself a hearty laugh and let it rip.  Here’s a small collection of comical goofs.

…I’ve seen many faux paus in modern society…

Ah, the inevitable social stumble, the misstep, the usage blunder. From the French for “false step,” the phrase faux pas, pronounced “foe pa,” is one of the first foreign phrases many of us learn. That word pas, by the way, is the same ‘step’ that appears in pas de deux, the French equivalent of the two-step – or is it the Cotton-Eyed Joe? Here our reviewer apparently attempted to form a plural through a spelling change, but has merely managed to change the pronunciation to “foe poe.”

In an interesting aside, the plural of faux pas is faux pas, however the plural is pronounced “foe pas.” 

…I think she deserved every kudo…

When I saw this one, coffee almost came out of my nose. People, people… The word kudos has been picked from the back pocket of our Greek friends. It arrives with a literal meaning of “magical glory” and a common meaning of “effusive praise.” The word is not, however, a plural! Therefore, each single morsel of praise, no matter how small, is kudos in its own right.

When used as the subject of a sentence, by the way, the word takes a singular verb: not “kudos were rained on his head,” but “kudos was rained on his head.” If you have trouble remembering this, it helps to remember that the terminal ‘S’ is not pronounced like a ‘Z’ but as a soft ‘S’ – in other words, it doesn’t rhyme with “rose”; the last letter has the same sound as “ross.”

… forced the citizens to cow-tow to the new ruler…

Happily, I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time. Here, our coiner apparently has a bovine female that’s in need of assistance. Presumably s/he’ll call some Cattle Farmers Association for a tow truck? Ahhh, I get it now: the desired word was “kowtow,” a word borrowed from Mandarin Chinese and meaning “to bow obsequiously; to show servility.”

Since the word has been transliterated from a language that doesn’t use the western alphabet, some might – sigh – be inclined to cut the writer some slack. After all, the spelling of Moammar Khadafy/Ghadafi/Qadaffi/etc. changes randomly for that same reason. Except that kowtow has been in common usage for more than a century, so no slack’s coming from me!

…my truck has been horse de combat for more than a month…

Ohhhhhh, Willlllburrrr… It’s a darned shame that the spellchecker couldn’t catch this one before it galloped onto the site. Obviously, our author meant to use the French hors de combat, meaning “out of action.” Equally obviously, our author doesn’t know that the terminal ‘S’ in hors is silent, or perhaps s/he would have said the vehicle was whores de combat. I don’t know, though, that s/he didn’t try it and gave up – it’s hard to sneak that particular spelling past the in-line fil(th)ter.

And there you have it.

Not merely a small collection of comical goofs, but living proof that the Grammar Curmudgeon is human, too. Whatever else you take away from this little diatribe, next time you decide to dress up your writing with a foreign phrase or two, do some research – especially if you don’t happen to speak that particular language. Otherwise, you might end up seeing so many poke fun at a slightly altered version of your prose a few months down the road. 🙂