Assorted Musings

Cheap shots, quick thoughts, bon mots. Many more quick thoughts at Twitter or thousands of my bookmarks at delicious.

1. Does placebo effect diminish if you know it's happening? That is, if you know the anti-depressant you're about to take might only produce a placebo effect, can you still enjoy the placebo benefit?

2. The robustness of a model is based on how well the model withstands a change of assumptions.

3. "Information overload" is an elite problem. (Most people don't have enough access to information.) And even then, it's only a "problem" for some. There are busy professionals who inhale information and, thanks to fast reading and writing and overall information intake speed, find themselves today at a huge advantage.

4. Some women have more male friends than female friends. Rarely do you find (straight) men with more female friends than male. What is this about?

5. Hold a microphone as if you're brushing your teeth, not eating an ice cream cone. Seriously. This makes a big difference.

6. When not on a teleprompter Obama starts a lot of sentences with "look." Take this sentence from his recent G-20 press conference: "In terms of local politics, look, I'm the president of the United States. I'm not the president of China; I'm not the president of Japan; I'm not the president of the other participants here." The word "look" brings attention to what's about to be said, and sounds authoritative. But I've also noticed it's a verbal tic that dogs arrogant people. So use it scarcely, if at all.

7. It's easy to underestimate the intelligence of someone when they're speaking a foreign language. If you perceive someone's IQ at X, add a few points if you're hearing them in their non-native tongue.

8. Why isn't there matchmaking on airlines? Seems like airlines should partner with dating web sites and incorporate match making into the "seat selection" web page when you check in.

9. "Fundamental and flagrant contradictions rarely occur in second-rate writers; in the work of the great authors they lead into the very center of their work." – Hannah Arendt on Marx

10. Is it possible to deeply learn about something that isn't interesting to you?

11. The research on cohabitation before marriage is mixed. Some say that if couples cohabit before marriage their marriage won't last as long (since it's easier to "slide" into marriage if you're already living together, making you think less hard about whether it's the right thing to do). Other studies say it's a good thing because you can do a test run on how compatible you are when actually sharing physical space. I recently asked a young woman whether she was living with her boyfriend of four years. She said, "No, I live in my own apartment. But basically, I live at his place." This struck me as the optimal point — technically you want to have your own quarters until marriage, but in practice you should be spending lots of time together and spending most of your time at one place.

12. We need more philanthropists who will invest in the very long term in causes for which there may not be a pay-off within their life time. Donating money and not seeing the immediate return when you're alive is the ultimate act of altruism.

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