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What The Dog Saw

By Malcolm Gladwell

The Pitchman

A family of Jewish immigrants who invented most of the Dial-O-Matic kitchen gadgets. But the main thing was that they were showmen. "I know how to ask for the money. And that's the secret of the whole damn business."

Blowing Up

Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan. He believed that the successful investors in the stock market were just the lucky ones. Statistically, some should guess right. If you started with 10,000 investors, and each year kept the winners, after 5 years you'd have 313 'winners' ad after 10 years, 9, all out of pure luck.

Taleb runs a fund called Empirica. Based on the idea that the market is not predictable: an event can change the rules at any time. He predicts a Black Swan event: the possibility of an unexpected event sweeping the board. Doesn't pretend to understand market so never bets on it moving one way or the other; simply buys options on either side, well off the median, that will only pay off if there is a big movement.

Say you invest for a year until on day 365 it all blows up and you lose 5 times your stake. That guy is happy for 364 days. It's a lot harder being on the other side of the deal, losing money on 364 days. "The key is not having the ideas, but having the recipe to deal with yr ideas. We don't need morality, we need a set of tricks." His trick is a protocol which stipulates exactly what to do in every situation. an change the rules, but there is a set of rules for changing rules.

We assume courage in the big investors who come back from failure, but in fact more heroism in resisting the normal human impulse to do something.

John Rock's Error

JR was an RC who invented contraceptive pill. He wanted to convince the Church that he was just mimicking natural cycle, so he set up a system of monthly placebos so that women cd have monthly period. But modern women have a hugely anomalous number of periods. In past women were almost continually either pregnant or breastfeeding, and would have maybe 100 periods in a lifetime. But today, with earlier puberty and delayed motherhood, often up to 400 periods - something that evolution has not equipped women to handle.

What The Dog Saw

Cesar Millen the dog whisperer. As a child learned how to control dogs. But cdn't apply the understanding and affection to wife and family until she dragged him to a therapist.

Million Dollar Murray

Homeless drug and alcohol abusers who cost the taxpayer million dollars each by time add up policing, hospitals, social workers etc. Made economic sense to give them a small apartment and put them on rehab routine. Saved money long-term, but very unPC because looked like handouts to the undeserving.

Connecting The Dots

20/20 hindsight. After 9/11 books and articles pointing out how 'obvious' it was what th plotters were doing. Problem that a huge number of other people dong the same potentially threatening things and simply not possible to distinguish the real dangers.

The Art of Failure

Sportsmen 'choke' bc suddenly start worrying about how to play their shots. When they relax and let the 1,000 hours of training guide their play, they win. But sometimes they start trying to do it consciously, and fail.

Blow Up

Challenger O-ring - conventional view that NASA hadn't done its job.In fact, a series of individually harmless decisions incrementally moved toward disaster. The potential for catastrophe is inherent in normal functioning of complex systems. Three Mile Island - a series of minor blockages, stuck valves and faulty dials - each trivial by itself, but cumulative effect nearly disastrous.

Late Bloomers

Cezanne, who's paintings were crap right up until middle age. Until he got really good, supported by famous friends, dealers and father. Without their support he wd have sunk without trace.

Most Likely To Succeed

Teachers: the worst ones will teach 1/2 year's learning in a year; the best, 1 and 1/2 years - ie a difference of a year's learning. Teacher ability far more impt than class size or quality of school. But when you test teachers, it's impossible to predict ability ahead of time - IQ, university quals or teaching certs have no effect at all. Best system wd be to make teaching open to virtually everyone with a degree. Use an apprenticeship system where try 4 candidates to find the one good one. And change the pay scales - pay apprenticeship rates to the starters, then pay superstar rates to keep the top performers who can teach the 1 and 1/2 years.

Dangerous Minds

How psychics work:

Rainbow Ruse - statement which gives you both a personality trait and its exact opposite "I wd say that on the whole you can be quit and self-effacing, but when the station is right you can be the life and soul of the party."

Jacques Statement tailors prediction to age of subject - eg to a 40 o: "You get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger"

Barnum Statement so general that applies to all: "You're having problems with a friend or relative". "You're sometimes insecure, especially with people you dont know very well"

Fuzzy Fact "I can see a connection to Europe, possibly Britain, or is it the warmer Mediterranean part?"

Fine Flattery So complimentary that no-one wd deny it eg "You are sometimes too honest with yr feelings"

Green Grass Technique "You wish you cd be just a little more popular with yr friends".

Polyanna Pearls tell you what you want to hear - "Despite a succession of bad relationships you will apply the life lessons from these failures and will soon have a successful relationship."

Sugar Lumps flattering statements that will lower yr intellectual defences: "You are quite perceptive".

Vanishing Negative "You don't work with children, do you?"
(No I don't) "No I thought not. That's not really yr role."
(Yes I do actually)"Yes I thought so."

The New Boy Network

Harvard U study where they wanted people to rate teachers just on expressions and physical cues. They wanted at least 1 minute of tape, but found that they had at most just 10 secs of teacher without students in frame. But that 10 secs was enough, and in some cases 5 secs was all that was needed, and then a 2 sec flash. Turns out need just a flash of insight, and that corresponds to the assessment of students who've had the teacher for whole semester.

Similar conclusion from a study which looked at first 15 secs of an interview - coming through the door, shaking hands with interviewer and sitting down.

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