20 crazy questions
June 27, 2011, 2:45 pm
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Interview questions from large corporations:  do they say more about them?

Procter & Gamble:Sell me an invisible pen.

Facebook:Twenty-five racehorses, no stopwatch, five tracks. Figure out the top three fastest horses in the fewest number of races.

Citigroup:What is your strategy at table tennis?

Google:You are climbing a staircase. Each time you can either take one step or two. The staircase has n steps. In how many distinct ways can you climb the staircase?

Capital One:How do you evaluate Subway’s five-foot long sub policy?

Gryphon Scientific:How many cocktail umbrellas are there in a given time in the United States?

Enterprise Rent-A-Car:Would you be okay hearing “no” from seven out of 10 customers?

Goldman Sachs:Suppose you had eight identical balls. One of them is slightly heavier and you are given a balance scale. What’s the fewest number of times you have to use the scale to find the heavier ball?

Towers Watson:Estimate how many planes there are in the sky.

Lubin Lawrence:If you could describe Hershey, Godiva, and Dove chocolate as people, how would you describe them?

Pottery Barn:If I was a genie and could give you your dream job, what and where would it be?

Kiewit Corp:What did you play with as a child?

VWR International:How would you market a telescope in 1750 when no one knows about orbits, moons, etc.?

Diageo North America:If you walk into a liquor store to count the unsold bottles, but the clerk is screaming at you to leave, what do you do?

Brown & Brown Insurance:How would you rate your life on a scale of 1 to 10?

Jane Street Capital:What is the smallest number divisible by 225 that consists of all 1’s and 0’s?

UBS:If we were playing Russian roulette and had one bullet, I randomly spun the chamber and fired but nothing was fired. Would you rather fire the gun again or respin the chamber and then fire on your turn?

Merrill Lynch:Tell me about your life from kindergarten onwards.

Susquehanna International Group:Five guys, all of different ages, enter a bar and take a seat at a round table. What is the probability that they are seated in ascending order of age?

Define the Ratio of People to Cake, The Morning News, 20 Craziest Job Interview Questions, CBS


goin back to houston tm
June 24, 2011, 6:54 pm
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[originally published June 23, 2009]

In America there was a very deliberate decision made to separate politicians from businessmen in the establishment of our state capitals and business cities.  Albany is miles from New York City, as is Sacramento from LA, Austen from Houston, Springfield from Chicago, Harrisburg from Philadelphia and so on.  Get the lawmakers out of town and let business get down to business was the guiding principle.

New York boomed not in small part because of the free trading, ethnically diverse, pub going and prostitute partaking culture set up by the tolerant Dutch.  Bombay was the same:  tolerance, inclusion, liberalism, a flowering of activity and trade.  Meanwhile, puritan religion and intolerance squelched business life in Boston and other eastern cities which stagnated and never caught up.

Liberal trade policies made boom cities but world financial centers still operate according to rules.  They’re economically liberal; they’re not anarchies.

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Gardens of Marqueyssac
June 23, 2011, 3:05 am
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags:

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hither and yon
June 18, 2011, 12:40 am
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We trust trains, perhaps because they have no choice but to go where they are going.

~Alastair Reid

Cars are inviolably and inextricably linked to freedom; and, with no less conviction, to solvency.  Of course they are:  you can hop in anytime and go anywhere you want when you have a car.  You can take the top down to let the sun on your face and the wind in your hair on your way to the beach or the country; or you can gear up with a sleeping bag and a camper stove and put the back seat down and live in your car.  And, regarding solvency, pick a payment plan; car and gas companies make it that easy.

There is mounting – mountains – of evidence to suggest that the kind of freedom that cars give us has a rather dark underbelly:  the catalyst for unforgiving and isolating and unsustainable environments among other things.  Darker still is the issue of solvency:  our car ways are financed by systems of debt financing.  The fantastic irony of American life on the road is that the car lifestyle – universally heralded as the hallmark of American market freedom and of choice – is actuallyunderwritten with government money.

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utterly crushed
June 15, 2011, 2:30 pm
Filed under: the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , ,

There is a difference between literature and pulp we are told, and it seems one strong argument for difference forms around the issue of didacticism.  If it preaches at you, it’s a tract or a manifesto and can’t be literature.  Pamphleteers, campaign managers and copy writers have petty politics and bottom lines in mind and dispatch their missives motivated by short term influence.  It’s a base activity:  move money now, gain power, broaden influence, create loyalty.

Literature on the other hand, classically speaking, has loftier aspirations and doesn’t stoop to moralizing or preaching or influencing.  So, in strict structural terms, literature may show us the human spirit and condition and we are frozen in apprehension at our comic and ultimately mortal place in the world.

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freedom indexed
June 13, 2011, 6:25 pm
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The two least free states, according to the new Mercatus Freedom Study, are California and New York and the freest are New Hampshire and South Dakota.  So if you love freedom, pack up your things and head on up the road to anywhere on the map that is lighter blue.

Of course the Koch brothers funded study uses indicators like low taxes and low government regulation with a basis of ‘individual rights’ to make their determinations.

A reader on Yglesias’ blog – linked below – took a closer look at the study.  What he found was that the states that rated highest for freedom had low education attainment, lower GDP, higher infant and accident mortality, more suicide, more homicide and greater income inequality.  Welcome to freedom America style.

I wanted to see if their index of freedom was actually linked to any positive outcomes (e.g., life expectancy, per capita GDP, industry R&D) or negative outcomes (e.g., suicides per capita, income inequality) based on Census data.

In a nutshell, the results were not good for the libertarian cause. The Mercatus Institute’s freedom score was significantly linked to (by state)- lower educational attainment (measured by percent of Bachelor degrees or higher), lower population density, lower per capita GDP, increased infant mortality, increased accident mortality, increased incidence of suicide, increased firearm mortality, decreased industrial R&D, and increased income inequality.

A Followup on the Mercatus Freedom Study, a reader, Think Progress, Matthew Yglesias

Coromandel Express
June 10, 2011, 8:42 pm
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global center of economic gravity
June 10, 2011, 12:36 am
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The global center of economic gravity has shifted east over the past 30 years (black dots), and could well shift even farther east over the next 30 years (red dots).

World’s center of economic gravity shifts east, Danny Quah

the 4th estate
June 9, 2011, 6:08 pm
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We used to believe in the role of the press as guardian for the people and against the powerful – eons ago.  Is the idea of the press as the fourth estate still a good idea?  It seems quaint, for a world that has passed.  I haven’t looked at polls, but this new generation doesn’t seem to care about purposeful, structural institutions like the press.

A new day has dawned where all that’s a bore.  Now it’s all infotainment, for profit, full of scandal.  And people seem willing to believe that checking power and maintaining a semblance of justice don’t need a purpose built, guardian institution.  It’s the same as believing that bankers will govern themselves etc.

And maybe they’re right.  Anyway there’s the new media and Wikileaks and the Colbert Report all of which evolved during the last decade as a response to perceived abuses in our society.  And they’re not members of the establishment media in America.

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positively sunny suburbanite
June 9, 2011, 12:59 am
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As a child, British author J. G. Ballard lived through the Japanese internment camps in occupied China in what he called ‘a huge slum family.’  And during that time, he witnessed more human degradation than we might think healthy.  Later, ensconced with his family in a suburban house outside of London, he wrote many strange, dystopian novels.

Though a generation younger, Martin Amis was his sometime friend and wrote these remarks -below – when Ballard died in 2009.  Recalling time spent together, Amis found him happy and full of life, in obvious contradiction to his sinister fictional creations.

Writers, says Flaubert, should be predictable so they can be savage in their work.  The devil’s workship is neat as a pin; it makes accomplishing chaos that much more efficient.  Ballard was suburban and normal in his appearance and daily life, which allowed him to be sinister in his books.  Critical balances struck.

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