What if money didn’t matter?

How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn’t matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object?

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“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

-Albert Einstein

Who’s afraid of Jason Callahan?

“This is a story of boy meets girl. […] He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story”

Except in my case, the girl is calculus. 500 Days of Summer instinctively raises my hackles, at the end of the movie the lessons of the film are forgotten and the protagonist repeats his foolish mistakes. Being strapped down in an empty theater and forced to watch JGL’s repeated failure at creating meaningful relationships rouses the same feelings of painful embarrassment as contemplating my own great failure in math.

Mom, meet Calculus

What does it mean to fail? You can fail in almost anything, love, school, bike riding, punctuality, achieving the perfect fluffyness in a lazy brunch omelet on a Sunday morning. All areas of my life pitted with great failures and stunning successes. I believe failure is a personal definition. For those of you who were in my year, at my school, we read the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, a story of a failed family in the traditional sense, impoverished, vagrant — yet the sense of failure only emerges as the author admits to the embarrassment she felt in later years. Failure is something each person defines for themselves. The most important part of facing failure is standing up and admitting you failed. Other people don’t define me. My failures don’t define me. The only person who can define you is hard to find, it takes a keen eye and a mirror to pin them down.

After two traumatic years (5th and 8th grade) in terrible math classrooms I had fully resolved to pursue something unmathematical — economics, for instance. Did I ever fail to think that one through! During my senior year, with fingers and toes crossed to graduate with some semblance of timeliness, I signed up for calculus courses. I never quite managed to get an F, thanks to bureaucratic tricks and kindly teachers, but I got in way over my head and am roundly ashamed of myself.

I can admit I failed. I failed to achieve what I wanted. I embarrassed myself. Even if no one else cares, I am ashamed. But my goals haven’t changed, I still want to understand economics, game theory, Bayesian statistics and to do that I need math (even if it doesn’t need me). So I’m going to face my fears, go back and take the calculus sequence again, even though both I and my teachers know how terribly it turned out last time.

“So hi, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is there room for one more in this theater?”

Citizens of the world, unite!

Citizens of the world, unite!

We are citizens, not consumers. We are people, not numbers.

Rounding a corner

BP’s quarterly earnings disappointed investors, as it wrote down assets in America by $5 billion. The figure was much higher than had been expected and called into question last year’s statement by Bob Dudley, BP’s boss, that it had “turned a corner” after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

-via The Economist

The statement by Mr. Dudley is supposed to reassure people that BP has changed course since the oil spill and that the new direction is a positive one for the company and investors. It’s a strange phrase to use and in this context it brings to mind a poor decision abandoned but it also implies leaving familiar faces and places, which it often seems is the trouble with banking and oil companies. This picture captures the sentiment quite well. It remains to be seen what BP will do differently or if they’ve simply discovered another blind alley.

Image

(A Turn on the Left) by Robbie McIntosh Photography