Archive for February, 2009

Contrast the two clips below, one is a statement of individualism from the movie version of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead. The second is a clip about God complexes from Malice. In essence they are the same, but they are different somehow. What makes one aspirational while the other despicable?

If money is a reward in society, what does it reward? Talent, skill? Your job, profession? What you know, your education? How about reputation, citations? Does a person that possesses all of the these epitomize our ideal?

More importantly, consider how these ideas manifest in our current society–which is in crisis from all sides. Consider also how our society has rewarded politicans, CEOs, and bankers–who have all contributed to placing our entire society at peril.

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Just a dose of morbid humor from the opening sequence from the movie: Postal. Two Islamic terrorists on their way to fulfill their martyrdom suddenly get a dose of empiricism.

Critical thinking gets them in the end.

Thanks to Unreasonable Faith for sharing this.

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For me, the fictional comic-book, cartoon, and movie character Batman and his enemies are not just entertaining fantasy trips for the kid inside all of us, but are practically the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in comic book form.

I’ve featured the list of personality disorders on the blog before and I thought it might be a fun idea to categorize some of the prominent members of the Batman cast in terms of the personality disorders they exhibit. What follows isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, and readers are free to pitch in their own ideas (you can refer to the previous link on this paragraph or the DSM link above for help).


Let’s start with the lead character: Batman and his day alter-ego: Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne has a notoriety in Gotham of the inability to hold a long relationship–primarily due to his very unique occupation and odd lifestyle. This solitary but double life and its implications suggests that Bruce Wayne has Schizoid Personality tendencies, even Schizotypal tendencies.


Batman’s greatest foe: The Joker, if not outright psychotic, definitely has Antisocial Personality Disorder.  Heath Ledger’s recent portrayal of the villain puts emphasizes ‘anarchy’ as his guiding philosophy. In an earlier potrayal, Jack Nicholson brings this out with dramatic flair. The Joker’s instability of behaviour has kept him ahead of Batman’s attempts to predict his patterns.


Catwoman, especially in the Tim Burton movie, is a woman of many moods and traumas. She is a dead ringer for Borderline Personality Disorder. Her alter-ego: Selina Kyle is typical of the impulsivity characterized by borderline personalities, and like Bruce Wayne, is unable to hold stable relationships.


Harvey Dent Two-Face is obviously a candidate for Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Personality Disorder. His preoccupation with coin-flipping is also indicative of Obsessive Compulsive Personality


The Scarecrow, who is a psychiatrist himself, is a student of fear and phobia techniques. Highly intellectual and generally condescending, he has trademarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder


Mr. Freeze, who is in a long-time search for a cure for his wife’s malady, is an emotionless machine. Like Batman he exhibits Schizoid Personality tendencies and also Obsessive Compulsive tendencies especially regarding his wife’s treatment.


Mr. Edward Nygma: The Riddler, and his constant insistence on clues, makes him a candidate for both Obsessive Compulsive and Dependent Personality Disorder


The Penguin constantly compensates for his short stance and horrible appearance with an active sense of panache. He is constantly seeking attention to his small self, exhibiting Histrionic Personality tendencies  as well as Narcissistic tendencies. 


Poison Ivy’s fanatical obsession with plant life and murderous impulses speak of Paranoid Personality tendencies. 

Do you agree with these assessments? Pitch in your differential diagnosis on these and more Batman characters.

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Nassim Taleb speaks out in Davos, Switzerland, about how crises keep repeating because of the moral hazard of bailing out bad financial practices. Only if a system of punishment is in place (as it is in Switzerland) will future crises be averted.

In the same conference, Taleb records an impromptu video for Youtube to express his views. Great insights from our favorite skeptical empiricist.

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Nouriel Roubini (Dr. Doom) and our favorite skeptical empiricist Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan) appeared on CNBC to discuss the current financial crisis.

Taleb makes a bold declaration: much of the causes of the crisis are still present: the same people who did not see the crisis coming are still in office. Roubini criticizes the actions taken to solve the problem–bailing out the bad institutions are not going to solve the problem.

Taleb also makes a crucial point about asymmetric payoffs: how bankers are compensated by taking unreasonable risks, which the journalists completely miss–and instead harp hopelessly on investment tips rather than absorb the deeper implication of what is being presented to them.

The reporters end by pinning the two down as “bears” in the face of the recently rising markets.  If you can get past the interruptions of the journalists, the two pessimists actually have crucial insights to share. However, this clip is an example of how soundbite journalism takes the place of expert advice (watch how the CNBC anchors talk about Roubini and Taleb as “rockstars”).

For me, give this CNBC clip a capital “F” for frustrating.

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Cars are sometimes known as the “toys for the big boys”. My passion for cars goes back to my youth when I played with toy cars from Matchbox and extends to today.

Here are several car commercials that made me stop for a moment, playing to two of my poisons: automobiles and critical thinking. Each commercial waxes philosophical about some emotion or idea that associates with each car. I’ve put some captions under each video to help you appreciate the smart dialogue behind each one. Hope you enjoy them.

Jaguar – Gorgeous

Gorgeous deserves your immediate attention.
Gorgeous makes effort look effortless.
Gorgeous stays up late, and still looks gorgeous
Gorgeous has no love for logic.
Gorgeous loves fast.
Everyone cares what gorgeous says.
Gorgeous gets in everywhere.
Gorgeous can’t be ordinary even if it tries.
Gorgeous pays for itself in the first five seconds.
Gorgeous doesn’t care at all what others are doing.
Gorgeous was born that way.
Gorgeous trumps everything.
Gorgeous is worth it.

Porsche – 911 Carrera

It’s a funny thing about a Porsche,
there’s the moment you know you want one,
there’s the moment you first own one,
and for the truly afflicted,
there’s the decade or two that passes in between.

From its first days on the road over 40 years ago,
the 911 has ignited the kind of passion in drivers that only a Porsche can.
And now once again it is poised to redefine what is possible.
Introducing the new 911 Carrera.
It is, quite simply, the purest expression of who we are.

BMW – The Follow

You vary your distance. You stay to the rear, to the right.

Never more than a few cars behind.

It’s all about patience, percentages, timing.

If you get too close, move into their blind spot.

If you lose them, just keep moving, hope for the best.

Out in the open, distance is subjective.

You can let the target bite the horizon, so long as you know their patterns.

The waiting is the hard part, your mind wanders, wondering what it would be like watching your own life from far away.

On foot it’s the same, distance, patterns, anticipation.

If the target doubles back, never react.

Whatever you do, don’t get too close.

Never meet their eyes.

There’s something waiting at the end of the road. If you’re not willing to see what it is, you probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place.

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For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things … and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture.

– Sir Francis Bacon, 1605

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I am reposting this from my other blog

The blog entry is Reason, Gut Feel, Or Faith

This is to add to a previous blog entry in this website: If Critical Thinking Were A Religion.

A lot of religions are faith based. I got surprised when I found out that one was not. Buddhism claims to be logical. Buddha even went to an extent to show how logical he was by instructing the kalamas with what is known now as the Kalama Sutta:  

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing ;
nor upon rumor ;
nor upon what is in a scripture ;
nor upon tradition
nor upon surmise;
nor upon an axiom;
nor upon specious reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another’s seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.”
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,” enter on and abide in them.’

I find the writing, very nice, concise and direct to the point, something I frankly woulnd’t expect from a religion. Buddhism though did not stop at rationalization, how then would buddha be able to explain his views on the afterlife and even his previous reincarnations. Although the public was urged to test ideas given by faith with logic, it seemed that the more enlightened ones would acquire knowledge from still other sources. 


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citigroup-market-capGot this image from a Bloomberg email. It shows the market capitalization of Citigroup last January 2009 (green circle) compared to its value last 2007 (big blue circle). This shows how much the bank’s value has fallen in just one year.

How many of us would have thought back then that great banks like Citigroup would be less than 10% of their worth a year or two later? How many experts, journalists or economists could have made that forecast? And yet, our media, internet, books, and magazines are inundated with 5-10 year economic and earnings forecasts made by analysts, using probably nothing more than simple look-back regressions on the past.

Here are similar images of other major banks:


Scary food for thought.

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Americans Are Starting to Save

Americans are starting to save, so what happens to the idea that its citizens should spend more to stimulate the economy? Peter Schiff advocates saving and let failing companies go bankrupt. Some people advocate spending so that there will be more jobs. Which is right?

See what the speaker says at 5:07

I think the average American consumer understands, that we have to pull back, not borrow more, they’re saving, they want to de-leverage.

…and the government is borrowing more, and wants us to do it, no no no. The American consumer has the answer. They don’t want to do it. They understand that’s not the way to go. 

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