Monthly Archives: October 2006

The paradox of living longer

The paradox of living longer

Peter Thiel said something very interesting to me the other day … he said people think they are going to live forever but they live like they are going to die tomorrow.

What a paradox.
People think they are going to live a very long time … and their right. But most people are borrowing from their future self to live in the now. They’re unprepared for the future and their not calculating their odds correctly.

Thiel points out that most people are severely undercounting how long they will live. And if you want a good investment strategy, you should go long on people’s life and short people who think they will die soon. Thiel points out that the most successful investor of our age, Warren Buffett, is doing just that. Buffett has loaded up on life insurance companies … which do very well if people live longer and don’t calculate their odds of dying correctly.

book: Commanding Heights

The Commanding Heights : The Battle for the World Economy
by Daniel Yergin, Joseph Stanislaw

Kate Hardin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates recommended this book to me because she knows how much I loved Yergin’s previous book, The Prize (one of my all time favorite books). and this book was a great read. it is a fat book (last a few plane trips) and well worth it … the book describes the post WW II economic development of most major nations (goes in detail on about 30 countries including those in Africa, Latin America, Europe, north America, and Asia).

it is especially good on the formation of the EU, France’s patterns, India, and Thatcher.

i highly recommend this book. and it reads like The Prize (lots of little vignettes). quite a fun read with great anecdotes.

Biz idea: Background check yourself and publish

(another free random business idea worth what you paid for it)

There are a bunch of background check services but very few that encourage you to background check yourself. And even fewer that give a potential employer the opportunity to access your verified information.

There should be a business that allows consumers to pay for a resume verification service (verifying that you did get an MBA from Stanford, a computer science degree from Georgia Tech, worked for Goldman Sachs, etc.). Then the consumer can put a unique URL on the bottom of his resume that takes potential employers to a trusted page, with a trusted brand, that lists which of the items on someone’s resume the service was able to verify. It is that simple.

Of course, the economics only comes with building large-scale relationships with employers and universities as I doubt you could charge more than $100/person (plus $20/year to maintain the record).

book: Letter to a Christian Nation

Letter to a Christian Nation
by Sam Harris

This is another provocative book by Sam Harris … and one I recommend. After reading this book you might hate Sam Harris, an atheist who says that Jesus being born of a virgin is about as believable as Zeus controlling the universe and Elvis still being alive.

But the book will make you think. And it is a great book to read with Language of God.

And while after reading this book I am still a believer in God, Harris does call to question some of societies underlying assumptions. And while this book recounts a lot of the arguments in End of Faith, it is much shorter and can be read in a single sitting (it is less than 100 short pages).

Men carry cash … women don’t …

My friend Angie Schiavoni observed to me recently that women carry a lot less cash than men. She rarely has over $10. this rang true a few weeks ago when I was sitting next to a woman on the plane and she did not even have the $5 cash to buy a meal on the plane.

Maybe it is the fear of being robbed or of spending it … but my unscientific survey of a few friends bears the same results.

Of the men I asked the median was about $240. that’s a good deal of cash … and granted, most of the people I asked were fairly well-to-do.

Of the women I asked, the median was about $15. that’s it .. Just $15. not even enough for a cross-town cab ride in SF. Wow. (and these women were, on average, just as well-to-do as the men I asked.) And I don’t think there is a lot of evidence to suggest that women spend less money then men. Do women just prefer to pay by credit card?

And I got a similar response with the question: how often do you go to the ATM? For some men, it was only once every 2-3 weeks. By contrast, most of the women were multiple times per week and one went daily.


For detailed analysis for the differing shopping habits between women and men, I suggest reading Why We Buy by Paco Underhill (great book).

book: China Inc

ChinaincChina Inc: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World
Ted Fishman

this is a very detailed account about what is happening in China right now. it is also available in Audible and it is a good listen (though it is unduly long).

from outsourcing to china growth and culture, this book takes a global view on the rise in china.

book: Six Days of War

SixdaysSix Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East
Michael B. Oren

Matt Dundon sent me this book a while ago and i just got around to it now. i highly recommend it (and it is available on audible). a great story about the shaping of the modern middle east, the problems within Israel and the Arab states, and how the winner of a war still has little security.

this is a very detailed account of the circumstances leading up to the Six Day War and a very detailed hour-by-hour account of the war. the audio book is about 21 hours or roughly 1/6 of the total time the war itself took.