Friday, October 25, 2013

Warren Buffett vs. Malcolm Gladwell

I read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" recently. It was ok. Nothing earth-shaking, but an easy read, at least (though there is one embarrassing section where Gladwell reports that among a certain niche group there is a niche word called "giss", meaning "essence", and it's extremely obvious that the word is "gist" and Gladwell simply misheard. It is quite sad that his editor failed to pick that up). I realize Gladwell has written other best-sellers, and has a new book out as well, but I'm not someone who needs to be reading the latest. Anyway, the reason I mention it is because I am also reading a book called "The Oracle Speaks (Warren Buffett in His Words)" and Gladwell and Buffett disagree about something quite starkly. Here is Buffett talking in 2011:

One thing that people don't understand that makes (colas) worth tens of billions of dollars is one simple fact....Cola has no taste memory. You can drink one of these at nine o'clock, eleven o'clock, three o'clock, five o'clock--the one at five o'clock will taste just as good to you as the one you drank earlier in the morning. You can't do that with cream soda, root beer, orange, grape--you name it. All of those things accumulate on you. You get sick of them after a while....And that means that you get people around the world that are heavy users, that will drink five a day or with Diet Coke maybe seven or eight a day".

I don't have the Gladwell in front of me, but one section dealt with the 1980's conflict between Coke and Pepsi. Pepsi had some tv ads featuring purportedly blind taste tests, where the tester was always a lifelong Coke drinker who finds he prefers Pepsi. Then in 1985, Coca-Cola introduces "New Coke", which was sweeter and flatter and really quite disgusting, but apparently Coke execs had conducted their own taste tests, and found that people really did prefer Pepsi. Anyway, Pepsi tried to make hay from it with their president/CEO/whatever authoring a book called "The Other Guy Blinked (How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars)". They had not, in fact, won, but it was nonetheless a pretty memorable self-humiliation on Coca-Cola's part. No one wanted New Coke, so they first brought back the old thing that they branded "Classic Coke", selling both side by side, and eventually simply gave up on New Coke, and Classic Coke became plain old Coke again. The lesson from all this, per Gladwell's book, was that Pepsi DID in fact taste better to people, because sweeter, on one sip or one can BUT that people were LESS likely to want to drink can after can of it, because one gets sick of it faster.

So who is right?

I am not going to whine about my entry in the New Yorker cartoon caption contest a couple of weeks back not being a finalist. There is this dilemma: if you're too subtle, you're less likely to be nominated, since the guy has to wade through about 1200, as I understand the number is, submissions each week. But if you're too blunt, that may cost you in the public vote among the final three. Or maybe not. I offer this as evidence (this link will become dated, but if you are coming along later and you are that interested, it is contest #397, September 30, 2013).

The first prize winner is barely a joke at all. The public did properly place the other two, relative to each other, but how was third place even nominated? The cartoon clearly shows the LEFTY speaking, and he is obviously the one who will be sent to bat, because the Grim Reaper is depicted as a righty. So it makes no sense for the guy who is going to bat to be telling the guy who isn't going to bat what to watch out for.

Opening the sports section of the NY Daily News, preparatory to mailing in this week's picks, I see a young-looking writer called Stefan Bondy. I'm guessing he's Filip Bondy's son. Filip is the most famous sports writer I've ever met, because he was sent to cover the Kasparov-Karpov match at the Hudson Theatre/Hotel Macklowe in 1990, and because the Joel Sherman who writes for the NY Post is not the same Joel Sherman as the Scrabble champ who used to play chess. I'm not going anywhere with this, but I wanted to work in at least a mention of chess, it being what brought me here. Anyway:

Panthers-BUCS: not going to pick, because not only has the game been played already, but I even heard who won, and though it has slipped from my conscious memory, it may yet linger in my unconscious. jets +6.5 over BENGALS. Because Nugent is due to miss an extra point. NINERS -16.5 over jags. The Jags look like one of the worst teams of my lifetime. LIONS -3 over Dallas. Because the Cowboys are Christians, for the most part. EAGLES -6 over giants. CHIEFS -7 over Browns. I wouldn't lay 7.5, though. Bills and 12 over the SAINTS. PATS -6.5 over Miami, because a legit fave at home ought to be able to manage a touchdown victory. RAIDERS and 3 over pittsburgh. The steel curtain is rusting. DENVER -12.5 over the skins. Wow, they're averaging about 42 ppg. falcs +2.5 over the CARDS, packers -9 over MINNESOTA. Last week's Vikings-Giants is the only game I have seen ten minutes of this year, and the Vikes really did not impress. RAMS and 11 over the SEAHAWKS.

Best Bet: Don't consult Warren Buffett for football betting advice. He seems to be all about the long term, and that doesn't really apply to a football game.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Do I really have to do this?

I hope to not be so unenthusiastic next week, but today I am sick (a cold) and have yet to watch an NFL game this season. I am actually excited about the baseball season about to start. I will make it quicker than usual: KC, TB, BALTIMORE, CLEVELAND, MINNESOTA, St. Louis, JETS, BUFFALO, Tennessee, DENVER, Arizona, Saints, DALLAS, and INDIANAPOLIS -8.5, +2.5, +3, +2.5, -2, +7.5, -1, +6.5, +13.5, -27 (how much is that in chess terms?), +10.5, -2, -5.5, -1.5. I saw a bit of the "Broadway Bomb" skateboard thing today as my bus was going through Soho. Seemed like a fun event. If NYC Marathoners would simply shout "yeaaaaaah! NYC Marathon!" at the spectators as they race through the boroughs, I might warm up to that, too. I do wonder whether the backpacks most of them today wore really helped their aerodynamism, though. Anyway, maybe I'll say more next time, though it probably depends on how much of this cold lingers.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Turn off, tune out, matriculate

First of all, I am a bit reluctant to do this today. When I'm no longer smart, people may just throw me out like yesterday's bald Irish pop star (I'd have said "pop tart", but that may be an anachronism). Also, I have just been indulging in performance-diminishing drugs. Leaving the bar, a girl told me "have a nice night". It seemed like a funny thing to wish someone at 4:30 am but I've been doing my best ever since to make her wish come true. By the way, I was riding a crowded bus last night when I sensed that the guy next to me was sort of shrinking from me. I had been reading a book by Gay Talese, but the way I was holding it, I guess it might have looked like "Gay Tales" (although the cover was a manly shade of blue. Almost excessively, in fact). By the way, a friendly acquaintance at the bar had (until recently) not been at the bar for a year or so. He is the cheerful sort who always sees the glass as half full. Unfortunately, he got a bad rep by finishing all the half-full glasses around the bar, because sometimes the orderers of those drinks were simply away from their places for a moment. I have once or twice made some apologetic comment for the lack of formatting (mostly paragraphing) in some of my blog posts. I have not yet apologized (so let me do so now) for not keeping an up-to-date record of my record. I think, though, it's time just to accept that I will never get around to fixing the majority of such loose ends. Open letter to God: My papers aren't in order. Sorry. Sure hope you can sort of everything out when I'm dead. Gonna do the rest fast: BROWNS, Eagles, TITANS, DOLPHINS, Jaguars (worst bet), Patriots, Seahawks, Lions, Saints, Panthers, RAIDERS, Broncos, NINERS, Jets, at -4, +2, +3, -3, +11.5, + 1.5, -2.5, +7, pick, -2, +4.5, -7, -7, (I decided a while ago I liked the Oxford comma) and +9.5.