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Breakfast Notes #24 (Tapestry, Writing, Awe , Dumbness)

Good morning from Cornwall. Apologies for missing the last week's serving. I had the chance to experience Murphy Law. On the day of an 8-hour car ride, I experienced a serious bout of food poisoning.

  • Why am I in the United Kingdom? After graduating from UCL two years ago, my fiancée finally had a grad trip. I decided to surprise her.

Here is a quote on taboos by the late British philosopher Alan Watts that I am pondering about  this week,

There is always something taboo, something repressed, un-admitted, or just glimpsed quickly out of the corner of one’s eye because a direct look is too unsettling. Taboos lie within taboos, like the skin of an onion.

Here are this week's breakfast notes.

Tapestry As High Art

Timeout

One of the highlights of the Victoria and Albert Museum (the British MOMA, if you may) is its splendid collection of tapestries. Weavers traditionally work from a design known as a cartoon. This is painted on cloth or paper at full scale and either attached to the loom or hung behind it. Weaving one tapestry could take multiple weavers over a year, and the process was painstakingly difficult.

I saw the tapestries based on the Raphael Cartoons at the V&A, which were seen as rivals to Michelangelo's famous ceilings for the Sistine Chapels.

To stand in front of a well-preserved, 400 over year old tapestry, one cannot help but marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship of the renaissance artisans. The value of art is not in its price but in its ability to inspire appreciation for human ingenuity.

Writing Usefully

To write usefully, one must manage the dichotomies of communication carefully.

A good writer reveals fresh insight to their readers through simple and elegant language. I enjoy reading the most when I feel delighted to have learned something new without scratching my head for too long.

Paul Graham said it best,

Precision and correctness are like opposing forces. It's easy to satisfy one if you ignore the other. The converse of vaporous academic writing is the bold, but false, rhetoric of demagogues. Useful writing is bold, but true.

The Futility of Market Research

In economics, we tend to focus on demand-induced supply, where suppliers provide goods in response to consumer demands.

However, we often neglect the seismic impact of supply-induced demand.

Walter Isaacson recounts an anecdote in his biography, Steve Jobs that aptly captured a visionary's market power.

On the day he unveiled the Macintosh, a reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done.

Jobs scoffed, "Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?"

Visualization Of The Day

During my 40 minute walk along the coastline of the Lizard Tower at Cornwall, I encountered the vast ocean and its relentless waves first-hand. For the first time in a long while, I felt awe.

This photo does not do the scene any justice. I encourage you to seek awe this week.

Don't Be Dumb

If you flip a coin 100 times and it lands on heads 85 times, a mathematician would say that given the events are all independent, this would be a fair result. A person with common sense knows the coin is rigged about 60 flips ago.

For the same reason, if someone gets 100% approval, it's not a democracy, its a dictatorship.

Grand theories are nice, but the reality is messy. If something looks too clean, it definitely smells fishy.

Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope to see all of you next week.

May the Sun Shine Upon Your Face,

Keith