“Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem is with you — not with the other person.”

Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem is with you — not with the other person. It’s all about figuring out what somebody’s really into — what they’re passionate about.

Matt Mullenweg on Polyphasic Sleep, Tequila, and Building Billion-Dollar Companies [FourHourWorkWeek]

March 26, 2015  |  

Beznalichnye

Fascinating stuff from David E. Hoffmann’s stellar book on the rise of Russian oligarchs:

The Soviet system also had another kind of funds, known as non-cash, or ‘beznalichnye’. This was not banknotes or coins, but a kind of virtual money that was widely distributed as government subsidies to factories. The beznalichnye, or noncash, existed only as an accounting unit. A factory would be transferred subsidies in beznalichnye, which it would record on its books and might use to pay another enterprise—but it was not something you could put in your wallet.

The key dilemma for a factory manager was that the system was rigid: mixing the two kinds of money was prohibited. The factory manager was not allowed to take the beznalichnye and turn it into real cash. Both kinds of money were controlled by Gosbank, the official state bank, and by the central planners.

However, factory managers almost always needed more cash than they could get out of the system. The supply of cash was tight, but the supply of beznalichnye was very plentiful — maybe because there was not much use for it. The result was an imbalance in the value of the two kinds of money. Cash was much more valuable and sought after. By some estimates, a cash ruble was worth ten times a noncash ruble.

This imbalance was an invitation to huge profits. Someone who figured out how to turn the beznalichnye into cash would make a fortune. The planners’ greatest nightmare was that someone would do this and pump the relatively worthless state subsidies into real cash rubles.

Guess who figured it out: Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The Oligarchs: Wealth And Power In The New Russia [Amazon]

“6.5 percent of all people ever born are alive right now (2011)”

World Population Growth [OWiD]

The total number of living humans on Earth is now greater than 7 billion. This big size of the world population is due to a very recent development. Just around 200 years ago the world population was less 1 billion. And due to poverty and high mortality rates and recurring crises the world population grew only very slowly in millennia before the onset of the Enlightenment. Since the 18th century the world population was rapidly increasing: Between 1900 and 2000 the increase of the world population was three times as great as the increase during the entire previous history of humankind – in just 100 years the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion.

March 22, 2015  |  

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Lawrence Wright’s epic account on L. Ron Hubbard and the rise of Church of Scientology was so engaging I simply couldn’t put it down.

The organization is clearly schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating , and inspiring his adherents. …Obviously, he is and has been a very complex person, and that complexity is further reflected in his alter ego, the Church of Scientology.

And..

…the purpose of a lawsuit is “to harass and discourage rather than win.” Hubbard also wrote: “If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace… Don’t ever defend. Always attack.” He added: “NEVER agree to an investigation of Scientology. ONLY agree to an investigation of the attackers.”

Thoroughly researched and so completely bananas, this is investigative reporting at it’s finest.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief [Amazon]