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Failures, commutes and pet food June 7, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, ideas, weird.
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My wife, Sally Meyer, and I met as graduate students in chemistry at the University of Kansas. Sally was from Minnesota and was one year ahead of me in the graduate program, which was to have serious consequences on our futures as you shall see.

Those consequences are really interesting 🙂 . Read on.

Its a part of a series called “Commuting for Love”. The magazine solicited essays asking couples ( faculty members/graduate students ) to write in about their days of living apart and commuting to catch up every once a while. The prize winning essay is here but I liked the one above a tad bit more.

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The first ever post on this blog was about the ubiquitous nature of failure – why some form of major failure is inevitable every few years. (Maybe I was trying to start off with something under which I could seek refuge if the blog itself failed). Actually not – there was a good reason for doing so, something into which I cannot go here.

Anyway, so now here is a book about failure. The book review has some useful information.

Paul Ormerod, an unorthodox free-market economist in the tradition of Friedrich Hayek, made a surprising discovery a few years ago when he compared the failure rate of businesses with the extinction rate of species. In both cases, instead of an even flow, there were long stretches with few extinctions, interrupted by huge spikes in the failure rate. … Ormerod was stunned first by the spiky patterns and second by the strong resemblance between species and companies. Why should the patterns be the same, after all? Corporate executives constantly plan how to cope with the changing business environment. Plants and animals mostly don’t plan at all. Yet a company is about as vulnerable to sudden death as, say, some zero-IQ South American fungus.

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Pet related ponder today :

When you are being served food and perhaps served more than you think you need, you are able to tell the host – “Hey thats enough, I have had quite a bit already.” Do you know animals who do this ? Are they able to plan ahead and ask that they not be served more than they can eat ? Or maybe they can, but they would like to be served anyway ( afterall they can eat it later 😀 ). I wonder.

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