Sunday, March 23, 2008

behavioral economics

Amos Tversky, he of prospect theory fame, writes:

"Probably the most significant and pervasive characteristic of the human pleasure machine is that people are much more sensitive to negative than to positive stimuli ... Think about how well you feel today, and then try to imagine how much better you could feel ... There are a few things that would make you feel better, but the number of things that would make you feel worse is unbounded."

It amazes me how I have discovered so much more truth in sociology and economics than in the pure sciences. Physics was beautiful at times, and mathematics still is, but this is something bigger. This is my calling.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

sucker punch

Everytime I try to become a different person, relaxed, happy and even sociable, something comes along to pull me away.

It's no use. I've decided to start hating people again.

forever pale, in
the shadow of the sun
the moon weeps.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Family matters

Mine is a strange family. My father is estranged from all his siblings. My mother has seen one of her brothers die in war. The legend goes that when I - the first grandchild on this side of the tree - was born a few months after his death, family ancients swore that my baby-face was his spitting image, that I was his God-given replacement. My grandfather, a keen astrologer, took one look at my horoscope, and pronounced that I would become a genius to rival my celebrated great-uncle. Under the weight of such expectation, I suppose it's hardly surprising that I've degenerated into a verbose, alcohol-guzzling, even inscrutable MBA student. Maybe I will graduate one day to becoming a poor man's Bukowski. That remains the height of my ambitions. Anyway, I digress.

Yes. As I was telling you, mine is a strange family. For many years, I was under the impression that this strangeness limited itself to a deep affinity for melodrama. What you would call 'filmy', perhaps. Never did I expect the players on stage to be capable of such intrigue as I will now recount.

My mother has another brother. One that I was quite fond of, growing up. My earliest memories involve playing chess against him, learning its tricks from an obscure east European book that he had lended to me. As I recall, he was pretty good at chess, even if that only means he used to roundly thrash a little boy, all of six. He was also the nicest, gentlest man that I had ever known, so much so that when I saw him write a suicide note that concluded with "I have no option but to kill myself" in full caps, I told myself he was writing a story.

Incidentally, he didn't kill himself. Maybe he really was writing a story.

Soon, I grew up, and we drifted apart. The few times I visited him and my grandparents (he lived with them), I beat him at chess. He was deadly decent about it, telling me that I was a much improved player. I can imagine that if I were in his place, how I'd have moaned. He was married now (to a real vixen, family chroniclers contend), and had twins. Despite the kids' difficulties - they were both, when I think of it now, definitely dyslexic - his nature remained the same. Kind and doting.

This was about six, seven years ago. I went away to college, imagining, in my naivete, that things would always remain the same. And as people of that age are wont to do, I lost touch with the family.

A few weeks back, my mother revealed that she wasn't on talking terms with him anymore. Why, what happened, I ask. He cut us out of your grandfather's will, she said. After the funeral, when we met to slice our shares, he said that he didn't want to share the fortune (and I really do mean fortune) with us. He said that the will was missing. Lost. Destroyed? The will that my grandmother had so carefully drawn up, before her death, so that her two "girl children" wouldn't have to suffer. My mother and her younger sister.

No one knew who the witnesses were, or who the lawyer was, he said. No one. So I keep the money, he said. And then when she came home, shell-shocked, she received a terse one line email. Let us not be in touch anymore, it said. The mother's sister wanted to drag him to court. The bastard, he's robbing us, she said. The mother let it rest. He's family, she said.

One day, I will return to what is now his house. And across the chess board, I will congratulate him on what was his most unexpected move, brilliant in foresight and devastating in implication.

Then, I will proceed to beat him. And leave.

About Me

a recluse waiting for salvation