Comedians on the Meaning of Life

A conversation between Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn found here: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

JS: I do that joke, they say life’s too short. I say it’s too long. There’s something to that. . . . Do you think that this is how life ends, that you really just go, “it’s enough. I’ve had enough.” I know when my time comes that’s how I’m going to feel.
CQ: Yeah.
JS: I already feel that way.
CQ: Haha
JS: That’s what kids does for you.
CQ: Keep you around?
JS: Ah, it’s something to watch. Tell me aside from that what isn’t just completely brain numbingly repetitive?
CQ: Everyone says Downtown Abbey is pretty good. I haven’t seen it but…

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Leeds on Finance: Imaginary Trust Funds

For the past two weeks, I had been preparing a bombshell to drop on Jenny. I had spent a lot of time meeting with accountants to put the information together. On Friday, I finally worked up the nerve and I sat her down to break the news. As best as I remember it, I said, “Jenny, I’m not sure how to tell you this, so I’m just going to come out and say it. My imaginary trust fund is going to run out sooner than expected.” Needless to say, she didn’t take it that well.

Jenny wanted an explanation. So, I gave it to her. I told her what happened. For the past 15 years, we’ve been doing a good job of saving for retirement and for our healthcare when we retire. Each year, I had been saving $100K for retirement and healthcare. I had been putting it in my imaginary trust fund.

My imaginary trust fund is an envelope. You would probably imagine that my envelope is pretty big – since it has to hold all this cash. But, it’s not. You see, my envelope doesn’t really hold any cash. What happened was that while I’ve been doing a pretty good job saving for retirement and healthcare, I actually needed to use that money for some other things. I spent some of it on education for my kids. I also spent some of it on an alarm system for my house (I like to think of this as defense spending). I also spent some of it on some pet projects (there was some promising research that promised to allow me to grow my hair back, etc.).

Jenny started to get angry when she heard that I had spent all of this money. She’s not really as financially savvy as I am. As she started to get madder and madder, she looked like she was about to vote me out of the office of “husband.” I knew that I needed to calm her and regain her vote. I said, “Jenny, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. I don’t have the cash in our trust fund envelope. But look…I wrote myself some IOUs. All of these IOUs are in the envelope.”

Jenny saw the IOUs and started to calm down. Seeing my chance, I told her, “Jenny, it’s even better than you think. We’ve saved $100K for 15 years. You thought that we only had $1.5 million in our imaginary trust fund. But we don’t. We have more. We have $2.5 million. Each year, the IOUs that I put in the envelope paid imaginary interest. So I spent the imaginary interest (on other things) and put more IOUs in the envelope. Now, our envelope has $2.5 million of IOUs that I’ve written. I told her that my biggest regret was that interest rates were so low. If they were higher, I could have written myself some even bigger IOUs. She agreed that this was a shame.

Still financially challenged, Jenny asked a silly question. She said, “aren’t we going to need to start spending some of this $2.5 million soon? You seem to be working less and you’re not getting any younger.” I told her that this was an interesting observation. But, I said, “remember those nice bankers who have loaned us $10 million in the past, when we were spending more than we were earning? While I expect to continue to spend more than we earn, we’ll borrow that money. In addition, I’m also going to need the bankers to replace me as the lender of this $2.5 million. I’m sure they’ll be fine with it.”

Never satisfied, Jenny said, “but if we have been spending our retirement and healthcare money to fund our extravagant living, and now we’re not making enough to save for retirement and healthcare, where are we going to come up with the cash to fund our extravagant lifestyle?” Oh, sweet simple Jenny. “You’re so cute when you don’t understand high finance. Don’t you remember why I talked you into having three kids? They’ll pay for it for us. They’ll just spend less on themselves and send more of their money to us. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll take it out of their imaginary college fund.”

By the end, Jenny had calmed down. She said, “you’re so smart. You should run this country.”

I’ll be writing two more blogs this week with the Social Security and Medicare numbers and the dismal outlook. But, if you understand today’s entry, you are officially disqualified from running for Congress.

Leeds on Finance

When Philosophers Tell Jokes

Suppose that someone tells the following story: An Indian at an Englishman’s table in Surat saw a bottle of ale opened, and all the beer turned into froth and flowing out. The repeated exclamations of the Indian showed great astonishment. ‘Well, what is so wonderful in that?’ asked the Englishman. ‘Oh, I’m not surprised myself,’ said the Indian, ‘at its getting out, but at how you ever managed to get it all in.’

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, tran. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 161.

I couldn’t resist…

I own a Mac. But this article is really funny.

Slate/Life With iPad: Do you have what it takes to own this magic and revolutionary product?

While the company’s previous offerings in this genre have typically featured Apple Store employees in a neutral space, the iPad videos take us into a model home of an iPad user. It’s a pristine environment, fit for an IKEA showroom, with lots of coffee around. This is how Steve Jobs wants us to use his revolutionary device. Let’s take a tour through Apple’s tour of how an enlightened iPad user lives.

Our iPad user, a man, is reclining on a chair, and he props the iPad on his knee with his legs crossed. This is the start of a theme. iPad users prefer the couch and the lounge chair. Should an iPadder have the unfortunate experience of sitting at a desk, he will immediately put his feet up on the desk and rest the iPad on his thighs to type. The iPad world is like an opium den, where one is always reclining, the better to enjoy its strange, new, vivid wonders.

Next, the voice-over begins. It promises us that, with a “multi-touch display this large … you feel like you’re actually holding the Web right in the palm of your hand.” When I hear that, my first reaction is to drop whatever I’m holding. Our iPad man is reading the following article from the Times: “Happy 1,300th to Nara, Japan.” Naturally, he would love to go visit a meticulously restored palace in an ancient city that helped the spread of Buddhism. As an iPad owner, his soul exists on a higher plane.

In the “Mail” video, you’re greeted with the promise that you can “see and touch your e-mail like never before.” Kinky! Our iPad user here is invited to a “Day at the Beach!” and is also informed of a meeting delay. He looks at a “Final Sales Report.” Then he learns that salary increases for “his team” were approved today. After that, he decides to join a friend on a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Then he checks the location for a surprise birthday dinner at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. The message here is that in iPad-land your e-mail inbox is not a torture chamber of obligation, undone tasks, and spam. It’s full of bright, crisp photos and groovy reports!

On to “Photos,” where our iPad user is a woman. She, of course, immediately sits down on the couch and puts her feet up. The photos show good-looking friends, adorable children holding umbrellas in Paris, and the like. Thanks to the iPad, we can have the novel experience of holding our pictures “right in our hands.” Uh, thanks. Haven’t done that before.

The “iBooks” segment contains the guided tour’s most shameless attempt to gull us. A mother is reading Winnie-the-Pooh to her Vans-wearing son. On the table is a recently abandoned crayon drawing and a reference book showing illustrations of elephants. The boy points to something on the screen. They are “discovering the joy of reading all over again.” Don’t worry, the iPad won’t replace books in your house, but will live peacefully among them. Your son won’t use the device to play Shrek Kart; he’ll nest beside you on the couch and then go outside for a game of Pooh sticks. And, if he gets bored, just change the font size! The “iBooks” app also animates the pages being turned, a cute idea that creates a delay that will quickly become intolerable.

The final three videos—”Keynote,” “Pages,” and “Numbers”—can be lumped together. These apps are Apple’s versions of PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. The “Keynote” one was so complicated that I could barely follow the action. “Pages” shows that the iPad will be excellent if you’re writing an Earth science textbook for fourth graders filled with photos of giraffes that need to be moved around a lot. In “Numbers,” the iPad man seems to be using a spreadsheet to cruelly rank the various players on a girls’ youth soccer team. The not-so-subtle message in these productivity-app videos is that you can use your iPad like a laptop. Just make sure that you don’t need to do anything silly, like print something out.

There are some things you probably shouldn’t joke about…

Like the number of children you are allowed to have. #60 on top 100 April Fools day jokes.

#60: PhDs Exempt From China’s One-Child Policy

1993: The China Youth Daily, an official state newspaper of China, announced on its front page that the government had decided to make Ph.D. holders exempt from the state-imposed one-child limit. The logic behind this decision was that it would eventually reduce the need to invite as many foreign experts into the country to help with the state’s modernization effort. Despite a disclaimer beneath the story identifying it as a joke, the report was repeated as fact by Hong Kong’s New Evening News and by Agence France-Presse, an international news agency. Apparently what made the hoax seem credible to many was that intellectuals in Singapore are encouraged to marry each other and have children, and China’s leaders are known to have great respect for the Singapore system. The Chinese government responded to the hoax by condemning April Fool’s Day as a dangerous Western tradition. The Guangming Daily, Beijing’s main newspaper for intellectuals, ran an editorial stating that April Fool’s jokes “are an extremely bad influence.” It went on to declare that, “Put plainly, April Fool’s Day is Liar’s Day.”