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Freakonomics Radio: A Mouse in the Salad. What’s the Worst Restaurant Experience You’ve Ever Had?

I used to have a standing backgammon/lunch date with my friend James Altucher at a restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Le Pain Quotidien. It’s part of a chain but a low-key, classy sort of chain — Belgian in origin, specializing in good bread, strong coffee, wonderful pastries, and an assortment of healthy, organic light meals: salads, tartins, etc. The restaurants have beautiful, rustic wooden tables, including a huge communal table, which is great for a backgammon lunch.

James and I had been playing at this location regularly for a year or two when something happened that caused us to leave in a hurry and not return. A woman at a table behind us began to make some distressing noise. A few people rushed over to see what was happening. Turns out she’d found a mouse in her salad. The entire corpse. James used my cell phone to take a couple of photos with it. In order to not turn your stomach without warning, I’ve published the photos separately — here’s the first one, and here’s a second, with a menu propped in the background, so we’d remember where this happened (as if we could forget!).

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast takes a thorough look at this incident. It’s called “Mouse in the Salad.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.) Read More »





A Mouse in the Salad Full Transcript

Stephen J. DUBNER: So I’m on Broadway, walking down Broadway in the low 90s, and I’m about to get to the restaurant where I used to go all the time. Well, once a week, once every couple of weeks, and have these long backgammon games with my friend James Altucher and it’s called Le Pain […] Read More »





What to Do After a Dining Disaster?

Here’s the scene: a woman on New York’s Upper West Side walks into Le Pain Quotidien, a high-end café chain. She sits down, orders a salad. The salad arrives. The contents: a) leafy greens and b) an entire dead mouse. Two nearby customers, one of whom happened to be Stephen Dubner, saw the scene unfold. Read More »





QE3? Not So Fast. Let’s Debate the Merits of QE2 First

The Fed’s second round of monetary stimulus, the $600 billion QE2, ended on June 30. Since then, financial markets have rallied on news of another Greek bailout, and then fallen on weakening jobs and economic news from the U.S. The Dow is basically back to where it was when QE2 ended on June 30. So the world hasn’t ended, and yet there are those who think we need a third round. The minutes of the latest meeting of Federal Reserve officials, released Tuesday, show them divided on whether to implement a third round of monetary stimulus. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first assess QE2. For that, we turn to two of our regular contributors, Justin Wolfers, and James Altucher. Read More »





The Best Trader in the World Worked for Bernie Madoff

The night Bernie Madoff got caught for running a $60 billion Ponzi scheme I got a call from my friend “Eddie” (not his real name) who for many years worked for Madoff. I couldn’t tell if he was crying but he was very upset. “I can’t believe it,” he said, “Bernie was like a father to me. Mark Madoff was like a brother to me.” We spoke on and off all night as more news came in and he came to grips with the new world he was living in.

I called Eddie yesterday and said I wanted to write an article about him and how I thought he was the best trader I ever knew. I’ve met and worked with over a thousand traders. I traded for hedge funds. I ran a fund of hedge funds. I’ve written five books on trading. And Eddie is the best trader I’ve ever come across. Read More »





Why I Hate (And Can’t Live Without) My Phone

203-512-2161

That’s my phone number. It has been for the past eight years and presumably will be for the next eighty. Until they make the Google Chip for my brain. Initially it lived inside a Blackberry. I vaguely remember ordering it online from a company that sold Blackberries to deaf people. I’m not deaf.

For some reason they gave me a Connecticut area code even though I live in New York. I always tell people it’s my “Greenwich office.” Greenwich is famous for all the hedge funds there. It’s a joke. I hate Connecticut. Too many roads have the same name and all run parallel to each other. You drive on them for hours until you finally realize you’re simply never going to arrive at your destination. Every house is bigger than the next in Connecticut. It makes me feel anxious and jealous.

I see little kids riding bicycles outside these mega-mansions. I hate them. Then I hate myself for hating little kids. There’s nothing good about Connecticut.

Except my phone comes from there somehow. Read More »





Nine Ways to Guarantee Success (And Failure)

I really blew it and everyone knows it. I was even asked to speak at some conference about failure on I think June 13. I might’ve deluded myself into thinking I’m the keynote speaker. But I might just be on a panel. Hopefullly I won’t fail at it. But if I do, I hope you can all come and watch it happen in slow motion. By the way, my favorite technique in public speaking is to slightly slur my words, but that’s another post.

I’m like Dr. Failure. I know exactly what you need to do if you want your wife to hate you, if you want to get thrown out of school, if you want to lose your investors $100 million. If you want to lose your home.

One-sixteenth of the time people are happy. The rest of the time they’re not. So if you start to avoid all the things that cause unhappiness then maybe there’s a small chance you can improve the ratio in your favor.

Claudia says, “Why are you writing about failure? Think positive!” What? Avoiding every possible way to fail is the most positive thing you can do to be happy and successful. Read More »





How I Self-Published a Book, And How You Can Too

I just self-published a book called How to Be the Luckiest Person Alive! I published it in paperback form, Kindle form, and free PDF (see directions below to get free PDF). The entire process took me three weeks. Using an established publisher would’ve taken over a year. [If you want Kindle version, click directly on kindle link above.]

I’ve written a prior post on my sales and advances on my first five books which were all published with major publishers. But I’m never going to publish in the morgue of the publishing industry again. This post today is about why I did it and how you can do it.

The book publishing industry is dead but they don’t know it. It’s like how the typewriter industry died. And the reason companies like Blockbuster and Borders can’t survive. And the entire music industry is dying. And broadcast television might be on the way. And the tablet industry is the first sign that companies like Dell might be in major trouble. And companies like Sirius mean the radio industry is dead. Read More »