Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Influential Reads – December 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organisation, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or rebellion against, established authority.” – Wikipedia

The election season started a vicious cycle of checking the daily news multiple times a day.  So I am going to be making a concerted effort to get out of the daily news cycle and spend more time reading longer form reads and books.  Hopefully, those results can be seen in the coming months. However, I am still pretty pleased with reading twenty five books this year – even if a fair number were the result of binge reading Carl Hiaasen books as an antidote to current events.

Updated stats through December:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2020 – “On Nov. 12 the nation pauses to observe the 50th anniversary of the date that the Oregon state highway department attempted to dispose of an eight-ton dead whale on a beach by detonating a thousand pounds of dynamite under the carcass…”
  2. Newsmax issues sweeping ‘clarification’ debunking its own coverage of election misinformation – “Newsmax, which is attempting to outflank Fox News from the political right, posted a notice on its website Sunday night and then had a host read the full two-minute statement on the air Monday.”  Stephen here:  I still hope they get their pants sued off.
  3. How Offshore Oddsmakers Made a Killing off Gullible Trump Supporters – “The online bookmakers that fielded bets on the election saw their largest single-event windfall ever. To understand why, you need to understand election betting and Donald Trump supporters.”
  4. Supercharging Your Financial Bullshit Detector – “In what is eponymously known as Sturgeon’s Law, science fiction writer Ted Sturgeon posited that 90% of everything is crap.”
  5. North Carolina GOP lawmaker urges Trump to suspend civil liberties to keep power – “Steinburg on Tuesday said he would support Trump if he suspended civil rights protections to detain his political enemies and change the election result.”
  6. 3Q 2020 GMO Quarterly Letter – “very odd and speculative things have been going on.”
  7. The Art of Asking Good Questions with The Language Compass – “The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding.”
  8. Why You Should Quit the News – “The goal of the news is to motivate you to keep consuming news.”
  9. Hanlon’s Razor: Relax, Not Everything is Out to Get You – “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.”
  10. How to Build Self-Esteem – “The mark of true self-esteem is not feeling like you lack nothing—it’s being comfortable with what you lack.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Influential Reads – November 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

”And then…depression set in” – John Winger, Stripes.

Oh man.  What a month.  I am worn out.  Will you just go away, man?

Finally finished Arguing with Zombies; a few thoughts forthcoming…

Updated stats through November:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. How To Be Positive, Part 2 – “Skepticism: OK Cynicism: Not OK”
  2. Trump challenges cement Biden triumph – “History shows that any leader who constructs a major myth, that is later shown to be false, will eventually fall,” says Harvard science historian and “Merchants of Doubt” author Naomi Oreskes. “The risk is that he takes his country down with him.”
  3. Candidates Share of 2018 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by County – “The less-than-500 counties won by Joe Biden generated 70 percent of America’s GDP in 2018.  The more-than-2400 counties won by Donald Trump generated 29 percent of America’s GDP in 2018.”
  4. How to Simplify Your Financial Life – “Being cognizant of what you’re paying for a monthly basis can really add up over time.  Saving a few bucks here and there can give you the ability to better allocate those dollars to things you truly care about.”
  5. How to cover a coup — or whatever it is Trump is attempting – “The trickiest part: “Figuring out whether these bogus accusations are actually dangerous to the republic or just the last, lame gasps of a doomed administration.””
  6. How we can be confident that Trump’s voter fraud claims are baloney – “All three states’ results indicate what was to blame for Trump’s defeat: suburban vote slippage.”
  7. The Real Hunter Biden Story Everyone is Missing – “The media is still under some illusion that fairness and balance means devoting equal attention to allegations about, and stories potentially damaging to, both candidates–rather than devoting proportional attention to allegations and stories according to their credibility, scale, scope and importance.”
  8. Make America Boring Again, Fix Its Dated Electoral System – “The Constitution now governs a nation that would be both geographically and demographically unrecognizable to Thomas Jefferson.”  Stephen here: if enough Californians move to Texas, this will be a moot point.
  9. Do you have a one-page plan? – “Humans don’t like to be asked what their goals are, so just guess. Just think about three years from now.”
  10. The Habit Dip – “This dip is something everyone faces when changing habits: we lose motivation, we get discouraged, we encounter difficulty, we lose focus because other things get in the way, we get sidetracked by life.” Stephen here: well, that pretty well sums up November.

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Influential Reads – October 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

For some reason, structure and willpower seemed to vanish in September.  No books this month; I have been stuck in Arguing with Zombies by Paul Krugman – mostly because the topics depress me.  

However, I am looking forward to boring, reasonable thoughts, and complete sentences. 

Updated stats through October:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. It’s a Slow-Moving Car Wreck and We’re All In It – “The United States, Fukuyama argues, is in many ways, no longer spiraling up, but beginning to spiral down.”
  2. How to Live Like You’re Already Retired – “As Oliver encourages: give yourself permission to put forth your best effort toward the things that provide happiness and meaning while half-assing the less important stuff in life.”
  3. Useful Hacks – “Career hack: Work harder than is expected of you and be nice to people.”
  4. I called everyone in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book – This one is full of some great lines.  “This wasn’t some masterful hack into the global aristocracy. It’s what everyone does. It’s what the whole thing is. There is no scam here. It’s grifters grifting grifters all the way down.”
  5. Dear Dad, Please Don’t Vote For Donald Trump This Time – “You demanded better of me in the papers I turned in when I was in middle school.”
  6. Trump Kills Fiscal Stimulus Negotiations – “McConnell has had plenty of opportunity to make a deal, but hasn’t. I suspect that he just isn’t falling in line with Trump. It’s Trump that has to fall in line with McConnell, and McConnell really only wants one more thing from Trump, and that’s the Supreme Court seat.”
  7. The first rule of the game – “All players must agree to not cheat.”
  8. When the Republican Party Was Sane – “That same year, Eisenhower moved against the ultra-right-wing Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who was convinced that the federal government was riddled with actual communists—a precursor to today’s Republican obsession with the “deep state.””
  9. Why I Ride, and Putting Things in Perspective – “I’ll tell you why. It’s simple. Because I love the feeling of asking my body to perform, and having it respond.”
  10. How to Negotiate — Virtually – “For Americans and others from more individualized cultures, evidence suggests that seeing yourself during a video call tends to increase self-consciousness and self-criticism. Particularly if you already have these tendencies, you might want to turn off the self-view when video conferencing.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

That’s A Bunch of…

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I was watching a little late night television on Youtube the other week and was surprised by something.  The show I was watching, Late Night with Seth Myers, had some clips of a Fox News segment with Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

The segment was basically Giuliani making some claims that he had interviewed some (unidentified) doctors who said Former Vice President Joe Biden had several hallmarks of having dementia.

Well, if Biden has dementia, that is newsworthy.

What isn’t newsworthy is Giuliani’s statement. It’s a bunch of baseless bullshit. 

What’s even more out there on the bullshit continuum, is a media outlet presenting that as news.  

You know I have some news too.  I firmly believe that in a former life, Mrs. SFTE starved to death.  This is based on how much food we take on camping trips and interviews with several doctors1 who “told” me that she has all the hallmarks of someone who has starved to death in a former life.  

  1. By doctors, I mean two of my daughters stuffies – J.J. the bison and Pollie the polar bear.  And now this article is sourced 1000% better than the Fox News segment.

That’s A Bunch Of…

Reading Time: < 1 minute

In a popularized line of bullshit that hits close to home, it’s not the politics impacting the coal and oil industries.

Democrats struggling to face fact that their plans would all but end fossil fuels

It’s economics.  

Solar energy reaches historically low costs

Covid-19 is accelerating all the trends Big Oil was dreading

So, yeah.  Put that in your pipe…and don’t do anything to release carbon into the atmosphere.

Influential Reads – September 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As an antidote to current events, I was forced to go on a Carl Hiaasen binge.  

Updated stats through September:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. Pandemic trends – “Really, if we are going to get through this without psychological damage, we need to maintain some semblance of social contact. In other words, would it kill you to say, “It’s a beautiful day, eh? Have a good one.”
  2. It’s Time to Narrow the Income Gap. Future Prosperity Depends On It. – “The answer is debt. The only way that workers can sustain consumption growth when their incomes are stagnant is by borrowing, either directly or through the government’s budget deficit—which is exactly what the data show.”
  3. Credit Is Tightening. Why That Matters for the Economic Recovery – “But away from the capital markets, there are signs of tightening credit, according to a report from Macro Intelligence2 Partners. Banks have been imposing more stringent standards for borrowers, especially for consumers, a change borne out by the Fed’s Senior Loan Officer survey.” – How does this end you ask?  The answer lies somewhere with credit.
  4. Small-Business Failures Loom as Federal Aid Dries Up – ““Why didn’t we use the time that P.P.P. bought us to design the kind of program that would be commensurate with the national challenge that we’re facing?” Mr. Lettieri, of the Economic Innovation Group, asked. “That’s all P.P.P. was. It was a mechanism to buy time. It was never the long-term solution.”
  5. The Next Frontier – “We argue that before World War II dramatic reductions in transport costs expanded the supply of land and suppressed land prices.”
  6. What comes after Zoom? – “I think this is where we’ll go with video – there will continue to be hard engineering, but video itself will be a commodity and the question will be how you wrap it.”
  7. This Meditation Exercise Builds Mental Muscle and Cures Procrastination () – “The reason this meditation exercise will work for many of you is because it trains a really specific mental skill, the Awareness-Focus Loop.”
  8. Foreign Stocks’ Lost Decade – “As it turns out (and as should be no surprise) differences in earnings growth explain most of this gap.” – Wait, earnings matter?  Tell that to Pets.com.  Oh wait…checks notes…uh oh, I think I’ve been doing this wrong.
  9. Simple trick can deliver outperformance in emerging markets ETFs – “Active emerging market equity managers are potentially able to systematically beat the flagship indices by using one simple trick — avoiding state-owned enterprises.”
  10. A Lesson From TR & Taft on Pursuing a Life You Like – “Throw off your Taftian insecurities and fully own and embrace what you personally enjoy.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Influential Reads – August 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

August 2020

Good month all the way around.  I have re-made my commitment to stop scanning the major news sites.  They give me anxiety for a variety of reasons.

Updated stats through August:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. An expert on human blind spots gives advice on how to think – “And so consequential decisions tend to be the ones we don’t have experience with. They’re exactly where there’s stuff we don’t know, and that’s exactly those types of situations where we should be seeking outside counsel.”
  2. The End of the Beginning – “Economic policy will hamper mean reversion.”
  3. Where to find the hours to make it happen – “The hours don’t suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort.”
  4. Why Would Anyone Own Bonds Right Now? – “There are no easy answers in the current low rate world we’re living in.”
  5. Why Markets Don’t Seem to Care If the Economy Stinks – “The most visible and economically vulnerable industries are also among the smallest, based on their market-capitalization weight in major indexes such as the S&P 500.”
  6. The Times that Try Stock-Pickers’ Souls – “There is no new era.  Stocks are still worth the present value of their future cash flows.”
  7. What, Us Worry? Lack of New Stimulus Hasn’t Roiled the Markets – “As pointed out here a few weeks ago, the unprecedented $5 trillion in fiscal and monetary aid pumped into the economy during the second quarter exceeded total gross domestic product for the period.”
  8. Staying Focused with a Simple Method – “When you notice yourself avoiding something hard or uncertain … the method is to turn towards it.”
  9. Focus Week: Rediscover Depth – “For the sake of concreteness, here is one specific strategy among many that I’ve found to be effective: read two chapters from a book every day; with at least one of the chapters read in a scenic or otherwise interesting setting.”
  10. 51 Years Later, the Cuyahoga River Burns Again – “Late last year, the Trump administration made changes to the Clean Water Act that strip its protections from 60 percent of streams in this country, along with 110 million acres of wetlands.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Influential Reads – June 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

And the pendulum swings the other way…

We moved this month, which cut into my reading time and impacted what I was willing to read.  Also, the news is not terribly informative these days, since I am pretty sure nobody knows what is going on.

Updated stats through June:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. The next big problem for the economy – “Social distancing means financial Armageddon for commercial real estate and municipalities in coming months”.
  2. Don’t Lose the Thread. The Economy Is Experiencing an Epic Collapse of Demand – “Other data points to a severe but slower-moving crisis of collapsing demand that will affect many more corners of the economy than those that were forced to close because of the pandemic”.
  3. America is losing the stomach to fight Covid-19 – “So what is likely to happen? The most likely outcome is a second coronavirus wave in the coming months. Many assume the virus goes quiet when the temperature rises. There is no scientific consensus on this.”
  4. The Weekly Review: A template for this sacred ritual – “The most productive people practice a sacred ritual: The Weekly Review.”
  5. Farewell Yield – “After four decades of falling interest rates, it seems safe investments offering attractive yields have finally disappeared.”
  6. Beware Fed Bond Buying’s Unintended Consequences – “More than $1 trillion of investment-grade corporate bonds have been brought to market this year, at twice the year-earlier pace. High-yield issuance is running more than 50% higher, at $180 billion.”
  7. Don’t Return to the Office Until You Read This – “You should be identifying the core workers that you need to be physically present…Everyone else stays home.”
  8. A Tidal Wave of Bankruptcies Is Coming – “A run of defaults looks almost inevitable. At the end of the first quarter of this year, U.S. companies had amassed nearly $10.5 trillion in debt — by far the most since the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis began tracking the figure at the end of World War II.”
  9. Trust Masters, not Models – “So look for those people in market space: the ones who can tell by the sound of the squeal what is really going on under the hood. They won’t always be right, but they will have the best guesses…especially when something unusual happens.”
  10. Higher Ed: Enough Already – “It’s time to end the consensual hallucination between university leadership, parents, and students that in-person classes will resume in the fall.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Influential Reads – May 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Crushing my book reading goal!  Also a high number of read monthly articles as I made a concerted effort to read some older stuff I had saved.

Updated stats through May:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October620
November491
December51
Total92125

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. Getting Rich vs. Staying Rich – “Scrappiness and the ability to think differently turns into complacency and the desire to keep things the same.”
  2. Death of the office – “Offices have always been profoundly flawed spaces.”
  3. No Inflation For Years to Come – “In the meantime, Unemployment, food, and lack of rent payments are a much, much bigger issue than fear of inflation from the same people who have been fearing inflation for 3 decades.”
  4. Inflation Shocks, Inflation Vol Shocks, and 60-40 Returns – “the potential results are so asymmetrical”
  5. The Economic Recovery Rests on Getting Consumers to Spend. It Won’t Be Easy. – “The $22 trillion U.S. economy rests on people buying stuff; consumer spending accounts for 70% of total economic output.”
  6. Americans Didn’t Wait For Their Governors To Tell Them To Stay Home Because Of COVID-19 – “The Cuebiq data suggests that behavioral changes were largely driven by people making a voluntary choice to stay home rather than being forced to do so by a state-sanctioned stay-at-home order.”
  7. The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them – “It serves to highlight that being in an enclosed space, sharing the same air for a prolonged period increases your chances of exposure and infection” Stephen here: a glaring omission is airplanes?
  8. Work and the Deep Life – “If you subscribe to deep career thinking, by contrast, you focus intensely on training high-value skills, like an athlete looking to maintain an edge.”
  9. How I learned to be better at active listening as a manager – “Conversations are a tricky thing—especially when it comes to difficult topics, like receiving/giving feedback, or talking about a very personal topic. As a manager, this is the real work.”
  10. Nobody Knows What Is Going On – “If there’s one thing we know for certain about this pandemic, it’s that we know almost nothing for certain about this pandemic.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.