Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Influential Reads – March 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whoa.  Where did the first quarter go?

There looks to be a light at the end of the COVID tunnel.  One vaccine down; one to go.  Apparently, there are some benefits of living in a state where a majority of people don’t believe in science.

It will be curious to see how people react to the potential end of the COVID pandemic.  I do fear a bit of a false reality though until further progress is made on the vaccine administration front.

And, don’t forget there are kids too.

Updated stats through March:

Read ArticlesBooks

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

  1. POWDER, GROOMERS, AND BUMPS – “Truly, there are two kinds of powder skiing: resort powder and wild powder.” Stephen here: And wild powder kicks my ass.
  2. Ski Tulsa – “I’m not aware of any city that does the reverse, but if Summit County floated a bond issue to pay people to leave, I would vote for it.”
  3. Your Thinking Rate Is Fixed – “If you’re a knowledge worker, as an ever-growing proportion of people are, the product of your job is decisions.”
  4. Beware of the Bubble – “A bunch of kids on Reddit have formed a gang called “Wall Street Bets” to manipulate stock prices in an ongoing series of pump-and-dump schemes.”
  5. How Many ‘Shortage’ Anecdotes Equal Data? – “There is an old saying that the plural of anecdote isn’t data.”
  6. The Employment Situation is Far Worse than the Unemployment Rate Indicates – “Employment in January of this year was nearly 10 million below its February 2020 level, a greater shortfall than the worst of the Great Recession’s aftermath.”
  7. Not a Housing Bubble – “In a normal market, it does not take much of a shift to create an imbalance. Housing here is both too little supply and too much demand; these look like temporary issues, not a longer lasting condition.”
  8. Speaking, the Family Business – “Over the last five years I’ve given about 400 talks, and around 2% of the time, it all comes off the rails.” Stephen here: Been there.
  9. Question #9 for 2021: Will inventory increase as the pandemic subsides, or will inventory decrease further in 2021? – “In 2020, inventory really declined due to a combination of potential sellers keeping their properties off the market during a pandemic, and a pickup in buying due to record low mortgage rates, a move away from multi-family rentals and strong second home buying (to escape the high-density cities).”
  10. The Opposite of 2008 | Epsilon Theory – “In 2021, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thinks inflationary pressures are “transitory” – risks delivering the mother of all inflationary shocks.”

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 – February 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

February had a lower reading count for a few reasons.  First, we had a much needed week of vacation that kept us busy and on the road a bit. It’s the first time we’ve really traveled outside of the area since October. Second, work has just been busy.  Third, I am reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, which I am enjoying but it’s taking me some time to get through the book.  The book is recommending a deliberate disconnection from digital distractions and I am beginning to feel that reading the news falls into that category for me. I am going to spend a bit of time reflecting on that.

Updated stats through February:

Read ArticlesBooks

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

  1. Democrats eye big ACA changes in COVID relief bill – “Any attempt to control the cost of care would quickly erode any support from the health care industry.”
  2. AOC Won’t Stop Haunting Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – “You’re not ‘muzzled,’ Hawley. You’re just deeply unpopular, and aided insurrection.”
  3. Normalcy – “The damage of social media and Fox News propaganda remains: 73 percent of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The hate machines whir on.”
  4. Eventual Failure of False Beliefs – “I don’t even has to name the players, sites, or brands — you know exactly who I am referring to, the enablers of all those people who exist within a bubble of their own making, while steering utterly clear of reality.”
  5. Google’s next big Chrome update will rewrite the rules of the web – “When Google does remove them [third party cookies] in 2022, it won’t be first – but its huge market share does mean it will have the biggest impact.”
  6. A Subtle Mistake About How to Acquire Useful Career Skills – “A different style of project, however, does seem to work better: benchmark projects.”
  7. A Global Stock Fund That Couldn’t Care Less About the Growth-Versus-Value Debate – “For Global Focus, he starts his research by looking for structural change—either new companies doing something different or older companies doing something new.”
  8. Calculating the Rule of 40 – “Weighted Rule of 40 = (1.33 * Revenue Growth) + (0.67 * EBITDA Margin)” – Stephen here: I hate a charade.  Can we just admit that investors don’t care about profitability.  Growth, growth, growth!
  9. Texas seceded from the nation’s power grid. Now it’s paying the price. – “There are, in the contiguous United States, three major interconnected systems — one covering everything east of the Rocky Mountains, one for everything west of the Rocky Mountains, one for Texas.”
  10. Yoga for Cyclists: Five Poses to Make you Faster – “A strong core and back are essential capabilities for cyclists. Chaturanga is an exercise that can easily be integrated into your routine to target core strength, back strength, and upper body strength.”

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.

Mask Wearing Point System

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The purpose of a mask is to cover the airways to the lungs.  

Parts of the human body that part of the respiratory system and are airways to the lungs include:

  1. Nose  +5 Points
  2. Mouth +5 Points

A total of ten points is available.

For the avoidance of doubt, here is a list of things that are not airways to your lungs:

  1. Feet
  2. Ears
  3. Hands
  4. Elbows
  5. Knees
  6. Belly Buttons
  7. Arm Pits
  8. Chins
  9. Pets
  10. Other Inanimate Objects

There is no extra credit for covering any of these items. 

Additional points are deducted (-5 points) for covering these items in lieu of the either or both the nose or mouth.  Additional points (-100 points) are deducted for being a leader of this country and not knowing this.

Influential Reads – January 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

January 2021

Well, that month is over.  It went about as well as expected.

Updated stats through January:

Read ArticlesBooks

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

  1. Stocks Are Allowed To Be Expensive Since Bonds Yields Are Low…Right? – “Many are just willing to clickautoinvest into stocks at any valuation level.”
  2. The office as we know it is over—and that’s a good thing – “According to a recent study by FlexJobs, 65% of newly remote workers don’t want to go back to the office.”
  3. Lessons From the Tech Bubble – “Unfortunately, the quip “it’s not a bubble if everyone says it is” just isn’t true. Investors were comparing the internet sector to tulip mania as early as mid-98. Bernstein held an entire conference on it in June 99!”
  4. Lunik: Inside the CIA’s audacious plot to steal a Soviet satellite – “The boastful Soviets had sent their Luna rockets on a world tour.”
  5. This Year I’m Not Setting Goals: I’m Creating Practices – “They are activities you choose to dedicate time to every single day or with a set frequency of your choice.”
  6. Bronte Capital Ganymede Fund Partner Letter December 2020 – “But “sold to naïve investors” is a basic tell.  This tell has not worked in 2020. Indeed, it is a way to lose considerable money as a shortseller.”
  7. You Should Be Recruiting Different Types of Leaders for Remote Teams – “Instead of valuing confidence and charisma, remote teams value leaders who are organised, productive and facilitate connections between colleagues.”
  8. A New Year is a Beautiful Fresh Start – “Start at One — this is one of my mantras this year.”
  9. Even the Best Investors Stink at Selling Stocks – “People who buy and sell stocks for a living aren’t just unskilled when it comes to selling—they’re the inverse of skilled.”
  10. A simple 2 x 2 for choices – “It’s useful to have a portfolio of projects, because not all of them are going to work.”

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.

Book Report: Arguing with Zombies

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“One classic example of government doing it better is health insurance.” – Paul Krugman

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three lessons from the book, Arguing with Zombies by Paul Krugman, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

My mom gave me this book.  Krugman is not an author I have followed closely, although I did read The Return of Depression Economics years ago.  The book is mostly a collection of Krugman articles – organized by topic.  So the chapters are bite size. I think mostly due to timing – the pandemic and election cycle – I found this book a bit depressing.  

However, three topics that did alter my perspective were:

  1. Healthcare Confidential.  

“How does the V.H.A. do it?  The secret of its success is the fact that it’s a universal, integrated system.  Because it covers all veterans, the system doesn’t need to employ legions of administrative staff to check patients’ coverage and demand payment from their insurance companies.  Because it covers all aspects of medical care, it has been able to take the lead in electronic record-keeping and other innovativations that reduce costs, ensure effective treatment, and help prevent medical errors.  Moreover, the V.H.A., as Phillip Longman put it in the Washington Monthly ,”has nearly a lifetime relationship with its patients.”  As a result, it “actually has an incentive to invest in prevention and more effective disease management.”

This just makes so much sense to me – on multiple fronts.  I just do not understand the angst over a universal healthcare insurance coverage option or an integrated, government sponsored healthcare provider.  The incentive system in our current fragmented and disjointed healthcare system which is heavily influenced by private payors is not delivering the results the citizens of this country deserve.  We can better.  I don’t understand the fear around trying to do better.

  1. The Great Center-Right Delusion. 

“What the authors of the piece show is that congressional aides grossly misperceive the views of their bosses’ constituents; this is true in both parties, but more so the Republicans.  What they don’t point out explicitly is that with the exceptoin of the A.C.A. repeal, Democrats err in the same direction as Republican, just less so.  Specifically, both parties believe that the public is to the right of where it really is.”. 

“What I’m suggesting, in other words, is that there’s a shared inside-the-Beltway delusion:  that America is a conservative, or at most center-right nation, a view that isn’t grounded in reality.”

Hey conservatives.  You are in the minority.  Please keep that in mind.  

Should we be surprised that most folks want good healthcare, higher wages, a cleaner environment, better social safety nets, and are not concerned about the taxes on the ultra-wealthy?

The rural bias in the Senate, the electoral college system, and Fox News are distorting the reality of the situation.  And if enough people from California keep moving to Texas, the electoral college won’t matter any longer either.

  1. Transaction Costs and Tethers: Why I’m A Crypto Skeptic. 

“So I thought it might be worth explaining why I’m a cryptocurrency skeptic.  It comes down to two things: transaction costs and the absence of tethers.”

“Set against this history, the enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies seems very odd, because it goes exactly in the opposite of the long-run trend.  Instead of near-frictionless transactions, we have high costs of doing business, because transferring a Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency unit requires providing a complete history of past transactions.”

“Cryptocurrencies, by contrast, have no backstop, no tether to reality.  Their value depends entirely on self-fulfilling expectations – which means that total collapse is real possibility.”

I am not sure why but my interest in cryptocurrencies is zero.  But this was an interesting take on why cryptocurrencies are not about to replace real currencies any time soon.

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:

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:

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:

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.