Friday, December 16, 2022

At least until it got politized too...........

I wanted to be a scientist.  That is where a lot of my moral hierarchy comes from.  I view scientists as being at the tip of the production chain for humanity.  The group of scientists who have made real breakthroughs and contributions probably added more to human society, I think, than any single other class of human beings.  Not to take away from art or politics or engineering or business, but without science, we'd still be scrambling in the dirt fighting with sticks and trying to start fires.

-Naval Ravikant,  The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

it's the fixing................

 So my dad and I agreed, what doesn't kill you doesn't actually make you stronger, but healing does. And if you feel like healing hasn't made you stronger than you were before, you're probably not done healing. You've got to give these things time to set.

-back story here

Not to worry, objectivity is a myth............

      I find the soul a valuable concept, a statement on the dignity of a human life and of the unutterable gravity of human action and experience.  I would add that I find my own soul interesting company, if this did not seem to cast doubts on my impeccable objectivity.

-Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

the synesthetic approach...................

      His instinctive approach to the library was synesthetic:  books were sensed by smell and look and touch, and only then could the reading process be contemplated.  It was only natural, therefore, that the chosen book's characters would come alive for him through all his senses: "quite suddenly, a man or a woman or a child leapt off the page and stood there with you in the immense silence.  Then you sat with them for an hour and ran with them and laughed and wept with them."  In this way his lifelong love of literature began.  His enthusiasm for adaptation and for breaking down genre barriers has its roots in this same crossing of sensations; to "see" the book, to "read" the movie, and to "hear" the staged play have always been natural extensions of the traditional forms for Bradbury.  This openness to all the possibilities of a creative idea was formed at an early age, and the gift proved to be both a blessing and a frustration as Bradbury extended his storytelling genius into other genres and media forms.

-Jonathan R. Eller, Becoming Ray Bradbury

Fifty years ago.................

Miles Davis................................On The Corner


the complexities of reality...................

To grasp the complexities of reality, we do need to use general words and concepts.  But these have often, as one might out it, escaped empirical control and grown into obstacles against understanding: "brain blindfolds"—and even mechanisms for stifling, or at least discouraging, real debate.  Ideas insufficiently connected to reality have always been part of the human effort to understand. 

     These ideas are, of course, most troublesome when they present themselves as virtually indisputable; as idols, or at least icons.  As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote many years ago, "Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but primarily by catchwords."  Part of the problem is that the catchwords of current speech or thought are usually supported, offstage, by more complex, superficially impressive wordplay.

     Some of the vital information available to us has been distorted—some, indeed, has been actively falsified on a very large scale—by groups, or states, with what by now should be understandable motivations for concealment.  But this is only one example, or product, of a broader misuse of the human mind.

-Robert Conquest, The Dragons of Expectations:  Reality and Delusion in the Course of History



A brief primer on "money"...............

 In the beginning, someone with a business wanted money from someone with money.

There are two and only two voluntary (i.e., without the threat of physical violence) ways of doing this. In exchange for the money, the person with a business can promise the person with money a share of the future economic activity of the business, or they can promise to repay the money in the future along with more money. In general, we call the former promise “equity” and the latter promise “debt”, and people with money have been collecting these promises from people with businesses since money was invented. These collections of promises are called “investment portfolios”.

About a nanosecond after money and equity and debt were invented, the business of facilitating these transactions was invented. Today we call this business “Wall Street”, but of course it goes back thousands of years, way before there were things called streets. The business of Wall Street consists of two and only two things: thinking up news ways to create a transferable share of some future economic activity, and thinking up new ways to borrow money today for a promise to repay that money and more in the future. We call the former activity “securitization”. For example, equity promises are securitized into “stocks” and debt promises are securitized into “bonds”, which makes the sale and resale of these promises sooooo much easier. We call the latter activity “leverage”, which is just a ten-dollar word for borrowed money.

Every bit of financial innovation over the past ten thousand years or so – all of it! – has been in service to one or both of those two activities: securitization and leverage.

-Ben Hunt, from this post

Checking in ...................

..........................with Will Durant:

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.

History in the large is the conflict of minorities; the majority applauds the victor and supplies the human material of social experiment.

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within

At every step the history of civilization teaches us how slight and superficial a structure civilization is, and how precariously it is poised upon the apex of a never-extinct volcano of poor and oppressed barbarism, superstition and ignorance. Modernity is a cap superimposed upon the Middle Ages, which always remain.

The tragedy of life is that it gives us wisdom only when it has stolen youth.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean.

Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

You can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.

We must steel ourselves against utopias and be content with a slightly better state.

Stories win......................

 . . . there are always two sides to every investment: The number and the story. Every investment price, every market valuation, is just a number from today multiplied by a story about tomorrow.

The numbers are easy to measure, easy to track, easy to formulate. They’re getting easier as almost everyone has cheap access to information.

But the stories are often bizarre reflections of people’s hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and tribal affiliations. And they’re getting more bizarre as social media amplifies the most emotionally appealing views.

-Morgan Housel, from here

Us pesky humans............

 To suppose that the value of a common stock is determined purely by a corporation’s earnings discounted by the relevant interest rates and adjusted for the marginal tax rate is to forget that people have burned witches, gone to war on a whim, risen to the defense of Joseph Stalin and believed Orson Welles when he told them over the radio that the Martians had landed.

-attributed to James Grant

a bull market...................

 Here’s the thing about the pandemic experiment: It worked too well.

Everyone had money. Everyone had options. There was a bull market in people forming their own LLCs and starting companies. A bull market in sitting on their asses and doing nothing too. A bull market in quitting their jobs. A bull market in whatever they felt like doing. Indulging their hobbies, accepting flexible hours, moving their residence, taking college classes while being employed, secretly having two full time employers, quitting without quitting, being paid for waking up in the morning, taking extended periods of time in between gigs, making a big career change. Whatever people wanted to do, they could do. Freedom on a previously unimaginable scale.

Young know-nothings from all walks of life were investing in digital art and SPACs, trading options on their phones, starting their own companies, selling their own weed and launching their own crypto projects. Older ordinary people found themselves accidentally wealthy overnight, their houses instantly worth 30 to 50% more almost regardless of condition or geography, the values of their 401(k)’s bursting at the seams, potential buyers for their small businesses and real estate holdings coming out of the woodwork with blank checks ready to be signed at the conclusion of a Zoom meeting. You could sell anything to anyone for any price at any time. We were minting millionaires by the minute.

Capitalism felt like it offered possibilities for everyone for the first time ever. Influencers fluent in the language of entrepreneurship and personal finance had a potential audience in the millions for their messaging. The world was ripe with possibility and people felt emboldened. They were liquid and ready to maximize their own opportunities. It was an exciting moment in time. No one was left out.

And that was the problem.

Widespread prosperity, it turns out, is incompatible with the American Dream. The only way our economy works is when there are winners and losers. If everyone’s a winner, the whole thing fails. That’s what we learned at the conclusion of our experiment. You weren’t supposed to see that. Now the genie is out of the bottle. For one brief shining moment, everyone had enough money to pay their bills and the financial freedom to choose their own way of life.

And it broke the fucking economy in half.

The authorities are panicking. Corporate chieftains are demanding that their employees return to the way things were, in-person, in-office, full time. The federal government is hiring 87,000 new IRS employees to see about all that money out there. The Federal Reserve is trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube – the fastest pace of interest rate hikes in four decades and the concurrent unwind of their massive balance sheet. Everyone is scrambling to undo the post-pandemic jubilee. It was too much wealth in too many hands. Too much flexibility for too many people. Too many options. Too much economic liberation. “Companies can’t find workers!” the media screams but what they really mean is that companies can’t find workers who will accept the pay they are currently offering. This is a problem, we are told. After decades of stagnating wages, the bottom half of American workers finally found themselves in a position of bargaining power – and the whole system is now imploding because of it. Only took a year or so.

-Josh Brown, from this Reformed Broker post

Sunday, December 11, 2022

giants with feet of clay................

De Soto calls our economic system, which has been masquerading as a market economy for generations, mercantilist. 

     The term is confusing, since it defines a historic period, an economic school, and a moral attitude.  Here, "mercantilism" means a bureaucratized and law-ridden state, that regards the redistribution of national wealth as more important that the production of wealth.  And "redistribution," as used here, means the concession of monopolies or favored status to a small elite that depends on the state and on which the state itself is dependent. . . .

     It is essential that the state remember that before it can redistribute the nation's wealth, the nation must produce wealth.  And that in order to produce wealth, it is necessary that the state's actions not obstruct the actions of its citizens, who, after all, know better than anyone else what they want and what they have to do.  The state must restore to its citizens the right to take on productive tasks, a right it has been usurping and obstructing.  The state must limit itself to functioning in those necessary areas in which private industry cannot function.  This does not mean that the state with wither away and die.

     By the same token, a large government is not necessarily a strong state, as the majority of Latin American nations shows.  Those immense organisms that in our countries drain the productive energy of society to maintain their own sterile existence are in fact giants with feet of clay.  Their giantism makes them torpid, and their inefficiency deprives them of the respect and authority without which no institution can function well.

-Mario Vargas Llosa, from the Introduction to Hernando de Soto's The Other Path


Lindsey Stirling............................What Child Is This


exquisite tantalization.............

     The other night, I was having dinner with some friends in a fairly decent restaurant and was at the very peak of my form as a wit and raconteur.  But just as, with infinite and exquisite tantalization, I was approaching my punch line, the most incredible thing happened.  A waiter appeared from nowhere, leaned right over my shoulder and into the middle of the conversation, seized my knife and fork, and started to cut up my food for me.  Not content with this bizarre behavior, and without so much as a by-your-leave, he proceeded to distribute pieces of my entree onto the plates of the other diners.

     No, he didn't, actually.  What he did instead was to interrupt the feast of reason and flow of soul that was our chat, lean across me, pick up the bottle of wine that was in the middle of the table, and pour it into everyone's glass.  And what I want to know is this:  How did such a barbaric custom get itself established and why on earth do we put up with it? 

-Christopher Hitchens, Wine Drinkers of the World , Unite, from here


 It is a dangerous and fateful presumption, besides the absurd temerity it implies, to distain what we do not comprehend.

-Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Works, Book 1, Chapter 27

operate on the diagonal..............

When you're faced with a tough decision, which do you go with: your head or your heart?

     If you chose either one, I'm sorry to say that you missed the point of this rule.  Nowhere is it more important than in decision making to embrace the power of the both/and point of view.

     Rather than head versus heart, how about using an empathetic head?  Or a logical heart?

     It takes practice to see the world this way.  But one of the skills that defines an entrepreneur and an innovator is the capacity to generate new lines of sight.  That means cracking problems open along a new dimension.  It means rejecting old either/or choices and finding new both/and syntheses.  You learn to do that when you operate on the diagonal.  You learn to slice a problem along a new line and then recombine its elements in a fresh way.

-Alan Webber, Rules of Thumb:  52 Truths for Winning at Business Without losing Your Self