Sunday, December 31, 2023
all we can pray for is that artists,
chefs and saints may still appear to blithe it.
..............seems to be something poplar in the blogosphere. Here are most of mine from 2023.
1. Books actually read in the past year:
2. Books purchased in 2023 that have been opened, dipped into, and occasionally cherry-picked for the blog, with the intention of actually finishing them sometime in the not-to-distant future:
3. Books purchased in 2023 that may, or may not, get read:
Saturday, December 30, 2023
Friday, December 29, 2023
Some eat bone marrow.
Some drink nectar.
They outswim fish in the sea.
They smile politely at gravity's demands.
I am grateful when I see them. I am grateful to feed them.
I am grateful to know them.
The town on Gros Ventre was so far from anywhere that you had to take a bus to catch the bus. At that time, remote locales like ours were served by a homegrown enterprise with more name than vehicles, the Rocky Mountain Stage Line and Postal Courier, in the form of a lengthened Chevrolet sedan that held ten passengers besides the driver and the mailbag, and when I nervously went to climb in for the first time ever, the Chevy bus was already loaded with a ladies' club heading home from an outing to Glacier National Park. The only seat left was in the back next to the mailbag, sandwiched between it and a hefty gray-haired woman clutching her purse to herself as though stage robbers were still on the loose in the middle of the twentieth century.
-Ivan Doig, Last Bus to Wisdom
Thursday, December 28, 2023
A rut is not a sign that you've tanked. A plateau is not a cue that you've peaked. They're signals that it may be time to turn around and find a new route. When you're stuck, it's usually because you're heading in the wrong direction, you're taking the wrong path, or you're running out of fuel. Gaining momentum often involves backing up and navigating your way down a different road—even if it's not the one you initially intended to travel. It might be unfamiliar, winding, and bumpy. Progress rarely happens in a straight line; it typically unfolds in loops.
The truth does not reveal itself to idle spectators.
Stepping outside the intellectually serious circle of my teachers at Chicago into broader academic world, it struck me as an industry hostile to thinking.
Process becomes more important than product.
What the hell is going on? Is this our society as a whole, buying more education only to scale new heights of stupidity?
Tocqueville foresaw a "soft despotism" in which Americans would increasingly seek their security in, and become dependent upon, the state. His analysis must be extended to our time: the softly despotic tendencies of a nanny state are found in the large commercial enterprise as well, and indeed a case could be made that it is now outsized corporations, more than government, that exercise this particularly enervating form of authority in our lives, through work.
-some thoughts culled from Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft
..........pretty well is build, build, build.
blue states’ failure to allow development is a pervasive feature of their
political cultures. Housing scarcity doesn’t just cause population loss — it’s
also the primary cause of the wave of homelessness that has swamped California
and New York. Progressives’ professed concern for the unhoused is entirely
undone by their refusal to allow the creation of new homes near where they
live. Nor is housing the only thing that blue states fail to build —
anti-development politics is preventing blue states from adopting solar and
wind, while red states power ahead. And red states’ willingness to build new
factories means that progressive industrial policy is actually benefitting them
states are going to thrive in the 21st century, they need to relearn how to
build, build, build.
-Noah Smith, as excerpted from here
Back in the 1950s, when the focal practice of baking was displaced by the advent of cake mixes, Betty Crocker learned quickly that it was good business to make the mix not quite complete. The baker felt better about her cake if she was required to add an egg to the mix.
-Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft
I confess that, in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that men would not fly for 50 years. Two years later, we were making flights. This demonstration of my inability as a prophet gave me such a shock that I have ever since refrained from all prediction.
-Wilber Wright, as quoted here
Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Absurdity is good for comedy, but bad as a way of life. It usually indicates that somewhere beneath the threshold of official notice fester contradictions that, if commonly admitted, would bring some kind of crisis.
-Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
There are bristlecone pines standing today that have lived 5,000 years.
Both are perfection.
Your moments deserve the same careful attention as your years.
It is sometimes said, either irritably or with a certain satisfaction, that philosophy makes no progress. It is certainly true, and I think this is an abiding and not a regrettable characteristic of the discipline, that philosophy has in a sense to keep trying to return to the beginning: a thing which it is not at all easy to do. There is a two-way movement in philosophy, a movement towards the building of elaborate theories, and a move back again towards the consideration of simple and obvious facts.
-Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good
My Christian journey so far has taught me two cataphatic lessons: that God is an artist; and that he has a sense of humor. . . .
Anthony Bloom once wrote that the Desert Fathers and their kind retreated in order to seek an “ardent and active solitude”: “These men leave everything because they have understood that in torment, disorder and purely earthly seeking they will not find the answer to the problems of their contemporaries . . . They have to find their souls again, and with their soul, the nation, the soul of their people, the soul of their contemporaries.” When the nation, the people, the culture needs to find its soul again—this is when we turn to the saints of the caves. This is when we call for their help, and their prayers. Assuming we can find them. . . .
The global Machine is teetering, even as it clamps down on its citizenry in an attempt to tamp down unrest and rein in its own wanton destruction of creation and culture. A way of seeing that sets itself against what C. S. Lewis happily characterized as the —the way of great nature, willed by its creator—cannot last, however much it desperately tightens its grip. We are not gods, however much we have always wanted to be. . . .
In a time when the temptation is always toward culture war rather than inner war, I think we could learn something from our spiritual ancestors. What we might learn is not that the external battle is never necessary; sometimes it very much is. But a battle that is uninformed by inner transformation will soon eat itself, and those around it.
-Paul Kingsnorth, from here
................................ A wonderful book (even though you can probably skip the first 25% and the last 25%).
-Ben Carlson, as excerpted from a book report on his 2023 reading list
Monday, December 25, 2023
Here is how Paul describes himself: “I am an animist in an age of machines; a poet-of-sorts in a dictatorship of merchants; a believer in a culture of cynics. Either I’m mad, or the world is.” He continues: “My most strongly-held belief is this: that our modern crisis is not economic, political, scientific or technological, and that no ‘answers’ to it will be found in those spheres. I believe that we are living through a deep spiritual crisis; perhaps even a spiritual war. My interest these days is what this means.”
-Bari Weiss, from her intro to this Paul Kingsnorth essay
Sunday, December 24, 2023
The point is: It always takes longer than you want. So, one of the most important habits is the habit that makes all other habits possible: patience. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing a book, opening a small business, getting in shape, establishing a reading or meditation practice—it always takes longer than you expect. It takes longer than you’re willing to wait. In any case, it takes however long it takes. We want our progress now. We want our success now. We want our rewards now. But if you can practice delayed gratification, if you can understand that all good things take time, that it’s a process, you’re almost always going to be more successful.
-Ryan Holiday, from this blog post
Saturday, December 23, 2023
Friday, December 22, 2023
Offering advice on the home buying process is even harder than offering investment advice without more context. Investing is personal but your living situation has even more idiosyncratic risks involved.
-Ben Carlson, from this post
For a wealth management kind of guy he has a pretty good feel for real estate. Will admit to some surprise at seeing his chart of the gross profit margins for the largest production builders. If we knew they were making that much money we would have charged them more for the building lots we sold them.
.....................in a much better way if we all took this to heart:
And I can still remember what he said to my graduate school class in summarizing this point: “I have been an economist long enough to recognize that ‘I don’t know’ is an intellectually respectable answer.”
-from this Gary Galles essay
We're often told that if we want to develop our skills, we need to push ourselves through long hours of monotonous practice. But the best way to unlock hidden potential isn't to suffer through the daily grind. It's to transform the daily grind into a source of daily joy. It is not a coincidence that in music, the term for practice is play. . . .
Elite musicians are rarely driven by obsessive compulsion. They're usually fueled by what psychologists call harmonious passion. Harmonious passion is taking joy in a process rather than feeling pressure to achieve an outcome.
Relaxing is not a waste of time—it's an investment in well-being. Breaks are not a distraction—they're a chance to reset attention and incubate ideas. Play is not a frivolous activity—it's a source of joy and a path to mastery.
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
Have said this before but all the attention is currently on college football and their situation but the real changes to college sports will more greatly affect college basketball. Imagine how places with great post grad programs will do when they can award unlimited NIL and unlimited eligibility. How would you like to play a Harvard or Stanford in March Madness when their starting 5's are 24-years old with 5-years of experience each? One and done superior talent will be at a great disadvantage.
-Chris Lynch, from here
Some days I feel like I have a really strong grasp of the situation and somedays everything seems upside-down. And again, I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. I have global strategists and chief economists from Fidelity, JPMorgan, Vanguard, BlackRock, etc literally on speed dial. It doesn’t matter. If anything, the proximity to all this intel is probably even worse for most people because of how delusional we can become when we think we know something.
-Josh Brown, from here
Saturday, December 16, 2023
Friday, December 15, 2023
Don't worry if you find you're interested in different things than other people. The stranger your tastes in interestingness, the better. Strange tastes are often strong ones, and a strong taste for work means you'll be productive. And you're more likely to find new things if you're looking where few have looked before.
-culled from this Paul Graham essay
Explanation: Massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy live spectacular lives. Collapsing from vast cosmic clouds, their nuclear furnaces ignite and create heavy elements in their cores. After only a few million years for the most massive stars, the enriched material is blasted back into interstellar space where star formation can begin anew. The expanding debris cloud known as Cassiopeia A is an example of this final phase of the stellar life cycle. Light from the supernova explosion that created this remnant would have been first seen in planet Earth's sky about 350 years ago, although it took that light 11,000 years to reach us. This sharp NIRCam image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the still hot filaments and knots in the supernova remnant. The whitish, smoke-like outer shell of the expanding blast wave is about 20 light-years across. Light echoes from the massive star's cataclysmic explosion are also identified in Webb's detailed image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A.
Thursday, December 14, 2023
....................so all bets are off:
The Federal Reserve declared victory today, projecting a soft landing as its base case in the years ahead, with more cuts in short-term rates, and with inflation gradually getting back to its 2.0% goal without a recession. Unfortunately, we think the Fed is declaring mission accomplished too early.
Brian Wesbury, from here
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Perhaps absolute power, of the kind it enjoyed after the Cold War, corrupted absolutely. Whatever the cause, the United States is now sharply, militantly divided over the question of whether it even wants to be a Western country.
-Christopher Caldwell, as cut-and-pasted from here
Sunday, December 10, 2023
..................talk that way anymore:
I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although, in almost all men, obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates. In this action, it is genius; not the privilege of here and there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they, - let us hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not his; - cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet flame. There are creative manners, there are creative actions, and creative words; manners, actions, words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority, but springing spontaneous from the mind's own sense of good and fair.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, as excerpted from The American Scholar
Saturday, December 9, 2023
...................but perhaps we should:
The unhappiest people of the world are those in the international watering places like the South Coast of France, and Newport, and Palm Springs, and Palm Beach. Going to parties every night. Playing golf every afternoon. Drinking too much. Talking too much. Thinking too little. Retired. No purpose
So while there are those that would totally disagree with this and say, "Gee, if I could just be a millionaire! That would be the most wonderful thing." If I could just not have to work every day, if I could just be out fishing or hunting or playing golf or traveling, that would be the most wonderful life in the world—they don't know life. Because what makes life mean something is purpose. A goal. The battle, the struggle—even if you don't win it.
-Richard Nixon, as quoted here
I know a couple who treasure friends who are what they call "lingerable." They are the sort of people you want to linger with at the table after a meal or in chairs outside the pool, to let things flow, to let the relationship emerge. It's a great talent—to be someone others consider lingerable.
Sometimes you can learn more about a person by watching how they talk to a waiter than by asking some profound question about their philosophy of life.
Deprived of French help, on December 28, 1783, the Turks officially acknowledged the loss of the Crimea. Exclaimed on observer, "The Russian state has spread out like ancient Rome." Indeed, Catherine's swollen dominions now stood larger that the entire Roman Empire at its height.
But there was a price to be paid for this brash expansion. For one thing, Catherine's actions had inadvertently opened the wounds of religious wars that would one day cross borders and carry over into a new age. For another, the Crimea remained a boiling stew of biases, prejudices, and fierce hatreds. In the years that followed, while annexation was one thing, actually extending Russian control over the region remained an exasperating business. Russian forays into the area known as the Caucasus were especially riddled with troubles—in 1785 a rebellion broke out among a deadly mix of Chechens, Avars, and other tribes. Descending down from the mountains, a shadowy leader wrapped in a green cloak and espousing a mystical version of Islam proclaimed a Ghazavat, or holy war, against the Russians. With dauntless flair and lightning strikes, this self-anointed "Sheik Mansur" led a coalition of mountain tribesmen that harassed and tormented the Russians with guerrilla warfare, laying the seeds for a conflict that still sputters today.
Friday, December 8, 2023
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Stress focuses your attention in ways good times can't. It kills procrastination and indecision, taking what you need to get done and shoving it so close to your face that you have no choice but to pursue it, right now and to the best of your ability.
-Morgan Housel, Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes
A good summary of investing history is that stocks [and real estate] pay a fortune in the long run but seek punitive damages when you demand to be paid sooner. . . . there's a "most convenient" investing time horizon—probably somewhere around ten years or more. That's the period in which markets nearly always reward your patience. The more your time horizon compresses, the more you rely on luck and tempt ruin.
-Morgan Housel, Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
The popular adage "use it or lose it" doesn't go far enough. If you don't use it, you might never gain it in the first place.
. . . a light bulb went off for me. Comfort in learning is a paradox. You can't become truly comfortable with a skill until you've practiced it enough to master it. But practicing it before you master it is uncomfortable, so you often avoid it. Accelerated learning requires a second form of courage: being brave enough to use your knowledge as you acquire it.
Last spring, from Switzerland, I was moved to repay the debt I have felt to peanut butter. "I have never composed poetry [I wrote in my syndicated column], but if I did, my very first couplet would be:
"'I know that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as Skippy's Peanut Butter.'"
My addiction is lifelong, and total. I reminisced. "I was hardened very young to the skeptics. When I was twelve, I was packed off to a British boarding school by my father, who dispatched every fortnight a survival package comprising a case of grapefruit and a large jar of peanut butter. I offered to share my tuck with the boys who shared my table. They grabbed instinctively for the grapefruit—but one after another actually spit out the peanut butter, which they had never before seen and which only that very year (1938) had become available for sale in London, at a store that specialized in exotic foods, No wonder they needed American help to win the war."
-William F. Buckley, Jr., Overdrive: A Personal Documentary
. . . he concludes that one of the principles of contemporary management is to "push details down and pull credit up." That is, avoid making decisions, because they could damage your career, but then spin cover stories after that fact that interpret positive outcomes to your credit.
-Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated by long practice. It seems to be built up through submission (think of a musician practicing scales, or Einstein learning tensor algebra). Identifying creativity with freedom harmonizes quite well with the culture of the new capitalism, in which the imperative of flexibility precludes dwelling in any task long enough to develop real competence. Such competence is the condition not only for genuine creativity but for economic independence such as the tradesman enjoys.
--Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
. . . the liberationist ethic of what is sometimes called "the 1968 generation" perhaps paved the way for our increasing dependence. We're primed to respond to any invocation of the aesthetics of individuality. The rhetoric of freedom pleases our ears. The simulacrum of independent thought and action that goes by the name of "creativity" trips easily off the tongues of spokespeople for the corporate counterculture, and if we're not paying attention such usage might influence our career plans. The term invokes our powerful tendency to narcissism, and in doing so greases the skids into work that is not what we had hoped.
-Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
Sunday, December 3, 2023
It's a funny thing about the [New York] Times: I don't know anybody who works for it who doesn't have a sense of humor (the big exception: John Oakes. But then he retired as editorial page director several years ago, and is understandably melancholy about having to live in a world whose shape is substantially of his own making). Abe Rosenthal, the working head of the newspaper, is one of the funniest men living. Punch Sulzberger is wonderfully amusing, and easily amused. And so on. But there is some corporate something that keeps the Times from smiling at itself; don't quite know what.
-William F. Buckley, Jr., Overdrive: A Personal Documentary (1981)
I've seen many people shy away from writing because it doesn't come naturally to them. What they overlook is that writing is more than a vehicle for communicating—it is a tool for learning. Writing exposes gaps in your knowledge and logic. It pushes you to articulate assumptions and consider counterarguments. Unclear writing is a sign of unclear thinking. Or as Steve [Martin] himself quipped, "Some people have a way with words, and other people, uh . . . oh, not have a way."
When I thought back on past expedition experiences, it was clear to me that I had always drawn much of my motivation and resilience from those around me. It was often the knowledge that I couldn't let my team down that drove me forwards when times were tough. Now that I was to be alone, what would stop me giving up?
-Felicity Aston, Alone In Antarctica
Saturday, December 2, 2023
Thursday, November 30, 2023
The first step toward accepting that some things don't compute is realizing that the reason we have innovation and advancements is because we are fortunate to have people in this world whose minds work differently from ours.
It would be great if the world worked in predictable, rational ways. But constant uncertainty, misunderstanding, and the inability to know what people will do next is the truth.
-Morgan Housel, Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Of course, I have noticed that what I think does not control the workings of the universe, doubtless a cosmic oversight of some sort. Still, it might be a good idea to think things through before undertaking them. Granted, this would be a break with tradition, but a little adventure spices up life.