Saturday, June 17, 2023

It's a strange, strange world...............

 back story here

 More fun here

A general investing philosophy............

  • I believe less is more, costs & taxes matter, predictions are unreliable and performance is mean-reverting.
  • I believe risk & reward are attached at the hip and a long time horizon is your friend.
  • I believe investing must be tied to goals to work effectively.
  • And I believe behavior will determine your success or failure as an investor.

That’s not everything but close enough.

-Ben Carlson, from this post

A labor of love..................

 ................................and generosity.

breaking points.....................

Thus a population of twenty-one millions depended for its government on more than two thousand separate authorities.  The lesser nobility, the knights and free tenants of the Emperor formed confederations among themselves where they were thickest on the ground, or came to an understanding with the chief administrator of the surrounding province where they were few.  Yet even making allowances for such arrangements there were over three hundred potentially conflicting authorities in Germany.

 Imperial power rested ultimately not on the constitution but on force. . . .

     Empty as was the imperial title in 1618, the dynasty had not abandoned the hope of restoring to it the reality of power.  With a people as traditional as the Germans a lurking respect for the person of the Emperor was always to be found even among the most rabid exponents of the 'German Liberties'—a feeling which an intelligent Emperor could often exploit.

     'The German Liberties' was a phrase which had become popular in the sixteenth century.  It stood in theory for the constitutional rights of the individual rulers of the Empire, in fact for anything which the caprice or interest of the princes dictated, a bald truth which does not derogate from the personal sincerity with which most of them believed in their own motives.  In the smaller group of authoritarians which centered about the Emperor, the corresponding rallying cry was 'Justice'; the emphasis was on government here, on independence there.  Ultimately there must come a breaking point.

-C. V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War

A mighty good list..................

 ................but since he asked, I might hastily add:

Grant by Ron Chernow

Trinity by Leon Uris

The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry

Watership Downs by Richard Adams

The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by E. C. Lathem

Opening paragraphs...................

      Mister Sharpe was in a bad mood.  A filthy mood.  He was looking for trouble in Sergeant Harper's opinion, and Harper was rarely wrong about Captain Sharpe, and Sergeant Harper knew well enough not to engage his Captain in conversation when Sharpe was in such a black temper, but on the other hand, Harper liked to live dangerously.  "I see your uniform has been mended, sir," he said cheerily.

-Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Escape

That's a relief..................

 Greatest hits, by their nature, are unusual. And if the media you’re absorbing is selected from a billion possible clips, don’t be surprised if you start to believe that the unusual is normal.

It’s not.

-Seth Godin, from here 

Is this a great country, or what...........?

........................................Or, as my young son used to say, "this cracks my head up."


     And now I remind myself that I must heed William Blake's warning not to attempt to cling to a sublime experience, but rather allow it to come and go with grace.  In another of his metaphysical poems, the four-line jewel called "Eternity," he writes:

            He who binds to himself a joy

            Does the winged life destroy;

            But he who kisses the joy as it flies

            Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

    I stand and raise my glass.  "It is a great privilege to be here," I say.  Then, smiling, I add, "In fact, it is a great privilege simply to be." 

-Daniel Klein, Travels with Epicurus

Me too.......................

 For years I’ve been simultaneously amused and horrified at repeated efforts to replace the mouse and keyboard as the fundamental input devices of computers.

-Freddie deBoer, from here

On feeling needed....................

 A short lesson about kindness and generosity:

"I heard my mom asking our neighbor for some salt. We had salt at home so I asked her why she was asking.

She told me, "They don't have much money and they sometimes ask us for things. So I asked for something small that wouldn't burden them. I want them to feel as if we needed them too. That way, it will be much easier for them to ask us for anything they need."

-James Clear, from his June 15 newsletter


      The picture that I have been developing of the moral community translates easily into an attendant system of law—the common law whereby disputes and grievances are brought before an impartial judge and resolved according to the ancient principles of natural justice, which advocate the avoidance of bias and the right to a fair hearing.  The habit of settling our disputes in that way therefore seems to be the natural adjunct to the moral order.  Just those principles that underlie common-law practice in the English-speaking tradition emerge from our spontaneous ways of negotiating solutions to our conflicts.  All of the following principles, for example, seem to be accepted by those who lay down their weapons and reason toward solutions instead:

1. Considerations that justify or impugn one person, will, in identical circumstances, justify or impugn another,

2. Rights are to be respected.

3. Obligations are to be fulfilled.

4. Agreements are to be honored.

5. Disputes are to settled by negotiation, not by force.

6. Those who do not respect the rights of others forfeit rights of their own.

-Roger Scruton, On Human Nature

Accountability and the impartial other............

 Those principles have been taken as defining the field of "natural law," for the reason that their validity depends only on the idea of negotiation itself and not on the circumstances of the one who embarks on it.

      Something like this was surely at the back of Adam Smith's mind when, in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he argued for the "impartial spectator" as the true judge of our moral duties.  When asking myself what should I do, I entertain the thought of what another would think of my action when observing it with a disinterested eye.  If, as I suggest, morality is rooted in the practice of accountability between self-conscious agents, this is exactly what we should expect.  The impartial other sets the standard that we all must meet.

-Roger Scruton, On Human Nature

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Compounding 101......................

 If you view progress as being driven by the genius of individuals, of course it’s hard to imagine a future where things are dramatically better, because no individual is orders of magnitudes smarter than average.

But when you view it as one person coming up with a small idea, another person copying that idea and tweaking it a little, another taking that insight and manipulating it a bit, another yet taking that product and combining it with something else – incremental, tiny bits, little ideas mixing, joining, blending, mutating, and compounding together – it’s suddenly much more conceivable.

-Morgan Housel, from here

Monday, June 12, 2023

higher aims......................


Milton's allegory is not just a portrait of our kind; it is an invitation to kindness.  It shows us what we are and what we must live up to.  And it sets a standard for art.  Take away religion, however, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art, and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apartness.  Human nature, once something to live up to, becomes something to live down to instead.  Biological reductionism nurtures this "living down," which is why people so readily fall for it.  It makes cynicism respectable and degeneracy chic.  It abolishes our kind—and with it our kindness.

-Roger Scruton, On Human Nature

image, and explanation, via

With more being added daily.................

 Creeping stagnation ought to be recognized as the central economic issue of our time. . . .

Why are we stagnating? In my view, the answer is simple: America has the people, the ideas, and the investment capital to grow. We just can’t get the permits. We are a great Gulliver, tied down by miles of Lilliputian red tape.  

-Craig Newmark, channeling John Cochrane

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The technical term is "hallucinations"......

 I have a proto-theory: That our brains tend to produce dreams at all times, and that during waking hours, our brains tame the dream machine into perception and truthiness. At night, we let it run free to keep the brain areas occupied. The foundational mode of the intelligence is therefore dreaming.

Here’s how I got there: For a while I’ve been intensely exploring generative AI systems, creating both text and visual images almost daily, and I am increasingly struck by their similarity to dreams. The AIs seem to produce dream images and dream stories and dream answers. The technical term is “hallucinations” but I think they are close to dreams. I’ve come to suspect that this similarity between dreams and generative AI is not superficial, poetic, or coincidental. My unexpected hunch is that we’ll discover that the mechanism that generates dreams in our own heads will be the same (or very similar) to the ones that current neural net AI’s use to generate text and images.

-Kevin Kelly, from this post

Good advice........................

 I would urge everyone in and around the AI policy space to steer their thinking away from the idea that they can predict the economic impacts of future technologies, and toward the development of economic institutions that will minimize any downsides. Let’s stick with what worked in the last industrial revolution, and not try to be sci-fi prophets.

-Noah Smith, from this post

The "Million Dollar Quartet"..................

My Sweetie and I ventured out to Newark's Weathervane Playhouse last evening.  On the bill was their final performance of Million Dollar Quartet.  (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis all putting on a show for Sam Phillips at Sun Records).  Amazing doesn't quite do justice to the show. Special kudos to Connor Richardson for his impersonation of Jerry Lee Lewis.  Live theatre at its finest.


 I no longer think that all wars are unnecessary; but some are, and I still think that the Thirty Years War was one of these.  It need not have happened and it settled nothing worth settling.  No doubt it assured the replacement of Spain by France as the dominant power in Western Europe, an event of some importance in the history of the western world.  But the same result might have been achieved at far less cost and without a generation of war among the Germans who were only indirectly concerned in the matter at all.  Several statesmen of genius outside of Germany from time to time dominated the course of the war; no statesman of genius inside of Germany appeared to put a stop to it.  The dismal course of the conflict, dragging on from one decade to the next and from one deadlock to the next, seems to me an object lesson on the dangers and disasters which can arise when men of narrow hearts and little minds are in high places.

-C. V. Wedgwood, as she completes her Introduction to The Thirty Years War

Opening paragraphs..................

      History reflects the period in which it is written as much as any other branch of literature.  Although the historian's material is much more rigidly circumscribed than that of the novelist or poet, he, like them, has to bring to the understanding and presentation of his material his own experience of life and the imaginative equipment peculiar to him and to his time. . . .

      . . . When all allowance has been made for exaggeration, hard luck stories, and propaganda, the weight of the evidence still shows that the human suffering caused by the war was appalling.  I feel now, as I did twenty years ago, the one task of the political historian is to show the repercussions of policy on the lives of the governed and to arouse in the reader imaginative sympathy with those multitudes of fellow beings who were victims as well as actors in the events of the past.

-Cicely Veronica Wedgwood, from her Introduction to The Thirty Years War