Thursday, March 11, 2021
Volume 2, Issue 18
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.”
— Mortimer J. Adler
Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.: The Idea of The Great Ideas, March 13, 1970. Several years ago, I read a book by Mortimer J. Adler named “How to Read a Book”. Of course, most of us have been reading books since grade school. But there are many different levels of reading and this becomes important when approaching the great books of western civilization. Adler’s book made quite an impression and I wrote a review that contained a short clip of his interview with William F. Buckley. I recently found the full interview which covers a broader array of topics related to education. Adler passed away in 2001 at the age of 98. He was a prolific author and I plan to explore more of his work in the future. (Firing Line)
Common Sense Investing w/ Joel Greenblatt, March 6, 2021. A few weeks ago, I posted a conversation between Joel Greenblatt and Howard Marks. Greenblatt spoke about many of the same topics in this new podcast interview with Trey Lockerbie. Toward the end of the discussion, Greenblatt talks about his new book, Common Sense: The Investor’s Guide to Equality, Opportunity, and Growth which was published in September 2020. On March 9, Greenblatt appeared in a video produced by Pzena Investment Management. (We Study Billionaires)
Real Meat That Vegetarians Can Eat by Jon Emont, March 6, 2021. There’s fake meat made with plant based ingredients, and then there’s real meat that happens to be made in a laboratory rather than harvested from a living animal. Lab grown meat is sometimes referred to as cultured meat or “kill free” meat. Although there are many lifelong vegetarians who would not touch cultured meat, there are many converts to vegetarianism who avoid meat primarily out of concern for animals or the environment. This article outlines some of the developments in the cultured meat industry which I think has much more promise than plant based “meat”. (WSJ)
Donate Unrestricted by Paul Graham, March 2021. Paul Graham makes the case for not restricting donations to charitable institutions. It is obvious that donations with strings attached are inherently less flexible than unrestricted donations. There are many ways to rationalize adding the strings. But Graham’s point is that if you trust an organization to spend your money, you should allow them to decide how to do it. Warren Buffett has often said that giving away money well can be more difficult than earning it. Buffett is good at making money but not at giving it away. So he gives his money to the Gates Foundation which decides how to spend it in an unrestricted manner. This seems like a good model. (PaulGraham.com)
How I Built Resilience: Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief of Morning Brew, March 4, 2021. Guy Raz interviews the founders of Morning Brew, a newsletter than now has 2.5 million subscribers. The founders started this business as college students six years ago and recently sold a majority stake to Business Insider for $75 million. Anyone building a newsletter-based business should definitely listen to this podcast. (NPR)
‘This Is Unprecedented’: Why America’s Housing Market Has Never Been Weirder by Derek Thompson, March 5, 2021. In many large cities, rents and home prices are going in opposite directions which obviously cannot go on forever. This article looks at some of the underlying dynamics of the rental and housing markets. “In almost any other year, a weak economy would cripple housing. But the flash-freeze recession of 2020 corresponded with a real-estate boom, led by high-end purchases in suburbs and small towns. Even stranger, in America’s big metros, home prices and rents are going in opposite directions. Home values increased in all of the 100 largest metros in the U.S., according to Zillow data. But in some of the richest cities—San Jose; Seattle; New York; Boston; Austin; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and Chicago—rent prices fell, many by double-digit percentages.” (The Atlantic)
Coping With Market Meltdowns II, March 9, 2020. I wrote this article a year ago when the S&P 500 was at 2,785, or 17.8% below its February 19, 2020 high of 3,386. It kept falling before hitting a bottom of 2,237 on March 23 and now we are at around 3,900. Markets are crazy and erratic in the short run, and this article was an attempt to ground myself in the fundamentals. Writing online is often more beneficial for the writer than for the reader. This article might have helped some investors focus on the long run. I know it helped me stay the course. (The Rational Walk)
I have started writing brief journal entries on The Rational Walk.
The journal will contain very informal explorations into subjects that I find interesting. Journaling isn’t new for me. I keep a commonplace book and a morning pages journal. I would bore readers to tears if I posted everything that I write, but there are occasional subjects that could interest readers and those are the ones I will post.
I still plan to write longer-form articles from time to time and this newsletter will be sent out every week, usually on Fridays. The newsletter will continue to contain mostly curated links as well as links to original journal entries and articles.
I have created a journal page and here are the first three entries:
- The Price of Misery is about a surprising poll I ran on Twitter.
- What We Have Lost is a discussion about the virtual “zoom” culture.
- The Use of Letters presents some thoughts on reading.
John Muir’s Mountaineering Essays
John Muir was a naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, hiker, and mountaineer. He sometimes got into a bit of trouble. In A Near View of the High Sierra, Muir describes his ascent of Mt. Ritter in October 1872. The following passage is chilling for anyone who has spent time in the wilderness:
At length, after attaining an elevation of about 12,800 feet, I found myself at the foot of a sheer drop in the bed of the avalanche channel I was tracing, which seemed absolutely to bar further progress. It was only about forty-five or fifty feet high, and somewhat roughened by fissures and projections; but these seemed so slight and insecure, as footholds, that I tried hard to avoid the precipice altogether, by scaling the wall of the channel on either side. But, though less steep, the walls were smoother than the obstructing rock, and repeated efforts only showed that I must either go right ahead or turn back.
The tried dangers beneath seemed even greater than that of the cliff in front; therefore, after scanning its face again and again, I began to scale it, picking my holds with intense caution. After gaining a point about halfway to the top, I was suddenly brought to a dead stop, with arms outspread, clinging close to the face of the rock, unable to move hand or foot either up or down. My doom appeared fixed. I must fall. There would be a moment of bewilderment, and then a lifeless rumble down the one general precipice to the glacier below.A near view of the high sierra
Obviously he survived to write about it.
If you’re interested in this type of writing, I recommend Muir’s Mountaineering Essays. Mt. Ritter is part of the Minarets, a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada. On my trips to the Sierra, I am content to admire the Minarets while camping at the lakes below.
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