Readings: Loud music, long-lived siblings, phantom gamblers, and Facebook toxicity


Finance & Economics


Best Books Read in Early 2019: Links

I recently asked people for their favorite books of those they had read so far in 2019, and the resulting Twitter thread was kinda wonderful. Like usual, however, it was a lot of work to extract actual links to actual books, so I didn’t do it. I am therefore indebted to @proales for doing the hard work and then emailing the results to me, which I can now share.

Lonesome Dove

Thinking in Bets

The Godfather

The Beggar’s Opera

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Bad Blood


AI Superpowers

All The King’s Men

Broken Earth Trilogy

A Man Called Ove


The Sympathizer

The Wizard and the Prophet

The Fifth Risk


Being Mortal

Adaptive Markets

Camelot’s End

Why We Sleep

Mr Five Percent

Reasons to Stay Alive

The Courage to be disliked

Skunk Works

Saudi America

Billion Dollar Whale


Myth of Capitalism

Book of 5 Rings

Power Ball

Kitchen Confidential


Trial of Strength: Adventures and Misadventures on the Wild and Remote Subantarctic Islands

Darwin’s first theory

The Wright Brothers

• The Nexus trilogy (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3)

So you wanna talk about race

Culture Code

All the Light We Cannot See

A World Undone

The Periodic Table

Three body problem

Prophet of Freedom


Wild Bill

13.8 The quest to find the true age of the universe

The Border

Giovanni’s Room

Last Samurai

Lord of Finance

The Scarecrow

The Longevity Solution: Rediscovering Centuries-Old Secrets to a Healthy, Long Life

Energy and Civilization: A History

Red Notice

The Swerve

The Goodness Paradox

Guns, Germs and Steel


The Art of Racing in the Rain

How Children Succeed

Can’t Hurt Me

The Myth of the Rational Market

Jeff Buckley: From Hallelujah to the Last Goodbye

The Leopard (Gattopado)

• King killer Chronicles (Book 1, Book 2)



One of Ten Billion Earths

The Dark Forest

Shoe Dog

There Will Be No Miracles Here

The Sunset Limited

Just Mercy

The Dream Machine

Skin in the Game

Cadillac Desert




Radical Candor

The Discovery of Slowness

The Man Within My Head

Sir Vidia’s Shadow

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins

Beyond the 100th Meridian

Atomic habits


Reporter (by Sy Hersch)

Creative Selection

The Painter By Peter Heller

Who is Michael Ovitz

Master of the Senate

The beginning of infinity

• From the Diaries of John Henry (???)

The Gene: An Intimate History

The Reformation

Empire on the Edge

Educated by Tara Westover

If We Can Keep It

The History of Love

Rise and kill first

The Day the Bubble Burst


Nolo contendere

Total Anecdotal

Rules of Civility


Weight of the Earth: Tape Diaries of David Wojnarowicz

The Witch Elm


Bird by Bird

Far field

John McPhee, Draft No. 4


A Confederacy of Dunces

Meta: Where I’m going with this newsletter thing

I doubt that many of you lovely people are sitting there thinking, Hey, I wish Paul would write something about where he is going and what he is doing with this newsletter thing. Never one to resist the opportunity to piss strangers off, this is that.

I started this newsletter, as the joke goes, ten times for every once I actually turned it concrete. A commitment phobe of a particularly extreme form, the idea of doing anything on a regular basis — beyond personal grooming, and even that, in my view, can be let slide a few days given sufficient new snow — is more or less anathema to me, especially if it’s something people think I should be doing because that’s what other people do in the same context. I know, I know, but still.

Nevertheless, this is now a newsletter thing, complete with a surprising number of subscribers, and there are a bunch of people in the Schrödingerian state that is having subscribed to something briefly lovely, but that will almost certainly turn tedious, predictable, and solipstic — that is, you’ve subscribed, but like me, you’re just waiting for an opportunity to unsubscribe — causing you to regret your brief and unjustified foray into optimism that made you subscribe to Another Damn Newsletter in the first place.

I’m here for you. I get you. I feel the same way. But, you know, screw it, right?

So, having taken a year off Twitter, and then gone largely broadcast-only on Twitter, I got to thinking: Twitter is too short for some of the longer things with which I would like to burden people. Sure, tweeting out periodic “tl;drs” with snarky summaries of research papers is fun, and I like stretching the boundaries of Twitter’s 280-character limited with lists of links, but it still feels like dancing about architecture, as the saying goes. Having stalled long enough, meandered a little, and retailed some hoary jokes, where do I want to go with this? Good question. Here is what I’m currently thinking:

  1. Regular links of things, with comments about why it appealed to me, in areas that interest me, but may not interest you. Finance, math, and medicine interesting me most, but I can’t guarantee there won’t sometimes be snow forecasts or critiques of zero-drop trail shoes.
  2. A weekly single other thing. Currently those other things are videos — and by “currently”, I mean “twice”, which is how often I’ve actually done this so far. (Notice how quickly I end-run the whole having done something to reminisce how I have done something. Let that be a lesson to all of you in po-mo efficiency.)
  3. Less regular essays. I have a backlog of Long Thoughts About Things that I mostly wrote for me, and then didn’t do anything with. I also have a bunch of things like that I’m in various stages of writing. (Notice how carefully I avoid calling these Long Thoughts About Things “blog posts”. This is not an accident, given that the word “blog” gives me hives.)
  4. Other things. I have other things I want to do, some of which are entirely automated and I’ve always wanted to inflict on people on a regular basis. I’m planning to charge millions and millions of dollars for this feature, as you can imagine.

This is usually the point at which right-thinking people say something like, Let me know what you think, or Send me an email with other ideas, etc. But, honestly? I could do that, but I don’t really care. Not because I don’t think you’re all lovely people, deserving of every good thing that has happened to you in life, path dependency issues aside. I just can barely keep up with my own inadequacies, and I don’t need other people to add to the list. So, imagine me asking you for suggestions, imagine you sending them, and then let’s both not do that.



P.S. I promise not to do this sort of “meta” thing very often.

Readings: Cheating casinos, dumb spouses, codgers, and the future of life

Finance & Economics





Video of the Week: The ecology of society, from microbes to public goods

Ecological and economic systems are alike in that individual agents compete for limited resources, evolve their behaviors in response to interactions with others, and form alternately exploitative and cooperative interactions. The talk looks at the evolution of resource allocation and the evolution of cooperation in dealing with public goods, common pool resources and collective movement. It includes examples from bacteria and slime molds, to vertebrate, to insurance arrangements. Dense, but fascinating stuff, from a recent Santa Fe Institute talk. 

2019 03 01 09 31 59

Reading: The grandmother effect, Lyft, and digital minimalism





Readings: Smart socks, bad medicine, and the case for stealing more


  • Can Medicine Be Cured?, a fierce book by an Irish gastroenterologist about medicine’s failings, especially over-promising, researchism, and a fondness for health hyperbole
  • This whole video series by an Irish gastroenterologist is excellent, but this one, in particular, is very good: The stupidest nerve in the human body



Readings: Vegetarians, ETFs, energy, surveys, and eagles






Voids, competitions, Norwegians, and Talk Talk





Videos of the Week: 23-02-2019

Two videos worth sharing this week, one recent and one less so.

The Big Short: A Roundtable

The first one is from a roundtable of the cast and director of the finance classic The Big Short, along with writer Michael Lewis. While the interviewer is so-so, at best, the discussion is surprisingly interesting, especially some of the musings about the health effects of being a short-seller, the trouble with being outside the consensus,

Beyond the Pistes: A Winter in the Life of a Ski Patrol

The second is very recent, and it documents a year in the life of a top French ski patrol at a major resort. It is wonderful, haunting, and has breathtaking scenery, but amidst the successes and losses, it is a lovely homage to teamwork, risk management, and mountain life.