Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
214: Enough Multiverse, CEO Stock Ownership, Cloudflare, Stanley Druckenmiller, Tren Griffin, Pinker on Nuclear Power, Oura Ring Gen 3, and Cologne Cathedral
"isotopes of thorium, radium, radon, bismuth are also formed"
A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
—Hunter S. Thompson
🤔 Someone who simultaneously says that a business is massively overvalued AND that it shouldn't issue lots of stock is wrong on one side or the other...
🏔🚠 I just realized something.
I was reading a nice email from new Extra-Deluxe (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃) subscriber James P., and something he said made me realize that there’s a parallel between a technique that some of my favorite songwriters use, and something I try to do in this newsletter (don’t worry, I’m not comparing myself to Bob Dylan at all, just this specific thing).
I’ve found that often, Leonard Cohen or Dylan or Tom Yorke will have songs that have kind of a certain feel, hard to describe, but let’s call it grand scale, more abstract, more impersonal, about humanity generally, larger truths, etc…
And then on a dime, from one verse to the other, they’ll bring it really close — all of a sudden it’s super personal, direct, addressed to one person or about the author or whatever.
I don’t have the best memory when it comes to recalling examples of this on command, I just remember having encountered it often, and each time thinking about how much I liked that contrast.
Here’s Leonard Cohen on ‘Waiting for the Miracle’:
Nothing left to do
when you know that you've been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you've got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.
This has kind of a large scale vibe, and then within the next couple of verses he’s saying:
Ah baby, let's get married,
we've been alone too long.
Let's be alone together.
Let's see if we're that strong.
It may not be the best example of what I’m saying, but I think you get the idea.
Well, I kind of like how this newsletter can have some items that are personal, and then some business or tech stuff, and then switch back to my thoughts about Deadwood or whatever.
I’m not saying it’s profound, just that I like this style. Variety is the spice of life, and never being able to quite predict what’s next does keep you on your toes.
It’s also a bit like how the grunge bands figured that the loud parts stand out a lot more if there’s quiet parts in between… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🥱 😴 Got my 3rd generation Oura ring earlier this week.
Will have to spend a few days with it to see how it does, but so far I’ve noticed that in the dark, you can see often the green LEDs of the heart-rate monitor sensors blink really fast.
Pretty sci-fi, my son was impressed.
On the Gen 2, they only turned on when I was asleep, so I never really got to see them in action…
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If you make just one good investment decision per year because of something you learn here (or avoid one bad decision — don’t forget preventing negatives!), it'll pay for multiple years of subscriptions (or multiple lifetimes).
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Investing & Business
The ‘Many Worlds of Enough’ Hypothesis
Interesting post by Lawrence Yeo:
Enough is elusive because when you reach it, you’re no longer the person that once desired it. Once you occupy an entirely new world, that prior version of yourself is largely inaccessible.
However, there is one crucial thing you do have access to, regardless of where you are:
An awareness of the overall trend of these branches.
These branching of new worlds are driven by ambition, which is the key to actualizing whatever potential lives within you. [...]
Ambition is largely driven by self-actualization, or the desire to become a more capable person. And when this happens, it’s only natural that good outcomes arise.
I always say that you should compare yourself to your own potential rather than to other people. This feels like a healthy description of ambition, as opposed to the less healthy “external scorecard”:
Greed, however, is when those outcomes become your primary desires.
When prestige, praise, and power are the reasons why you are ambitious, that’s no longer driven by self-actualization. That’s when you lust for everything that is external to you.
There’s always a point in which one’s desire to self-actualize (ambition) morphs into the desire to externally control (greed). And the key is to be acutely aware of where this intersection point resides.
Some of you reading this may have a flash of insight and realize you’ve been passed that point for a while. The good news is that the best time to make a change is now.
for the most part, you’ve entered the domain of greed when you no longer pursue an endeavor because you’re curious about it. It’s when the coldness of utility replaces the warmth of curiosity. Ambition morphs into greed when you stop listening to your inner compass, and start paying attention to what your actions may do for external things like your reputation. [...]
Enough is what remains when you remove these desires for approval or praise. It’s when you conduct an honest audit of your needs, and understand what has been conditioned into you, and what is true to who you are. [...]
This is the most important thing to internalize. You must self-adjust your definition of enough, instead of having it forced upon you. Wisdom is in self-correction, while misery is in coerced correction. Identity change is best manifested through small, intentioned steps, and not through a massive, surprising event.
This is great stuff. It reminds me a bit of a post from 2013 by Tim Urban:
It also goes into how our expectations greatly shape how happy and fulfilled we are in life (“Happiness = Reality - Expectations”). It approaches things from a different angle than Yeo, which can be added to the toolbox for this topic (another one may be Dan Gilbert’s book ‘Stumbling on Happiness’).
h/t friend-of-the-show MBI (💎🐕)
‘CEO ownership at some founder led tech companies over time (since founding)’
Nice chart by Bread Crumbs Research
Some of the decline is from selling, and some is from dilution by share-based compensation (SBC)… It would be harder to compile, but it would be interesting to disentangle the two in a similar graph 🤔
(Bread Crumbs adds: “Given that TEAM has two co-CEOs with equal stakes, numbers are for one of them” and “this is economic interest, not voting power”)
Cloudflare acquires Zaraz, a security company build on top of… Cloudflare Workers
This reminds me a bit of how Elastic has acquired multiple companies that were building on top of the Elastic stack. I guess this reduces integration problems, and you can be sure that the new hires will know your products and APIs pretty well.
Plus, you have much better visibility than anyone on things that people are building in your ecosystem, so you know if they have good development velocity, if they’re getting traction, etc.
To explain what Zaraz does, Cloudflare has a blog post with a great analogy, which is a bit too long to repost in full here, but basically: imagine a pharmacy where every employee has to follow rules and process, everything is squared away, but there’s this little task — emptying the trash — that nobody has time to do, so you hire some outside person to do it, give them a badge with access to the premises, and for a while everything goes well… until one day you wake up and the pharmacy has been robbed.
Every day, front end developers, marketers, and even security teams embed third-party scripts directly on their web pages. These scripts perform basic tasks — the metaphorical equivalent of taking out the trash. When performing correctly, they can be valuable at bringing advanced functionality to sites, helping track marketing conversions, providing analytics, or stopping fraud. But, if they ever go bad, they can cause significant problems and even steal data.
What Zaraz does is sandbox these third-party pieces of code, so that if there’s ever a problem (accidental or malicious), the rabid dog is contained inside of a strong cage.
And it looks like Cloudflare will push hard for this service to be rolled out VERY widely:
If you're a third-party script developer, be on notice that if you're not properly securing your scripts, then as Zaraz rolls out across more of the web your scripts will stop working. Today, Cloudflare sits in front of nearly 20% of all websites and, before long, we expect Zaraz's technology will help protect all of them. We want to make sure all scripts running on our customers' sites meet modern security, reliability, and performance standards.
More details on how it works and on performance improvements (because it’s also faster than running the scripts in-browser) in this second, more technical post.
‘A Collection of Notes and Thoughts from Stan Druckenmiller's 2021 Media Appearances’
Doesn’t require much in the way of explanation, just what it says on the tin:
Thanks to supporter (💚 🥃) Uncovering Value for compiling!
Interview: Tren Griffin
Yesterday, I was making breakfast for my kids, listening to friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Bill Brewster’s new pod with Tren Griffin, and a few minutes into it I did kind of a double-take and had to rewind to make sure I had heard right — yes, Tren mentions my conversation with other friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Jim O’S’haughnessy (you can hear it here). 💙
What a small, inter-connected world we now live it! This certainly brought a smile to my morning.
I’ve posted other interviews with Tren in the past, and I still like the same thing about ‘em: His obvious joie-de-vivre, curiosity, and generosity.
Thanks for listening Tren, and for proving that what I was saying on the power of the interest graph really works, because there’s no way anyone would find anything I saying without it.
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Science & Technology
Steven Pinker’s Nuclear Power Op-Ed
There’s a season for everything, and I guess right now is the season for nuclear power in this newsletter ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Reader and supporter (💚 🥃) Eric Hale recently reminded me of this piece by Pinker from a few years ago. I re-read it, and thought it was well-argued and just as timely as the day it was published:
Germany, which went all-in for renewables, has seen little reduction in carbon emissions, and, according to our calculations, at Germany’s rate of adding clean energy relative to gross domestic product, it would take the world more than a century to decarbonize, even if the country wasn’t also retiring nuclear plants early. A few lucky countries with abundant hydroelectricity, like Norway and New Zealand, have decarbonized their electric grids, but their success cannot be scaled up elsewhere: The world’s best hydro sites are already dammed.
Small wonder that a growing response to these intimidating facts is, “We’re cooked.”
As usual, pessimism is the enemy of progress. It’s the old saying: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”.
If you think we’re doomed, we’re doomed.
But if you think we can find solutions, the chances of being doomed just went down by a lot.
At least in this case, it’s not even about inventing a whole new thing — we already know what it is, we’d just need to deploy it in the best way possible (which probably involves plenty of innovation, but no huge revolutions or breakthroughs… that’ll come someday with fusion).
But we actually have proven models for rapid decarbonization with economic and energy growth: France and Sweden. They decarbonized their grids decades ago and now emit less than a tenth of the world average of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. They remain among the world’s most pleasant places to live and enjoy much cheaper electricity than Germany to boot.
They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power’s intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France replaced almost all of its fossil-fueled electricity with nuclear power nationwide in just 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity historically are countries rolling out nuclear power. [...]
With the political will, China could replace coal without sacrificing economic growth, reducing world carbon emissions by more than 10 percent.
The biggest barrier seems to be psychological:
All this, however, depends on overcoming an irrational dread among the public and many activists. The reality is that nuclear power is the safest form of energy humanity has ever used. Mining accidents, hydroelectric dam failures, natural gas explosions and oil train crashes all kill people, sometimes in large numbers, and smoke from coal-burning kills them in enormous numbers, more than half a million per year.
By contrast, in 60 years of nuclear power, only three accidents have raised public alarm: Three Mile Island in 1979, which killed no one; Fukushima in 2011, which killed no one (many deaths resulted from the tsunami and some from a panicked evacuation near the plant); and Chernobyl in 1986, the result of extraordinary Soviet bungling, which killed 31 in the accident and perhaps several thousand from cancer, around the same number killed by coal emissions every day. (Even if we accepted recent claims that Soviet and international authorities covered up tens of thousands of Chernobyl deaths, the death toll from 60 years of nuclear power would still equal about one month of coal-related deaths.) [...]
I know people who don’t know much about nuclear power are very cynical about stats like these, but the more educated I got on the topic, the more I realized that there’s basically nothing in the world that we can track with as much precision as radiation.
We can detect such minute amounts, like, the radioactive potassium in every banana you eat… So it’s not like in The Simpsons with nuclear power plants just quietly dumping radioactive waste everywhere and we wouldn’t know about it.
Nuclear waste is compact — America’s total from 60 years would fit in a Walmart — and is safely stored in concrete casks and pools, becoming less radioactive over time. After we have solved the more pressing challenge of climate change, we can either burn the waste as fuel in new types of reactors or bury it deep underground. It’s a far easier environmental challenge than the world’s enormous coal waste, routinely dumped near poor communities and often laden with toxic arsenic, mercury and lead that can last forever.
That last point is a good one. People talk about how nuclear waste stays radioactive for X thousand years or whatever, forgetting that toxic chemicals and heavy metals can stay dangerous forever, and can be released in such vast quantities that they’re much harder to contain and keep track of (in fact, I’m sure that someday our descendants will be horrified at the very idea of smokestacks and tailpipes dumping toxic stuff straight in the atmosphere).
Most people also don’t know that the stuff that stays radioactive the longest is the least dangerous, while the very high-energy stuff decays much faster…
Uranium is a radionuclide that has an extremely long half-life.
Naturally occurring uranium-238 present in the Earth’s crust has a half-life of almost 4.5 billion years.
If you take a soil sample anywhere in the world, including your backyard, you will find uranium atoms that date back to when the Earth was formed
Wow, a radioactive half-life of billions of years, must be terrible, right!? But this stuff can’t even penetrate paper, much less skin, afaik…
While I’m on the topic of fun facts, did you know that uranium-238 transforms over time into stable atoms of lead? During this decay, isotopes of thorium, radium, radon, bismuth are also formed.
More data and context keeps coming in:
Is Omicron Ominous? (Eric Topol, Dec 8)
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The Arts & History
It’s been a while since I posted architecture photos (remember this badass Icelandic cathedral in edition #68?).
Above is the Cologne Cathedral (aka Cathedral Church of Saint Peter):
It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. At 157 m (515 ft), the cathedral is currently the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the second tallest church in Europe after Ulm Minster, and the third tallest church in the world.
It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires. The towers for its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.
Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 but was halted in the years around 1560, unfinished. Work did not restart until the 1840s, and the edifice was completed to its original Medieval plan in 1880. (Source)
I just think it looks cool, especially on that ominous black & white photo above.
“US soldier and destroyed Panther tank, 4 April 1945."