33: My Thoughts on Being Bad, 13-F Astrology Signs, Microsoft Improving Windows' ARM Compatibility, Poland Goes Nuclear, and AWS for Non-Techies
'As usual, life is trade-offs, and messy."
"To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking." - Johann von Goethe
If you have any taste, a problem you’ll run into is that you’ll know that what you make is shit (unless you’re truly great, but few people are).
If you have an appreciation for dialogue and good writing, you’ll feel like your writing is trash.
If you have a good eye for visual arts and design, you’ll find that your photos and design choices are rubbish.
If you have a decent ear for music, your compositions and playing will be like nails on a chalkboard.
If you know enough science and engineering to know what truly good engineers and scientists are like, you’ll always know you can never accomplish anything on that level.
If you study the trajectories of great founders and CEOs, deep down you know you’d probably have screwed it up if you had been in their shoes and never had anywhere near their success, and that as an investor you have no idea what you’re doing most of the time.
You get the idea.
That’s kind of how I feel about this project.
A recent thread on Twitter by someone who’s smarter than I am (locked account, so I’ll respect their privacy — but half of you know who it is) about how most people shouldn’t write publicly and most of it is a waste of time and noise made me basically go “yeah, that’s exactly right, why am I doing this?”
But if I think about it a little longer and don’t let insecurities grab the wheel, I know that the concept of “enough” doesn’t just apply to money, it has to apply to oneself as a whole.
If you’re always beating yourself up because you’re not as smart as John von Neumann and Claude Shannon and don’t write as well as Leonard Cohen and David Milch and definitely aren’t the next Bach or Ramanujan, you are living a fantasy (anti-fantasy is still fantasy — the equivalent of comparing your everyday life to a glamorous Instagram feed).
It’s OK to be you.
My main skill is as an appreciator of the neat things that others do, and that’s fine, it makes me happy. Sharing what I find interesting is ok, it doesn’t have to cure cancer or make me a billion dollar or produce a grand unified theory of physics. Not everybody needs to have those kinds of goals. If that was the only level at which one could be happy, Earth would be a more miserable place.
I can already hear the counter-argument: Being dissatisfied is what drives people to be better! You need that hunger, don’t be complacent! You could be better if you only pushed yourself more!
True. As long as it’s motivation, it’s fine, and I do plenty of pushing. But as soon as it makes you chronically unhappy with yourself or paralyses you from trying things, you need to dial it down. Try to be the best that you can be while still being you.
I’m glad the geniuses and hyper-ambitious over-achievers are out there.
I’m not arguing for going to the other extreme — laying down and going limp — I’m arguing for a productive balance. As usual, life is trade-offs, and messy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Investing & Business
We Barely Knew Him…
"Nikola founder Trevor Milton, who holds more than 91 million shares in the company, is being treated like any other shareholder, executives told CNBC."
Microsoft Improving Windows’ ARM Compatibility
It must not feel great for the people at Intel to see ARM encroaching on their turf month by month, year by year. It was easier to keep the barbarians at bay as long as they had a fabbing process advantage, but now that they’ve lost the lead there (to TSMC, who’s in turn fabbing for everybody else, so it’s not like only one competitor has got a leg up — they all do at the same time!), things are deteriorating faster.
Nvidia’s ambitions in the data center are clear, and the hyperscalers are moving in that direction too, like AWS with its Graviton line of ARM server CPUs. Apple dumped them for their own custom silicon (Apple was a co-founder of ARM and has a perpetual license that allows them to make their own designs). And now Microsoft is announcing that they’re further improving their port of Windows for ARM.
Buried in a blog post, this paragraph from Microsoft:
We are excited about the momentum we are seeing from app partners embracing Windows 10 on ARM, taking advantage of the power and performance benefits of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. We heard your feedback and are making Microsoft Edge faster while using less battery, and announced that we will soon release a native Microsoft Teams client optimized for Windows 10 on ARM. We will also expand support for running x64 apps, with x64 emulation starting to roll out to the Windows Insider Program in November. Because developers asked, Visual Studio code has also been updated and optimized for Windows 10 on ARM. For organizations, we’re committed to helping them ensure their apps work with Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 Apps on ARM64 devices with App Assure. We are working closely with Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Surface to bring these Windows 10 on ARM innovations and products to our shared customers. (Source)
The 64-bit emulation is important, because before only 32-bit apps were supported. Now everything should work, especially the big modern apps that are all 64-bit, creating this bridge to the other side while the ARM installed base grows and app makers port their apps.
13-F Season: Pick Your Adventure
Fat Tail Capital has put a lot of work into this magnificent thread.
It’s basically astrology signs for Fintwitters:
As 3Q ends, I look forward to another round of the same 13-Fs with the same 100 holdings. Here's a preview of holdings by manager:
Tiger Cub/80% of the performance of QQQ with 1000% the fees:
"Value" PM who drew the “too expensive” line at AMZN/NFLX:
PM who read The Outsiders three times:
Small cap manager who somehow owns the same thing as every other small cap manager in a 3000-name universe:
Momo TMT PM (mostly T, very little MT) whose drawdowns resemble TQQQ but is richer than you due to their massive long/short factor mismatch but you are absolutely not bitter because you are investing the "right way":
And it keeps going but I’ll stop here for space. You can read the rest.
He closes with: “It's okay if you feel seen. I am 100% a combo of 3-4 of the above.”
He also told me: “I feel like the clustering/concentration has gotten so bad in this industry, if you name 5 tickers, anyone on fintwit could guess 5 more names from their top 20”
Bundling and Unbundling, the Only Ways to Make Money
Science & Technology
Poland Plans to Go Nuclear, Slash Coal
Poland has long been one of the countries most dependent on coal for its power grid generation. But it looks like they’re taking a pretty big shift:
In an update of its energy strategy by 2040, the climate ministry said Poland plans to invest 150 billion zlotys ($40 billion) to build its first nuclear power plants, with 6-9 GW of capacity eventually. The first 1-1.6 GW facility would be up and running by 2033.
It also plans to build 8-11 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2040 with investment estimated at 130 billion zlotys. The development of renewable and nuclear energy facilities will create 300,000 jobs, it said.
This is expected to make Poland’s share of electricity from coal fall to somewhere between 37%-56% in 2030, and 11-28% in 2040, “depending on the carbon emission costs.”
For context: “In 2018 48% of electricity produced in Poland came from hard coal, 29% from brown coal, 13% from renewable sources (mostly wind power) and 7% from natural gas.” (that’s 77% coal, if you’re too lazy to add up 48 and 29)
Sense-Making in the Modern World
Great interview of Daniel Schmachtenberger by Jim Rutt. I don’t even know how to describe it.
He’s a guy who thinks in fully-formed paragraphs and says thought-provoking things with high density. His website describes his main interest as: “long term civilization design: developing better collective capacities for sense-making and meaning-making, to inform higher quality choice-making”
Worth a listen, especially the part on social media and its impact on collective sense-making (the concept is not new, but I think the clarity of his thinking on it is elucidating).
A couple excerpts I liked:
Daniel: from a kind of marketing perspective or from a business perspective, every business owner wants to maximize the lifetime value of the customer and maximize the number of customers. Addiction is a really good way to maximize the lifetime value of a customer. And so, from the supply side, figuring out how to get marketing that manufacturers demand, and even to the point of manufacturing addiction, is a straightforwardly profitable thing.
We can see a McDonald’s or a Hostess or a Philips Morris or whatever, could do that well in the domain of chemistry. But now we have dopaminergic hits that are just as powerful as that, that are photon-mediated rather than chemically mediated, can be sent out to everyone, can be personalized to them [with powerful AIs] based on empirical feedback. And that we can start giving kids with the screens that they’re looking at and touching as children, and not control in the way that we would control for you have to be 18 for a cigarette or 21 for alcohol or whatever else. [...]
Daniel: as a society, how do we start to remove the perverse incentive for hyper-normal stimuli? Because, when we talk about, what is a healthy civilization, what are the right indices? We know it’s not just GDP per capita. I would say one of the inverse indices is addiction. The more addiction a society has, the less healthy it is writ large.
Jim: Yeah. I think that’s a very deep insight. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it described quite that way, but a measure of addictive behavior across all modalities is actually kind of a measure of anti-sovereignty.
Daniel: But then the problem becomes, who is the arbiter of what is actually true and what is not true? And is there anyone that we would actually trust with that power? [...]
going back to when it was the church, is whenever something becomes the legitimate authority on truth for a topic, it’s extraordinarily powerful. Because, what everyone else thinks is real, which is the basis of how they’re going to behave, is actually at the bottom of the stack of power.
And so, even if a legitimate authority emerges rightly, because it’s actually earnest and doing better empiricism and whatever, as soon as it starts to get that power, there will be maximum incentive for all of the power players to try to corrupt it and influence it in various ways. Which they usually can.
Daniel: Lying is not a new thing. People have lied or at least just created spin or marketing since forever. [...]
as the media technology changed, the ability to do effective influence increased. [...]
In the current information environment, I can find a Trump supporter and a Biden supporter in two different parts of the country who can scroll their Facebook feed for 10 hours, and not necessarily see a single piece of news in common, even though they’re seeing news the whole time.
There’s basically no shared reality basis for them to even be in reaction to. And democracy just can’t work in an environment where people can’t have effective conversations, and then you don’t have any shared base reality.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
There’s a previous interview with Jim that he did on ‘the evolution of technology’ (I’m listening to it next), and some Youtube videos he did on ‘The War on Sensemaking’ (most recent one here).
Primer on AWS for Non-Technical People
The Technically newsletter/blog recently published a good 101 on AWS for non-technical people. If you feel like you’re still missing some context on what AWS is and does and on some of the basic terminology, check it out.
Amazon’s COVID19 Numbers
Speaking of Amazon, they reported their internal COVID19 statistics:
We've already launched and are ramping quickly, conducting thousands of tests a day and growing to 50,000 tests a day across 650 sites by November as part of our effort to keep our front-line employees safe. And because we've built this testing capacity ourselves, we're adding to the total number of tests available—not taking supply from others. [...]
We have done a thorough analysis of data on all 1,372,000 Amazon and Whole Foods Market front-line employees across the U.S. employed at any time from March 1 to September 19, 2020. We compared COVID-19 case rates to the general population, as reported by Johns Hopkins University for the same period, accounting for geography and the age composition of our employees to make the data as accurate as possible. Based on this analysis, if the rate among Amazon and Whole Foods Market employees were the same as it is for the general population rate, we estimate that we would have seen 33,952 cases among our workforce. In reality, 19,816 employees have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19—42% lower than the expected number
Obviously, workers in warehouses and grocery stores are more exposed than office workers who can work from home, so doing better than the general population average is probably a good sign.
But as usual with statistics, you have to make sure you’re not overlooking some important variables, so the numbers can both be true and misleading.
The Arts & History
‘For Honor Warden’ by Kim Junghun
Great digital painting by Kim Junghun. It stands on its own, IMO, but the context is that this is fan art on a character in a game called For Honor (2017 action video game developed and published by Ubisoft).
The Warden usually looks like this:
I think it’s great subversion of expectations, kind of like when watching ‘Return of the Jedi’ for the first time, and the bounty hunter at Jabba’s palace is revealed to be Princess Leia.
If you like Junghun’s style, there’s another similar digital painting here. It’s not the For Honor warden, but it’s close.
I decided the world had too few high-quality Deadwood GIFs, so I decided to do my part. I’ve posted those I’ve made in this thread, if you’re curious.
If you want to download and use any of the GIFs, I’ve uploaded them on IMGUR here.