Moontower #123

3 things that drew me in:

A twitter thread about The Courage To Be Disliked (thread)

In The Antisocial Advantage, I explained:

This is a book by Fumiake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi which follows a conversation between student and philosopher to demonstrate the principles of Adlerian psychology. Borrowing from Blas Moros’ notes:

No matter what moments you are living, or if there are people who dislike you, as long as you do not lose sight of the guiding star of “I contribute to others,” you will not lose your way, and you can do whatever you like. Whether you’re disliked or not, you pay it no mind and live free.

Visakan (aka “Visa” has been a favorite follows for many years) reconstructs much of the “conversation” in his thread. It’s a long thread, but it keeps swirling around in my head. I wish the character called “philosopher” was an app I could ask questions to. I may just have to settle for asking Visa questions and having him channel the philosopher. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Appreciating a brilliant book review

I like seeing how Freddie deBoer’s mind works through his writing. I came across a book review of his and felt the need to pull some brilliant sections from it.

Here’s why:

Freddie deBoer’s review of Ross Douthat’s The Deep Places, a memoir of Douthat’s illness, is impressively balanced and justified (I say justified because the definition of balance has shifted from what I can tell from “reasonable opposition” to “any opposition” as if every view holds equal merit. No doubt a side effect of “democratization” of distribution. Look, just because there are a few ghouls who deny the Holocaust or rationalize slavery doesn’t mean the school library should grant them shelf space).

deBoer’s praise of the book is as profound as the experience he had reading it. Yet his well-founded criticisms are never watered down. It’s hard to imagine a reviewer who found so many problems with the narrative taking the effort to extol, with equal sincerity, its virtue. The review is a lesson in seeing and communicating. The nuance stands in such relief to the binary discourses that at this point have left us haggard at best but more likely numb. Reading this review left me feeling that integrity was a fringe value, because it was jarring to see a sweaty writer say “good game” and actually mean it.

You can read deBoer’s full review here.

If you’d like to continue to my highlights and why I selected them, see the rest of my post Unpacking The Beauty Of A deBoer Book Review.

Example of numeracy in the wild

David Epstein likes to dig into current events or phenomena to examine how we can think better about uncertainty. This week he showed how “a major reversal on aspirin highlights a concept everyone should understand”.

An excerpt:

A whopping 29 million Americans — that’s the entire population of Texas — take aspirin every single day in order to prevent heart disease. Last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued draft guidelines saying that most of those people should probably stop, because the potential harms outweigh the benefits.

That’s a big friggin’ deal. Medical recommendations change all the time, as knowledge is updated. But I think this case is a particularly teachable moment, highlighting the importance of comparing costs and benefits on the same scale.

He goes on to explain medical statistics you should be aware of. If you find the Bayesian implications of false-positive rates for rare diseases to be jarring, you’ll appreciate this read.

We can also zoom out to the broadest lesson of the post: The key step in any decision-making process is identifying what information is material to making a decision in the first place!

The post implies 2 failure modes (which often overlap):

  1. Omitting information that’s critical (as doctors did when concluding they should prescribe aspirin)
  2. Overweighting information that is not relevant (which is a super-category of recency bias, anchoring bias, survivorship bias, resulting…)

Read the full post: Aspirin About Face (5 min read)

Money Angle

This week’s Money Angle is more useful to parents or teachers. Let’s go.

Encouraging Saving

We have had several false starts with an allowance/reward/chore system at home. In the past 6 weeks, our current system for our 8-year-old has gotten traction so I thought I’d share it.

Here are the features:

  • 2 sources of income

    a) Chores

    He has a list of chores he’s responsible for such as making his bed (and my bed, muahaha), taking out the trash, folding laundry, cleaning up. On a weekly basis he can be paid 0, $3, $6, or $9 depending on how good a job he does and whether he goes the extra mile either with thoughtfulness or initiative. The slacker has yet to earn $9.

    b) Interest

    He gets paid 1% a week rounded up to the nearest dollar. Sorry DeFi carry-traders, the Moontower yield farm is neither permissionless nor decentralized.

  • 3 account types

    a) Spend

    This is like a checking account. He has access to these funds but they earn no interest.

    b) Save

    This is the savings account. He cannot access this money (although in the future he’ll be able to invest it) but it earns interest.

    c) Share

    This is a charity account. Funds here have to be used for charity or donation. This account also earns interest.

The rules:

  • Chore income can be split however he wants so long as 1/3 goes to the share account. He has been putting 1/3 into each account uniformly.
  • Interest income which is based on the save + share accounts is deposited into the save account.

You can fiddle with the rules to encourage whatever behavior you like. Below is a screenshot of an earlier “statement”. Notice how it maps to an income statement and a balance sheet.

Teaching Kids About Money

There are many finance professionals who want to share their knowledge with youths so they can be more equipped to handle money, understand debt, compounding, investing, and so forth. Count me among them.

The knowledge is not just practical but understanding money is a generally useful lens for understanding the world. Finance is abstraction. It’s symbols. It’s an operating system. It modulates the relationship between current and future states of the world and your life.

If taught well, it can be highly engaging and overlap with how we make sense of things that on the surface might appear to have little to do with money (the sub-genre of “freakonomics” probably over-optimizes for insight-porn but that’s a meta-recursive proof of my point).

I’d like to workshop some introductory lessons locally and have been doing a bit of research to that end. I’m compiling freely available resources to that end so I can mix it with my own thinking to create lessons.

Please share your favorite money education resources for kids and teens!

If some of the newer readers are parents you might appreciate some of these prior posts:

  • A Socratic Money Lesson For 2nd Graders (3 min read)
  • Hands-On Resources to Teach Kids About Business (2 min read)
  • Bohnanza Is A Great Trading & Business Game (3 min read)
  • Thoughts About Monopoly As A Teaching Tool (2 min read)
  • Investing Books For A Teenager (2 min read)

From My Actual Life

Last night, Yinh and I brought some friends to see Sheng Wang headline the Punchline in SF. This was the first comedy show we saw since he headlined Punchline in 2018. His powers of observation on the mundane details of daily life are Seinfeldian. His signature tone and voice deliver self-skewers that you can’t help but turn on yourself.

One of our friend’s said it was the hardest she can remember laughing for so long. Sheng’s a craftsman and the more you listen to him the better it gets. You can look up some Youtube clips but you’d be stunned to see how he looks post-2020.

He’s in Philly next weekend. Book a ticket and go see him.

[Sheng was a writer for Fresh Off The Boat and a finalist on Last Comic Standing. He’s been my wife’s (Yinh Hinh) friend since their days at Cal where they bonded over having single-syllable rhyming names.]

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