Moontower #155

School starts here on August 9th and we are on vacation with friends before heading back to a more regular routine. We finally pulled off Cousin’s Camp last week. I’ll describe it at the end of the letter for those interested.

I’ll keep things short otherwise.

Relentlessly Inspiring

Instead of reading anything I wrote this week, check out these 2 TED talks by Mark Rober. He has one of the most followed YouTube channels and deservedly so.

Watch his YT videos. Watch how he approaches problems. Watch how he communicates. I’ve watched most of his vids with my kids several times. These Ted talks are amazingly put together. The presentation, the ease in which he directs the production, the off-hand humor that breaks up transitions, and the genuine enthusiasm. He’s tirelessly uplifting.

Our culture is buried in irony and memes. I’m not immune. I follow shitposters because it’s an art in itself. If Jonathan Swift or Oscar Wilde were alive today they’d have 7-figure follower counts. But when sound bytes become a sport, it turns the volume down on earnestness and mutes nuance.

Rober is holding the ladder when so many others are trying to kick it. He does it with a smile. He shows you the formula. And he’s honest in a way that distances himself from the saccharine, even toxic, positivity that the crystal woo crowd pushes with not so much as a wink.

I want to point out one more thing. Rober is a scientist. By definition, he’s a skeptic. He must carry a sack of hypotheses he wanted dearly to embrace, but reality forced him to reject. And yet, he wields that skepticism as a tool. A scalpel. Not a personality.

I’m a 44-year-old dude and I still have heroes. You can put your ego aside and have them too. There are people who I try to channel. They are models of how I want to respond to others. How I want to listen. How I want to think. It’s not about wanting to be them. It’s about incorporating what inspires you about others into yourself. If you practice this, you eventually integrate it and give it your own flavor. Just like you play covers to learn guitar before your style develops. Look, most of your personality is modeled anyway. Might as well be conscious about it.

Enough earnestness from me. Go watch the vids:

This vid gives a 3 bullet point answer to an important question that, if you have retained any playfulness in your life, you might still wonder about:

Money Angle


Don’t Get Squozen: How to structure equity shorts for max profit and min risk of ruin (14 min read)
by Brent Donnelly

Brent’s free Substack series on trading concepts is terrific. The title doesn’t bury the lede. It’s a great discussion of shorting. But this post really stood out because of the decision tree it lays out for how and when to consider using options. I also added the post to the Moontower Volatility Wiki.

I’ve written a bunch on shorting and using options for directional reasons. Please read Brent’s post if you care about this stuff. If you feel like hearing my written voice after that, you can learn more about these topics here:

  • Shorting In The Time Of ShitCos (8 min read)
  • The difficulty with shorting and inverse positions (2 min read)
  • The Gamma Of Levered ETFs (8 min read)
  • Structuring Directional Option Trades (8 min read)
  • How Options Confuse Directional Traders (8 min read)
  • Using The TSLA Price Endgame To Understand Options (12 min read)

I’ve been reading J. Paul Getty’s How To Be Rich: His Formulas which is a collection of essays that was first serialized in Playboy magazine at the behest of Hef in the 1960s. I like the way Getty writes and I liked learning about how he amassed his fortune in oil but it’s not a book I’d say rush out and read. I picked it up from the Getty Museum gift shop because it was short and I knew nothing about him.

Anyway, you’ll recall Moloch was a heavy theme of this newsletter at the beginning of the year. I just liked this:

From My Actual Life

Cousin Camp finally happened. This was one of the best things we’ve ever been a part of. I think the 8 cousins (+2 close friends) will have an amazing memory of this week. The kids ranged from 5 to 12 years old.


7:30am-9am: Breakfast, making beds, getting dressed

9am: A chess coach would come teach for an hour.

10am-noon: Our boys amazing preschool teacher Jen came and led the kids through thoughtful activities.

Noon-2pm: Lunch break and play

2pm-4pm: Second session with Jen

4pm-6pm: Swimming pool (lots of Blind Man’s Bluff with Fish Out Of Water rules), Nerf battles, badminton, feeding the neighbor’s cat, and games like Throw Throw Burrito and A Fake Artist Goes To New York.

6pm til bedtime: Dinner, play, and music rehearsals for the open mic we went to in town Friday night. [A piano and group vocal cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect and a piano cover of Vanessa Carlton’s Thousand Miles]

A few additional notes

  • The theme of the week was communication. Being an active, empathetic listener, looking out for each other, making sure your tone matches what you want to project into the world. Jen is a master teacher and our first call for behavioral questions. She is another hero I try to emulate. Her touch balances firmness and love. Toughness and understanding. An example is when one child hurts another she doesn’t force them to say “sorry” because she knows it’s an empty sentiment when done at gunpoint. Instead, she facilitates a dialogue between the children that surfaces the “why” of the action and the victim can express how they feel. Most of the time, the offender apologizes genuinely because you can see them really perceive the other person’s POV.
  • Dinner was Yinh’s favorite part of the week. She would lead some pretty thoughtful discussions about how we treat each other and act generally. The kids one by one describe the day’s highs and lows and the reasons for that. They are asked to point out which actions other kids did were helpful or considerate. It’s truly awesome to see what kids notice. If anything, it’s a reminder to give them lots of credit. Their observational skills often surprised us to the upside.

    A moment I want to memorialize in case I read this in 10 years. Maddox thought his treatment was a result of his “reputation” and that was something Yinh really unpacked with him. The gist of it — you don’t need to conform to the expectations of others. It was insanely mature for a 10-year-old best known for bouncing around the room to realize that some of his actions were guided not by what he wanted but by his “reputation” and being freed of that was a moment of unlocking in his eye. And that’s the point. He’s so much more than a boisterous 10-year old and that wildness is a feature not a bug. Maybe some adults could benefit from realizing their reputation doesn’t need to define all aspects of their life. There’s more to existence than expected value or being smart or being able to do X. Maybe allowing yourself multiple identities relieves pressure.

  • Some of the activities:

    Building boxes that they had to drill together and pain before creating a scene inside. Some kids made things like a labyrinth or pinball machine.

    Bridge building contest like you did in science class

    Kids would each pull an “Angel” card in the morning. The card would give them a trait to be extra mindful of for the day.

    Kids would be expected to clean after every module and by Day 2 they were doing this unprompted. They’d close the pool, put away all the toys, set the table, and take out the garbage.

  • Date nights. That’s what the other parents got to do while the kids were with us all week. They were all sending us pics of the restaurants and bars they were enjoying every night. Yinh and I even fashioned our own dates. We’d play Wingspan every night after the kids went to bed. I have yet to beat her. Grr.

Finally, it’s worth remembering it takes a village. My mother-in-law was a saint, prepping all meals. More than half the kids were her grandkids which made the week extra sweet. Seeing all the plates laid out, all the kids crammed into bedrooms on makeshift sleeping arrangements, and those beautiful in-between moments when the kids scattered all over the backyard, front yard or in various rooms just organizing their own fun. Even the oldest cousin’s bunny, Olaf, had a great time getting love from so many little hands.

Cousin’s Camp Year 1 was a massive success and we can’t wait to do it again next year.

Stay groovy and have a great week!

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