Moontower #168

It’s Halloween so Moontower should spook you. We’ll get to that.

But first, let’s pretend this is a normal post. I’ll follow the little formula:

  1. Hey here’s some cool thing I read:

    [Inserts link] Book Review: San Fransicko by AC10 (formerly Slatestarcodex)

  2. Offer a tantalizing bit:

    San Fransicko is subtitled “Why Progressives Ruin Cities”. It builds off the kind of stories familiar to most Bay Area residents:

    In the spring of 2021 two colleagues and I went to San Francisco. We first went to check in on the open-air drug scenes in the Tenderloin and United Nations Plaza. It was the usual scenes of people sitting against buildings and injecting drug needles into their necks and feet. There was garbage, old food, and feces everywhere. After a couple of hours, we decided to go out to eat in the Mission. Work was over. We were all looking forward to a relaxing dinner. We were eating ice cream and walking along Valencia Street when a psychotic man, perhaps about thirty years old, began following us and screaming obscenities. When we turned around to look at him, he screamed at us, “What are you looking for, huh! WHAT. ARE. YOU. LOOKING. FOR!” and started walking faster toward us. We walked faster until the man found other people to verbally assault.

    Things haven’t always been like this. San Francisco used to be one of the safest and most beautiful cities in the world…

  3. Provide my own twisty commentary:

    The failed-stateness of San Francisco is common knowledge by now. I don’t even lock my doors when I park there. Just leave nothing in the car so I don’t have to risk a call to Safelite. [As I type that it occurs to me that Safelite’s cap-ex would have been best spent on whatever graft necessary to save Chesa Boudin’s job.]
    Oh wait, Chesa’s influence on SF’s decay is not so cut-and-dry. Why?

    Read the Slatestar review of the book!

    The post is done in a fun format. He dissects 10 of the book’s claims put forth by author and failed gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger. Sometimes AC10 agrees, sometimes not, and sometimes you’re left with a non-verdict. This isn’t surprising. Books in this genre are axes because while they start with nuggets of truth, to fill a few hundreds pages with persuasion, you need to turn a lot of greys into blacks.

    Anyway, once each claim is given its trial, AC10 goes raw and says how he really feels in the actual review. I like Spock-treatment giving way to Judge Judy flow. It’s kinda like Stairway To Heaven. It starts like “oh this is interesting” nod along, nod along, ok it’s getting repetitive, now tedious, I mean it’s good and all, but also like enough already — then, finally — boom. Enough talk, weapons drawn. Energy sword cuts through the night sky as an unholy, pentatonic run screams from above as Bonzo shakes the ground, the Earth splits swallowing both civility and the quaint illusion that it ever mattered.

    [Aside: if you have never seen this deleted scene from Almost Famous, correct that when you have 12 minutes. The older brother holds the DNA from which all fanboys have been cloned and Frances McDormand’s listening expressions required not a minute less than 10,000 hours in front of a mirror. You’ll never hear the song the same way again. Cameron Crowe is a worthy rabbit hole at 2am.]

    Fun aside, the most useful exercise living inside the AC10 post is watching him reason through the claims. Since SF exists in the national conversation as a political football bouncing its way through debates on crime, public school lottos, sanctuary city status, drugs, NIMBYism, and cyberpunk levels of wealth disparity, the breakdowns have something for everyone no matter where you live. With humor and an eagle-eye, AC10 shows why his book reviews are often better than the books themselves.

Very well.

I kept the usual formula sweet and short so you will actually read the book review.

[Run along and read it]

Look at you. [deep satisfying sigh]

So kind to come back after reading that long post.

Oh wait. Is something wrong? Did your brain melt out of your cranial orifices when you got to claim #7?

I had to read it 2x just to make sure the words were in the same order as the first time I read it.

Talk about a record-scratch moment.

Naturally, I had to stop my entire life and go down a Jim Jones rabbit hole. It’s Halloween. Go ahead and indulge your morbid fascination with cult leaders and mind control. There’s a lot to learn from them in my humble-even-if-you-think-it’s-deranged opinion:

  • Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (85 min)

    This film is loaded with real footage, audio and interview. This is some crazy stuff captured on film. Be warned.

  • The Jonestown Massacre: Paradise Lost (100 min)

    From the description: This feature-length docudrama tracks the final build-up to a horrific doomsday

    This is a dramatization. I watched it second. It’s more haunting than the documentary.

I watched them back-to-back in the same sitting. The way truth can be stranger than fiction is so…ugh words feel ineffectual. Trust me on this.

Warning: the expression “drink the Kool-Aid” will become offensive to you. What you think happened, isn’t what happened. Seriously, it’s an expression that needs to die.

This was all written under the influence of this song (which comes from an epic album btw)

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Money Angle

This week I wrap and recap the month-long “real talk” series on trading/investing. I felt compelled to distill and consolidate these thoughts and append them to my progressing-like-molasses Moontower Money Wiki.

As a reminder, this wiki is my treatise on investing, broken into bite-size parts residing under 2 major headings:

  • The Nature Of Markets
  • Implementation

It’s intended to be a manual. The first part of it is only half complete and at the pace I’m moving my deadline is death.

Anyway, this month’s series has been encapsulated in:

  • Special Topic: “Do You even Trade Bro?” (Link)

    It’s a touch irreverent and subdivided into:

    • The Fundamental Misunderstanding
    • A Warning About Options
    • If You Insist On Trading…
    • Is The Brain Damage Worth It?

Personal comment: If you find this stuff useful, share it. I don’t know what the right balance of how often I should even say something like that. I’m always torn between the utter naivete of “if it’s useful people will find it” and being a whore I can live with. But I’ve noticed that I keep landing in interesting conversations and opportunities as this (whatever “this” is) and I think that will be true if I keep being useful so there’s a whole virtuous loop and all that jazz that me and others have definitely spent too many words describing but the most important takeaway is that it’s real.

[I encourage anyone who thinks they have something to share to drown their self-limiting beliefs in the toilet and get on with the sharing already.]

Last Call

I posted this. Don’t judge. (I kinda did get judged but whatever. I’m secure, I swear.)

To which I get this mind-blowing reply from resident math genius @quantian.

We learn of “digital roots”. It’s easiest to show by demonstration.

The digital root of 231 is the sum of the digits: 2 + 3 +1 = 6

You can do this for any number, just proceed until the final digital root is a single digit.

So for 489, we go:

4 + 8 + 9 = 21

(then 21 gets reduced)

2 + 1 = 3

So the digital root of 489 is 3.

After reading @quantian’s explanation, I summarized the conclusion:

Any number minus its digital root must be wholly divisible by 9.

So 489 – 3 = 486.

486/9 = 54


Gets better though.

So we can recap the rules:

  • Any number with a digital root of 9 is divisible by 9
  • Any number with a digital root of 3 is divisible by 3
  • Any number minus its digital root is wholly divisible

Add this to any number ending in 5 being divisible by 5 and even numbers being divisible by 2 and you have a playful set of numeric wonders. And as @jadam2122 recommends, your digital clock becomes a fun toy for the kids.

And I’ll address the question some if not many want to blurt out…what’s the point?

The point is wonder.

I have zero doubt that there are readers who know the practical application of these observations (and I welcome them, and will even share the ones you send). But we are pattern-matching machines. Narratives, math, music, concepts. It’s all around us.

It’s true, in this letter, we often talk about how being a pattern bloodhound often leads us astray with confirmation and availability bias. But this ability to match patterns is also a skill from chess to trading to persuasion to self-awareness to diagnosis and to discovery. It’s a power we learn to wield. It uncovers the seams between disciplines.

If every time you saw a pattern, you dismiss it because its application was not-yet-apparent then your mental library of patterns would grow too slowly and the probability that you would match new stimuli to a small library would be tiny. You would deprive yourself of insight but also that feeling of wonder.

And that feeling of wonder is what leads to the next question.

And before you know it…you grow.

That’s why you’re here. Right?

Last Call

For all the San Fransicko talk, so much of it well-placed, it’s weirdness is exactly why it’s seductive. Yinh and I joined 12 friends on Friday night to don costumes for a night out in the Mission.

We started at Hawker Fare before hitting up Valencia Room and making it to a couple of classic Market Street spots that feel like archetypal SF — the piano bar Martini’s and the karaoke stage at The Mint.

I realized something about that seduction of SF. It’s weird and age-blind. The young and the old are out to play without restraint. It felt totally lacking in self-consciousness. I learned extensively of a sexual fetish that I’ve never even heard of before. Think of how weird that needs to be to find out about offline!

Coming back to reality was tough. When we got home after 2am I immediately went to email to check what time the 6-year-old’s final soccer game would be the next day, (since I’m the coach I should know, but I didn’t, and I couldn’t check when we were out because I, of course, left my phone in the Uber).

9am. The earliest game we had all season. Why wouldn’t it be?

Stay groovy.

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