Moontower #22


So I asked a colleague who is due to have a baby in the next 2 months if she found out the sex. She called my question with the gender and raised me with the little guy’s name. I’m not sure what my reaction was but I’d venture it was somewhere between raised eyebrows and gaping jaw. With as much grace as a person can conjure to deflect the impression that they are not a serial killer, she quickly added that they aren’t into secrets or surprises. This isn’t the first time I’ve been dealt the name of a womb’s resident, but it’s unusual, and she, no doubt having encountered dumb faces like mine, had her defense set to hair-trigger. The exchange naturally turned to my presumption that this same child would not know Santa. He won’t.

I confided that this was a minor source of conflict between Yinh and I. Minor only because Yinh was mildly against lying to the kids about St. Nick, while I was prepared to die on that hill. So I got my way and now she calls me Griswold. Our kids believe in Santa but she forces me to have skin in the game.

This raises the more serious questions about the lies we tell our children. We all do it. We all had it done to us. Adolescence is like an extended episode of Mythbusters where we get our worldview debunked for about 10 years straight without commercials. Paul Graham brilliantly reminds us that while we must lie to the kids we should understand the costs. We should understand which rationalizations are really about protecting ourselves. Finally, recognize that “most [of us] go through life with bits of packing material
adhering to [our] minds and never know it.”

Shedding it all is an active process I see people struggling with right into old age. I still discover residue in my mental desk hinting at a bigger mess in the back of its drawers.

If lies are the drug, Graham teaches us what they are indicated for but doesn’t sugarcoat the side effects. Here’s the red pill.

Climb Higher

Last week’s description of our friends’ homeschooling adventure in Europe was a bit of a dog whistle. The idea of “worldschooling” or homeschooling has crossed several of your minds. Especially just to try it for a year. I’ve been poking around homeschooling websites the way the curious might browse Ashley Madison. Kinda naughty. But, unlike swipe right or whatever you do on AM, the promise of homeschooling is constructive.

Its advocates will say it’s a better match for a modern world where information is free and conformity is increasingly expensive. Its detractors will scream “socialization” as soon as the word “home” is followed by the “sc” syllable.

If the idea strikes a nerve, perhaps the pang feels something like:

  • You have a vague sense that school hasn’t evolved as much as the world around us.
  • It feels like a compromise between cost and scale that ends up serving none of its students especially well.
  • The default option’s tyrannical grip on the education menu is out of proportion to its proven merit.
It’s like being dropped off at JFK with the mythical around-the-world ticket only to find all flights lead to Orlando. All the interesting flights depart from Terminal 4 but everyone else is robotically boarding for Florida. Oh screw it, I’m sure Disneyworld will be nice in August.
Well, you and I know it’s gonna be muggy, with long lines and overpriced rooms. Welcome to the education system. You chose It’s A Small World over the real thing.

When I wonder aloud about homeschooling, someone always seems to pull the “you went to regular school and turned out great”. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but

a) I might be the way I am in spite of my schooling


b) Your observation of my external circumstances is nothing but a projection of your own values. That is a validation of my school experience for you, not me. And again see “a”. I’m a size seller of the cause-effect relationship.

Personally, school assassinated my will to learn. Maybe if I spend $300 an hour talking about it on a leather couch I can discover why. And I’m not even suggesting homeschooling would have been a better outcome, whatever that means. But we know kids are born learners. To murder that is an unreported crime. I’d hate to spend more time thinking about what car to lease than what the default meaning of education is where I live.

When I was young, I thought it was about getting As. Let’s be blunt. That’s a low bar for being educated. Perhaps necessary, definitely insufficient.


With all that in mind, I’ll share Bryne Hobart’s essay which struck a nerve by putting words to my feelings better than I can. It also reminds you that the reversibility of the choices means the risks are controlled. Important when you can’t shake the feeling that you are gambling with beloved young lives.

Of interest to finance folks or quant-inclined might be the fact that Byrne is an investor at SAC Capital, didn’t graduate from college, and has a cool essay framing a “barbell approach” to education using portfolio theory to value alt-degrees and substitutes for credentials. Check it here.

Oh yes, an update on our friend in Spain. Their trip is actually only 6 months and they are coming back to the states shortly. If you’d like to check out their Instagram just reach out and ask me. It’s pretty joyous. (I obviously got permission to share)

  • For homeschooling their HS student they used CA-based online school Laurel Springs Academy
  • For the elementary school kids they used Time4learning.

Finally a quote from Lisa:

I never ever thought I’d say this, but we now wish they’d all continue with homeschooling. The world was their education and we’d love to continue with that! Our oldest actually decided to continue with homeschooling for his Junior year which we are thrilled about! He’s going to really dig into what he’s passionate about. He’s applying for a NASA internship, he’s headed to Ecuador for a service project, getting back into coding, playing the drums and visiting family. 

Last Call

  • Persistence. NFL preseason edition. Check out this story about a Brown’s undrafted walk on.
  • Kanye is getting in trouble for building Star Wars’ Tatooine-inspired affordable homes in Calabasas. I’m rooting for him.
  • A few friends asked for some podcast recs for road trips. I created this list of my favorite all-time episodes if you are interested.
  • Check out Yinh’s recent interview on her show Growth From Failure with my former colleague and head of ETF trading at Citadel Securities, Kelly Brennan.
  • Don’t bother with WD-40, this is the best thing I saw on social media this week.

From my actual life 

The NY Post wrote about the phenomenon of having text conversations with your “number neighbor”. It’s what it sounds like. Someone whose phone number is different than your own by a single digit. Before you dismiss this as the latest evidence of dystopian estrangement I’ll share a story. Several years ago, I was hanging out with Ben and one of his close college friends, Ryan. We were trying to decide on where to eat and suddenly Ryan texts the 2 choices to someone else who settled the question.

Me to Ryan, “Who the heck was that?”

The response came matter-of-factly, “Carlos”.

Umm, ok, who the f is Carlos.

Turns out Carlos is the guy he texts whenever he needs to break a trivial tie. You see, several years earlier, Ryan was trying to decide on a TV to buy and texted a friend who knew about such things. Well, he texted the wrong number but still got a response. “Samsung”. Ever since then, Ryan texts that number which belongs to Carlos.

So, of course, I can’t let Ryan hog this knight who promises to joust decision fatigue on a stranger’s behalf. He gave me Carlos’ number and the rules: Keep it simple, 2 choices.

I relied on “Carlos the Question Man” as he’s labeled in my phone for years, throwing him a question every few months. Carlos never asked my name. I haven’t texted him in years but the “number neighbor” article made me think of Carlos. So as I write this on Friday nite I texted him. I just realized it’s after 1am in the 617 area code and now I feel bad.

In case you’re curious about the text, here you go.

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