Moontower #89

First, a quick mention that Moontower is taking the next 2 weeks off and returning on January 3th. We can all use a bit less stimulation at the end of the year. Play some boardgames, go to sleep late, binge some shows, gain a few pounds. Laugh so hard bourbon eggnog comes out your nose. Shower your loved ones with attention. You’re not missing anything, including Moontower ūüôā

Last week, I told you my¬†personal trigger¬†is the word “deserve”. Here is the follow up with an explanation.

Why ‘Deserve’ Makes My Skin Crawl¬†(Link)

Gift Ideas

Useful gifts

1. A car jump starter (link)

  • Doubles as a high capacity power bank
  • I keep this in my car and have used it many times to give myself a jump without anyone’s help as well as used it to help other motorists. It’s a quicker, easier process than putting 2 cars nose to nose.

2. A 12v/120v power inflator. There are many types to choose from. I have this Bonaire model (link)

  • Set target tire pressure and hit ‘go’. It auto shuts off when the tire is filled. The best part — a digital gauge.
  • Comes with regular 120v power cord and the 12v that plugs into your car’s ashtray.
  • Comes with multiple needles for filling basketballs or bike tires.

Game Gifts

  • My recs from last year which I continue to enjoy (screenshot)
  • New additions to the collection worth highlighting:
    • Splendor (link)

      A terrific intro to card drafting games that is simple enough for a 6-yr-old but complex enough to satisfy 45 minutes of adult brain jockeying.

    • Hanabi¬†(Link)

      A cooperative game in which everyone except you can see your cards. You must communicate to construct an arrangement of cards based on tacit logic and limited info. 2-5 players. Takes¬†15 or 20 minutes. It’s pretty popular so you can find it at Target or Walmart and it’s a lot of fun. Feels like a social mind-reading sudoku. It also reminded me of the¬†Two Generals Problem¬†visually presented by Sketchplanations. (Link)

    • For kids learning to count:¬†Hoot Owl Hoot (Link)

      This game is intended to help kids learn to count. A friend of mine who took my rec to play this with his son added a good description of how it feels…”a good intro to backgammon basically”

  • Game book for kids riding the chess boom:¬†How To Beat Your Dad In Chess¬†(Link)

Gifts for Adults Including Yourself

  • AirBnB online experiences (Link)

    A socially-distant way to shake it up, learn something new, and support hustlers who have made major audibles to their small businesses this year. Close friends have raved about a tequila and mezcal cocktail mixing experience they did with a Mexican bar. The owners tell you what you will need beforehand. Makes a great date idea or small group event.

  • Booze
    • “Demonslayer” sake (Link)
      This $50 bottle household mainstay is smooth junmai daiginjo available at Whole Foods.
    • Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey (Link)
      This is an inexpensive bottle which I’ve been mixing with tea and oatmilk for a cozy fireside treat at home.
  • A thought on helping others

    Many people have suffered deeply this year. Even if they have been spared a direct blow from Covid, disruption in social patterns has meant isolation¬†for countless people. In addition, 2020 accelerated the widening spread of tech-forward businesses over service jobs. Throw in a boom in financial assets across the board from bonds to stocks to crypto to gold and¬†the gap between haves and have nots doesn’t relent.

    If you count yourself amongst the fortunate, this is a good year to do the thing you have been meaning to do one day: donate an amount that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s a cause. Perhaps a person or a group you know who could need the help. Sponsor lessons for a kid who is struggling with distance learning or who can no longer take piano lessons.

    If you get stuck in the “I’ll do this once I research the highest impact place to give” mode of thinking, then you are making perfect the enemy of the good. It’s ok to not mastermind everything. 90% certainty is way past the optimal threshold to make most decisions including this one.¬†Do something good, impulsively.¬†You will help someone else and you will help yourself.

    To help you along consider my simple rule of giving:

    When a friend is raising money for charity always give


    If you are like many other people with good intentions but little free time, you aren‚Äôt hanging out in the comments section of effective altruism blogs splitting hairs about which charities are maximizing return per dollar. Some people may even use this as an excuse. ‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt done the homework, so I‚Äôm not ready to give‚ÄĚ. Guess what aspiring philanthropist? You‚Äôre not going to do the homework.

    Instead, trust that your friends have done the work since they are putting the effort to raise money. By offering you a chance to give, they are actually doing you a favor. You get to act instead of just meaning to do good. Even if you accidentally give to, over the course of your life you will have maximized area under the curve.

The Money Angle

In addition to the newsletter, I took a stab at writing about money and quant topics. The first post I wrote was my only commentary piece. It was the longest piece I’ve written and I published it in January, the day before the first Covid-related selloff. As the year has played out, the post has actually grown in my mind. And that’s not comforting, because it deals with a risk that seems to materializing.

Almost 1 year old and just as relevant to my thinking:

Sacrifice To The Delta Gods (Link)

Here is a selection of my posts which were popular by category:

Options Theory

Lessons From The 50 Delta Option (Link)

Why Option Traders Focus On Vega (Link)

Finding Vol Convexity (Link)

Straddles, Volatility, and Win Rates (Link)

Portfolio Theory

Why You Don’t Get Paid For Diversifiable Risks¬†(Link)

You Don’t See The Whole Picture: The Sun/Rain Example¬†(Link)

How Much Extra Return Should You Demand For Illiquidity (Link)

Mathematical Intuition

Path: How Compounding Alters Return Distributions (Link)

Do Professional Investors Understand Fees (Link)

Making Property Taxes Apple-To-Apples (Link)

Mock Trading Options With Market Makers (Link)

The Metagame Of Investing

The No-Easy Trades Principle (Link)

Dinosaur Markets (Link)

Investing Is Biology Not Physics (Link)

Measurement Not Prediction (Link)

Lessons From The Layup-Corner 3 Spread (Link)

My Personal Investing Wiki (In Progress)

The Moontower Money Wiki (Link)

Last Call

From my actual life 

The next few weeks I will be taking a break. A little less online. A bit more guitar, family games (gotta get my chess game up), and outdoor time.

You stick with me every week. You’ve heard my opinions on lots of things all year, I’m out of them. This year’s practical failures were gaining some pounds and not working out (tennis lessons were a bright spot) but I will need to prioritize health in the new year.

We sold our home. This has freed up some cash that needs to be deployed (our cash balances were already very conservative before the sale). That means putting extra effort into our personal investing process and activities. Underwhelming environment in liquid markets for allocating savings for the long-term.

We didn’t travel this year. We’d like to be able to do that so we can research a list of places to consider living, but if we stay put that will be ok too. The worst part of not travelling is missing my family across the country and not seeing close friends. Time will resolve all these issues. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I only read 3 books all year. Shrug.

The good thing that happened this year was how being homebound enabled me to try writing finance posts ( I wrote >130k words this year. It’s a vanity metric and includes lots of quotes, but still answers the question “where did my free time go?”). In keeping with the letter’s name, I muse about lots of stuff here every Sunday. This is indulgent even if I am trying to be helpful. But the area where people think I have been most helpful has been explaining mechanical finance stuff (plus the curation of educational and game stuff for kids).

The extra weight to the finance writing has led to a surprising growth in both the letter from 375 to 1100 subs in the past 12 months. I really just want to say thank you. The connection and learning that has come from you boosting it is humbling, unexpected, and simply heart-warming. Just thank you.Happy holidays and I’ll see you in January!

A request

While you are mixing it up with your loved ones with this season see if there is one person who you think would enjoy or benefit from Moontower. As you can guess, I’m always referring people to content that I think might resonate with them and I appreciate when people refer me to good stuff. If you are enjoying Moontower you are giving both them and me a small gift by spreading the word.

Just say, “you should check out this letter named after that scene in Dazed and Confused where some stoners contemplated how many people in Austin were having sex at this very moment. I”ll text you the link”

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