Monday, December 31, 2018

Best books and blogs of 2018

So here are the most significant books of 2018 for me.  Just the opinion of a truck-loading, Uber driving, equities trader--take it for what it is.

Not all were necessarily written in 2018, I just happened upon them for the first time this year. Where 2017 was my year of Deirdre McCloskey, 2018 was the year that I finally picked up Nassim Nicholas Taleb and realized what I had been missing out on.

The best bloggers remain to be Dean Baker's Beat the Press and Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns.  The best podcast is Tyler Cowen's Conversations with Tyler.


Unredeemed Land: An Environmental History of Civil War and Emancipation in the Cotton South by Erin Stewart Mauldin 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming by Agnes Callard

The Rise of Superman Decoding the Science of Ultimate Performance by Steve Kotler

The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology by Horace Freeland Judson

Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games by Ian Bogost

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

How History Gets Things Wrong  The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories by Alex Rosenberg

The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work by Eli J Finkel

The State, the Market and the Euro: Chartalism Versus Metallism in the Theory of Money by Stephanie A. Bell (Editor), Edward J. Nell (Editor)

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel

A Treatise On Probability by John Maynard Keynes

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson

Fiction and Poetry:

Twilight of the Gods by Robert C. Covel

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I Praise my Destroyer by Diane Ackerman

After the Plague: and Other Stories by T.C. Boyle

A Little Larger than the Entire Universe by Fernando Pessoa

See you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Pornography, love songs in C, and everything you love at 32 kilobits per second--Reflections on the early days of blogging and the net

So I'm writing a 2018 reflection.  For my own sake.  I'll be posting it if/when I finish it.  But its had me reflecting on a lot of things.

One thing that struck me, that I wanted to take a moment to write about, is about the early days of the Internet and blogging.  Back before shit got too fast and everything was in real time. Back when people could go into cyberspace, but had to do it in written word by dial up phone connection.  Back when pornography was a five minute endeavor to upload a picture--not the rapid streaming of whatever you can think to search for.

The orgy of cat videos, corporate advertising, and unrefined political hot takes by distant family members wasn't fathomed in our minds yet.  We who would connect by phone to random strangers and form newsgroups around interests and passions--music, philosophy, writing, stamp collecting if that was your thing.... whatever.  Whatever you found interesting and had a passion for had a newsgroup with some interesting and articulate stranger--likely from the other side of the world--who also shared that interest and would take the time to engage with you on that topic. The internet felt less lonely back then.

It was delightful to be both in your mind and open to others.  I now at 38 have the sense of self and social capacity to pull this off in public, with a glass of wine, and interesting company from time to time as schedules allow. But to a flat broke teenager with not many friends who shared my interests this was an exciting and brave new world that made life seem not only bearable, but meaningful, and interesting.

I marvel at how exciting hyperlinks were.  That I could say something.  And give you the autonomy and freedom to figure out and follow my thought wherever it led you.  As it gave me the ability to move on myself and not wait for you.  I could keep dancing with words on a page and let you check in when you saw fit.  We could go on journeys together in the land of ideas, and check in with one another to see where our adventures led us.  New ideas, new places to go, new insights would cascade like a damn breaking and all of a sudden you would look up and realize it was 5am and you had been staring at a screen of words for 8 or 9 hours.

My Dad nearly flipped his lid when I was in 8th grade in Sacramento when I once busted the time limits of his billing cycle and he had a $148 up charge to his Internet bill one month.

Social media is now big business, and introverts with a narcissistic proclivity to share their thoughts don't have as much elbow room now that massive profits are to be had.  The organic and authentic experience of the early days of the Internet will never be recreated--though there are those constantly in search of creating new spaces that create such personal and uncommodified connection.  Small gardens where like minded strangers can share tips, refine ideas, and trade on the knowledge and aesthetic pleasures they have concocted and come across.

As an aspiring writer and autodidact the early days of the Internet were marvelous and reassuring.

To an isolated and lonely middle class kid in the suburbs with a taste for punk rock and the infinite possibilities of this world it created a space where I could not only be myself, but figure out and play with ideas and words, without judgment or social pressure from my peers and adults--those pesky muggles, in the more modern Post-Harry Potter vernacular.

It still can be.  It just takes more work and diligence.  The technology requires us to now have more discipline and better filters to keep from having online time be a massive and wasteful time suck.  But the human beings that I connected with are still out there, still doing amazing things.  And the tools are still at our disposal.  It just looks and feels different.  I was reminded of that recently when I crossed paths with a stranger online and had a delightful exchange on the discovery of the structures of cellular macromolecules and a history of molecular biology that then morphed into an introduction to TC Boyle whom I am now devouring at an epic pace.   With time and a little luck we can get some place interesting together.  At 38 I just forget this fact from time to time.  Its nice to remember what it was like back then.  Its even nicer to realize we can create even better more meaningful spaces now.  As long as we put in the effort.


So I was rereading Paul Franco's Nietzsche's Enlightenment The Free-Spirit Trilogy of the Middle Period just now and I come to this passage talking about Nietzsche's take on aphorism's [my emphasis added]
It was not only the cold, precise, anti-romantic character of the aphorism that appealed to Nietzsche.  He also recognized that its fragmentary nature could be very effective in conveying philosophical ideas.  The incompleteness of an aphorism forces the reader to fill in what is left unsaid and thereby to think along with the philosophical writer.  Nietzsche explains: the "incomplete presentation of an idea, of a whole philosophy, is sometimes more effective than its exhaustive realization: more is left for the beholder to do, he is impelled to continue working on that which appears so strongly etched before him in light and shadow, to think through to the end."[Kindle Loc 470]
This is exactly what short hyperlink filled blog posts did. They created space, and obligation for both the writer and the reader to each do some heavy lifting in the endeavor, creating a positive feedback loop towards more clarity and better ideas.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The party of large employers, major bond holders, and aggressive empire, had a good day Tuesday.

A check on the executive branch is a good thing, no doubt, especially with the expansion of power over the past few decades in the Executive. But if the end result of Tuesdays elections is that the narrative on Fiscal policy shifts to a fixation on deficits, at a time of low inflation, this whole toxic brew of culture war as political mobilization tool--that both political parties are using to their quasi-fascist hearts content--could turn bad really quickly once we happen upon a recession.  The Federal Government pays for things by printing US dollars. My tax dollars are fealty to the creator of a legal/monetary order, not the source of how the nice lady down the street gets her Medicare payments to her (already overpaid) Doctor--if reducing the age it takes to qualify for Medicare is on the agenda (and it should be, to say, age zero).

I haven't posted in a long while.  With my Dad gone I'm not as compelled to blog anymore, as I've always found blogging to be a tool of thinking outloud and our current political climate doesn't take too well to clarifying thoughts in a public manner.