Weekend Digest

Here are my favourite stories from the last couple of weeks:

  • Who was Charles Ponzi? An excerpt from a book about the history of the two great financial crises of the last 100 years focusing on the mythical man behind the Ponzi scheme. The money quote: "That Ponzi’s promise to double his investors’ money in ninety days had not raised red flags says something about the readiness of investors to suspend disbelief in the intoxicating financial atmosphere of the 1920s". That's a clear warning to me.
  • Buy-and-hold fund prospers with no new bets in 80 years A fund placed a bunch of bets on the equity market in 1935 and haven't bough a single new stock since then. The fund has performed fairly well over the years and is a clear indictment of the active "investment management" racket.
  • House of Strength Sometimes you read something that delights you because it's so unexpected. French photographer Jeremy Suyker's photo essay was exactly that for me. A fascinating look into an esoteric spiritual / fitness Persian tradition.
  • 50 Years of Berkshire Annual Letters: Here are Some Highlights It is one of my goals to one day read all of the Berkshire Hathaway annual letters. This will probably required 2-3 days of full concentration, preferably on a Mediterranean vacation. Since that is not likely to happen any time soon, I have to settle for this WSJ's pithy summary of each year's highlight.

Weekend Digest

This past week was choke-full of great reading material. Here are the top stories I recommend:

  • The Shape of Things to Come. Ian Parker's wide-ranging profile of Jony Ive is an exceptional read. It is a rare view into Apple's product development philosophy and Jony's ascent within the organization. His passion for the products he creates and his compassion for the people using them are contagious. I am guilty of often reading things diagonally, trying to scan for the important tidbits. Not this article. I read it slowly, chewed on the words and savoured them. I was almost sad that my hour inside Jony's world was coming to an end in the last few paragraphs.

  • Me and My Girls. I am almost embarrassed to say that I didn't know David Carr's personal story until he passed away 10 days ago. A flurry of tributes from people that he touched emerged following his death. But none was as poignant as his own account of how he emerged from an infernal crack cocaine addiction to become a responsible single father for his infant twin daughters. A deeply moving must-read.

  • Warning: too much finance is bad for the economy. This Economist article summarizes studies showing the inverse correlation between growth in the finance sector and growth of the economy. In short, it argues that a) finance attracting too much talent away from science and technology and b) finance sector's preference for low-risk collateralized investments are both bad for the economy. Even the comments on this article are thoughtful, something exceedingly rare on the internet these days

  • Startup Advice, Briefly. Sam Altman, YC's president, does a great job at digesting all of YC's advice in one, easy to read summary. It is remarkable that you can fit so much excellent content in one short blog post.

  • The Calm Before the Storm. Nassim Taleb and his co-author use the concept of Antifragility to argue that decentralized, volatile-looking governments (such as Lebanon) are in fact more robust as they provide no single point of failure. They then go on to evaluate the stability of several other countries. A fascinating read.