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Good Reading -- April 2018


Facts and Figures

  • The U.S. home ownership rate increased in 2017 for the first time in 13 years. (2017: 64.2%. 2016: 63.7%. 50-year low: 62.9% in 2Q16). Source: Census Bureau.


  • "If it’s challenging to figure out what a thing is “worth” when some of the smartest people on the planet, armed with the fastest computers and the biggest datasets, are constantly discussing and betting on its value, it’s downright impossible for investment managers focused on illiquid assets to assess the value of anything they own until they exit their positions by selling to someone else." -- Matthew Klein (source: Skorina and FT)

  • "Anyone who has been successful in business and doesn't understand that they got a break somewhere along the line is a fool." -- Jim Sinegal

  • "As intelligence officers, our most critical asset is our mind. Self-study increases our speed, creativity, and confidence. Without self-study, our expertise is limited to our direct experiences. Reading vastly multiplies our experiences in life—as parents, as friends, as spouses, and as leaders. By reading, we can learn from the experiences of an immeasurable number of people. And, hopefully, our reading allows us to learn from the mistakes of others, before we make those mistakes ourselves. Old ideas give us new ideas. History really does teach us something. It inspires, motivates, and elevates us." -- Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr.,

  • "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." -- Harry S. Truman

  • "The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn byexperience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way.Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat- footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully)before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lightswhat is often a dark path ahead." -- James N. Mattis


  • "'The Clock is Ticking': Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades" -- Another riveting and terrifying story of tragic human misjudgment by a hall-of-fame writer. (I might go read "The Human Factor" a third time.)

  • "It is unlikely that Davidson ever fully understood that he had sailed into the eye wall of [Category 4] Joaquin, but he must have realized by now that he had come much too close. As is usually the case, the catastrophe was unfolding because of a combination of factors that had aligned: Davidson’s caution with the home office; his decision to take a straight-line course; the subtle pressures to stick to the schedule; the systematic failure of the forecasts; the persuasiveness of the B.V.S. graphics; the lack of a functioning anemometer; the failure by some to challenge Davidson’s thinking more vigorously; the initial attribution of the ship’s list entirely to the winds; and finally a certain mental inertia that had overcome all of them. This is the stuff of tragedy that can never be completely explained."

  • Peter Kaufman: The Multidisciplinary Approach to Thinking -- There are a lot of fascinating, important, and practical ideas in this transcript of a recent talk.

  • Why you stink at fact-checking -- Every morning I wake up and think I understand these issues, and every night I go to sleep with even more appreciation for them. (Thanks to Jason Zweig for posting this.)

  • Somewhat related article from a prior edition about fact-checking problems at the Supreme Court

  • Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2018 and Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook -- Two annual favorites that are loaded with data.

  • Jim Sinegal at LMU and Jim Sinegal at SDSU -- Two nice presentations given over the past year or two. A good overview of the company and its strategy for newcomers with just enough detail for hardcore Costco fans. I remain convinced that a company with the right culture and a low-cost strategy, pursuing savings on behalf of its customers, is among the very most powerful forces in business.

  • As noted before I highly recommend the biography Sol Price: Retail Revolutionary and Social Innovator

  • Understanding China's Rise Under Xi Jingping -- This speech by former Australian PM Kevin Rudd was delivered to an audience at West Point in March. It is full of history and nuance from a genuine student of the country and its culture. Thanks to Pat for sending this to me.

  • Director's Reading List -- This is a massive, important collection of recommended reading compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency. I'm humbled by how few I've read. (Thanks to Craig for sending this.)

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