Medley 216: Sharks, Sunglasses, Copy, Sugar, Pasta, Fame, Lessons, AC, Cops, Drugs...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

Last week I had a guest appearance on Nathan Latka's SaaS Shark Tank, to share some growth and SEO ideas for a company that was up for sale. It's a fun replay for anyone interested in the Micro PE space.

Alright, on to the Medley.

The World of Sponsorship

😎 This week's Medley is brought to you by Woodies! Woodies are the best value sunglasses for $27. They have 100% UVA/UVB protection, they're polarized, have the double-spring hinges, and they just look cool. They're my go-to casual beach vibes sunglasses, check out their Walnut Woodies if you're not sure which one to try.

📊 This week's Medley is also brought to you by Ahrefs! Ahrefs is my favorite all-in-one SEO tool that we use to help grow everyone from new startups to billion dollar brands. They also release some really cool case studies, like this new video on what they learned spending $33,115 on their homepage copy.

The World of Blood Sugar

😍 I've really been loving using the Levels Health app to track my blood sugar. It's only been a couple weeks, but I'm already starting to get some really interesting data.

🍝 For example, meal timing and meal combinations have a big effect. I had a huge pasta dinner on Tuesday, which should have massively spiked my blood sugar, but it had almost no effect. Why? Well, we used really good ingredients for the pasta, including using primarily egg yolks which made the dough extra fatty and may have mitigated the carb effects.

🍋 But then on a different day, I had an espresso lemonade before eating anything (basically espresso with lemon juice, a tiny amount of sweetener, and sparkling water), and just those couple grams of sugar on an empty stomach spiked me up to ~130mg/dl. I've seen the same effect from taking Athletic Greens on an empty stomach.

🍕 I also found that thin crust pizza will spike my blood sugar, but deep dish won't. Probably because the deep dish pizza has a lot higher cheese to crust ratio, making it a fattier meal and blunting some of the sugar spike. And alcohol doesn't always make it spike, but it will cause a really bad dip in the middle of the night.

💪 I'm learning a ton from it, and I'm excited to see what other features the Levels team is rolling out in the future. I've mentioned it before but getting access to data like this is so powerful for improving our health. It's an order of magnitude more useful than tracking steps and over "quantified self 1.0" data. I don't get any kickback or referral from mentioning them, I just really like what they're doing, and if you want to skip the waitlist you can use this code to try it out.

The World of Life Advice

💡 I really enjoyed this list of "33 things I stole from people smarter than me on the way to 33" from Ryan Holiday. A few favorites:

"When someone tells you something is wrong, they’re almost always right. When someone tells you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong."

"Steve Kamb told me that the best and most polite excuse is just to say you have a rule. “I have a rule that I don’t decide on the phone.” “I have a rule that I don’t accept gifts.” “I have a rule that I don’t speak for free anymore.” “I have a rule that I am home for bath time with the kids every night.” People respect rules, and they accept that it’s not you rejecting the [offer, request, demand, opportunity] but that the rule allows you no choice."

"Go to what will teach you the most, not what will pay the most."

📸 And I read Tim Ferriss's piece on "11 Reasons to Not Become Famous." I don't think I have 1/100th the audience Tim does, but I've still had a couple weird things happen over the years, enough to make me want to tighten up my security a bit. There's some great advice in it for anyone who does any kind of semi-public work, or anyone with a net worth over probably a million or two.

"you don’t need to do anything wrong to get death threats, rape threats, etc. You just need a big enough audience. Think of yourself as the leader of a tribe or the mayor of a city."

The World of COVID

🦠 Peter Attia released a good framework for thinking about COVID, and how it might end. He seems to think that this might be a vaccine we have to get each year. But he also shared some good initial data on how effective sanitation measures and masks are on airplanes:

"I recently looked to see if I could find something similar on a trials database and two small studies returned: one study reported a single flight where 3.67% of passengers (325 in total) got infected from the identified (index) sick passenger, and the second study reported a single 350-passenger flight where no one got sick from the index passenger."

🇺🇸 The current situation in the US is extremely depressing: with cases back on the rise, it's clear that we have not made much progress on fighting it despite being quarantined to some extent for three months now. In Texas especially, we're now seeing hospitals be overrun in Houston and Dallas, with Austin starting to creep up there as well. Here's the US daily case data:

Aaaand Texas 🤦‍♀️

🥶 Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight had some good ideas on why we might be seeing this uptick. One thing he points out is that cases seem to be increasing fastest in warmer climates, which makes sense considering there was a false sense of security during the winter and now everyone is sitting in the air conditioning.

🤿 I think being inside in shared airspace for long periods has to be a big culprit, considering how many people are going out to bars, restaurants, and offices now in Texas. Masks definitely work though: this is a great contact tracing study where two hair stylists had COVID but none of their 140 mask-wearing clients got sick.

The World of Building

🏗 Continuing the riffs on Marc Andreesen's "It's Time to Build" piece, here's a phenomenal essay on Cultures that Build. A primary issue the author points out is that America's default attitude is no longer an appeal to self-sufficiency ("“Oh very well, I'll do it myself,” said the little red hen – and so she did!"), but rather an appeal to authority or management (e.g. the Karen meme & cancel culture).

"In the 21st century, the main question in American social life is not "how do we make that happen?" but "how do we get management to take our side?" This is a learned response, and a culture which has internalized it will not be a culture that "builds.""

🧠 One tough thing about good ideas is that they also need to be had and executed on at the right time. Neal Khosla has a good short piece on "failureship bias," and how we need to discount examples of ideas failure when evaluating their merits.

"Google was the 24th search engine. Facebook was the at least the dozenth social network (props to Mark Pincus who started a failed social network but still backed Facebook). A company will come around one day doing what Theranos tried to and many will pass. Learning too much from the past given our cognitive biases is dangerous. Consider the math of it: if your prior probability of success is less than 1%, failure should not revolutionize the prior."

🏡 And another thing that's not getting built: wealth. Millenials aren't just living with their parents much longer than any past generation, they're not buying homes. Millenials have 34% less wealth at their age than would be predicted by past generations, and they only own 5% of the US Housing Stock compared with 15% by the previous generation at the same age. Why does this matter? Because home ownership is one of the best methods for building middle-class wealth, and by switching from wealth generating debt (home ownership) to valueless debt (student loans & credit cards) a greater and greater wealth divide is being created.

🦸‍♂️ So who can fix this? Not the president, as Ezra Klein points out in this interesting article from a number of years ago. The "Green Lantern" theory of the presidency is not one I'd heard before, but it is a good characterization of the somewhat naive idea that a new president can come in and just magically change everything.

The World of Police

👮‍♂️ It's been really interesting digging into the history of police and policing in the US over the past few weeks. Interesting and disturbing.

🍃 I knew, for example, that most drug laws were created to give cops excuses to arrest Blacks and Latinos. Smoke Signals talks about this extensively.

🙅‍♂️ I didn't know just how many other laws were on the books essentially to do the same thing. Matt Taibbi has a good essay on "where policing went wrong," that talks about how many of these laws can be traced back to slave patrols in the South:

...“vagrancy” laws [have] been replaced in cities like New York with essentially identical offenses like “obstructing pedestrian traffic” and “obstructing government administration.”

And how even new "order maintenance" laws are still being used in this way:

"Even during the Covid-19 crisis, 80% of the summonses for social distancing violations are given out to Blacks and Hispanics. Does anyone really think that minorities account for that massive a percentage of those violations? Do they think Black people really commit 3.73 times as many marijuana offenses as White people?"

🇪🇺 I shared last week some stats on the ratio of police to prisons in the US and Europe, and a few readers pointed out that a higher concentration of police forces probably only works when the laws they're enforcing don't have so many problematic origins. That's a really important point, and it's worth thinking about how we could do a total legal overhaul of policing and order maintenance in the US. Here's a bit more on the police vs. prisons stat.

😔 Unfortunately all this has really done for me though is make me kind of depressed about the whole situation. The 8 Can't Wait policies are really good first steps, but I almost worry if they'd create a kind of panacea effect where we feel like we've made progress, despite there still being much bigger underlying systemic issues. This is part of where Democracy is a very weak form of government. A benevolent dictator could abolish and restructure the whole policing system for the country, but we have no way to do that. So how do we change it? And where do we even start?

⚖️ The one big thing I don't see talked about enough is how do we create more positive incentives for police to report other police officers. One thing that was very clear in the Bastard Cop article was how strong the incentives are for police to not report other police. I believe very strongly that systemic issues like this can only be fixed through sufficiently strong individual incentives, not just new rules. So how do we create professional and social rewards for good cops outing bad cops? I don't have a good set of ideas yet, but I've been thinking about it a lot.

End Note

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And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,
Nat

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