Medley 231: Sweating, Making Habits, Wildfires, Energy, Lean Meat, Hedge Funds, Privacy...

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!

As always, you can listen to an audio version of this Medley by searching your Podcast app for "Nat Chat"

This week, I published a new video on my 9 favorite tools I use for better sleep, and what I love about each of them.

Neil and I also released our Made You Think episode on "Energy and Civilization" by Vaclav Smil, an extremely detailed history of humanity's relationship with energy.

And Brandon Zhang had me on the "Student Mindset" podcast where we talked about Idea Flow, Thirty Year Thinking, Austin, Passive Income, and a lot more.

Alright, let's dive into the Medley!

The World of Productivity

✍️ James Clear wrote a fantastic article about making future habits easy. In it, he recommend "resetting the room," from the piece:

"when he finishes watching television, he places the remote back on the TV stand, arranges the pillows on the couch, and folds the blanket. When he leaves his car, he throws any trash away. Whenever he takes a shower, he wipes down the toilet while the shower is warming up."

🏡 Since reading it, I've been trying to ask myself "where does this go?" when picking things up around the house, and I've realized one of the big bottlenecks to cleanliness is either an item not having a place, or that place being occupied (e.g. a dirty dish that needs to go in the dishwasher, but the dishes are clean). From that it's been easy to work backwards and remove bottlenecks to cleanliness.

The World of Wildfires

🌎 The west coast of the US is still on fire, and there's been a lot of talk about what a bad omen for climate change these fires are. Now, I want to be 100% clear here: Climate change is very real and a very serious issue we should be working on addressing. But in this case, the blame is clearly with the state governments who have prevented controlled burns from happening over the last few decades, and we need to figure out how to change policies on controlled burns to prevent this happening again.

📖 Alex Tabarrok wrote a great article summarizing some of the research:

"Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres."

"We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire."

❓ He then asks the question: if this is such an obvious problem, why don't we do more controlled burns? It looks like there's a big issue with incentives:

"Burn bosses in California can more easily be held liable than their peers in some other states if the wind comes up and their burn goes awry. At the same time, California burn bosses typically suffer no consequences for deciding not to light. No promotion will be missed, no red flags rise. “There’s always extra political risk to a fire going bad,” Beasley said. “So whenever anything comes up, people say, OK, that’s it. We’re gonna put all the fires out.”"

🤔 There's no cost or punishment to burn bosses when a big wildfire like we're seeing now breaks out, but there can be big consequences if they do a controlled burn poorly. So why do it at all?

🤷 I don't have a solution to this, but it's really frustrating to see such clueless short term government thinking lead to such disastrous consequences for the people of the state and no consequences for the governing bodies.

The World of Privacy

💭 Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of Chaos Monkeys, had a great piece recently on "The Social Dilemma." This is the first really critical thing I've seen about the documentary which made me particularly curious to read it.

One point he makes that is particularly compelling is why regulation and anti-trust arguments against Facebook don't make sense:

"Part of the unreason around the pro-regulation, pro-antitrust arguments frames Facebook as some sort of dastardly conspiracy foisted on society by malevolent overlords, when really Facebook iteratively converged on precisely what users wanted via relentless testing and user measurement. Thus, any limitation on that offering—or Twitter’s or TikTok’s or anyone else’s—is about as effective and temporary as prohibiting some brand of ice cream: you’ll just have another ice-cream stand providing the same flavors in a hot second."

👤 As much as we like to criticize Facebook and other social media, they aren't evilly manipulating us, they're giving us more of what we want. And it turns out we really, really like getting angry about things. I know that's true for me, which is why I take great lengths to hide as much of the news feed in different apps from myself as possible.

It also reflects the issues with GDPR and CCPA that Martinez outlined in a previous piece for Wired. Essentially, all of these regulations are things that Facebook and Google can pay some lawyers to help them find a way around, but small companies can't afford that, so all these regulations end up doing is giving more power to the incumbents.

🎥 I still need to watch The Social Dilemma, but this was a pretty interesting take on it.

The World of Finance

💰 This was a mind-blowing bit of math from Nick Maggiulli, which shows that no matter how much money you start with, a typical hedge fund with their 2/20 take will have more money than you in less than 20 years! Compare that to purchasing an S&P 500 ETF, with a .05% expense ratio, which would take 1,500 years to have more capital than you. Fee reduction makes a massive difference.

The World of Health

🐇 I'd heard of "protein poisoning" as something you can get from eating too much super lean meat, like rabbit, but it turns out its unconfirmed and there's no strong evidence to back it up.

💦 And getting sweaty is one of the most human things you can do. "We are the only mammal that relies on secreting water onto the surface of our skin to stay cool." All other furry animals pant to dissipate heat, we're the only ones who can shed it by sweating out water. This may have given us a huge competitive advantage when we first started to emerge in Africa, since it let us hunt in the middle of the day when other predators needed to lie low.

Correction

☕ A couple readers pointed out I made an error last week in my sponsorship copy. I said Purpose by Sovereignty is a great caffeine replacement when I should have said it is a great coffee replacement, since it does in fact have some caffeine.

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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