The Digest #66
Medical costs, Burry on Tesla and Bitcoin, Financial Literacy, Ancient Pollution
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
How Much Does a C-Section Cost? At One Hospital, Anywhere From $6,241 to $60,584 by Anna Wilde Mathews, Tom McGinty and Melanie Evans, February 12, 2021. Hospitals are starting to reveal the byzantine pricing agreements made with insurance companies and, predictably, this has highlighted situations that can only be described as crazy. If you are among the many Americans who have entered the hospital for a procedure, you’ll be able to relate to the experience of having no idea what the services will cost until you receive a bill weeks or months later. (WSJ)
Michael Burry says Tesla's $1.5 billion bet on Bitcoin was a distraction by Theron Mohamed, February 9, 2021. In a series of deleted tweets, Michael Burry expressed his opinion regarding Tesla’s investment in Bitcoin, Dogecoin’s recent rally, and whether some of these moves were intended to distract from Tesla’s regulatory issues in China. Burry is famous for his bet on the housing market collapse during the subprime lending bubble. Readers who are not familiar with Dr. Burry may want to read my review of The Big Short, a book published by Michael Lewis in 2010 that documents Burry’s subprime bets. (Business Insider)
Rise and fall of Roman Empire exposed in Greenland ice samples by Katie Langin, May 14, 2018. Ancient Rome had a massive need for natural resources, especially silver required for its coinage. In a 2018 study, researchers were able to examine the lead content of ice samples in Greenland and correlate the level of lead with historical events from 1100 BCE to 900 CE, a span of nearly two thousand years. I read about Rome’s massive mining operations in Spain while reading Rubicon by Tom Holland which covers the years leading to the fall of the Republic. Although not approaching modern levels of pollution, the ancient world certainly had an environmental impact. (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Unfortunate Investing Traits by Morgan Housel, February 4, 2021. If you are a long-term investor, do not allow your actions to be influenced by short-term traders. They are playing a different game with different rules. “It happens all the time: if you start taking cues from people playing a different game than you are, you are bound to be fooled and eventually become lost, since different games have different rules and different goals.” (Collaborative Fund)
Money, A Brief History by Jamie Catherwood, February 5, 2021. Tyrone Ross has launched a program called Learn to Money which is intended to educate young people regarding financial matters. As a contribution to this initiative, Jamie Catherwood wrote a brief history of money intended primarily for a younger audience but it is interesting reading for anyone. Financial literacy is a topic I have written about as well and it is great to see serious efforts being made to educate young people. (Investor Amnesia)
What Delta’s Big Bet on Blocking Middle Seats Means for Flying by Scott McCartney, February 10, 2021. Delta is the only airline that continues to block middle seats as a precautionary policy against COVID transmission. Physical distancing and air travel is a tough combination and blocking middle seats is an expensive proposition. Are passengers willing to pay a premium for it? Will customers remember these moves and reward airlines with loyalty after the pandemic ends? This seems very doubtful: “A close look at passenger fares and airline preferences during the last six months of 2020 shows far more passengers chasing cheap fares than opting for airlines that blocked the middle seat—even in a pandemic.” (WSJ)
Fight to Be Who Philosophy Wants You to Be by Ryan Holiday, February 9, 2021. It is important to have the right role models: “Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. Choose someone who you want to be like, and then constantly ask yourself: what would they do in this situation?” (RyanHoliday.net)
The Appeal of 21st Century Stoicism, The Rational Walk, June 20, 2019. Ryan Holiday’s article reminded me of Donald Robertson’s recent book about Marcus Aurelius. In How to Think Like A Roman Emperor, Robertson makes the case that stoicism is still relevant in modern times. An excerpt from my review of the book: “A common, but naive, criticism of Meditations is that one must take its content with a grain of salt given that the life of a Roman emperor must necessarily have been totally different than what ordinary people experience, then and now. While there is no doubt a kernel of truth in that sentiment, Marcus had to deal with many of the problems facing people today.” (The Rational Walk)
I recently reframed a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting of sunflowers.
From the Van Gogh Museum’s website:
“The sunflower paintings had a special significance for Van Gogh: they communicated ‘gratitude’, he wrote. He hung the first two in the room of his friend, the painter Paul Gauguin, who came to live with him for a while in the Yellow House. Gauguin was impressed by the sunflowers, which he thought were ‘completely Vincent’. Van Gogh had already painted a new version during his friend’s stay and Gauguin later asked for one as a gift, which Vincent was reluctant to give him. He later produced two loose copies, however, one of which is now in the Van Gogh Museum.”
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