Ginevra de’ Benci

She spent her later life in self imposed exile, trying to recover from illness and an ill fated love affair. She died in 1521 aged 63 or 64, likely from this unknown illness.

Must have a look at that next time in Washington. How did it end up in Washington? Purchased in the 17th century by a prince of Lichtenstein, then bought from Prince Franz Josef II after World War II.

Have been reading about Leonardo, Machiavelli, and Cesar Borgia in The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior, by Paul Strathern, on the recommendation of Chris Blattman. This book is great, really clarifying the lives and circumstances of these characters.


Cat care practices of the late 1950s-early 1960s, derived from evidence in songs

Some day maybe Fred will win the fight

Then the cat will stay out for the night.

And when you finish doin’ that
Bring in the dog and put out the cat
Yakety yak (Don’t talk back)

from these clues I glean that in the late 1950s/early 1960s, it was common to make your cat sleep outside.

I don’t think that’s generally the accepted practice today. Moreover, in the Flintstones theme in particular, it seems like it was already a challenge to keep a cat outside.

Now, I can anticipate the criticism: couldn’t it be that the Flintstones theme is reflecting the rules of prehistory, and not the 1960s? I’d argue that if you review the Flintstones, and consider some details like co-habitation with dinosaurs, strict accuracy to prehistory was not a priority, in fact the show reflects the values of the time of its creation more than an imagined prehistory.

All of us humans, it seems to me, are like Fred, and we “lost the fight” to keep cats outside.

We’re told by scholars that dogs have been domesticated anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 years longer than cats have been. Our co-evolution with cats is ongoing.

I wonder how cats convinced us they could stay inside. My cat is def not staying outside for the night (except for mysterious expeditions on cat business).

Did sugar ruin us?

Here’s an excerpt from On The House, the memoir by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner:

Cheers to this tweet for calling my attention to this, via Marginal Revolution. I got Boehner’s book and read it, and found it very illuminating in many ways (his harshest words are for Ted Cruz).

This is from The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist:

The creation of the first slavery complex, with its “drug foods” – sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee, and chocolate – stimulated Western Europe’s desire to seek out and consume still more resources. The massive Atlantic slave trade required ships, trade commodities, and new structures of credit, and growth spilled over into sectors less directly linked to sugar. Many in Western Europe began to work longer hours in order to get new commodities, in what is sometimes called an eighteenth-century “Industrious Revolution.”

(boldface mine). Other scholars have written about the connection of sugar to capitalism, power, etc.

What if sugar has all of our balls in a vice, to use Boehner’s phrase?

The brain is dependent on sugar as its main fuel,” says Vera Novak, MD, PhD, an HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It cannot be without it.” Although the brain needs glucose, too much of this energy source can be a bad thing.

so we learn over here from Harvard Medical School. My wise dentist called my attention to this as we were discussing why TV writers’ rooms are stocked with candy.

What if we’re trapped in a loop of feeding our brains sugar, and our brains getting bigger and trapping us in a sugar addiction loop? What if that’s what’s really driving capitalism, the whole mess we’re in?

Consider the Biblical tale of the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are chilling happily there, and God asks them but one thing: don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What if, instead of being a metaphor, this was meant literally? God was telling the first people don’t eat too much sugar, or your brains will get too big and you’ll ruin everything?

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

This is where it all went wrong. Recall that as punishment for this, Adam is cursed to work:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food

And as for Eve:

I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.

Human labor is indeed very painful, and why? Because our heads/ brains are so big! Compare with a horse or goat, who can drop a baby and then scamper off, nbd.

Maybe humans never should’ve fucked with sugar, and Genesis actually contains a pretty straightforward origin story for the mistake that led to our predicament. Is it possible to observe the very mistake happening in chimps?

from Tao Lin’s blog:

Maybe our whole deal stems from being trapped in a species-wide sugar addiction.

Now that we’re stuck, we should at least get the good stuff!

Dublin Dr. Pepper

The town is the former home of the world’s oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant (see Dublin Dr Pepper). The plant was for many years the only U.S. source for Dr Pepper made with real cane sugar (from Texas-based Imperial Sugar), instead of less expensive high fructose corn syrup. Contractual requirements limited the plant’s distribution range to a 40-mile (64 km) radius of Dublin, an area encompassing Stephenville, Tolar, Comanche and Hico.

Was looking up some of the towns where various pro bull riding stars are from: Jesse Petri hails from Dublin, TX. My goodness I’d like to try that Dublin Dr. Pepper.

from the Dallas Morning News, March 31, 2017:

Ask for a Dr Pepper, and the response was routine and coy: “We don’t have a knock-off Dr Pepper, but you ought to try our Dublin Original. It’s really good, and I know you’ll love it.”

Kloster said it was a conscious marketing decision to offer customers who loved Dr Pepper a nostalgic product that looked and tasted similar. Even the bottle was packaged with stripes from a retro Dr Pepper color scheme and a “DDP” on the label.

“It got out of hand. We got out there and we pushed the envelope,” Kloster said. “The Dublin Original black cherry was pushing the envelope and was in violation of the agreement.”

boldface mine.

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has since been consumed by Keurig Dr Pepper. I don’t expect any sense could be talked into the people who think shooting hot water through plastic is a good method of making coffee, but if I can find the time perhaps I’ll reach out to the JAB Group.

What if it turned out life expectancy in Stephenville, Tolar, Comanche and Hico had been 135 years + back in the sugar age?


Reading up on endorheic basins, places where water does not drain out to the ocean, where what rain falls will be retained or evaporated.

An endorheic basin is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but drainage converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation.

The Valley of Mexico was endorheic, but now drains through artificial canals.

For the real endorheic enthusiast, Australia is the place.

If you find endorheic basins somewhat eerie, as I do, I suggest you don’t even read up on cryptorheic basins, where the water flows out through subterranean karst.

(source for that map)

Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America.

by Jan Mostaert, 1535 or so. (Dutch for “John Most Art”?)

Found that while reading up on Coronado’s expedition.

Upon reaching the top they beheld a landscape unlike anything they had seen before, a vast treeless prairie, as flat as a table, and so became the first Europeans to traverse what later became the Texas Panhandle. Virtually swallowed by the trackless soft grassland, they found it an unnerving experience.

So says James L. Haley in his (excellent, readable) Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas, about which I hope to say more when I finish.

This is how the Coronado business got started:

On this thin evidence they set off. Native peoples they came across took the wise strategy of telling them “oh yeah, absolutely, there’s tons of gold and silver, wayyyyyy over that way, super far from here, keep going.”

The expedition was guided by a Native man they called the Turk, who finally admitted he’d deliberately led them into the plains in the hopes they’d all starve and die far away from his people.

At least one member of the expedition, Cervantes, was suspicious of this Turk, and with good reason:

I’d love to read firsthand accounts of the Coronado expedition all day, but unfortunately I’m very busy. You could spend a lifetime working on where, exactly, Quivara was. Some have!


Limbaugh, the dominant conservative pundit for three decades, was a dedicated indoorsman, with a physique that celebrated sybaritic contentment.

So says Evan Osnos in a Jan 3 & 10, 2022 New Yorker article about Dan Bongino.

Now that the drama around the CP-KCS merger has finally subsided, the trail market has to occupy itself with more mundane issues, such as the forward trajectory of coal loadings.

so says David Nahass in his Financial Edge column in the Dec 2021 Railway Age.

Warren Buffett on horse race wagering

And when the Buffett family moved to Washington, D.C., Warren just had one request for his dad:

“When we got to Washington, I said, ‘Pop, there’s just one thing I want. I want you to ask the Library of Congress for every book they have on horse handicapping.’ And my dad said, ‘Well, don’t you think they’re going to think it’s a little strange if the first thing a new Congressman asks for is all the books on horse handicapping?’”

But Buffett reminded his father of the help he gave him during the winning campaign, and pledged to be there for him again during his re-election. So Howard got Warren hundreds of books about handicapping horses.

“Then what I would do is read all these books. I sent away to a place in Chicago on North Clark Street where you could get old racing forms, months of them, for very little. They were old, so who wanted them? I would go through them using my handicapping techniques to handicap one day and see the next day how it worked out. I ran tests of my handicapping ability – day after day – all these different systems I had in mind.”

I was looking for someone who’d compiled up every reference Buffett and Munger made to horse race wagering, and I found it here, “DRF Legend Steven Crist on Value Investing and Horse Betting,” by Dillon Jacobs on Vintage Value. (Note that much of that quotes from The Snowball.)

Buffet on Value and DRF

Buffett noted that a bookie actually took action inside Washington’s Old House Office Building.“You could go to the elevator shaft and yell, ‘Sammy!’ or something like that and this kid would come up and take bets.”

Even Buffett himself did some bookmaking for guys who wanted to get down on the big races like the Preakness Stakes. “That’s the end of the game I liked, the 15 percent take with no risk,” Buffett said.

Buffett got along well with his high school golf coach, Bob Dwyer, and the two frequently rode the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad together from Silverspring, MD to Charles Town racetrack in West Virginia. Dwyer taught Buffett how to better understand the Daily Racing Form.“I’d get the Daily Racing Form ahead of time and figure out the probability of each horse winning the race. Then I would compare those percentages to the odds,” said Buffett, who bet from $6 to $10 to win. “Sometimes you would find a horse where the odds were way, way off from the actual probability. You figure the horse has a 10 percent chance of winning, but it’s going off at 15-to-1.”

That last part sounds a lot like Crist on Value, doesn’t it?

This method, looking for overlays, is at the heart of every serious book about horse wagering.

Going broke one day at Charles Town

One day, Buffett went to Charles Town by himself. He lost the first race and his performance went from bad to worse until he was down $175. Feeling depressed, he went to an ice cream shop and bought himself a sundae with the last of his money.

While eating, Buffett thought to himself that he had just lost more money than he made in a week.“And I’d done it for dumb reasons. You’re not supposed to bet every race. I’d committed the worst sin, which is that you get behind and you think you’ve got to break even that day. The first rule is that nobody goes home after the first race, and the second rule is that you don’t have to make it back the way you lost it. That is so fundamental.”

This was an important lesson that definitely influence Buffett’s investing later in life. You’re not supposed to be every race. Instead, just wait for the right pitch.

What Buffett and Munger both discovered is that making money in the stock market is much, much easier than making money at horse betting. For one thing, there’s no 14-25% track takeout. But it’s interesting how both markets teach similar lessons.


Authorities have seized 88 metric tons of cocaine stashed in containers from Latin America this year, nearly 10 times the figure in 2014. It is far more than any other European port, as traffickers flood the continent with so much cocaine that it may now be a bigger market than the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

from “Inside Europe’s Cocaine Gateway: ‘A Repeat of Miami in the 1980s’ Antwerp, now the No. 1 port in Europe for cocaine busts, has seen a rise in gang violence and corruption” by James Marson in the WSJ.

The cash tsunami is distorting Antwerp’s economy, officials say, jacking up prices for real estate and existing businesses.

“Bad money drives out good money,” said Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever. “They will chase out honest people.”

Some companies are used to launder money, from restaurants to luxury car dealers. Far more widespread and pernicious are companies that undermine and disrupt the legal economy, said Yve Driesen, director of the Federal Judicial Police in Antwerp.

Drug traffickers buy restaurants or shops to give the impression that their fortunes derive from legal commerce. Front companies also use legal activities to hide their illegal drugs-related work. For example, a transport company that extracts cocaine from shipping containers could also carry out legal transport on behalf of multinationals.

“They will win contracts because their prices are lower than competitors,” said Mr. Driesen.

Other companies have popped up to service the criminals. Resellers of encrypted phones depend on drug gangs who are the only ones able to afford contracts that can cost thousands of dollars a year, officials say. Companies rent out luxury cars for the equivalent of $1,000 a day and more.

My reaction to this is: time to legalize it? It seems clear that Europeans want cocaine really bad. What we’re doing isn’t working. If we imagine legalization causes a massive spike in cocaine use, can that be worse than the warping effect of trying to defy reality? The most urgent cocaine related problem here in Los Angeles at the moment is people dying from cocaine laced with fentanyl. Would that problem be made better or worse with legalization? Honestly some of the high octane coffee people consume around me seems as mind-altering as cocaine.

You can’t put law on people if it’s not in their hearts

as a Florida law enforcement official once put it to me, in a conversation about Key West.

Recalling what former mayor of London Ken Livingstone said during a campaign in 2012:

Equally, because I have been around for a long time, I’ve also learned how much of what you are told is bulllshit. And when I hear so many people in the City say they’re all going to go [because of higher taxes], the simple fact is we really only have one rival, and that is New York. You are not going to have major banks in the City relocate to Shanghai because there’s a degree of political uncertainty, perhaps decades ahead. They are not going to Frankfurt because young men want to go out on the pull and do a load of cocaine and they can’t really do that easily in Frankfurt. So you need to have a dynamic city. Our only real rival is New York.

(Livingstone lost that election, Boris Johnson won.)

action vs adventure

“I have a definition of what I do,” Wolpert told the WGAW in 2008. “If you put a boat on the stormy ocean, you’ve got an action picture. You put somebody on that boat you give a damn about, you’ve got an adventure. I write adventure.”

from this Deadline obituary for writer/producer Jay Wolpert.

Think, think, think

And there were calls to two of the “damn smart men” who had given Jack Kennedy the brilliant concepts and the brilliant words that Johnson admired. “You’re going to have to do some heavy thinking for me,” he said to Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. “I want you to be thinking about what I ought to do … I want you to think … just think in capital letters, and think, think, think. And then – then talk to me tomorrow or the next day.

Pulled down my copy of Caro to check some details on Johnson’s November, 1963 Texas trip (I thought he’d been at the Driskill Hotel in Austin on the night of Nov. 21; incorrect, although the hotel did play a key role in Johnson’s life). Was struck by this demand. Imagine the new president of the United States calling you and demanding you “think, think, think.” (Side note: the notion of a totally apolitical Supreme Court doesn’t seem to have been the accepted wisdom in those days).

A theme of Caro’s work on Johnson is that the Senate is almost designed not to work:

The inefficiency of Congress was nothing new, of course – the only period since the Civil War that the pattern had been broken in the Senate, the principal logjam, was the six years of Lyndon Johnson’s leadership.

Caro even blunter about this in Working, which is a handy cheat guide to Caro’s work:

Not getting stuff through the Senate is nothing new!

John Madden

He had the ability to

describe what was going on and have fun doing it

So said somebody in the Madden documentary, All Madden, streaming on Peacock.

if you even heard his voice in the distance that was a TV to run to.

so said Joe Buck. I hear him in my head saying “Ace is the place.” What a positive, pleasing public figure. The way my cousins laughed at the eight turkey leg turducken! (how much can I trust a memory of a Thanksgiving that might be 30+ years old?)

The rare gift to just be a human being enjoying other human beings, talking to them in an easy way.

2021 flying away

I guess it’s going to Qatar