How is this a house?

Seen in Malibu not long ago.

Keep an eye out for this man

From a journey that took me to the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Most Wanted Fugitives site.

authenticity / domain expertise

Have been mulling over Paul Graham’s statement here: does this apply to all writing? Think on the compelling novels. Don’t they usually combine authenticity and domain expertise? Even if the domain expertise is gained by a passionate amateur, as in Tom Clancy.

Last terrific novel I read was Elif Batuman’s Either/Or: authenticity and domain (Harvard, literary studies, sexual trauma) expertise? Check and check on that one.

Or here’s John Grisham:

I read a lot of books written by other lawyers–legal thrillers, as they are called–I read them because I enjoy them, also I have to keep an eye on the competition. I can usually tell by page three if the author has actually been in a fight in a courtroom, or whether he’s simply watched too much television.

(Grisham in that speech itemizes three essential elements of voice: clarity, authenticity, and veracity).

Or how about Ellison on Hemingway‘s authenticity and domain expertise:

when he describes something in print, believe him

Somewhere Shelby Foote said that the reason his Ken Burns interviews were compelling was simply that he knew what he was talking about, he’d been thinking, reading, writing about the Civil War for twenty years. (He still got some stuff wrong).

Is it that simple? Is the key to writing just 1) being genuine and 2) knowing what you’re talking about?

Gotta work on this.

Which type are you?

from this wild article by Charles King about Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.

smart little kid

Martin Anderson talking to Stephen Knott about Ronald Reagan for The Miller Center.


Were you a smart little kid too?


I guess so. Yes, the feedback was mostly positive, so I should assume.


Did that make you popular with the other little kids?


Not necessarily.


No. No.


Everybody says the same thing. I think it’s a fascinating—I’ve only done about 20 people so far, but everybody says the same thing. First of all, (A) they were really smart. I remember when I went to school, I knew all the alphabet, I knew everything and I used to raise my hand, I knew all the stuff and it was just terrific. The next thing you know, they were calling me Smarty Marty and I discovered this was not good.

Then, I don’t know about you, but the next step they all go to is that they all learn ways to cope with that. And one of the things they learned was that it’s not good to be smart and show other people how smart you are, at least if you want any friends. And that may be the key to Reagan, that he was incredibly smart and quick and he was also tall and he was handsome, he was good-looking. That’s a very powerful combination to drive on people and he laid back. That’s a pure guess.

the dimensions to this man. from an interview with Ken Adelman:

The next day we got there to the chateau in Geneva. We’d spent a long time setting up the meeting. It was in a neutral place in a neutral city and a neutral country. This chateau was owned by the Aga Khan, and Reagan was told he could take it if he fed the goldfish; he was very attentive about feeding the goldfish

The goldfish appears to have been a news item at the time.

Here’s more from Anderson (a loyalist and enthusiast) on Reagan’s nature:


I once described him as warmly ruthless. He had this appearance of being friendly and jovial and nice, never argued with anyone, never complained. But if you shook your head and thought about it a little bit, he always did it his way. It was like there was a steel bar right down the middle of him and everything you touched was soft and fuzzy except the steel bar in the middle. He always did it his way. No matter how many people talked to him, no matter what happened, he always did it his way. If you were in the way, you were gone, you were fired. He never took any pleasure out of it, just gone.

I think if you really want to look at Reagan, one of the things we show with this new book we have, is something that I knew from dealing with him. He was incredibly smart. I know this doesn’t sound reasonable, but he was incredibly smart. I’ve dealt with professors at Columbia and professors at Stanford, but he could look at something and understand it and grasp it and turn it around and work with it and play with it. He was incredibly quick. I’d say he had a brain that was comparable to—and I’d talk to Milton Friedman or Ed Teller and Arthur, all those guys, he could stay with them.

Now, he hid that. He just backed off. He never argued with staff. You could have ten different people tell him the same thing and he’d just listen. He never said to them, Look, you dumb bunny, ten years ago I wrote an article on this, a long article. He’d just say, That’s an interesting idea. So many of the policy issues that were proposed to Reagan over time, by different people, he listened, That’s very interesting. Then when he did it, even though it was something he’d decided many, many years previously he would do, all these people were delighted. He was doing what they had told him. He was happy with that, he didn’t care.

He used to say privately, There’s no limit to what a person can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit. And he was just very smart. The second thing is, there was this feeling that he was lazy, that he took naps. Well, I traveled with him for almost four years. He never took a nap. It was total nonsense. In fact, he worked all the time. We have uncovered evidence with this book in terms of the handwritten documents and so on, he was writing all the time. He was studying, he was writing, he was working all the time, in private. As soon as he came out in public, put on the public persona, he was friendly and jovial and talking.

So I think people made the mistake of saying, Gee, this guy is an easy-going—obviously, we never see him working, so therefore the staff must be telling him what to say. Not true. And when they ran up against him, they assumed he could be persuaded and pushed around. Big mistake. And the woods are full of people that tried to do that, like Al Haig, Don Regan, a whole bunch of them.

Mining News

forget what search or series of searches led to me being hit with these ads. Don’t mind it.

An egg a day

Joe Weisenthal Tracey Alloway interview their colleague Tim Culpan about FoxConn and founder Terry Guo.

And so one of the first things Terry Guo did was he said, okay, I want all of my workers to eat well. So every single one of them would get an egg a day, so they could get a bit of protein. That was kind of a bit of a way out idea at the time. This was, just to be clear, this was in the eighties, seventies and eighties, seventies and eighties. And so Terry Guo is not an electronics guy. Most people in the tech industry have a tech background, they have an electronics background, maybe electronic engineering, Terry Guo studied at a maritime college in Northern Taiwan. So he really studied shipping and logistics, and then he moved into plastics. So his kind of opening business was plastic injection molding. And if you think of Taiwan in the seventies and eighties, it was known, as you know, ‘Made in Taiwan,’ cheap plastic toys, Barbie dolls, and everything else was made in Taiwan.

That’s my bold.

Some of the history of the world:

Joe: (13:44)
How did Apple find Foxconn?

Tim: (13:48)
Well when Steve Jobs came back, as we all know, the company was in trouble, they, Apple was actually making their computers — like physically making them in California, but over a period of time, many companies, you know, Michael Dell and Hewlett Packard, Compaq, and others were starting to outsource to Asia. And at some point during that period of time, Tim Cook, who was operating officer at the time, he’d not yet become CEO, would’ve discovered Foxconn and realize that, you know, these guys make the components. We should probably get to know them. And they really jumped into bed deeply when the iPod came out in the early 2000s.


just one of those vintage sunsets

Chapel Hill

The Carolina Inn is immaculate. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tight ship of a hotel. Warm cookies in a jar as you check in? Yes.

It was built (by hand? -ed) by alumnus John Sprunt Hill and donated to the university in 1935.

Is “it” right, maybe it should be “she” like a ship. Top: you should stay in any hotel that has her own Wikipedia page.

They take the color scheme seriously at UNC Chapel Hill. This is from the Color Palette section of the University Branding and Identity Guidelines.

All anyone wanted to talk about in Chapel Hill (this was Thursday, March 31 of this year) was the Duke vs UNC basketball game. At The Dead Mule Club, anyone who walked in had one question: what time do you open on Saturday? (12noon, first come first serve, no cover).

My photos always feel inadequate to the emotional experience. I don’t have anything like the eye nor take the care Ansel Adams did.

I’d heard it said that the campus of UNC at Chapel Hill is one of the most beautiful in the USA. My sample is not total but from what I’ve seen yes, let’s include it. Who are the other contenders? University of Virginia. Harvard. Middlebury. I find the vibe off at Princeton but “it has to be in the conversation” as the televised sports discussers say. UCLA and Cal Berkeley, both are impressive to me, as are Amherst, Wellesley. Feel like I’ve seen both Smith and Mount Holyoke and they look nice? Although if they sorta blur together, is that judgment on their beauty? Did we see William & Mary when I was a boy? Anyway, UNC at Chapel Hill is beautiful.

Beautiful places are inspiring, old beautiful places especially so. That such a place can be not just created but sustained and maintained for generations.

Moved by the university cemetery. Students would die, and sending their bodies home on wet roads in winter wasn’t hygienic, so they started a cemetery.

Just after a rainstorm when I rolled in. Only late in the day maybe did people realize the rain was gone. . They came back out. First I had the walk pretty much for myself. Wet blooming trees. Some people waiting for the bus, some naval cadets getting together for a run. Dog walkers and stray errand doers.

On the walls of The Carolina Inn they have displays about distinguished grads of the university. Many, many, not just famous ones. White and black, men and women, on my floor law school alums. The vastness of the collection creates an impression, these countless dignified people who taught constitutional law for thirty years or were judges or the first black person to serve in some important role in some county.

How about the sad fate of Spaight?

Father and son both killed in duels. Like Hamilton. “As lucky as a Spaight in a duel” is a localism.

The most famous grad of UNC Chapel Hill has got to be Michael Jordan. Right? One way UNC is inspiring is it shows a state, public institution capable of producing excellence. The University of California is capable of that too, what treasures, do we appreciate them enough? How do we keep them?

Would this make a good movie? The music might not bang enough for modern ears. But maybe? Picture it as a small budget feel good festival kinda thing, it might find an audience.

Unusual view of a seagull


heard a story about a blues guitarist who learned guitar during his first concert. don’t ask me which one.

Cattle as weapon of invasion

thought that was a well-articulated historical insight, from a writeup about the Cuyama Valley by Judith Dale in the Lompoc Record.

That picture of cows I found at the California Bureau of Livestock Identification.

not my favorite name

but if I’m in that part of Nevada I will stop.


This morning, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced his firm will lay off roughly 18% of staff in a less-than ceremonious manner – via automatic removal of access to the office email server

wow. Cold. Almost Daily Grant’s continues:

On the bright side, the founder will be able to mull those fast-changing circumstances in style. From the Jan. 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

Coinbase Chief Executive Officer Brian Armstrong is the buyer of a $133 million Los Angeles estate, according to people familiar with the deal. The transaction, which closed in December, is one of the priciest single-family home sales ever completed in the L.A. area.

Is it a bad sign that some of the best daily / column comedy writing is coming from the financial world? Matt Levine’s Money Stuff is unstoppable, Joe Weisenthal, Terminal Value

Colson / Buchanan

One thing led to another and I’m reading an oral history of Charles Colson from the Nixon Library.

Hungry for more I read a Pat Buchanan one for the Gerald Ford Oral History Project:

“What I care about is the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

The price of hay

A friend of ours who runs a horse barn told me the price of hay is up $5 a bale, from $27 to $32.

(I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot for hay, but trust me, these horses are getting primo stuff.)

(painting is Rhode Island Shore by Martin Johnson Heade, at LACMA, not on display last I was there).

amply gooey

food writing is wild. That’s from a LA Times piece suggesting places to pick up a picnic before a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. You’re bringing a smashburger to see Dudamel? I guess I must respect it!

The Price of Gas

Along old US Route 66 in West Hollywood

It’s so high! How can people do anything? Yet shouldn’t we want the price of gas to be high, so we don’t cook up the planet quite as fast? Though, won’t the high prices cause estimates and spreadsheets and algorithms across the oil and gas companies to be adjusted? When the calculations are revised, it suddenly makes sense to drill more and deeper and in crazier ways in more chaotic countries? They’ll capitalize new and more projects, dredging up our oil faster than ever.

Is this merely the boom and bust cycle we all must toil under, written many times over in the history of every boomtown and oil craze? From Nantucket to Houston to the Bakken to Bakersfield to Alaska we are told this story. Above LA looms the Getty, named for a man whose father left Minnesota for a boom in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The son took the lesson and was early in on Saudi Arabia. To get to the Getty from here you’d have to cross Doheny, he of Teapot Dome. But look, you saw the oil wells when you came in from the airport (in a car), and if you looked out the window of your plane as you landed at LAX you saw the diesel tankers and maybe even an oil tanker filling up at the offshore spigot. You get the idea.

Not so long ago I watched the documentary version of The Prize in small chunks, just before bed. Though the content can be bracing it is soothingly narrated by Donald Sutherland, and there is something relaxing about seeing how the pieces fit together. Finding the doc compelling I read Daniel Yergin’s original book, which is full of great characters and strange scenes:

In early March 1983 the oil ministers and their retinues hurriedly convened, ironically in London, the home court of their leading non-OPEC competitor, Great Britain.  They met at the Intercontinental Hotel at Hyde Park Corner, for what turned out to be twelve interminable, frustrating days – an experience that would leave some of them with an allergic reaction whenever, in future years, they set foot inside the hotel. 


Later in the day, Silva Herzog was glumly eating a hamburger at the Mexican embassy, preparing to leave, when a call came from the United States Treasury saying that the $100 million fee had been rescinded.  The Americans could not risk a collapse.  Who knew what the effects would be on Monday?  And with that, the Mexican Weekend concluded, with the first part of the emergency package now in place.  

Some takeaways of value:

  • it’s not just the getting of the oil. It’s the refining. Rockefeller controlled the refining, and the shipping, and eventually everything
  • one of Rockefeller’s killer qualities: he was a visionary accountant. Can there be such a thing? Yes. Rockefeller.
  • The Great War, later World War One, was a gamechange for oil.  Railroads had been key in the US Civil War, but in World War One, the tank and the truck, oil powered vehicles, proved to be the crucial transport.  Churchill, head of the Admiralty at the time, switched the Royal Navy to oil from coal.  At the end of the war, the destruction of the Ottoman Empire left the British and French in control of oil fields in Mesopotamia.
  • both on the Eastern Front and in the Pacific in World War Two, oil was the key strategic factor. Really everywhere, but those offer clear examples. Decisions on how to invade the Soviet Union were based on gaining control of oil fields before the German forces ran out of oil. The Japanese navy’s decisions were bounded by limits on oil. The fleet had to be stationed near Singapore. The “Marianas turkey shoot” was a result of decisions made based on saving oil. There was not enough oil not only for active operations, but for pilot training.

How about this?:

When [J. Paul] Getty died in 1976, age eighty-three, the eulogy at his funeral was delivered by the Duke of Bedford.  “When I think of Paul,” said the Duke, “I think of money.” 

Many people and groups of people have attempted to control oil, but it’s unpredictable. Sometimes the board gets reshuffled: North Sea oil fields, Saudi, Alaska.  The North Sea oil fields saved the UK economy. Or did it ruin the UK economy? It saved Margaret Thatcher. You can’t send ships and helicopters to the coast of Argentina if you don’t have oil.

Look how rich Norway is. It doesn’t have to be this way, Norway used to be poor, that’s why Rose on Golden Girls is from St. Olaf.

Obama’s presidency coincided with a huge boom in US oil extraction. Is “coincided” the right word? Was it a coincidence? What’s at work here?

A character worth some study: Marcus Samuel. (Shell, the first oil tanker, Lord Mayor of London).

It was called Shell because his Iraqi Jewish family used to import and sell seashells. (That’s the story, anyway.)

Here’s a solid summary of The Prize.

Recall that Moby-Dick is about the oil business, and Ahab like Daniel Plainview is an oilman.

Wonders of Fresno

People don’t believe me when I tell them how big Fresno, California is. Fresno has a population of 542,107 in the 2020 Census, making it much bigger than either Pittsburgh or New Orleans. If you want to play metro area, Fresno is still bigger than Omaha, and clocks in at over one million.

I haven’t examined Fresno thoroughly but I’ve spent a night there and got a sense. There is one sight that you shouldn’t go to see, but if you’re there, you should check out. It’s the Forestiere Underground Gardens.

Forestiere was an Italian immigrant who knew something about growing orange trees, but found Fresno a little too hot, so he built himself an underground living space, garden, work of art and devotion.

How about:

Also recommend: buy some olive oil at the Fresno State farm store.

Tom Murphy

Mr. Murphy clearly wanted to grow the size of Capital Cities, but he never lost sight of the fact that growth through acquisition only creates value if it can be accomplished at sensible prices, nicely encapsulated in this quote:

“The goal is not to have the longest train, but to arrive at the station first using the least fuel.”

from this Rational Reflections post.