The Roundup: Q1 2023 Edition
What I've been up to the last few months
Greetings from Los Angeles, California!
Welcome to the quarterly round up edition of Snapshots. I’m writing this newsletter with a cortado by my side and the spring sun shining on my skin. I just spent the entire weekend in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and am as zenned out as I will likely ever be.
At the start of the year, I wrote about momentum:
Momentum is a weird thing — it cuts both ways. The longer you have not written, the easier it is to continue to not write… But writing for me is a long-term affair, so I’m going to see if I can make up for this past year of not writing in 2023.
I’ve been generally happy with the baby steps on this goal so far. Momentum in one domain also begets momentum in other domains: more on this in later roundup editions.
For today’s Snapshots, I’m excited to share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve enjoyed the past few months, and what’s upcoming up on this newsletter over the next few months.
One big thing: Taking photos
Through these last few months, my trusty Nikon L35AF has been by my side:
If I think about a thread that ties these travels together, it’s that I went for one specific thing, but filled in events around it — the ultimately goal being to live in a way where all my different interests intersect.
Photography is easy to layer on other interests as it’s purely additive. Like traveling? Take photos of the places you’re going to. Like eating? Take photos of the things you’re eating. Like creating things? Take photos of things you’re creating. It's a way to capture the memories of something you were doing anyways. Analog photography is just more fun because you're not playing spec-games with the community — you would be using digital cameras if you were into that.
If you’re interested in analog photography at all and are curious about where to get started, please reach out. I’d love to help more people join the community to obsess about film stock choices and complain about rising developing costs.
Here are a few pieces of writing/media I really enjoyed over the last couple of months. Typically, I have a “I wish I had written this” attitude towards pieces I recommend. But this time around, I’m sharing pieces I couldn’t have written — an intersection of deep expertise and an ability to communicate clearly using the written word.
- by : This newlsetter about the business of healthcare is fantastic. Olivia's day job is at a16z as a content lead, but her writing on Acute Condition is of full-time quality. My favorite pieces are ones on Walmart’s healthcare efforts and an exploration of Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs. If you’re an investor or founder in the space, her writing should be on your reading list.
What’s going on here, with this human? by Graham Duncan: Everyone keeps saying “it’s all about the people.” Tough to argue with that, but I’ve never seen such a poignant exploration of that idea and how to translate into a hiring process before. Most interesting to me what the idea of the elephants you are riding:
Seeing others clearly is about tuning into a process, a way of seeing. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor is good. Visualize yourself riding a huge elephant while you interview someone riding a second huge elephant (Haidt apparently came to this metaphor of rider and elephant during a psychedelic trip.) Haidt advises imagining your conscious mind as the rider and your unconscious drives as the elephant—powerful and willful and ultimately inclined to take the rider where the elephant wants to go most of the time. The key insight is that the rider is not always a reliable witness about the elephant they ride.
Understanding the elephants that you and others are riding — the unconscious forces driving your decision-making in small and large ways — is the process of getting to understand the rider better. From a personal satisfaction point of view, few things are more important to spend time on.
The conflict between the FIA and Liberty Media: The Formula 1 mania has captured the attention of fans in the United States in the only form palatable — a reality TV show named Drive to Survive. Behind this move is John Malone’s Liberty Media FWONA 0.00%↑, which owns the commerical rights to Formula 1. We've talked about Malone on this newsletter before in the context of the book Cable Cowboy in which he is the main character. The FIA is the governing body of Formula 1 on the sporting side of things. A tension between the sporting side and the business side is natural, but it reached a peak when Liberty Media was considering a sale to the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. Oriol Puigdemont at El Pais shared the story. When Liberty Media sells the commercial rights to Formula 1 to someone else, I promise to write a story about their economic stewardship of this sport that is so near and dear to me.
5-4 Pod: It’s pretty rare that a new podcast makes it into my regular rotation, but the 5-4 pod about “how much the Supreme Court sucks” has done that. The hosts have a captivating engagement style and they occasionally look at historic cases which is particularly interesting to me. Sometimes the snark is too much for my personal taste but the passion and form they bring to their conversations is addictive. If you’re interested in the law at all, I recommend you check it out.
In case you missed it, I published three essays last quarter:
Who Watches The Watchmen: The Rise and Fall of the Chevron Doctrine
What can a legal doctrine from the 80s teach us about the deep dynamism in a seemingly stagnant governmental system? Turns out, a lot. Read the 4000+ words I wrote on the administrative state rather than go to therapy. You’ll learn about hidden pockets of political power, how interaction effects with various parts of the government can exacerbate a fundamental tension into a real problem, the lessons that you can learn about your own personal life from it, and more.
Notes on Notes: Why people are wrong about the new Substack social network
The central thesis of this piece is that comparing Substack Notes to Twitter is misleading. If Twitter is the public town square, then Substack Notes is the artistic neighborhood a few blocks away. If Twitter is the park where you can reliably run into a group of rowdy teenagers, Substack Notes is the quiet co-working space where you can hang out and catch up with like-minded people over coffee. Both are unique in what they offer — and that, as I lay out in this essay, is both good and bad for Substack.
Lobbying, Emotions, and Diamonds: How Fred Rogers can help us think about authenticity in the age of generative AI
It feels to weird to think that something made by a generative AI could make you feel emotional. I wrote about what the implications of this might look like and how the grading of diamonds may provide a solution here. I also share a video of a (very young) Fred Rogers who convinces the very model of a tough Senator into retaining $20M of public funding for PBS.
An essay exploring the growth of the restaurant ranking app Beli which all of my friends have been using lately, and the lessons that can be learned from other vertical social networks
Notes on Jacob Helberg’s book Wires of War
An essay on the economics and politics forces behind the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978
As always, the central thesis of Snapshots remains simple: if you look at anything with enough depth, it will be interesting.
I know that I’m competing with your favorite influencer’s Instagram stories, your friend group’s juicy messages, and the latest fortune cookie wisdom on Twitter. Billions of dollars are spent on making these platform algorithmically perfect to maximize engagement. These are tough enemies to fight in the battle for attention. I’m grateful that you think that I’m good enough to defeat them at least a few minutes every now and then.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,