February 2021 Updates

Hi all,

February is my birthday month. I have a mixed relationship with birthday's - it is a reminder of the relentless march of time, and yet I also like celebrating myself. But that was probably obvious given that you're reading the "bengoldhaber" newsletter.

Birthday Gift (?): I've been working over the past year on a simulation platform that's free and soon-to-be open sourced. I've enjoyed teaching people how to use it, and I'd like to do more of that. If you have some background in programming (enough to pass FizzBuzz and maybe to roll your eyes that yes you're encountering FizzBuzz again) and spending an hour or two learning how to simulate sounds intriguing, sign up or shoot me an email. Whether this is a gift for you, me, or actually no one remains to be seen.


I wrote Simulating Short Squeezes, a blog post paired with simulations that a coworker built of the GameStop short squeeze. It was validating that the sheer, all consuming distraction that was r/wsb last week could be utilized for content. I also wrote "To improve, make fewer mistakes", a life lesson harvested from the rich fertile ground that is Twilight Imperium 4.

Additionally I've edited and rewritten some of the notes I've shared on bengoldhaber.com. I'm not entirely sure what this section of the website should become. My initial inspiration was Andy Matuschak's collection of Evergreen notes, with a vague goal of building my own set of timeless concepts. However, in practice, it's been an ad-hoc group exported from my Roam database when the urge strikes me. Moving forward I'm going to experiment with different formats and practices - for the next month I'll to flesh out and publish more notes in the vein of Humans are Leaky Virtual Machines, and aim to build a coherent 'graph' of notes on the topic.

Kleros: A decentralized court system for the blockchain. It's fascinating - they're reproducing an arbitration and court system for the internet. A prediction market used them to resolve who won the election (seemingly obvious, but there was controvery). You can read submissions from advocates, watch proceedings, participate as a juror. The cypherpunk dream is alive and is becoming excitingly boring.

I have to say for the last six years I have been very skeptical of any and all 'blockchain' projects, but over the past six months I've grudgingly found myself interested in DeFi. Yes, many of them are still scams/or stupid, but unlike in 2017 there's real value in some. The focus has moved from "how do we do everything on an incredibly slow database so we can get paid" to "how can we implement robust, fair, peer to peer systems, and then get paid". It's a good change.

What is Going on in the World?: Katja Grace - who has the most delightful (not quite the right word but close) blog -generates a set of high level narratives about what's happening in the world. It's a bit of a bummer list, but I liked seeing a collection of 'big' narratives and themes all in one place. I'd like more things that help jerk me out of day to day, tactical, Ben focused mode, and cause me to look up towards the big pciture. Also from Katja - Why are Delicous Biscuits Obscure?

List of Aesthetics: Take some time to study and learn what your A E S T H E T I C preferences truly are.

Lines of Retreat and Incomplete Maps with Anna Salamon: Spencer Greenberg's new podcast is good; deep dives into interesting subjects with interesting people. I know that half of all podcasts can be described that way, but he has good taste in interesting; for instance, he had Anna Salamon on. His conversation with Anna left me meditating on the question of what cultural knowledge my grandparents took for granted that isn't around anymore, and also motivated me to reread Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (a classic).

Fraud is no Fun without Friends: You should absolutely subscribe to Money Stuff, Matt Levine's newsletter on finance. That really undersells it; it's like finance stories as people stories. I could have picked bascially any of his from the last month - you should read his gamestop ones - but his story on the sharp uptick in whistleblowing during COVID lockdown stuck with me.


Glengarry Glen Ross: I finally watched the movie whose iconic clip influenced a generation of would be sales people. I regret not seeing it until now; it's much more than that single (extremely good) scene. It was a film with an honest take on competition, 'success', and work as identity. I appreciated how it didn't glamorize success nor did it deconstruct it; just a clear eyed view of red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism.

Reminiscenses of a Stock Operator: An autobiography from a turn of the 20th century stock trader. Lots of nuggets of wisdom, and I was struck by how there's really nothing new under the sun. (H/T Ted Kalaw)

Bojack Horseman: We rewatched the series from the beginning and it was even better a second time. One of my all time favorites.

James Acaster: You should watch his Netflix special; hilarious. You should also try and find video of his appearance on the Great British Bake Off - this short clip gives some indication of the genius.