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Monday, April 24, 2023

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): #RandomThoughts Courtesy Ryan Holiday


This month marks the 11th audiobook I have sat down and recorded (it’s actually more, as I had to re-record Trust Me I’m Lying and Growth Hacker Marketing for new editions). As always, it is an exhausting and strange experience…and a humbling one, when they send you back the pickups to record words you pronounced wrong. But it was funny because in The Daily Dad, for the September 23 entry, I talk about this very issue, in a story about Harry Truman which I read in the Merle Miller biography I raved about a while back. In their long ranging discussions, Miller noticed that Truman mispronounced a number of words. Then it hit him– Truman had not gone to college, he did not grow up surrounded by intellectuals. His vocabulary was full of words he had picked up in books and never heard said aloud. Although I got two more years of college than Truman, my education has been largely auto-didactic as well, and since I was a kid, I have been mispronouncing words…until I was kindly (or otherwise) informed of my mistake. Anyway, it was great to finish up the final piece of The Daily Dad: 366 Lessons on Love, Parenting and Raising Great Kids before the launch in two weeks (it would mean so much if you could preorder it!!!). I will say, as much as I love that people love audiobooks (whatever gets you reading), there is something superior about physical books in my view, especially in the page-a-day format. That’s why I love bookstores and why 99.9% of the books I have put in this list over the last 10+ years, I read in the physical form. I know many of you feel the same. Anyway, if you want to grab a few of the remaining, signed/numbered first editions of The Daily Dad, please do so before we run out! Barnes & Noble also has their own edition which you can grab online, or have me sign at the event I am doing in Austin and in New York City (with special guest, Casey Neistat).

Get all the books I'm holding at The Painted Porch

Hero of Two Worlds:The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution by Mike Duncan
Sometimes a book seems to be following you…I was in San Francisco last month and had dinner with the great Guy Raz (read his book How I Built This), and at dinner we were talking about Mike Duncan and his amazing book, The Storm Before The Storm, which I have raved about many times. The same day I was at City Light Bookstore and found out that Mike had a new book about the Revolutionary War hero Marquis Lafayette. I bought it and LOVED it, having known next to nothing about the man besides a few mentions in the various biographies I had read of Washington (a favorite here). Mike is a great writer (and former podcast guest) and I was particularly enthralled by Lafayette’s later years in the French Revolution. Then, just as I finished the book, I was in Annapolis for a talk at the U.S. Naval Academy. As I went for a run before my talk, just a few blocks from where Washington famously resigned his commission, I discovered a sign commemorating one of Lafayette’s battles at that very spot. I was meant to read this book at this moment apparently…and so are you!

High School by Tegan and Sara
One of the reasons we read is to learn, to see inside the lives of others. As the poet Margarita Engle said, books are door-shaped portals. They open up new worlds to us. Obviously fiction does that, but memoir also does it particularly well. Personally, I don’t have much sense of what it’s like to be a lesbian teenager, but I am a big fan of Tegan and Sara (and have written many, many pages while listening to their music). I also like memoirs that start and stop early (Shoe Dog, for instance, is a classic memoir about the founding of Nike…that stops in 1980). This book is not a full memoir of Tegan and Sara, in fact, it stops before they even put out their first album. But there is plenty here to learn. I will say that none of their parents come off particularly well (except maybe the stepfather) and all of them could have done well to read one of my favorite books, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. In any case, I quite liked this book and as always, I recommend reading and learning from people who have very different experiences than you. This is particularly important now in this fraught moment where much hardwon progress for gay rights and acceptance is being turned back by people who seem to lack either the exposure to or the empathy for people different than them.

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion
Another month, another book by Joan Didion? Yup! This is a great road trip book through the American South (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) that, despite being from an experience over 40 years ago, holds up extremely well. My favorite observation of hers is how in the South, the Civil War feels very recent…but 1960 is made to seem like it was an eternity ago. Anyway, I have two other Southern road trip books I must recommend. The first is related to the Monster of Florence which came up in last month’s list. Douglas Preston wrote a book called Cities of Goldwhich is about his retracing of Coronado’s journey across the Southwest. Just an incredible read with so much history. The other is even older but undeservedly obscure. In 1856, Frederick Law Olmstead (the designer of Central Park) took a horseback journey across the state of Texas and wrote a beautiful, fascinating travel memoir about it called A Journey Through Texas. Weirdly, it helps you understand present day Texas and America more than many other newer books. I just LOVED this book.

Robert E Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause by General Ty Seidule
My fascination with the Civil War began when I was a kid, when my family took a road trip through the South–not unlike the one Joan Didion took. Then I moved to New Orleans while writing Trust Me I’m Lying and have read everything I can on the topic (as always the best single, accessible volume remains This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton). My understanding of the war as well as my understanding of the story of that war has changed quite a bit over time, just as America’s has. A recent chapter in that story has been the discussion about the removal of the Lost Cause Monuments that went up in the 20th century. I was on a run in New Orleans in 2017 when I happened to catch the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument from Lee Circle (a city Lee never once stepped foot in) and I have also worked for the last several years for the relocation of a Confederate monument from the county courthouse down the street from my bookstore in Bastrop (here’s a video of a short talk I gave on this to the Texas Historical Commission). Gen. Seidule’s book is one of the most accessible, personal and important books I have read on the myth of the Lost Cause, particularly the way it has infected military culture. As I have said before, the best way to understand current events–whether it’s the debate about CRT or political polarization–is rarely to read the news or opinion pieces. It’s to tackle smart, earnest books that look at the history of the issue or the world. This book, along with Clint Smith’s FANTASTIC book How The Word is Passed are must reads for any veteran, any parent of young kids, and any American citizen.

The Night Lives On:The Untold Stories and Secrets Behind the Sinking of the “Unsinkable” Ship by Walter Lord
Last month I recommended Walter Lord’s book on the War of 1812, another one that followed me to Annapolis. I mentioned his favorite book of mine, A Night To Remember, about the sinking of the Titanic. Turns out, he wrote another book about the Titanic called The Night Lives On. It’s less narrative nonfiction than a series of essays on lesser known facts and myths about the Titanic, but still quite good. Lord was a master of his craft, and I will have another book from him in next month’s email, so stay tuned.

I finished what I suspect will be my last book by Ms. Didion for a while, a series of essays called After Henry. When we were building out the new Daily Stoic podcast studio (see it-and the Joan Didion connection-here), we bought a huge load of books from Books by the Foot, to populate the walls. One book I found while sorting through them was The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis, which was a great primer on a 20th century moment we appear to be re-entering now. Like I said, you understand the present by studying the past. I very much enjoyed Zach Braff’s new movie A Good Person. It has a beautiful theme of Amor Fati running through it (which we talked about on the Daily Stoic podcast). My friend Ramit Sethi (whose podcast I listen to each week) has a great new Netflix show about money and personal finance. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years and the show is great.

When my wife Samantha was a kid, someone gave her a super weird kids book called Sam’s Sandwich. She kept it, and when we had our children, she brought it back out. It’s silly and (spoiler alert) has bugs in it, but the kids love that it’s gross. Anything to get them reading, right? (Or to put down a screen) My youngest picked up the newest in the Kitty Corn series and is already asking for the next one. And as part of our bedtime routine with our oldest, we started listening to The Adventures of Captain EJ. Even though it’s not a paper book, it’s a great opportunity to explore different story mediums with my son. And we just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated edition) this week and are starting the next one.

Monday, April 17, 2023

On Our "Virtual Route 66": Visiting UC Davis

 We hereby present the following Courtesy of the Chancellor of UC Davis, one of the leading universities in the World:

Chancellor Gary S. May interviews two guests in the Face to Face studio.

A special edition of “Face to Face With Chancellor May,” in connection with the Council on Competitiveness summit held on campus. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Watch the Video

Face to Face with Chancellor May
That May Be the Chancellor
Gary May Chancell-ing

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Notations From the Grid (Special Sunday Edition): In America This W-End.....

 We present the following #RandomtThoughts on America This Week:

A parent explains the emergency route from their home, surrounded by disaster preparedness supplies


 give yourself peace of mind by preparing for a disaster or emergency today.

🧠 Know what kind of disasters are most common for where you live.

✅ Sign up for emergency alerts in your area.

🧰 Build your emergency supply kit.

Discover more from


The strength of the US dollar

The US dollar is the most prominent currency in the world. The dollar’s strength comes from America’s position as a critical global economic power — and from the country’s political and financial stability. Plus, the Federal Reserve adds durability by aiming to keep inflation rates low, preventing the dollar from losing too much value. A new USAFacts article has the data and history on the vital global role of the US dollar

  • We can partially measure the dollar’s central role in the global economy by its share in foreign exchange reserves. Central banks worldwide hold reserve currencies to conduct trade deals and financial transactions. Among the past 20+ years, foreign exchange reserves of the US dollar were highest in 2001, at 71.5%. By 2021, it was 59.5% of foreign reserves. 
  • Seven nations, including Ecuador, Micronesia, and Zimbabwe, have adopted the US dollar as their official currency. Several other countries have tied their currencies to it. 
  • As of March 2021, people in foreign countries held nearly half of all US banknotes, amounting to roughly $950 billion.
  • There are some drawbacks to a strong dollar. For one, it’s harder for US producers to sell goods abroad since countries with weaker currencies can produce goods more cheaply. It also means people can import goods at cheaper prices.

Learn more here, including the post-WWII decision that secured the US dollar at the center of the new global economy.  

Who was homeless in America last year?

About 18 out of every 10,000 people in the United States were homeless last year. A recent report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows that unsheltered homelessness in America is up and that some races are more affected than others.

  • About 582,000 people were homeless nationwide in 2022. However, the counting process is difficult; this total could be an undercount. 
  • Veterans experience homelessness at higher rates than the population overall (20 out of every 10,000 veterans were homeless in 2022), but rates are down. This is partly due to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program and other services that help veterans find permanent housing and healthcare. The nation’s veteran population is also shrinking in general, down from 21.8 million in 2008 to 16.5 million in 2021.
  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are 1.8% of the homeless population despite being 0.26% of the US population. They have the nation’s highest rate of homelessness: 121 per 10,000 people. Black people were the second-highest demographic, at 48 people per 10,000.
  • This report includes sheltered and unsheltered people. Sheltered people live in hotels/motels, various types of shelters, or safe havens serving homeless individuals with mental illnesses. Unsheltered people live outdoors, in cars or abandoned buildings, or other places unfit for human habitation.
Get the data here.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Notations On Our World (Special Edition): The Symphony of the Epic of Khorramshahr" by Majid Entezami - Live

As we go dark for Easter Week, our team chose this from Iran, honoring one of the iconic victories of the 8-year War between Iran and Iraq.

We look forward to the continued privilege of serving.