Per My Last E-mail #7

Debate Club, Russia, Threads

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Monday of a short week! I hope you get to spend the 4th on the beach, with friends and family, plowing through all of the links below.

Debate Club

Nerd alert: I was on the debate team in high school and for a couple of years in college.

I loved researching a topic, preparing arguments, and getting up in front of a group of people and battling with only words as weapons. In any given debate, you never knew if you were going to be supporting or opposing the resolution, so you needed to be able to build a case for both sides, regardless of your personal opinion.

For the past few years, I have been talking to some friends about starting a casual Debate Club in NYC. Writing this newsletter and getting to discuss and *debate* the things I write and the articles I share with a bunch of you has pushed me to stop talking about it and try to actually start the Debate Club now.

I want to gauge interest, so I wrote a short post on why I want to start the club and what the format might look like: New York City Debate Club.

If you would be interested, fill out this form to be added to the waitlist: Debate Club Form. If you know anyone else who you think would enjoy debating, feel free to share!

What I’m Reading

🏨 After two straight non-fiction reads in Loonshots and Range (both highly-recommended), I’m treating myself to some fiction in the form of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922 is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow by the Bolsheviks for a poem that he wrote. Reading about Russia in the 1920’s under the Bolsheviks via one fictional man’s journey is more tangible to me than reading about the period in a history book, but what really gets me is the writing, like this passage:

“As he began to shuffle the pack, the three ballerinas watched him closely; but like demi-gods of ancient myth, they watched in three different ways: the first through the eyes of the innocent, the second through the eyes of the romantic, and the third through the eyes of the skeptic. It was the dove with the innocent eyes whom the Count had asked to pick a card.”

I have accidentally gone on a Russia kick recently (more below). The last novel I read was Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, “a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.” Magical realism is my favorite genre, and Deathless was my first encounter with its Russian incarnation. It was an incredibly enjoyable read, and it may have subconsciously been the spark that lit my recent Russia spree.

Links & Listens

🎬 The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Movie)

A Per My Last E-mail first: movie recommendation! On its surface, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a story about the impact of gentrification on one man whose family has lived in San Francisco for three generations. It’s also a story about friendship, loss, and the stories we tell ourselves to keep going. It was magically shot; certain scenes made me feel the way Wes Anderson movies make me feel, without the underlying sarcasm. There were at least 10 times throughout the movie that Puja and I looked at each other with goofy grins on our faces because the shots, characters, or dialogue were so much different than what we’ve come to expect. I give The Last Black Man in San Francisco an enthusiastic 👍🏻👍🏻. Go see it.

🇷🇺 The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History in Wired & The Hero Who Betrayed His Country in The Atlantic

Between A Gentleman in Moscow and these two articles, I can safely say: Russia is crazy. (If you’re reading this, sorry, I mean it in a good way, я обещаю.)

The Untold Story of NotPetya is a fascinating exploration of a 2017 cyberattack that shut down the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, along with many others, causing an estimated $10 billion in damages. Some saw the damage as an accidental casualty of a Russian attack targeted only at Ukraine, but Cisco’s Craig Williams argued, “Anyone who thinks this was accidental is engaged in wishful thinking. This was a piece of malware designed to send a political message: If you do business in Ukraine, bad things are going to happen to you.”

The Hero Who Betrayed His Country tells the story of an Estonian soldier who was honeytrapped into becoming a Russian spy. It is a fascinating look at how someone who has dedicated his life to defending his country can be coerced to spy against it, with details on the complex machine the Russians have built to turn assets.

For even more Russia reading, I can’t recommend Red Notice by Bill Browder highly enough. Browder was an American hedge fund manager based in Russia, and the events he writes about in the book ultimately led to the creation of the Magnitsky Act, which has shown up in the news on multiple occasions over the past couple of years.

🏀 4,000-to-1 Long Shot by Ryan Kreuger

With the Warriors dynasty officially imploding (unless D’Lo is the new KD), this post comparing successful financial planning to Steph Curry’s game in 7 steps is a timely read. If you can pardon a few typos and grammatical errors, and the fact that the titular 4,000-to-1 math is shaky at best, this is a solid read for people interested in basketball and those of us who are *just* about to get to long-term financial planning.

🐰 The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros

I don’t know where this guy finds the time, but Moros has published his notes on hundreds of books, including ones that I’ve written about here, like Loonshots and Range. If you want the lessons but don’t want to do all that reading, this is the best resource I have found.

💰 Lessons from Jeff Jordan, Who’s Seen it All Before in Fortune

Polina Marinova is one of the top 5 journalists covering VC and tech - she is a Fortune editor who is the author of two great newsletters, The Term Sheet, a daily from Fortune mainly focused on venture investments, and The Profile, her own weekly highlighting the best profiles on the internet.

In Lessons from Jeff Jordan, she writes a profile of her own, landing a rare interview with a16z partner Jeff Jordan. Jordan spent over 20 years as an operator - at Disney, eBay and OpenTable - before becoming a venture capitalist and investing in iconic companies like Airbnb, Pinterest and Instacart. His experience on both sides of the table makes for an educational and entertaining read.

Live Threads Follow-up

If you follow me on Twitter, it was hard to miss my experiment with Live Threads. Starting with a flood of tweets early Monday morning, I tweeted nearly 80 times over the course of the week. What’s worse, each time I added a tweet to a thread, the whole thread would show up in my followers feeds. Sorry and thanks for bearing with me.

At the end of the week, I took a poll to get a sense for how people felt about the format:

The good news: I picked up a bunch of followers who are interested in the topics I created threads on; half of the poll respondents liked the format.

The bad news: the other half either hated the Threads or didn’t care.

The takeaway: I’m going to add to the Threads much more judiciously going forward, and will keep searching for better ways to group and share content. Suggestions welcome!

What’s Next?

I’m heading to Avalon to spend the 4th of July weekend with my family. I’ll also be furiously refreshing Debate Club form submissions to see if we can make this happen.

As always, if you’re enjoying this newsletter, I would really appreciate it if you shared it with friends who you think would like it too.

Thanks for reading and have a great week,

Packy