Books Payments

New Book: Global Payments

Congratulations to my long-time partner at Glenbrook, Carol Coye Benson! Carol has just published a new book on Global Payments.

Carol is a real industry expert with years of experience on this topic. If you’re looking to better understand the complexities of how payments work on a global scale you’ll want to read this new book.

Global Payments is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Carol and I collaborated many years ago to write the book Payments Systems in the U.S., now in its third edition with co-author Russ Jones.


First Wednesday

silhouette of mountains
Photo by Simon Matzinger on

Cool Tools: I’ve recently upgraded to an iPhone 12 Pro Max and have updated my Cool Tools page reflecting that upgrade.

Morning News – Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The U.K. approves a vaccine, becoming the first nation in the West to do so – The New York Times

The government said on Wednesday that 800,000 doses would be available by next week for health workers to begin administering.

Operation Warp Speed chief predicts coronavirus vaccines for all Americans by June – The Washington Post

“Hopefully, by the middle of the year, I hope most Americans will have been immunized,” Slaoui, head of the Trump administration’s vaccine initiative, said … “If enough people are immunized, we should have this pandemic under control in the second half of 2021.”

My 2021 Outlook Year in Preview – The Big Picture

Here is my outlook for 2021: We will all be even more sick to death of lockdown, more bored silly working from home, and damned tired of re-living the same Groundhog day over and over again.

Exercise 11 Minutes a Day for a Longer Life – The New York Times

The study, which relied on objective data from tens of thousands of people about how they spent their days, found that those who were the most sedentary faced a high risk of dying young, but if people got up and moved, they slashed that threat substantially, even if they did not move much.

What if You Could Outsource Your To-Do List? – The New Yorker

He worried that if he didn’t keep up he’d be left behind, because some people were running so quickly and with such focus that, if you didn’t do the same, you risked betraying your future.

Project Zero: An iOS zero-click radio proximity exploit odyssey

The takeaway from this project should not be: no one will spend six months of their life just to hack my phone, I’m fine. Instead, it should be: one person, working alone in their bedroom, was able to build a capability which would allow them to seriously compromise iPhone users they’d come into close contact with. Scary stuff!

Salesforce Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Slack – Business Wire

“This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world. I’m thrilled to welcome Slack to the Salesforce Ohana once the transaction closes.”

Working from paradise: my escape to the south of France – Financial Times

If only I could, I decided, I would always winter here, like the redstarts and the goldfinches in the garden, like the arrowhead of white storks which flew over once under a blue moon, their wingbeats carrying through the silent night.


Tuesday’s Tales

photography of road during winter season
Photo by Postmans on

Morning Reading – Tuesday, December 01, 2020

There Aren’t Serious-Enough Consequences for Those Trying to Break American Democracy – The Atlantic

Trump and his team are doing lasting damage to American democracy as the president struggles to come to grips with the reality of his loss. And yet, these lawyers and officials will likely face no real consequences for their actions—and if they do, those repercussions will not be enough to address the scale of the problem.

How Biden Can Break the Senate Stonewall – WSJ

A more promising approach would be to find issues on which individual senators would benefit politically from breaking with their leadership and supporting President Biden’s plan.

The Covid Pandemic Could Cut Business Travel by 36%—Permanently – WSJ

Some airline executives note that technology has always stimulated more business travel, not less. The easier it is to make connections in the business world, the more reason there is to go meet with people. Others say that this time it’s different.

How to take a coffee nap | A Life of Productivity

Caffeine naps work for several reasons, some of which are obvious, some of which are not. You get the calm restfulness that a nap provides (without sleeping long enough to feel groggy), and you also benefit from the energy jolt from the cup of coffee.


Monday Reading

Photo by Scott Loftesness

Morning Nuggets – Monday, November 30, 2020

Moderna to ask the FDA to greenlight its coronavirus vaccine – The Washington Post

“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and claim any victories, but this has the makings of a very, very important positive impact on ending this outbreak,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

Vaccines Are Coming, but Pandemic Experts Expect a ‘Horrible’ Winter – The New York Times

Our failure to protect ourselves has caught up to us. The nation now must endure a critical period of transition, one that threatens to last far too long, as we set aside justifiable optimism about next spring and confront the dark winter ahead.

Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, First Woman to Run Major U.S. Bank, Discusses Her Plans – Bloomberg

So I learned to be much bolder. And if you make a wrong decision, you make another decision. Those were really the two things: What’s the vision? And be bold. Take those tough decisions. Gumption. I’m trying to bring the same values and thinking.

The King of Trump TV Thinks You’re Dumb Enough to Buy It – The New York Times

But nobody I’ve ever covered treats an audience with the blithe disdain of Mr. Ruddy. He has them watching a great story — a thriller, a whodunit — about a stolen election. He thinks they’re stupid enough to fall for it, dumb enough to keep watching even after the fantasy inevitably dissolves…

Bitcoin and China Are Winning the Covid-19 Monetary Revolution – Bloomberg

We are living through a monetary revolution so multifaceted that few of us comprehend its full extent. The technological transformation of the internet is driving this revolution. The pandemic of 2020 has accelerated it

Apple Si – The Surprise Twist – It’s not About Money | DIGITS to DOLLARS

Compare that to the $10 billion or so it would cost to buy merchant silicon and something becomes clear – Apple is not saving that much money by building its own silicon.

San Francisco’s Chinatown fights for its life during covid-19 – The Washington Post

Covid-19 has decimated tourism in the neighborhood. Can its historic businesses survive?


The Weekender

Morning Nuggets – Saturday-Sunday, November 28-29, 2020

Photo by Sid Leigh – Unsplash

We Have No Idea What Happens Next · Collaborative Fund

Liebig’s work – improved upon in the following decades, particularly by scientists who learned how to manufacture ammonia synthetically – gave rise to the ammonia-based fertilizer industry that still dominates global agriculture. It’s hard to exaggerate how big a deal it’s been.

Bill Gates, Covid-19 and the Quest to Vaccinate the World – The New York Times

Working behind the scenes is one of the world’s richest men, neither a scientist nor a doctor, who sees himself and his $50 billion foundation as uniquely prepared to take a central part.

The story of mRNA: From a loose idea to a tool that may help curb Covid

Every strand of mRNA is made up of four molecular building blocks called nucleosides. But in its altered, synthetic form, one of those building blocks, like a misaligned wheel on a car, was throwing everything off by signaling the immune system. So Karikó and Weissman simply subbed it out for a slightly tweaked version, creating a hybrid mRNA that could sneak its way into cells without alerting the body’s defenses

How Democrats Suffered Crushing Down-Ballot Losses Across America – The New York Times

“People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.”

Inside Trump?s failed quest to overturn the election – The Washington Post

With his denial of the outcome, despite a string of courtroom defeats, Trump endangered America’s democracy, threatened to undermine national security and public health, and duped millions of his supporters into believing, perhaps permanently, that Biden was elected illegitimately

The Cost of Trump’s Assault on the Press and the Truth   | The New Yorker

Trump may have devoted more mental energy to his degradation of the press—through lawsuits, threats, and hundreds of tweets—than to any other issue.

Why I’m Losing Hope in India – Bloomberg

For many of my generation, our long-cherished hope for a better, greater India is all but gone. We wanted to trade some of our democratic chaos for a little bit more growth. We ended up with less of both.

What’s in a name? A lot. – On my Om

You have to have a name. But with the borderless nature of our economies, various trademark challenges, and other hurdles, you are lucky to land on one that is worth having.

With Toyota’s Help, This Secretive Entrepreneur May Finally Give Us Flying Cars – Forbes

“If we can fly, we can turn our streets into parks and fundamentally make our cities much nicer places to live in,”


Black Friday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Friday, November 27, 2020

by Scott Loftesness

Live It Up – HumbleDollar

Let me offer some advice you won’t hear elsewhere: Go ahead and splurge

Black Friday is here — and it’s completely different – The Washington Post

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that, fundamentally, everything has changed. Will there be more stimulus money? Will people be shy about spending? We just don’t know.”

Holiday Shopping Moves to the Couch, Mostly: Black Friday Update – Bloomberg

With sparse crowds and none of the stampedes of holidays past, some retail watchers started to refer to Black Friday as Blasé Friday instead — and that was even before the virus hit.

Eroding coast paves way for ‘managed retreat’ in California – Los Angeles Times

Here at Gleason Beach, once referred to as Malibu North, the beach gets drowned during high tide. Bits of concrete and rebar are all that remain of 11 clifftop homes that have already surrendered to the sea.

Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump? – The New York Times

Three factors — the logic of partisan polarization, which inaccurate polling obscured; the strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy; and the success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic — mostly explain why Democrats didn’t fare better.

Trump’s Refusal to Concede Wasn’t Some Sideshow – The Atlantic

A democracy at grave risk one day cannot be pronounced healthy the next.

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal – POLITICO

At a low point in his party’s existence, with much of the GOP’s leadership class pre-writing their own political epitaphs by empowering Trump to lay waste to the country’s foundational democratic norms, an obscure lawyer from west Michigan stood on principle.

TSA screens record number of travelers on Thanksgiving eve – The Washington Post

The number of travelers flying Wednesday was half of what it was on the day before Thanksgiving in 2019, before the coronavirus was a threat in the United States.

‘It’s finally got to rural America’: coronavirus surges in Dakotas – Financial Times

South Dakota has a positivity rate of more than 43 per cent of those tested, according to Johns Hopkins University. That is among the highest in the nation and compared with about 3 per cent in New York.

What’s a Semi-Log Plot and How Can You Use It for Covid Data? – WIRED

If you have data that spans a very wide range of values (different orders of magnitude) then you pretty much have to create a semi-log plot so that you can see all of it.

Take A Look At This Documentary About The Skunk Work’s History And The Birth Of The SR-71 Blackbird – The Aviationist

About the Blackbird on this Black Friday!


Thanksgiving 2020

Morning Nuggets – Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sunrise – Marin County, California – Thanksgiving 2020 – by Scott Loftesness

This blog began November 25, 2001 – nineteen years ago yesterday.

Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November since 1941 due to federal legislation, has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 …

Blessings in a Hard Year – WSJ (Peggy Noonan)

This year we emailed a dozen people whom we respect and who know a lot, asking what they’d seen, experienced or realized this annus horribilis that left them moved or grateful.

Thanksgiving 2020 – AVC

We are going to need everything we can get from science and the human spirit because we are facing enormous challenges that will not end with the pandemic.

Reasons to be thankful during coronavirus Thanksgiving – The Washington Post

“I used to think I didn’t spend enough time at home. … Now it’s like, ‘Get me out of the house!’ ”

The Online Photographer: Happy Gratitude Day

Gratitude is absolutely a key component in a practical spiritual toolkit. For one thing, it’s the antidote to self-pity. The two are incompatible feelings; you can’t be grateful and self-pitying at the same time—the two won’t arise together and seldom co-exist.

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving — MacSparky

A few years ago, I started the practice of writing down one thing I was grateful for every day. It is one of the first things I do every morning, and I find it helps me get the day started right.


Thanksgiving Eve 2020

Morning Nuggets – Wednesday, November 25, 2020

36 days remain until the end of the year. I started this blog on November 25, 2001 – nineteen years ago today! What a trip it’s been!

Marin Morning – Fall 2020 – by Scott Loftesness

The Losses We Share – New York Times (Meghan Markle) – So this Thanksgiving, as we plan for a holiday unlike any before — many of us separated from our loved ones, alone, sick, scared, divided and perhaps struggling to find something, anything, to be grateful for — let us commit to asking others, “Are you OK?”

A novel approach to truth-telling – Financial Times – Twenty years ago, I assumed that the world’s two largest democracies, India and the US, would stay on course, never imagining that both countries — among many others — would see the rise of populists and the loss of so many freedoms.

It’s Time for a Digital Detox. (You Know You Need It.) – New York Times (Brian Chen) – “The difference between getting 10 likes and 20 likes, it’s all just meaningless,” Dr. Alter said.

We Begin Our Lives as Growth Stocks, But End Our Lives As Value Stocks – Of Dollars and Data – The high expectations of youth (growth) eventually get replaced by lower expectations and upside surprises as you age (value).

Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix – Eisenhower – The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.

I Remember When Rock Was Young – New York Times (Jennifer Finney Boylan) – The combination is weird, joyful and gorgeous.

Bitcoin finally finds a rationale in doomsday scenarios – Financial Times – To be clear, I don’t believe in the risk of global authoritarianism painted by the cryptocurrency’s most fervid backers. But as a doomsday contingency system, I am glad someone created bitcoin just in case.


Thanksgiving Tuesday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Photo by Scott Loftesness

On (not) leaving San Francisco – On my Om – Right now, it seems that not just leaving San Francisco, but kicking it on the way out, has become a bit of a meme. And with all the bizarre propositions on our election ballots, our rabid political ecosystem, our declining quality of life, and the prospects of rising taxes, I can understand the temptation.

How Venture Capitalists Are Deforming Capitalism – New Yorker – Dunlevie admitted to a partner that he wasn’t certain how WeWork would ever become profitable, but he was taken with Neumann. Dunlevie said to the partner, “Let’s give him some money, and he’ll figure it out.” – see also Fred Wilson’s comments: Thoughts On Charles Duhigg’s New Yorker PieceThere is more truth to that article than anyone in the venture capital industry wants to admit. The idea that capital alone can create a strong company is a flawed idea that the VC industry pursued with a lot of passion for most of the last decade.

Podcast: The Talk Show – ‘A Craptastic Craptacular’, With Joanna Stern – Daring Fireball – Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

iPhone 12 Diary: Apple ProRAW photos are the clincher for me – 9to5Mac – ProRAW is Apple’s attempt to give us the best of both worlds. To include computational photography features, but also to give us a file with as much data as possible for use in editing. 

Trump Lost The Election. Why Do His Supporters Refuse To Believe It? – Refinery29 – Trump, of course, knows he has lost the election. But by creating doubt around the results, he is not only trying to undermine both the eventual Biden administration, but also to position himself as a winner to his base in an effort to subsequently make money on speeches, rallies, and books.

How Trump placed a ticking time bomb at the center of our system – Washington Post (Greg Sargent) – While this time the state legislatures appear unwilling to carry out Trump’s scheme, and a few GOP senators have signaled that they would not agree to count rogue electors in any case, that’s hardly a guarantee against future breakdowns.

It’s Time to Unfollow Donald Trump – GQ – Soon, the contents of his timeline will be no more important than that of any of this country’s many replacement-level MAGA social media personalities with bald eagle avatars, and I hope you do not follow many of them, either.

Qantas Will Require Passengers To Be Vaccinated – – In an interview with Australian TV show “A Current Affair,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made some interesting comments. Specifically, Joyce said that Qantas will require that passengers show proof of having received a coronavirus vaccine to travel internationally with the airline.

Need a Hypothesis? This A.I. Has One – New York Times – The machines may already have cracked hidden codes behind many human behaviors, but it will require live brains to help tease those out.


Thanksgiving Monday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Monday, November 23, 2020

Welcome to a new week as we near the end of 2020! Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan.

Photo by Scott Loftesness

Now comes the hardest part: Getting a coronavirus vaccine from loading dock to upper arm – Washington Post – The stakes are enormous. The massive undertaking to immunize most of the population requires extraordinary communication, planning and coordination. 

What to Know About California’s Vaccine Rollout – New York Times – “Don’t anticipate or expect that you can go down to a local pharmacy anytime in this calendar year and likely get a vaccination.”

Productive Uncertainty – Jerry Neumann – It’s tempting, as a venture investor, to back companies developing amazing new technologies. But this often doesn’t work out as well as investing in companies that are using existing technologies in a new way.

7 things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans – TechCrunch – Sequoia now believes Europe is producing market leaders ahead of Silicon Valley.

Expert advice on the near future of cheap travel – SFGate – The most surprising and deepest discounts have been those summer flight deals to Europe. Cheap summer flights to Europe in July and August are almost unheard of.

Bitcoin Trades Again Near Record, Driven by New Group of Buyers – Wall St. Journal – The rally has attracted a wide cast of characters, from the Wall Street billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller to momentum investors who aim to ride winning assets higher and losing markets lower.

Paypal CEO Schulman Say He’s Bullish on Bitcoin as a Currency – CoinDesk – Schulman said central bank digital currency is a global inevitability. As that happens, “you’ll have more and more utility happen with cryptocurrencies,” he said. – See also: Bitcoin Shortage? Pantera Thinks Market Rally Driven by PayPal Buys

Barack Obama’s A Promised Land — the thrill of the journey  – Financial Times – Once he reaches the White House, however, Obama’s storytelling arc hits a plateau. Some of the life drains from the writing.

Every Thanksgiving, my mental health strategy is recalling memorable, personal moments – Washington Post – So it goes with me every Thanksgiving. Call it my mental health strategy. I compile a highlights reel featuring the moments in my life I hold most dear.