Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16 Links

  • Do you ever get the feeling that, leaving aside minor details about what kind of economic system, the Soviet Union will eventually triumph over the United States due to the sophistic skills of ex-Soviets like Ilya Somin, Max Boot, Masha Gessen, and Julia Ioffe? They may not quite agree on what should replace the U.S., but they are united in being committed to propagandizing Americans into believing that America isn't for "ourselves and our posterity," no matter what it says in the Preamble to the Constitution. [Sailer]
  • I once gathered the people in my building around the kitchen table and asked them to consider adding insulation to the whole building envelope in a coordinated fashion. I paid an expert to assess the things that could be done quickly and inexpensively, the things that would be slightly more involved and a bit more pricey, and the super deluxe version of ultra insulation. The simple "low hanging fruit" package would have been $3,000 divided by four apartments ($750 each) or eight inhabitants ($375 each.) No one was interested in lower gas and electric bills for the next few decades by way of insulation. But shortly afterward one of the guys upstairs installed $13,000 worth of solar panels on the roof, attached an electric charging plug to the garage wall, and bought a Tesla. [Granola Shotgun]
  • One underreported phenomenon is the medical salaries of physicians. American doctors are no longer content with being members of the local upper middle class or gentry. A lot of them want to become 8 digit millionaires with huge mansions and extravagant vacations. You cannot do that on a 200K-300K salary. Hence all this over-treatment. Its like a business. You sell as many services as you can convince the patient (or his insurer) to buy. [Sailer]
  • The U.S. is a great place to live if you're rich. There is no wealth tax and income tax rates, though much higher than in the most efficient countries (e.g., Singapore, Estonia), are still lower than in many European nations. Prices are low and there is no VAT so you can consume like crazy. The U.S. is also a great place to live if you're poor. You're entitled to a lifetime of free housing, free health care, free food, and free smartphone. If you start at age 18 and navigate the policies and waiting lists you might find yourself in an apartment with a market rate of $60,000 to $100,000 per year in the heart of one of America’s most desirable cities, e.g., San Francisco, New York City, or Cambridge, Massachusetts. [Phil G]
  • When the ibises aren't eating or resting, the foster moms spend as much time as possible bonding with them. Cuddle time is key to ensuring such a strong connection that the birds will eventually follow the microlight aircraft carrying Schmalstieg and Esterer from Austria, over the Alps, and to overwintering grounds 800 miles away in Italy—a route their parents would typically teach them, and that they need travel only once in one direction to learn. [Audubon]
  • Bank of the Ozarks will meet this brave old world with a new name. Gleason is spending as much as $25 million to rebrand as Bank OZK (pronounced oh-zee-kay, not oz-kuh). The name will start appearing soon on checkbooks, outside branches, and in those thousands of pages of loan documents. Gleason came up with it himself: "It's a name that sounds young, tech-oriented, global," he says. A long way, in other words, from Ozark, Arkansas. [Bloomberg]
  • Hastings knows that if Netflix falls short of, say, 250MM subscribers, his business will buckle and break. His spend is predicated upon it. Accordingly, some say that company's strategy – which Sarandos claims is "more shows, more watching; more watching, more subs; more subs, more revenue; more revenue, more content" – more closely resembles that of a Ponzi scheme: Netflix takes on more debt to finance more content in hopes of getting more subscribers so that past content investments can be recouped, but then needs even more subscribers to pay for the new content spend, and so on. [link]
  • Duncan's narrative voice, describing a crucial episode in his presidency barely a month after the event, isn't his private, inner voice; it's a public, self-justifying voice, which is perhaps all we can expect from a novel written by a former US president and his collaborators, but anyone hoping for a flash of insight, however brief, into what it's like to be both an ordinary, fallible human being and the most powerful person on earth is going to be sorely disappointed. The story then moves away from the White House to Reagan National Airport, where a woman has just arrived and 'is enjoying the open-air space after the flight'. I found myself wondering whose point of view we're supposed to be seeing her from. So far, the president has been telling the story in the first person. In which case, who is the mysterious omniscient third-person narrator who has suddenly appeared at the arrivals gate along with the mysterious woman sucking on ginger candy and listening to Bach – 'the whimsical first movement of Violin Concerto No. 1' – through her headphones? [LRB]
  • Some of the top-ten predictors of whiteness were watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "American Pickers," "The Big Bang Theory" and the Kentucky Derby. If we're looking at specific brand names, the top 10 included Thomas' English muffins, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce and Stove Top stuffing. More generally, in consumer products, the best predictor of whiteness was whether someone owned a pet — followed closely by whether they owned a flashlight. [WaPo]
  • One of the reasons Frito-Lay is still so entrepreneurial is that it is a relatively young company in its industry. Both the ''Frito'' and the ''Lay'' portions of the company were founded in the early 1930's - the Frito corn-chip business by Elmer Doolin and the Lay potato chip operation by Herman W. Lay, each of whom borrowed $100 to found their businesses. The two companies, both based in the South, joined hands in 1961. When they merged with Pepsi four year later, their combined sales still totaled only about $200 million. [NY Times]
  • Frito-Lay is a very interesting company. They call on more than half a million accounts a week. There's a Frito-Lay rack in each store, and the chips are all there, and every store's got the identical rack and the big ones have multiples. For Frito-Lay, the biggest problem is stale product—bad chips, so to speak. For Frito-Lay's service, they've got, like, 10,000 guys who run around and take out the stale product and replace it with good product. They talk to the manager of that department and they make sure everything's fine. Because of that service and support, they now have more than an 80 percent share of every segment of chips that they're in. Nobody else can break into that. As long as they keep doing what they do well, nobody else can get 80 percent of the market share, because they can't get the sales and support staff. They can't get it because they can't afford it. They can't afford it because they don't have 80 percent of the market share. It's catch-22. Nobody will ever be able to break into their franchise. Frito-Lay doesn't have to innovate very much. They just watch all the little chip companies come out with something new, study it for a year, and a year or two years later they come out with their own, service and support it to death, and they've got 80 percent of the market share of the new product a year later. [link]
  • A straw buyer typically has the shelf life and career trajectory of a Trump appointee. Cash purchases are difficult, as they set off all the alarms for a dealer, but finance purchases present the problem of having multiple loans pending at once. It's tricky. I do not know what kind of noises U.S. Customs and Border Protection makes in verifying that a car is cleared for export, but it must tell someone your car is going swimming. Because when I went back to dealerships to buy more cars, most of the time I was politely told that I had been identified as an exporter. If you are clever, quick, or lucky, you might get three on the boats before you're blacklisted. [Car and Driver]
  • Jerome Powell's Federal Reserve will not alter course for any of these three reasons. The Federal Reserve will hike at least every other meeting until something breaks. Full stop. [Macro Tourist]
  • The journey from Belgrade to Podgorica and Bar in Montenegro over the celebrated Belgrade to Bar railway is one of Europe's most spectacular train rides, and one of my favourites. It's a marvel of engineering, with 254 tunnels and 435 bridges on the 296-mile journey from the Serbian capital to the Adriatic. Construction of the line started in the 1950s but only completed in 1976, opened by President Tito himself. Yet it costs only €21 - watch the video below and you can see it'll be amongst the best €21 you'll ever spend. [Seat 61]
  • And so the touring-car aces at Team Dynamics went back to the drawing board, fitting an HF 2622 mower with a pile of custom parts created using CAD design and 3D printing. They also added a lot of power by installing a 999-cc four-cylinder from a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP motorcycle, which means Mean Mower V2, as it's known, makes 190 horsepower—60 hp more than before. With that much muscle, it's almost at the vaunted 1-hp to 1-kg power-to-weight ratio, which is Koenigsegg One:1 territory. [Car and Driver]

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