Monday, October 29, 2018

October 29th Links

  • Lake Agassiz was an immense lake, bigger than several U.S. states and Canadian provinces. It was formed when enormous, miles-thick glaciers melted, near the end of the last ice age. A dam formed from glacial ice held back this immense lake. But the dam melted. This may have been the biggest dam failure yet. Much of the water of Lake Agassiz may have emptied in a few weeks. Some of the water escaped to the Arctic Ocean. Some surged across what is now present-day northern Minnesota, emptied into Lake Superior and went out through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. A lot of the water escaped to the Gulf of Mexico. It made a river that stretched, unbroken, from the Arctic Ocean to the Mississippi River. This river gouged a canyon 800-feet deep at the site of present-day Fort Snelling, right at the point where the present-day Minnesota River empties into the Mississippi River. Silt has partly filled this canyon, but it is clear, even today, that something stupendous happened. Glacial melt water also made the Mississippi River Valley, north of Dubuque, Iowa, as much as four- or five-miles wide, with steep, abrupt bluffs--one of the most beautiful places on our planet. [CBS]
  • Reglaciation relies on warm, moist air circulating into the northernmost latitudes, cooling and dropping as snow in the way of a conveyor belt. Once begun, the process of turning the oceans into snow is so efficient ocean levels drop by a couple of meters, perhaps more, in the first decade. [link]
  • The ratio of cash spent on content in relation to the amount recognized as a depreciation expense can be used to determine if NFLX is "stretching out" the amount depreciation recognized on its GAAP income statements in relation to the amount that it is spending on content. In general, this ratio should remain relatively constant over time. For 2014, 2015 and 2016, this ratio was 1.42, 1.69 and 1.80 respectively. When this ratio increases, it means that NFLX is spending cash on content at a rate that is greater than the rate at which NFLX is amortizing this cash cost into its GAAP expenses. If NFLX were using a uniform method of calculating media content depreciation, this number should remain fairly constant across time. However, as content spending increases and GAAP depreciation declines relative to the amount spent, this ratio increases dramatically – as it has over the last three years. A rising ratio reflects the fact that NFLX has lowered the rate of depreciation taken in the first year relative to previous years. [link]
  • An intelligent man I recently met advises wealthy families and pension funds in the field of private equity. A booming business. He genuinely solicited my views. I simply told him that such asset class didn’t exist when I was his age even though people invested in privately-held firms for generations. But I also told him that private equity would not have been possible were it not for another word that also didn’t exist back then: EBITDA—a word that owes its very existence and relevance to dishonest money. I suggested that he contemplate the outcome of that certain compound error that undoubtedly undergirds this entire new asset class. [link]
  • The fact that an age-related clinical event developed in approximately 1 out of 3 healthy individuals in the upper tertile of insulin resistance at baseline, followed for an average of 6 yr, whereas no clinical events were observed in the most insulin-sensitive tertile, should serve as a strong stimulus to further efforts to define the role of insulin resistance in the genesis of age-related diseases. [link]
  • Most of the spots on the above list are filled by what I'd call good-government states, known for competent civil servants and evidence-based policies (the states with the lowest roundabout-to-driver ratios are a motlier crew, led by New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Oklahoma and West Virginia). This makes sense, given that evidence is what has driven the rise of the roundabout. Decades of data from Europe and elsewhere has shown that traffic flows more smoothly through roundabouts than through signaled intersections, and that accidents and especially injury accidents are rarer. [Bloomberg]
  • I'm writing this because my 2013 Model S is about to go back to the shop because the motor sounds like it wants to die (again). You can also take my experience as a warning that you probably shouldn't buy a used Model S and/or why you shouldn't be an early adopter (or even why you shouldn't buy a Tesla at all). [Tesla Motors]
  • They made this forecast of where global food production would be relocated to if the world rises four degrees Celsius above the 1990 baseline, which of course the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses. Where today the world's largest food producers are the United States, Brazil, China, India, Australia and so forth, it could be that 30 years from now or less, the world's largest food producers are Canada and Russia. [WaPo]
  • He never held a true 9-5 job, so his days were pretty free to be whatever he made them. In the mornings, he'd work out, running and doing a certain number of kicks, jabs, punches, etc. The afternoons were reserved for either reading or making social calls. And in the evening, he'd spend time with his family, lift weights a few times a week, or continue his reading. He cultivated both mind and body, every single day. [Art of Manliness]
  • A friend ordered a Tesla Model 3 five weeks ago. It is ready for delivery in Florida today. If we assume a two-week transit time to get from The Land of Virtue (TM) to The Land of Permanent Alimony, the factory backlog is only three weeks. This is a "performance" model with an after-tax-credit price of about $70,000 (actually less because she is getting free super charging for life). Maybe Tesla will still have a backlog of orders for the basic Model 3, but I wonder if they will soon simply run out of orders and customers. If they've already sold a Tesla to every virtuous American, what then? [Phil G]
  • The solar roof tile scam is one of many schemes Musk has employed to keep his hype machine going. The increasing frequency of new business ventures he's promoted over the past few years are a sign of desperation; his narrative must keep expanding to bring in more cash to keep the Tesla dream alive. Everything from new models (long-haul semi trucks, a pickup truck...) to solar roof tiles and batteries to stabilize the grid. [link]
  • I don't think I go a day without seeing an XJ driving around (not including my own) and often I see several in the course of a day. Since the XJ model ended in 2001, that means every one I see is AT LEAST 17 years old. I live in a tough state to pass inspection, so junky vehicles that are barely drivable don't pass. This means the many XJ's I see are in pretty decent shape. [link]
  • Owing to its durability and reliability, the Land Cruiser, along with the smaller Toyota Hilux, has become popular among militant groups in war-torn regions. U.S. counter-terror officials enquired of Toyota how the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had apparently acquired large numbers of Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiluxes. Mark Wallace, the CEO of the Counter Extremism Project said, "Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand." [Wiki]
  • I live in the Napa Valley of marijuana, the Southern Oregon/Northern California legal grow region known as the "State of Jefferson". Almost everyone I know from monied professionals to shiftless layabouts is involved in the weed business. At this time of year, the entire area smells like pot because it is harvest time. Thousands of people, working mostly in cash, harvest hundreds of thousands of pounds of marijuana. Some of it is legally grown and legally distributed. Most of it is taken across state lines and sold illegally. Everyone operates in cash. Almost everyone is stoned out of their minds. What this has led to is an entire community of people who may not be physically at risk but who wander around in what is definitely a compromised state mentally. Everyone wants to put things off until tomorrow; it is a sort of a cultural conspiracy of perpetual adolescence that nobody really wants to talk about. Those of us who don't smoke pot are often frustrated by the degree to which it has sedated our environment. And while people talk about legality as though it is a libertarian birthright, it's actually about a license to get high and lie around. Pot now is so engineered to give you an intense high that it's more like acid than a simple plant. This will be the next meth....there is not enough money to regulate such a huge and unregulated industry. [NY Times]
  • These rapid rises in atmospheric 14C concentration (henceforth, Miyake Events) inhere a combination of features that make them unique for high-precision chronometry. Firstly, they are easily distinguishable from the normal equable patterning of 14C in the atmosphere. In fact, the first year of a Miyake Event takes the form of an almost vertical spike in atmospheric activity. Secondly, the exact calendar year in which a Miyake Event occurred is easily ascertainable, because tree-rings retain the 14C signal from the year in which they grew, and dendrochronological archives exist in which the growth year of every tree-ring is exactly known. Finally, Miyake Events are precisely synchronous and of comparable magnitude all around the Earth. The spike in 775 CE, for example, has already been found in tree-rings from Germany, Russia and the USA) and New Zealand. Crucially, the enriched concentrations will also have been absorbed by all other growing plants at the time, including those latterly fashioned into cultural items. [link]
  • I recently read Steven Johnson's fun new book "How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Changed the World". Of course, Johnson claims one of those six critical innovations is artificial light. Johnson references a very interesting study from Yale economics professor William Nordhaus: In 1994, Nordhaus studied the historic pricing of artificial light across the eons, as a way to normalize the buying power of a worker's wage throughout history. In his paper "Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Lighting Suggests Not", he created a fascinating table of historic light pricing. [Lucept]
  • Everyone in the lighting industry knows Richard Kelly's "three elemental kinds of light": Focal Glow (make it easier to see), Ambient Luminescence (make surroundings safe and reassuring), Play of Brilliants (stimulate the spirit). [Lucept]
  • The tale of 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road began in 2011 when the Justice Department sought to seize the property and other assets — including a Ferrari, a private jet and the jacket Michael Jackson wore in the "Thriller" music video — from Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of the African nation. Located within the gated Serra Retreat, the property's centerpiece is a Spanish-hacienda compound reached by a winding driveway lined with palm trees. A circular motor court and a pond sit at the end of the drive; a three-hole golf course replete with fairways, greens and sand traps surrounds the home. [LA Times]
  • We have made use of, as has been discussed in prior reviews, of a superior mechanism to be exposed to the earnings optionality of precious metals without the balance sheet risks or dormant asset risk of mining companies. This is through precious metals royalty companies like Franco Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals. They are simply discounters, whose assets are contracts. They buy future production from the miners at a present discounted value that typically works out to about a two-thirds discount to the price of gold and silver. They constantly generate ROE and they have long term optionality. None of those three companies, even with market values of $12 billion, $5 billion and $8 billion, will be found in the S&P 500. [Horizon Kinetics]
  • I was in Germany for four years and couldn't help but notice that any guy who had married a German and stayed there became a shell of what they would have been at home. Being blue pill types they, of course, were not aware of the glaring reality that they had entered their wife's frame for life, with no potential of escape once kids are involved. [Pushing Rubber]
  • I don't know about the wife being near her family for support, especially for kids. On one hand, it makes sense. Then there's reality. We did that when my first was born. Moved halfway across the country to be closer to her family for 'support'. Turns out, they were mostly useless. [Pushing Rubber]

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