Monday, January 21, 2019

Long Weekend Links

  • Modern Monetary Theory is the theoretical justification for the economic policies of every potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Because with MMT, you CAN have it all. You can pay for wars without end. You can pay for universal single-payer healthcare. You can pay for everyone to go to college. You can pay for a universal basic income. I mean... why not? A caring sovereign's gotta do what a caring sovereign's gotta do. So yeah, you're going to hear a lot more about Modern Monetary Theory. And you're almost certainly going to get it. [Epsilon Theory]
  • You could be in a Japanese daydream of what America is, or you could be lost in a pocket of fantasy where an America of yore has remained intact. [Bon Appetit]
  • What's the lifetime value of a Netflix customer and how much does Netflix spend to acquire her? The company doesn't say. What's the share of people who quit Netflix every month, and how is that trending? Netflix doesn't say. What's the average time subscribers spend watching Netflix, and what are the company's costs for each hour of programming? The company doesn't say. Those metrics would help investors assess whether Netflix's strategy is working — far more than simple growth of new people coming on board to Netflix while it's engaged in wild spending. [Bloomberg]
  • For years, black Lululemon yoga pants and Uggs were the axis of the mom uniform, until the media cruelly shamed women out of them. Then last year, a pair of deliberately beaten-up-looking $500 Golden Goose sneakers and what is known as simply the "Amazon jacket," a $130 parka, was seen on moms in Chappaqua and Short Hills alike. [NY Times]
  • I certainly wouldn't want to own a company with a $55-billion market cap and $12 billion in debt if it had a CEO who can't legally deny having committed securities fraud who then put out forward guidance modifying the word 'profit' with the words 'hopefully, great difficulty, luck, target, and tiny.' [LA Times]
  • As someone too old and unhip to have a beard, I've been a loyal Gillette customer for decades. Now it seems that there is a virtue offset bonus. Gillette will take some of its spectacular gross margin on every blade and use it to educate un-woke men on how to behave. What about for the guys who aren't happy to support Gillette's new crusade? Can they buy a blade system that is actually as good or better? If so, what is it and who makes it? [Phil G]
  • In general, English is rather lacking in family words. For example, we have "siblings" as a somewhat rare but convenient word for brothers and sisters, but we don't have any similar word for nephews and nieces. My impression is that the English tended to less interested in extended families than just about anybody, and not even very interested in them: e.g., the rather horrifying English goal is to be rich enough to pack your children off to boarding school when they reach 7 or 8. [Sailer]
  • I learned from a patent litigator (one of the perks of being an expert witness is talking to these smart folks!) that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is going full steam ahead. They have money left over from the previous fiscal year so they're good through February and, should those funds run out, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will declare that the folks who accept filings are "essential". Ergo, we live in a country where we can still fight about patents, but we can't visit the Smithsonian exhibits that celebrate our patent system. [Phil G]
  • The actual measurement process was exceptionally clever. The primary measurement point, what Michelson called "Mount San Antonio" (today known as Lookout Mountain) was 22 miles away to the northeast. The light pulses sent from Mount Wilson to San Antonio were created by reflecting the arc light off a spinning, multifaceted mirror with either 8, 12 or 16 sides. The time it took a pulse of light to travel from Mount Wilson to Mount San Antonio and back to Mount Wilson (44 miles) was 0.00023 seconds. This happened to be the same amount of time it took a 16 faceted mirror, turning at 264 revolutions per second, to move one facet. When all was adjusted just so, the light pulse went out on one mirror facet and returned on the next one presenting what appeared to be a single image to the observer. [Tom Mahood]
  • That's right: the company that sells an astounding total of ten different and unique sport-utility vehicles across two brands says that putting a stick-shift into its $53,000 coupe would somehow damage the sales prospects of its $27,000 coupe. Wasn't it just a few years ago that Toyota was selling three separate Prius-branded vehicles with extremely similar drivetrains, all priced within a few grand? [Jack Baruth]
  • Perfectly reasonable hypotheses get attacked as conspiracy theories, derailing the discussion into arguments over when you're allowed to use the phrase. These arguments are surprisingly tough. Which of the following do you think should be classified as "conspiracy theories"? Which ones are so deranged that people espousing them should be excluded from civilized discussion? [SSC]
  • Upon my first encounter it was clear to me that object oriented programming is something that appeals to algebraists. So if you're a programmer and found Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software to be a revelation, it is highly likely that you lean towards algebra and eat your corn in neat rows. Going the other way, if the techniques described in On Lisp appeal, then you might be on the analytic side of the fence and eat your corn in spirals. This is particularly true if you found yourself agreeing with Paul Graham's thoughts in Why Arc Isn't Especially Object-Oriented. There was a period that I thought that the programming division might be as simple as functional versus object oriented. Then I encountered monads, and I learned that there were functional programmers who clearly were algebraists. (I know someone who got his PhD studying Haskell's type system. My prediction that he ate corn in rows was correct.) Going the other way I wouldn't be surprised that people who love what they can do with template metaprogramming in C++ lean towards analysis and eating corn in spirals. (I haven't tested the last guess at all, so take it with a grain of salt.) [Ben Tilly]

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