Thursday, January 2, 2020

First Links of 2020

  • I was also unbelievably surprised at the amount of tobacco smoking that occurs in Europe. I had not been to the continent in at least 12 years now but I was struck at how many people, in Spain specifically that were smokers and that also were looking for a "non vape" alternative as vapes are viewed as dirty and for kids. If I had planned this trip accordingly and without embellishing I could have sold at minimum 20 IQOS devices and Heetsticks and likely paid for at least my hotels with the profits. As an unwitting ambassador of Philip Morris (PM) I introduced waiters, waitresses, bartenders, hotel guest and taxi drivers to this device and the response was nearly universal, strong buy! [Seeking Alpha]
  • Do you think you need an SUV because you have lots of kids and lots of car seats? Suck it up and buy a minivan. You're not cool anymore, you have lots of kids and lots of car seats. SUVs are now treated like cars, with tiny engines and big interior space. SUVs are for driving around on loose surfaces, towing boats to the lake, race cars to the track, or filling with bags of mulch from the home improvement store. It should be simple and uncomfortable to drive, like a truck with less utility. What you lose in having a truck bed, you gain in being able to fold the seats down (or take them out), and sleep inside your SUV. [Jalopnik]
  • This was the decade in which tapas, bar snacks, grazing, wine-bar cuisine and other trends that had been swirling around for some time finally got together and overthrew the old three-course restaurant meal. At restaurants like Estela and Wildair in New York and hundreds of others across the country, the new paradigm meant that it could be hard to tell whether you were in a wine bar, a tapas bar, some other kind of bar or even that antiquated institution known as the restaurant. A multiplicity of plates eliminated "entree fatigue," the condition of growing bored after just a few bites of a massive pork chop; suddenly, you never had to move past the appetizers. Small plates were supposed to encourage sharing, too, although some kitchens seemed to forget that as they carefully arranged three anchovies on a dish that was going to be enjoyed by four people. Yet somehow, as this fashion became mainstream almost everywhere, servers still felt they needed to waitsplain the concept. [NY Times]
  • What would anybody pay me for the knowledge that flying on Tuesday at 9 am, on a blue-sky day in August, on an airliner owned, and managed by Caucasians, and piloted by a Caucasian with an IQ of 125 or more, is the safest way to fly? Not so much. But we can informally develop our own flying rules. Things barely hold together. Generally, people are in the grip of little-understood forces that make them pilot ships into the middle of hurricanes, take off in airplanes into passing thunderstorms, or deprive soldiers of medical treatment. [CBS]
  • The Fed has three purposes. Bailing out the elite at the bottom of economic cycles, which is a put option that allows them to use more leverage. Choking off the economy when labor is starting to receive a share of economic growth (like now). And third, bouncing populist presidents from office. [CBS]
  • After the Brexit referedum, Steyn declared victory in our bet. Several friends advised me to concede, even though the referendum was merely advisory. I refused. Scenarios like the UK's long limbo were precisely why I included the phrase "officially withdraws" in the original terms. Since the UK remains in the EU today, it has clearly not officially withdrawn yet. End of story. Philip Tetlock notes that when experts make barely incorrect predictions, they tend to plead bad luck ("I was almost right"); when they make barely correct predictions, however, they tend to plead great skill ("I was not almost wrong"). [Caplan]
  • Unlike most American elites, I don't feel the least bit bad about living in a Bubble. I share none of their egalitarian or nationalist scruples. Indeed, I've wanted to live in a Bubble for as long as I can remember. Since childhood, I've struggled to psychologically and socially wall myself off from "my" society. At 40, I can fairly say, "Mission accomplished." Why put so much distance between myself and the outside world? Because despite my legendary optimism, I find my society unacceptable. It is dreary, insipid, ugly, boring, wrong, and wicked. Trying to reform it is largely futile; as the Smiths tell us, "The world won't listen." Instead, I pursue the strategy that actually works: Making my small corner of the world beautiful in my eyes. If you ever meet my children or see my office, you'll know what I mean. I'm hardly autarchic. I import almost everything I consume from the outside world. Indeed, I frequently leave the security of my Bubble to walk the earth. But I do so as a tourist. Like a truffle pig, I hunt for the best that "my" society has to offer. I partake. Then I go back to my Bubble and tell myself, "America's a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there." [Caplan]
  • We are not apt to be the people bowed in reverence over their collection of single malt Scotch. We are not apt to be the ones discussing merits of boutique gins, Junipero vs. Hendricks vs. Plymouth. Nor, surprisingly, are we much good at sophisticated discussions of wine. Unless of course we are foodies by choice, not by heritage. Then we can get really wound up. Me, I vote for Junipero gin, that faint flavor of juniper berries, bite of the gin…but where was I? Oh yes. Beefeater’s is fine. $10 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc are fine, especially when they are sustainably produced. Scotch is great. Just needs to be brown. [link]
  • It's not well known outside of Sweden but their washing machine culture epitomises everything wrong with that society. A worthier writer than me - perhaps a Scandinavian Houellebecq - needs to write a drama based around Swedish washing machine practice. It's called the Tvättstuga ("Laundry Room"). In Socialist Scandinavia, it is unseemly to have something as bourgeoise as your own personal washing machine. Stated simply, it's communal laundry facilities in apartment blocks. Most Swedes live in Soviet style concrete blocks and the individual apartments are not even set up to allow the installation of individual washing machines. Instead, each complex has a designated washing room which has washing machines and drying facilities. [moldbug]
  • Whenever a business sells for a really low price (e.g. for no price once you subtract current assets minus all liabilities, or for zero or negative enterprise value), the market is already acknowledging the problems people are worried about: a recession, a business that seems to be highly competitive and lacking a moat; or in other cases, bad management, bad capital allocation, unfriendly insiders. Sometimes bad factors win out and a company goes to zero. Or a stock purchase can do really poorly even if they company survives when too high a price is paid. But when companies don't have much debt (and that's what a low or negative enterprise value is telling you), there is a lot more runway to try to improve things. So much more runway, in fact, that most shortsellers are not very interested in situations where there are not financial debts or other fixed liabilities to act as catalysts. [OBS]


Anonymous said...

How can you not find Caplan loathsome? Someone take him for a hunting accident.

eahilf said...

Stated simply, it's communal laundry facilities in apartment blocks.

I had that in San Diego 20 years ago (wow, time flies) -- had to visit my credit union ab und zu to get rolls of quarters.