Monday, January 13, 2020

January 13th Links

  • If you buy a property at a 2% cap rate, you're effectively saying that it will take 50 years for you to recoup your capital outside of appreciation or financial engineering. Obviously, 50 years is a damn long time to wait. Do you know what the world looks like in 50 years? I sure don't. What about a property in a random city on this globe? Coimbra went from capital of Portugal to a backwater. Along the way, Portugal suffered through revolution, civil war, invasion, coup, change of government and all sorts of other political crises that forced property ownership changes. If your property gets expropriated in year 40, you've actually lost money despite tying up capital for four decades. Think about that for a second. [AiC]
  • Satoshi Nakamoto's paper and Bitcoin launch happened in 2008... over 10 years ago. The iPhone was launched in 2007. If blockchain really is a platform that will change everything, it's a real sleeper success story. Typically you see killer apps on a new platform a lot quicker. Web 1.0 launched Amazon and Netflix within the first couple of years. Where are all the blockchain apps? The only industries that have really been impacted are ransomware, money laundering, and facilities for exchanging and speculating on tokens. There are unloved monopoly ledger companies like OpenTable and Ticketmaster. Where has any centralized application actually been disrupted? If distributed ledger technology can't disrupt OpenTable, what use is it? My best guess is that blockchain and Bitcoin adoption will remain a curiosity and a niche phenomenon linked to black markets, illicit activities, weak states with unreliable payments and money. [link]
  • I conceded that it's possible that things could continue along these lines forever, although it seems unlikely to me that a bubble this obvious and severe could persist. Then I asked her a different question. What if she's right? What if things do double again? What if a decade from now the average $1.8M condo hits $3.6M? What if the economy performs as expected? What would the side effects be? She made a pained expression. It's difficult to imagine how society would hold itself together. [Granola Shotgun]
  • The rise of heart disease DOES parallel the rise of the heart disease death rate in the first half of the 20th century. But the fall in heart disease rates actually precedes the fall in smoking by a decade or so. You can make the argument that high heart disease death rates caused a fall in smoking rates because of public education campaigns about the risk of smoking rather than the other way around. [link]
  • Gerald Reitlinger, in his 1963 book, "The Economics of Taste," wrote that back in 1937, when 18th-century French furniture was all the rage with the ultrawealthy, a desk by Carlin sold for 8,000 pounds, or about $700,000 in today's money. That same year, a Cubist still life by Picasso failed to sell at auction for £105, according to Reitlinger. [NY Times]
  • The book that etched the deepest grooves in my mind last year was Against the Grain by James C. Scott. It explores how the unique characteristics of grain-based agriculture shaped the early history of states. While I did learn many interesting historical facts and trends from the book, what stood out to me most was Scott's emphasis on epistemics. When he pointed to the archaeological record, he wouldn't simply cherrypick a basket of facts that supported his arguments. Instead he explained how archaeological evidence is gathered, and where that leaves systematic holes in our knowledge. For example, he pointed out that what we envision when we think of archaeology is really just the archaeology of states, cities, and monuments, rather than of nomadic or indigenous peoples, because those are the sites that are lowest-hanging fruit for archaeologists to find. [Devon Z]
  • No matter what your priorities are in an active vacation, Japan can accommodate them. There are epic thru-hikes that trace ancient pilgrimage routes, like the 559-mile Michinoku Coastal Trail in the northeast; stunning rock formations along the north-central coast that can be explored by kayak, such as those found in San'in Kaigan National Geopark; and an abundance of public hot springs you can access for less than $15 (including one inside the Sapporo airport). An increase in international routes from Asian carriers has driven down ticket prices: Scott's Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club find fares as low as $300 to $400 round-trip from the West Coast and even cities such as New York—which is $1,000 below average. Once you're there, stay in pod hostels, where beds are tucked away into cubbies to offer more privacy than a standard bunk room, or camp at one of 3,000 sites in more than 30 national parks. Fill up for cheap by sticking to $5 bowls of ramen and udon, conveyor-belt sushi, or street foods. If you plan to travel between cities, invest in a Japan Rail pass, which starts at $271 for seven days of unlimited travel. [Outside]
  • What Intellectual Progress Did I Make In The 2010s? One of the best parts of writing a blog is being able to answer questions like this. Whenever I felt like I understood new and important, I wrote a post about it. This makes it easy to track what I learned. I think the single most important thing I discovered this decade (due to a random comment in the SSC subreddit!) was the predictive coding theory of the brain. [SSC]
  • This article really points out that Chipotle has a SERIOUS issue with order size and frankly they aren't close a lot of the time. While I don't eat at McDonald's often I do know that when I order a Quarter Pounder it cooks down to roughly .3 pounds EVERY SINGLE TIME! It's even advertised as such. Chipotle seems to be straddling the line between pre-cooked and cooked and while it doesn't need to be exact, it should at least be close, and as the pictures above show, that's not the case. Also, as I am sure people will see from the comments on this post, I AM NOT ALONE. That's why this issue resonates with people. [link]
  • I was hoping that Iran would outmaneuver Trump diplomatically and make him look like the stupid Zionist thug he is, but unfortunately the large number of deaths because of a stampede at the funeral procession and the downing of the Ukrainian airliner has just made Iran look like a stupid third world country and made it very difficult to defend them. I initially thought that this latest act of aggression from the US might be the beginning of the unraveling of their empire, but unfortunately it appears not. Unfortunately Trump now looks even stronger than he did as far as the majority are concerned and Iran looks even more backward and contemptible than it did before. [Unz]
  • In many countries project expenses and payroll for the local crew need to be carried in cash. Whether you're managing a team of thirty working for months at the edge of the grid, or on a solo trip to negotiate a significant cash transaction, the 1M Hauly is designed for discreet, safe carry of up to $1 Million USD in strapped, new or used $100 USD banknotes. Designed to address the six main issues with carrying significant volume banknotes in field: risk of discovery; risk of damage (especially in high-humidity, monsoon environments); container robustness; carryability; glide; and in-field accounting. [SDR Traveler]
  • Every soldier in Vietnam used one ton of copper per year, I think that it's as if they were fighting each other with ingots of copper. So I was forecasting copper prices by looking at the troop build-up, one ton of copper per army person, and forecasting that the price of copper would go up. So I was known for a while as Mr. Copper. As I said, Anaconda was Chase's main client, and Kennecott was the client of Citibank, and they're a group of commodity people in Wall Street that just love copper. I love copper and when one head of the group said, "Aluminum is a shit metal," I felt the same way that copper is nice. [Michael Hudson]
  • The same mountebanks who get to Washington by promising to augment his [the farmer's] gains and make good his losses devote whatever time is left over from that enterprise to saddling the rest of us with oppressive and idiotic laws, all hatched on the farm. There, where the cows low through the still night, and the jug of Peruna stands behind the stove, and bathing begins, as at Biarritz, with the vernal equinox—there is the reservoir of all the non-sensical legislation which makes the United States a buffoon among the great nations. It was among country Methodists, practitioners of a theology degraded almost to the level of voodooism, that Prohibition was invented, and it was by country Methodists...that it was fastened upon the rest of us, to the damage of our bank accounts, our dignity and our viscera. What lay under it, and under all the other crazy enactments of its category, was no more and no less than the yokel's congenital and incurable hatred of the city man—his simian rage against everyone who, as he sees it, is having a better time than he is. [Mencken]
  • This preposterous quackery flourishes lushIy in the back reaches of the Republic, and begins to conquer the less civilized folk of the big cities. As the old-time family doctor dies out in the country towns, with no competent successor willing to take over his dismal business, he is followed by some hearty blacksmith or ice-wagon driver, turned into a chiropractor in six months, often by correspondence. In Los Angeles the Damned, there are probably more chiropractors than actual physicians, and they are far more generally esteemed. Proceeding from the Ambassador Hotel to the heart of the town, along Wilshire boulevard, one passes scores of their gaudy signs; there are even chiropractic "hospitals." The Mormons who pour in from the prairies and deserts, most of them ailing, patronize these "hospitals" copiously, and give to the chiropractic pathology the same high respect that they accord to the theology of the town sorcerers. That pathology is grounded upon the doctrine that all human ills are caused by pressure of misplaced vertebrae upon the nerves which come out of the spinal cord -- in other words, that every disease is the result of a pinch. This, plainly enough, is buncombe. The chiropractic therapeutics rest upon the doctrine that the way to get rid of such pinches is to climb upon a table and submit to a heroic pummeling by a retired piano-mover. This, obviously, is buncombe doubly damned. [Mencken]
  • Promotion guys, sales guys... they are what they are. When they're not working they're either eating/drinking/smoking (junk food/hard liquor), or they're watching TV, playing golf, whoring. What they don't do is anything remotely scholarly or intellectual. Studying is for dweebs unless you mean studying sales techniques, golf techniques or whoring techniques. Trump's dream career was running his casino in Atlantic City. Think about it. [Sailer]
  • The problem is that here the central banks, though nominally independent, are in fact subject to the whims of the political apparatus, and NIRP/cheap debt solves a lot of short term political problems. Not only does it juice the economy (longest bull run in history!) but it prevents governments from needing to make what Habermas identified in Legitimation Crisis as their most fundamental choice in resource allocation – between the demand for welfare by the populace and a low tax burden by enterprise – and putting that risk off for the future in the form of debt, which accumulates as and is quantified by the annual budget deficit and accumulated debt balance. Habermas understood that this is a very dangerous game. States are, when they do this, creating expectations of satisfaction of what he termed "programmatic demands." i.e. "stuff the population expects will get done, otherwise they'll revolt." The title of the book, Legitimation Crisis, refers to Habermas' description of what happens when a state is 'no longer able to satisfy the programmatic demands it has set for itself.' The risk breaks out into the open, leading to the untethering of institutions and political expectations, upheaval, and revolutionary change. Accumulating debt is the process of deferring making hard choices between certain programmatic demands. When a state does this it reduces political risk in the present by increasing political risk in the future. [Preston Byrne]
  • This means it's really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven't noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important. [link]

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