Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10th Links

  • "We experience a modest, short-term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long-term liabilities." That should be the U.S. motto, not E Pluribus Unum. The enormous, long-term liabilities from the boomers' lifetimes are coming due now: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and state/local pension obligations. [CBS]
  • You are effective as you are organized - Improving your personal organization is the most overlooked and easiest place improve your effectiveness. If you have 100 things to do, how do you keep track of them? If those 100 things constantly change stakeholders, change requirements, and change deadlines…how do you keep it all straight in your head? Define to-do list item next steps - If you're on a project, and it seems too massive to handle, it's because your next step is still ambiguous. Define the next steps and break them down into little chunks of tangible to do list items. Cross them off one at a time. That's progress. [Greg Kamradt]
  • If you have a problem to solve, make that the starting point for proposals. Unless you have a monopoly or an exotic niche, you have competitors who are solving the same problems. One of them may have come up with a great solution and his vendor may be willing to sell that idea to you. Even better, the competitor of that vendor may have an even better solution. Smart people spend money to solve problems. [Z Man]
  • Today, Northern Hemisphere summer is 4.66 days longer than winter and spring is 2.9 days longer than autumn. As axial precession changes the place in the Earth's orbit where the solstices and equinoxes occur, Northern Hemisphere winters will get longer and summers will get shorter, eventually creating conditions believed to be favorable for triggering the next glacial period. [Wiki]
  • Azolla has been deemed a "super-plant" as it can draw down as much as a tonne of nitrogen per acre per year (0.25 kg/m²/yr); this is matched by 6 tonnes per acre of carbon drawdown (1.5 kg/m²/yr). Its ability to use atmospheric nitrogen for growth means that the main limit to its growth is usually the availability of phosphorus: carbon, nitrogen and sulphur being three of the key elements of proteins, and phosphorus being required for DNA, RNA and in energy metabolism. The plant can grow at great speed in favourable conditions – modest warmth and 20 hours of sunlight, both of which were in evidence at the poles during the early Eocene – and can double its biomass over two to three days in such a climate. [Wiki]
  • Bar/Restaurant owners are not likely to run self-service ad campaigns. My first job out of college was selling a yelp-like suite of software/services to local business like restaurants, bars, cleaners, etc. And it was a slog. They get pitched 5x a day on similar services, tend to not be technically inclined, and have way too many things going on to worry about "bid optimizations" and whatnot. Call 100 bars/restaurants in a day... see how many owners you can get on the phone, let alone how many meetings you can get, let alone how many times they show up for the meeting at the agreed to time. I would say 1 in 100. And then try getting them to run a self service ad campaign. So your only option is the "boots on the ground" salesforce, but it's not going to scale because you don't have single large advertisers. Yelp's entire customer base is long-tail, small business owners. It's not like McDonalds or Cheesecake Factory is going to advertise there. [COBF]
  • Douglas's assertion that "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," was less an articulation of a nontextual right to privacy, a word the Constitution fails to cite, than an invitation to scholarly complaint and derision. Press reports assert that a warning sign mocking Douglas's Griswold language–"Please don't emanate in the penumbras"–hangs today in the Supreme Court chambers of Justice Clarence Thomas. [Nation]
  • A mistake paleos and others often make is to assume that having a goal requires a well reasoned set of principles, by which they mean morals. Some goals contain within them all the justification they need. For example, Jews want their promised land to be an explicitly Jewish country. Similarly, White Nationalists want a land of their own that is the exclusive domain of whites. In both cases, the goal is the principle and the principle requires no further explanation. To do otherwise suggests the goal is negotiable. Paleos were prone to negotiating with themselves. The endless debating over principles is really just an excuse for not moving forward. It may not be intentional, but that is the result. When the conqueror sets out to sack a city, the one thing he never does is wait until he has a detailed administrative plan for managing the city after the siege. The winners of life never lose sight of this truth. Principles are the things you create after the victory to lock in your gains and give the people a reason to celebrate your dominance. [Z Man]
  • This is why the Right always loses. The Left would respond to this with litigation. They would go into Federal court and demand Twitter dox the accounts promoting this. They would sue the protesters in order to get depositions, forcing them to name their backers. It would be an endless legal assault. Tucker will go on his show and plead for civility. [CH]
  • Parfit spent about five weeks each year in Venice and St Petersburg. (That's the kind of thing you can do when you're a fellow of All Souls.) Like me, he dislikes the harshness of the midday sun, so he'd wait for morning or evening light. He would wait for hours, reading a book, for the right sort of light and the right sort of weather. When he came home, Parfit developed his photographs and sorted them. "Of a thousand pictures," Macfarquhar writes, "he might keep three. When he decided that a picture was worth saving, he took it to a professional processor in London and had the processor hand-paint out all aspects of the image that he found distasteful, which meant all evidence of the 20th century – cars, telegraph wires, signposts – and usually all people. [Guardian]
  • There is an astonishing industry in used Leicas, with clubs and forums debating such vital areas of contention as the strap lugs introduced in 1933. There are collectors who buy a Leica and never take it out of the box; others who discreetly amass the special models forged for the Luftwaffe. Ralph Gibson once went to a meeting of the Leica Historical Society of America and, he claims, listened to a retired Marine Corps general give a scholarly paper on certain discrepancies in the serial numbers of Leica lens caps. "Leicaweenies," Gibson calls such addicts, and they are part of the charming, unbreakable spell that the name continues to cast, as well as a tribute to the working longevity of the cameras. By an unfortunate irony, the abiding virtues of the secondhand slow down the sales of the new: why buy an M8 when you can buy an M3 for a quarter of the price and wind up with comparable results? The economic equation is perverse: "I believe that for every euro we make in sales, the market does four euros of business," Lee said. [New Yorker]
  • In earlier eras, animal life could have adjusted to climate change. But humans have now "fenced off" so much of the planet that animals are basically stuck on "islands", and find it increasingly hard to adjust to environmental stress. The same is true for humans. People in Bangladesh are no longer free to migrate to a warmer Siberia, as they could have 10,000 years ago. If you favor doing nothing about global warming, then you should also favor open borders. [Econlib]
  • I don't really like Taleb's term "antilibrary." A library is a collection of books, many of which remain unread for long periods of time. I don't see how that differs from an antilibrary. A better term for what he's talking about might be tsundoku, a Japanese word for a stack of books that you have purchased but not yet read. My personal library is about one-tenth books I have read and nine-tenths tsundoku. I probably own about 3,000 books. But many of those books are anthologies or compilations that contain multiple books within them. I own a lot of Library of America volumes, a series that publishes the complete novels of authors like Dashiell Hammett and Nathanael West as a single book. Thus, my 3,000-book library probably holds more than 6,000 works. Once I have read a book, I often give it away or trade it in at a used-book store. As a result, my tsundoku is ever expanding while the number of books in my house that I have read remains fairly constant at a few hundred. [NY Times]
  • The genius of flowering plants was figuring out how to move pollen much more precisely and reliably by recruiting animals as their couriers. These animals are our Desire players, and in the context of flowering plants, they're called pollinators. The most iconic pollinator, of course, is the honeybee. But the role can be filled by many other insects (like butterflies), as well as birds (hummingbirds) and even mammals (bats). This relationship is simple, but also profound. The plant lures the pollinator with the promise of food (e.g., nectar). And when a plant consistently delivers on its promise, the pollinator keeps coming back. Not just to the very same plant, but to any plant of the same species, thus ensuring an extremely high fertilization efficiency. And the flower mediates this relationship by acting as a brand image. Its distinctive shape and arresting colors are a mnemonic to remind pollinators of the plant's good faith and credit. "Get your sweet nectar here!" the flower calls out, "And wherever else you see our trademarked signs!" Thus the flower's beauty isn't capricious. It's a solution to a very concrete problem. And what a solution it turned out to be! Since bursting on the scene some 130 million years ago, flowering plants have completely taken over from their predecessors, such that they now dominate the landscape. It's estimated that flowering plants make up 90 percent of all plant species and more than half of all biomass on Earth. That's the power of beauty. [link]
  • To oversimplify: fast strategies (think "live fast, die young") are well-adapted for unpredictable dangerous environments. Each organism has a pretty good chance of randomly dying in some unavoidable way before adulthood; the species survives by sheer numbers. Fast organisms should grow up as quickly as possible in order to maximize the chance of reaching reproductive age before they unpredictably die. They should mate with anybody around, to maximize the chance of mating before they unpredictably die. They should ignore their offspring, since they expect most offspring to unpredictably die, and since they have too many to take care of anyway. They should be willing to take risks, since the downside (death without reproducing) is already their default expectation, and the upside (becoming one of the few individuals to give birth to the 10,000 offspring of the next generation) is high. [SSC]

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Weekend Bonus Links

  • The stock market has soared since 2009, and pension fund asset values have risen, again at least on paper. But benefit payments still equaled 7.9% of pension fund assets in 2016. That year, in order to meet the 4.0% standard, U.S. state and local government pension funds would have required more than $3.5 trillion in additional assets. That is a hidden "pension debt" of 21.8% of all of the personal income of everyone in the United States. While this is a back of the envelope estimate, it is similar to the current estimates of about $4 trillion in U.S. state and local government pension debt made by others. Why did this happen? For one thing the level of pension benefit payouts has soared as more and more public employees retire. [Larry Littlefield]
  • I think this is what almost every American has packed in their dark corners. Clothes that will never be worn. Broken things that will never be fixed. Sentimental objects that will never be fondly looked at or ever touched. [Granola Shotgun]
  • The next morning, I rose with the sun and purchased a five-pound bag of potatoes and another of onions. I then dug into a dusty countertop corner for my secret weapons and truest tests: a menacingly hard loaf of stale bread and a butternut squash. I promptly chipped a Yoshikane SLD Wa-Santoku Suminagashi Enju Double Horn ($424)—borrowed from Donald—on the squash. The Zwillings held steady. The affordable Material and Misen knives managed. I wondered if any knife would distinguish itself. Then one slid through a large Idaho potato as through heavy cream. It turned squash into pudding. It was a Swedish stainless-steel santoku made by Ashi Hamono, a small company in Sakai, Japan. It cost $225, but at this point its feats seemed unlikely to be matched. [Vogue]
  • As it happens there is another, much older industry that is in the business of preserving memories, and that takes all of its income in the form of up-front fees while promising services in perpetuity. Cemeteries. In other countries it works differently. The plots are rented rather than sold, and when the family stops paying the remains are evicted. Or the occupancy of the crypt only lasts so long before the bones are removed and piled up somewhere. Here in New York State, however, there is a law on the books that attempts to ensure the preservation of a gravesite in perpetuity. [Larry Littlefield]
  • At the end of the 19th century it was popular to be a founder of a startup cemetery. You'd raise capital from future residents and then make a land purchase and live off the proceeds. And just like the vaporware startups there were plenty of vaporware cemeteries with grand visions that were simply a vehicle to raise capital before disappearing into the Victorian crowd. Pine Lawn raised their initial capital and purchased a plot of land in what eventually became Farmingdale, NY. The way the cemetery was organized eventual residents pre-purchased shares for their plots and in return were promised that they'd receive 50% of the plot sale proceeds as dividends until the cemetery was full. Initial management wasn't the most honest bunch, and refused to pay out dividends to plot-holders. Plot holders sued and the court forced the cemetery to honor their initial obligation, and they've been doing so for the past 116 years. [Oddball Stocks]
  • The correct metaphor for competition isn't a boxing match that knocks out the inefficient firm. The correct metaphor is a slow tide. Inefficient firms must scramble for a bit of high ground but as the tide ebbs and flows they can occasionally catch a breath when their head bobs above the profit line. An inefficient firm can survive for years before it inevitably sinks. The second lesson from The Profit is that management matters and it matters in systematic and fairly easy to replicate ways. If mis-measurement explained productivity differences, Lemonis would not be able to successfully turn firms around. But he can and does. How? One of the first things Lemonis does in almost every episode is get the numbers right so he can calculate which products are selling and which have the highest price-to-cost margin. Concentrate production on high-margin, big sellers. Drop the rest. Simple; but many firms don't know their numbers. Second, in episode after episode, Lemonis cleans up shop. Literally. He cleans the shop floor and gets rid of inventory that isn’t selling. He then arranges the floor to improve process flow (made easier by concentrating production on fewer products). He then creates an inventory system, tracks orders and the inputs needed to create those orders, and takes advantage of costs savings through economies of scale in input purchases. [Isegoria]
  • These productivity differences across producers are not fleeting, either. Regressing a producer's current TFP on its one-year-lagged TFP yields autoregressive coefficients on the order of 0.6 to 0.8. Put simply, some producers seem to have figured out their business (or at least are on their way), while others are woefully lacking. Far more than bragging rights are at stake here: another robust finding in the literature—virtually invariant to country, time period, or industry—is that higher productivity producers are more likely to survive than their less efficient industry competitors. Productivity is quite literally a matter of survival for businesses. [NBER]
  • I think buying Saraf's shares made a lot of sense at the time, even though in hindsight it now doesn't look so great. At the time the thesis was obviously that Solitron was undervalued, and buying back a large block of shares at market price should have been a good deal. I think the real problem is simply that Solitron isn't as good as a business that people thought it would be with Saraf removed. [CoBF]
  • I always wash my model 3 on my back yard and noticed that every time I back out after washing there's a long trail of water about 50' long right on middle of driveway. This is even after the car sitting there for hours. I looked under car and saw it dripping from rear undercarriage. I started searching online and found photos of other model 3's with rear bumpers falling off and composite material breaking apart. I then opened my trunk and poured water around weatherstripping seal and water runs off to the sides and down but most of the water runs behind rear tail lights and and ends up inside on the rear bumper. The rear bumper has edges which act as a wall holding a lot of water. Once it fills or during driving water shoots forward drenching the composite material. This will be a big problem for many during winter when all that water on bumper freezes adding weight and stress to rear bumper. I then drilled a small 5/16" drain hole (hole #1) on center of bumper and poured more water but a single hole was not enough and water still drained off to the composite material. I added two more holes (holes 2&3) close to the first one but no water drained from there so I ended up drilling 2 more (holes 4&5) closer to where bumper meets composite material. One of these last holes (hole #5) ended up being where it drains the best. I did kind of crappy job drilling as drill motor didn't fit under car so I drilled at an angle. I don't know it having those holes will hurt the aerodynamic functionality of car but at least I won't have a bumper full of water. [Tesla Motors Club]
  • Given the import of the rational ignorance concept to the debate on how best to address bad patents, the time is ripe to revisit this discussion. This Article seeks to conduct a similar cost-benefit analysis to the one that Lemley attempted nearly fifteen years ago. In doing so, we employ new and rich sources of data along with sophisticated empirical techniques to form novel, empirically driven estimates of the relationships that Lemley was forced, given the dearth of empirical evidence at his time, to assume in his own analysis. Armed with these new estimates, this Article demonstrates that the savings in future litigation costs associated with giving examiners additional time per application alone more than outweigh the costs of increasing examiner time allocations. Thus, we conclude the opposite of Lemley: society would be better off investing more resources in the Agency to improve patent quality than relying upon ex-post litigation to weed out invalid patents. Given its current level of resources, the Patent Office is not being "rationally ignorant" but, instead, irrationally ignorant. [SSRN]

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ten Problems With Tesla

This are in order of how serious I think they are.

  1. Indictment of the accounts payable guy. A month ago the government charged Salil Parulekar with "embezzling" $9.3 million. Since then, nothing has happened in the case. The indictment alleges that Parulekar impersonated employees of one Tesla vendor (Hota Industrial Manufacturing of Taiwan) in order to substitute their payment information with the payment information of a different vendor, Schwabische Huttenwerke Automotive GmbH (SHW), the German company that makes oil pumps for the Model 3. The indictment says that Tesla paid $9.3 million to SHW but these were marked as satisfying Hota invoices. Nowhere does the indictment allege that Parulekar received any benefit from doing this - the account was not a disguised account of his, nor does it say that SHW gave him a kickback. While these actions may indeed be "fraudulent", they do not sound like embezzlement. [Matt Levine can't figure this out either, and the WSJ said "it couldn't be immediately determined how or whether Mr. Parulekar benefited from the alleged scheme".] If he were embezzling via a kickback, you'd think it would be an Indian company and not a German mittelstand company. Elon loves to pick Twitter fights with people - when his former employee Martin Tripp blew the whistle on Tesla, Elon tweeted about him by name and Tesla sued him. (The whistleblowing was regarding "extremely unsafe batteries/modules, unsafe production methods, and inconsistencies in numbers of cars produced".) But he has not said anything about Parulekar. My theory is that the fraud here was not embezzlement, but that it was a higher level fraud directed by Parulekar's superiors for the purpose of making payables and cost of goods sold look lower, and hence Tesla more profitable and more solvent. It is possible that the government is pressuring Parulekar to roll over on the masterminds of a fraudulent accounting scheme.By the way, the general counsel is being replaced with a "seasoned trial lawyer".
  2. Quality problems. Here is a buyer who took delivery of a Model 3 which immediately went into the shop for two weeks for a "deep scratch on bumper, weather stripping problems, no insulation on floor/backseat, glass roof not aligned". They've managed to sell a small number of Model 3s to diehard fanboys - these guys often seem to go from total beaters to a $50k+ vehicle and don't know what they should expect or demand. The quality is going to appall most German, Japanese, or even American luxury car buyers. Straight from the assembly line into the repair shop is just not going to be a viable model to compete with the high quality incumbent manufacturers. The Model 3 build includes zip ties (see 1,2,3). Water leaks. (More.) There is even a pre-delivery "water repair checklist" for "known water leak sources". This guy went ahead and drilled holes so that the water that leaked into his bumper would drain. Or: "rain draining into trunk... causing both mildew and electrical issues." Damaged by puddles (more 1,2,3). Doors that won't open in cold weather. ("Terrible winter car.") Poor battery life in cold weather. Here's a Model S lemon. A Model 3 that needed its batteries replaced after six days. This one needed new battery AND drive units two days after delivery. The fundamental problem the Tesla fanboy rubes have is that they don't get this heuristic: if the cosmetic / paint / panel fit stuff is as bad as it is, how bad is the engineering and the stuff that you can't see? This is why companies normally need to produce goods with quality fit and finish to survive in a competitive marketplace.
  3. Shortage of working capital yet not raising money. A lot of problems for Elon would disappear if he could raise $6 billion (with a mere 10% dilution) at the current valuation. Many shortsellers would give up and go away. He would have the working capital needed to run the business, so that customers could get things like their titles and registrations or repair parts on time. He could invest in expanding the service and supercharger network, which are both badly strained. He could invest (and make a big show of investing) in future products and model upgrades. Even just hiring more call center reps to help people so the waiting times on the phone are not so long. Why doesn't he raise the money? I have two guesses: either he knows he could not survive the due diligence (buyers taking a hard look at the reservation list, warranty claims, COGS, etc.) or he has gotten bids but they are for realistic valuations that are below the point where his stock would get sold by his margin lenders. He may also just be crazy; I've seen people who could have raised a lot of money when a bull market was running fail to do so and end up going bankrupt.
  4. Market capitalization compared to real car companies. Tesla's market cap is bigger than General Motors (trades at 1/3 revenue while TSLA trades more like 3x), Honda (also 1/3), Ford (only 0.22x sales), Fiat Chrysler (0.19x sales). They simply have not earned a $60 billion dollar valuation. Toyota is the biggest and it is only 3x larger market capitalization while having vastly larger sales and profit. If Tesla could steal Toyota's crown to become the biggest manufacturer of automobiles with unparalleled reliability, the upside would not be all that high as a multiple of Tesla's current market valuation.
  5. Price to book compared to real car companies. Real car companies trade at 1x book. A naive comparison of the Toyota and Tesla valuations would say that Tesla shares could perhaps triple if it surmounted Toyota, but this ignores the massive amounts of capital, and therefore dilution, that would be needed in order to be able to grow production. Toyota has $94 billion invested in property, plant, and equipment, net of depreciation. Toyota trades at about book value, as do Ford and Honda. (Again, Tesla trades at 14 times book.) Whatever valuation lens through which we look at the valuation of Tesla, it always seems to be too high by an order of magnitude.
  6. Erratic founder who we know did a buyout hoax and the abusive Solar City bailout. People who are grandiose narcissists don't change their stripes. This guy has come within days of blowing up before. His destiny is to blow up. He was the perfect man for the startup bubble, when you could make a name for yourself selling a dollar for fifty cents. (Rockets, solar panels, cars - who cares?)
  7. Competition coming and tax credit runoff at the end of the year. With the tax credit partially rolling off on Jan 1, what fanboy that wanted to buy this isn't buying it right now? Really the best competition if you care about cost effectiveness is a VW TDI. The hybrid electric vehicles are also more practical and economical.
  8. Failing to register vehicles and payoff trade-ins. Look at people Tweeting or otherwise commenting about buying a Tesla and not receiving their plates/registration after weeks or months. This is something that existing automotive retailers are able to handle as a matter of course. It is so unpleasant for customers to risk getting tickets or not be able to drive their cars because they are not registered. One person called this the "expired temp tag club". [By the way, if cars aren't registered or titled to the customers than they are still registered to... the manufacturer/dealer. Which can still use them as collateral and gets to sit on the cash that the customer paid for title/registration fees - substantial on $50k-$100k cars. This is what the movie Fargo was about.] Failing to payoff trade-ins is a much bigger cash grab. (See: 1,2,3.) Also refusing to refund deposits, what Plain Site calls "deposit theft".
  9. Executives quitting. Again, the best example is David Morton, who joined as a new Chief Accounting Officer on August 6th, only to quit a month later. He had worked at his previous employer Seagate Technologies for 23 years. The previous Chief Accounting Officer Eric Branderiz had resigned this March after being in that job for a year and a half. But those are just a start. This year, the company also lost its President of Global Sales and Service, Treasurer and Vice President of Finance, Vice President of Autopilot, Chief People Officer, Senior Vice President of Engineering (Doug Field), and numerous others. The latest Chief Accounting Officer to resign walked away from a $10 million stock grant that would have vested after four years.
  10. Lack of any disruptive technology. The test of whether you are an electric vehicle “disrupter” is: how many manufacturers are licensing your battery? If you’d actually invented a better electric battery or other EV technology (battery is the only technology that matters though), you could license them and have a 10x book business. Tesla not only did not do a battery licensing model, but they effectively did the opposite. Consider the parts of the vehicle industry that they have decided to in-source versus the ones they have decided to outsource. As we know, they decided to in-source and compete head-to-head on manufacturing. The results have shown that they are worse than their more experienced competition. They decided to in-source the automotive retail, which had not been done before and was not legal in most states. (And still is not legal in eight states). This had been a huge distraction from the manufacturing side and has resulted in abysmal customer service. But of all things to outsource, they outsourced the battery production to a joint venture with Panasonic. What should be the entire premise of an electric vehicle company is not even enough of a competitive advantage to do in house.
The valuation discrepancy of Tesla versus the expert existing automotive manufacturers reminds us of the 2000s tech bubble, and maybe especially the story of eToys and Toys R Us. A firm called O'Shaughnessy Asset Management wrote an essay a couple years ago called "Stocks You Shouldn't Own" and described those two companies this way:

eToys had an initial public offering in 1999. The stock was listed at $20 but by the end of the day, the stock price had climbed to $77. Valuation peaked in late October 1999, giving it a market cap close to $9 billion - over two and a half times Toys "R" Us - making it the 64th largest company on the NASDAQ exchange. Think about how astonishing that is: eToys had revenues of $30 million versus sales at Toys "R" Us of $11 billion, yet eToys had the higher overall valuation and would have qualified for the NASDAQ 100.

This is what we are seeing now with Tesla. The fad of "disruption" and adulation for "tech" companies has reached the point where a company can have a bigger market capitalization with orders of magnitude less revenue and output than well-run competitors. (And no profits!) Nothing is more "technological" than making jet engines or drilling horizontal oil wells, yet companies in those industries do not get a free pass when it comes to making money. Even regular ICE auto manufacturing is highly technological, yet very unlike the software industry. Consider this point made by Daily Kanban:
Automakers like Ford are rightly frustrated by the public and market's readiness to believe Tesla's narrative about disrupting automotive manufacturing, but there's reason to believe that the wildly different standards to which Tesla and other automakers are held actually hurts the would-be upstart. After all, one of the main reasons that KTP [Kentucky Truck Plant] operates so efficiently and with such high quality is that it has no choice. Whereas Tesla has been able to count on investors and analysts to forgive its "production hell" fiascoes, KTP is the beating heart of Ford's business, building some of the most high-margin and in-demand vehicles Ford has ever made.

With the new Expedition and Navigator flying off lots, the vehicles made at KTP are absolutely critical to the financial performance that markets demand. Since every minute of downtime means that at least one margin-padding truck or SUV won't be delivered on time, the people of KTP know that the company's financial performance depends on their perfect execution and attention to detail. Were Ford able to raise capital from the markets whenever its financial performance fell short, it's easy to imagine a plant like KTP cutting corners or making excuses about "production hell." But because Ford isn't coddled like the self-described "disruptors," workers here at KTP know that downtime and poor quality simply aren't an option.
The indulgence of investors towards Tesla has created a hothouse flower that simply cannot compete over the long term in the competitive, for-profit automotive market.

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 3rd Links

  • In Japanese, the word for mountain pass is tōge. It's written: 峠. It's a great character, comprised of three other characters (or "radicals"). On the left is the character for mountain: 山. On the top right is the character for up: 上. And on the bottom right is the character for down: 下. So the character for pass — tōge — is mountain-up-down: 峠. [Walk Kumano]
  • At its midsection between San Francisco, California and Denver, Colorado, the North American Cordillera is about 1,000 miles wide, and its physiographic provinces at this midpoint are as follows, going from west to east: the Pacific Coast Ranges, the Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Basin and Range Province (forming many narrow ranges and valleys), the Colorado Plateau, and the Rocky Mountains. In the United States, another major feature of the Cordillera is the Columbia Plateau, located north of California between the Cascade Range — which is a northern extension of the Sierra Nevada — and the Rocky Mountains. [Wiki]
  • It turned out that actually print on demand is a lot more limited than we ever thought. The number of papers you can use, the types, the kinds of covers, the cloths, the bindings, all of that is pretty locked down from within print on demand ecosystem. By this point, we had spent about two months. The book that we had spec'd on print on demand would have cost $70 to $80 per unit. The minimum order, we were told, would be about 200 units. Those economics don't really work out for anyone because we figure that the max price for a book like this would be about 100 bucks. It just didn't make sense to do it that way. If we were going to go to a scale of 200 books, we might as well go and do offset printing. [Craig Mod]
  • Since 2013 I've spent roughly two months each year in the mountains of Japan walking its old foot highways or ancient pilgrimage paths. Japan has a long history of walking, and the Japanese have been travelling — as bona-fide travellers and pilgrims, proto-hipster backpackers — for centuries within their own country. As such, the infrastructure — lodging and food, well worn paths, rocks inscribed with classical Japanese haikus — for a long walk is exceptional. The walks can last hours or days (or months), but many require about a week. Because the walks are grounded in a history and culture of walking, the paths are frequently lined with inns or temples or homes to sleep in. Some are hundreds of years old, others new, others crumbling, others filled with centipedes and spiders and strange electric beds. But they all provide the same thing: The space and permission to think and talk about the world while walking, enjoying the progress, eliminating worry about where next to camp or when to make food. [Craig Mod]
  • With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here--until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically "homely" creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, "No--the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure--and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence." [link]
  • I happened to be at the Providence, Rhode Island airport during Brown University's parent weekend. The PVD ramp was clogged with heavy personal jets, including a Gulfstream G650. The folks working at the FBO said that fueling bizjets for parents visiting their 91-percent very liberal or liberal children made it the airport's busiest weekend. By noon on the Sunday they had already sent 22 families off in their private jets. [Phil G]
  • Pharmaceuticals in the environment are a recently identified global threat to wildlife, including birds. Like other human pharmaceuticals, the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) enters the environment via sewage and has been detected at wastewater treatment plants. Birds foraging on invertebrates at these sites can be exposed to pharmaceuticals, although the implications of exposure are poorly understood. We conducted experiments to test whether chronic exposure to a maximally environmentally relevant concentration of fluoxetine (2.7 μg/day) altered courtship behaviour and female reproductive physiology in wild-caught starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), a species commonly found foraging on invertebrates at wastewater treatment plants. [NLM]
  • In 1892, the U.S. Rubber Company began producing shoes with rubber soles, and its target consumers were athletes. The friction of rubber offered superior grip for fin de siecle sportsmen in lawn sports and on tennis courts; hence, the name tennis shoe. (The long-standing alternative sneaker allegedly refers to the fact that rubber-soled shoes don't click and clomp on hard surfaces, which allows their wearers to sneak up on people.) Although the popularity of tennis has been declining for decades, today almost all of the best-selling shoes in America are sneakers. Like yoga pants, tennis shoes are sportswear that have transcended their sport. Around the same time as the invention of the rubber sole, intramural sports took off at American universities, Clemente told me. That meant more young men playing tennis, golf, polo, and croquet. But lacking the means or inclination to fill their wardrobe with non-sports clothes, many of these men simply kept their athletic attire on for class. [Atlantic]
  • At nineteen, against the wishes of his father, an Alsatian postal worker who pushed his son to study the classics, Sutter became a guild apprentice in a program called the Compagnons du Devoir that dates back to the Middle Ages. For a decade, he lived, studied, and worked with a series of master timber framers. He spent twelve hundred hours on his masterpiece, a loveseat-sized scale model of the timber-frame roof system in a four-hundred-year-old former Jesuit chapel in Normandy. He climbed around the chapel's roof taking measurements, then carved more than four thousand tiny mortise-and-tenon joints, each fastened with even tinier wooden pegs. Only when the guild accepted his masterpiece did he become a master himself. [Garden and Gun]
  • You may not realize it, but you are living through the biggest event in the 3000+ years of the West, The Battle of Tours, Moses giving the laws on Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, Fall of Rome, etc., this is all washed away by the Islamic conquest of Europe and the Aztec/Islamic peoples conquering the USA. There is no pretext of rational benefit from this revolution, just raw power politics and malice. That we can't even *discuss this revolution* in polite society is beyond comprehension. Instead, there's unending gas-lighting and silencing. It's a daily struggle for even the sober minded to maintain sanity. That people will resort to unhinged terrorism against this revolution is regrettable, but perfectly predictable. [CH]
  • The stuff appearing in the media every day from liberal Jews is the great threat to Jews in America. Allowing unstable lunatics to call for white replacement, with the imprimatur of the elite media, is playing for fire. Sensible people, when they see a child, a simpleton or a lunatic playing with fire, they do what they must to stop it. That's the situation facing sensible Jews in America, with people like Michelle Goldberg. Her bigoted rhetoric is going to get a lot of people killed, unless her people throw a net over her. [Z Man]
  • Is that not the most beautiful graph that you have ever seen? I reckon I should make posters out of that image and sell them online. If this is accurate then Rollo was on the money but slightly off target. The SMV curve is much more brutal for women than he imagined it to be, while for men we build up to a strong 50 years of age and then keep on mightily going. So glorious. [Pushing Rubber]
  • I'm always in the middle of a few big essays. They are getting bigger, meatier, and more unwieldy in ways, but also denser, richer, with more room to explore topical sub-tendrils. The corollary of this is that they take longer, require more focus, quiet, and are more easily distrupted by small distractions. So a large part of my time is spent creating time — and then protecting that time — in service to finishing these bigger projects. I think a lot about John McPhee lying on his backyard table, looking up at the tree canopy, a collection of notes strewn about, wondering just how the hell he's going to finish the piece of writing he's working on. (Line by line, that's how.) [Craig Mod]
  • Margaret Levenstein and Valerie Suslow find that real interest rates determine the prevalence of corporate cartels. As the book states, "the most important factor in the creation and breakups of cartels was the interest rate. Cartels are more likely to breakup during periods of high real interest rates, presumably because higher interest rates require higher immediate rates of return for collusion. [Levenstein and Suslow] found the relationship was almost perfect." [Young Money]
  • Looking at flights with 10,000 or more pax in the dataset (top 337 flights), the highest connection rates are short flights to major hubs, in the South. #1 is Atlanta-Birmingham (all stats are bidirectional, ie ATL-BHM + BHM-ATL) at 98.3% connecting; of the 15 pairs with the highest connecting rates (90%+), 5 are to Atlanta (Birmingham, Charleston, Greenville SC, Pensacola, Savannah), 6 involve Charlotte (Charleston, Wilmington NC, Jacksonville, Norfolk, Richmond, Raleigh-Durham) and the other 4 involve Texas hubs (Austin to Dallas and Houston, OKC to Dallas, San Antonio to Houston). The same pattern is true outside of the south even though the top 15 are all down there; LAX-San Diego is 89.3% connecting, Anchorage-SeaTac is 83.9% connecting, Indianapolis-O'Hare is 83% connecting. Looking at pairs with 5K-10K pax in the dataset, you see similar trends; Colorado Springs-Denver is 99.5% connecting, Grand Rapids-Detroit and Milwaukee-O'Hare are both 98.6%; Fargo and Sioux Falls to MSP are both in the 93% range. (And a ton more cities to Atlanta or Charlotte). The overall highest volume of connecting passengers within the US is on the Atlanta-Orlando flight, followed by Atlanta-Tampa and Atlanta-Ft Lauderdale flights; these are in the 70s percent wise, but are also high volume flights. There's a ton of demand to go to Florida (NB: this is the Q1 file, so it has particularly high seasonal demand), and a ton of people who can connect via Atlanta but might not have a direct flight to Florida. This is borne out by the flights with the lowest share of connections; they're primarily from the Northeast to Florida, particularly where one of the ends is a second-tier airport; Cleveland to Fort Myers is the lowest flight with 5K+ pax at 1.5% connecting; Boston to Fort Myers is in second (it's #1 for flights with 10K+ pax) at 2.3% connecting; the rest of the top 15 includes Boston to Ft Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa; on the other end, Orlando flights from Bradley (northern CT), Macarthur (aka Islip, Long Island), Providence and Milwaukee. [link]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

November 29th Links

  • A tetromino is a geometric shape composed of four squares, connected orthogonally. This, like dominoes and pentominoes, is a particular type of polyomino. The corresponding polycube, called a tetracube, is a geometric shape composed of four cubes connected orthogonally. A popular use of tetrominoes is in the video game Tetris, which refers to them under the name tetrimino. The tetrominoes used in the game are specifically the one-sided tetrominoes. [Wiki]
  • On Jeopardy, a player cannot ring in until Alex has finished reading the question. The way Jeopardy accomplishes this is by stationing a production assistant off stage and arming him with a device with a button on it. When the assistant feels that Alex is done reading the question, he presses his button and two things happen simultaneously. Small pin lights in the middle of panels surrounding the playing board go on, and an electrical impulse is sent to the buzzers, activating them. If you press your button before the assistant presses his, you really do get locked out for 1/5 of a second. If you keep ringing in before the lock out is over, you keep getting locked out, I think, but the total lock out time seems like it cannot exceed about a second. (Note that I am guessing about that from experience, I have not talked to any Jeopardy techies about this.) [link]
  • You see, Jeopardy is not a knowledge game. It's a buzzer strategy game. You need to push the buzzer before you are certain of your correct answer. I wasn't ready for it. Before my brain acknowledged I knew the answer, the other two already buzzed in. [link]
  • Magnetic shifts happen faster the closer to the poles you go, so airports at high latitudes must make more frequent adjustments than airports closer to the equator. For Fairbanks International Airport, for example, the interval of change is roughly every 24 years. The overall goal for all navigational aids, according to guidelines in FAA Order 8260, is to keep the magnetic variation figure used for guidance as closely aligned to the current computed value as modeled by the World Magnetic Model, within 1 degree, plus or minus. [NOAA]
  • We teach our students the basics of Airport Engineering including design principles for airside and landside facilities. The most important airside facility is the runway and there are several factors affecting the determination of runway configuration and orientation. Even for single runways, these factors are critical in order to ensure safe and efficient operations. [link]
  • On his first day of a holiday in Switzerland, YouTuber Gursk3 decided to try hang gliding, but the excursion didn't go exactly as planned. He was supposed to be safely tethered to the hang glider and just along for a leisurely ride while a skilled pilot steered the craft down a steep mountain. But shortly after takeoff, the pair realised that his harness hadn't been connected to the glider at all, resulting in Gursk3 having to spend two minutes and 14 seconds desperately clinging to the craft while the pilot attempted to find a safe place to quickly land. [link]
  • Top Democrats believe that anti-monopolism can be a political winner for their party. It's a way to address voters' anxiety over high drug prices, digital privacy and more. "The control of business over certain segments of the economy," says Senator Amy Klobuchur of Minnesota, a potential presidential candidate, "I think it will be a much bigger thing going into 2020." [NY Times]
  • The evidence thus far suggests that forecasters either do not have the information or the incentives to forecast recessions. Lack of information could arise for various reasons. First, data on the economy may only became available with long lags or be of poor quality. Second, economic models may not be good enough to be able to predict outlier events, Third, recessions may occur because of events which are themselves difficult to predict. Lack of incentives could also arise for various reasons. For instance, the reputational loss from being wrong may be higher than the gain from being right. [IMF]

Monday, November 26, 2018

November 26th Links

  • There are about 12 million square miles (8 billion acres) of arable land in the world. That's just over one acre per person. The U.S. has about a million square miles, or 640 million acres, of arable land, which is just over two acres per person. [CBS]
  • Many Indo-European languages use euphemisms for "bear", sometime several layers of euphemism, because of a fear that speaking the bear's true name might summon it. The English word "bear" is a euphemism originally meaning "brown one". Inside the quest to reconstruct the bear's True Name. [SSC]
  • There are rich people, and then there are rich people. Leonardo Dicaprio is the former but not the latter. His net worth is $245 million according to some Googling, and yet even he is willing to hang out with some nerdy, awkward guy for money. This is something the book brings up a lot - even people accustomed to wealth, like Paris Hilton who was born an heiress, were simply astounded by Jho Low's spending habits. He would show up at a club and just spend more than everybody. He would bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on single hands of poker. He would hand out handbags worth tens of thousands of dollars to random girls at parties. He would send strangers private jets to give them lifts. There is a level of wealth that even the wealthy can't resist. [SSC]
  • Hanging in a corner of the living room are small works by Andy Warhol and Takashi Murakami, while the Alexander Calder sculpture is perched between vintage Hans Olsen chairs. Joining them are a Xandre Kriel cocktail table, a Jorge Zalszupin armchair from Espasso, and a side table by Christophe Côme; the rug is by Beauvais Carpets. [link]
  • Since media companies are capitalizing and profiting on a huge amount of attention that might otherwise be spent productively, however, taxing them for the share of the citizenry's time that they consume could be more sensible and more practical than taxing citizens themselves. One view of the status quo is that media companies are aggregating human attention and selling it at a discount–far below minimum wage–to advertisers in a massive arbitrage on human capital. So, the state could set the price of an hour of human attention at the minimum wage rate, and charge media companies 12% (the federal income tax rate on minimum wage) of that wage rate for each hour of human attention they consume. [Kortina]
  • A few years ago, in a drawing workshop (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain), I learned that we actually do a ton of abstraction during perception. In the beginning of this workshop, we tried drawing a self portrait, and all of us were guilty of the same mistake–instead of simply drawing the contours and shadows we perceived visually, we translated visual information into abstractions (like nose, eyes) and then drew a symbol for a nose somewhere near the center of our faces, rather than drawing what we perceived. The point of this workshop was to turn off the abstraction process in your brain and draw purely perceptual information. [Kortina]
  • The mis-match between perceptual complexity and cognitive simplicity is schematically illustrated for two musical pieces of similar length and original file size, Beethoven's 3rd Symphony and ElBeano's Ventilator trance techno. These two pieces compress to very different extents. My personal perception is that Beethoven's 3rd Symphony sounds more sophisticated (complex?) than ELBeano's Ventilator trance techno, and yet it actually compresses more strongly. It therefore must be the case that Beethoven's piece contains more information regularities, but the skill and subtlety with which they are woven into the composition makes them less readily apparent. The simplicity of their message - as reflected by compressed file size - only yields on repeated listenings. This learning curve - or compression progress - may explain the phenomenon of a piece of music "growing on us" over time. [link]
  • Let's first try a small dataset of English as a sanity check. My favorite fun dataset is the concatenation of Paul Graham's essays. The basic idea is that there's a lot of wisdom in these essays, but unfortunately Paul Graham is a relatively slow generator. Wouldn't it be great if we could sample startup wisdom on demand? That's where a Recurrent Neural Network comes in. Concatenating all pg essays over the last ~5 years we get approximately 1MB text file, or about 1 million characters (this is considered a very small dataset by the way). Technical: Lets train a 2- layer LSTM with 512 hidden nodes (approx. 3.5 million parameters), and with dropout of 0.5 after each layer. We'll train with batches of 100 examples and truncated backpropagation through time of length 100 characters. With these settings one batch on a TITAN Z GPU takes about 0.46 seconds (this can be cut in half with 50 character BPTT at negligible cost in performance). Without further ado, lets see a sample from the Recurrent Neural Network. [link]
  • I came across Carhart-Harris' research via Michael Pollan's new book on psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind. Much of Pollan's examines how overly strong predictive models can distort our perception of the world. As I noted in Consciousness as Computation, you can witness this phenomenon during exercises like "drawing with the right side of the brain," which reveal that much of what feels like raw processing of perceptual information actually involves the application of prior beliefs, abstractions, and inferences. Top down application of priors is both a matter of computational efficiency (reducing the cognitive bandwidth required to process the massive amounts of visual and other sense data we are constantly barraged with) and is also useful for error correction (enabling us to "read" signs that are far away or correct and interpret sentences like "The qiuck brown fox jumped."). [Kortina]
  • I think there's strong evidence of contraction in taste and accelerating cultural homogeneity. Philly feels a lot like Seattle... and Austin and San Francisco and Portland, etc. The millennial apartment in Venice Beach looks a lot like the one in Williamsburg... and in Shoreditch and Berlin. You can find a Starbucks pretty much anywhere in the world, and you can find the hipster, unbranded, barista cafe in pretty much any affluent neighborhood. Consumers, it turns out, do not value expression of their uniqueness as much as they value the ability to signal belonging to (and participation in) a social group. Belonging to a group whose values you understand, whose members have behavior you can predict, is a great way to reduce entropy. [Kortina]
  • Two land masses comprise most of the land portion of the county: Isle Royale and the northeastern half of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The county also includes the waters of Lake Superior between the two, extending to the state's water borders with Ontario and Minnesota. It is thus the largest county in Michigan by total area, at 5,966 square miles (15,450 km2), of which 540 square miles (1,400 km2) is land and 5,426 square miles (14,050 km2) (91%) is water. Of all counties (or equivalents) in the United States, Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area. [Wiki]
  • More exciting for me though is the reverse chamois boot Steven has done with the folks from Alden. I've never seen reverse chamois before and the stuff is amazing. It's like the best worn in suede you can imagine but also nearly waterproof. These brogue boots with some grey flannels and a tweed coat is making me wish for wetter days. [link]
  • On one of their Zodiac trips down the St. Lawrence, a CIBC bank manager in a small Quebec town refused to let Mr. James withdraw $10,000 in cash as there was some uncertainty regarding his identity. Mr. James asked the manager if she had the CIBC annual report on hand. When she brought it to him, he pointed out that the two souls standing in front of her, in their orange survival suits, were in fact the same CIBC board members whose pictures were in the report. [Globe and Mail]
  • There is much more to cloth than the base material. There are cottons that wear warm and cashmeres that wear cool. It all has to do with the weave. You want to wear cloths like hopsack and oxford that will let air pass through the cloth and naturally cool your body. If you hold a piece of something like JJ Minnis' Fresco (a classic open weave wool cloth choice) up to the light you can see this really obviously. The stuff looks like gauze, allowing tons of light through. And that means air. [link]
  • If I had one trick that I used over and over again as the Frugal Traveler, it was picking the unusual or less-traveled destination. Not only can you save money with this strategy, you will almost always have a better experience. Steer left where others steer right, and head away from the places that draw the crowds. So: Antwerp instead of Amsterdam; Greenland over Iceland; and so forth. [NY Times]
  • Again, this is important and an area where a lot of patent owners have made what I consider to be a big mistake; it ends their ability to defend and assert their inventions actively. In the above example, if the "parent" application had issued or gone abandoned before a decision was made to file claims to the strawless lid, then game over. There would be no practical way to continue to pursue legal rights suitable for contingent fee patent licensing or enforcement. [JDBIP]
  • When did the phenomenon of people who were not farmers driving pickup trucks really get going? I feel it was after the astronaut era, at least in the NE. Maybe earlier in Texas, where everyone likes to pretend they are ranchers. When I was growing up, pickup trucks had only 1 seat and so were not practical family haulers and people who didn't want to make a statement drove ordinary American sedans. We had a pickup truck on the farm that we used to haul manure out of the coops but when we wanted to go into town we had an Oldsmobile sedan. [Sailer]
  • Indeed, ever since he emerged on the New York real estate scene in the 1970s, Trump's approach to deal-making has typified Thorstein Veblen's acid-tongued assessment that the "arts of business are the arts of bargaining, effrontery, salesmanship, make-believe, and are directed to the gain of the business man at the cost of the community, at large and in detail." [LARB]
  • In a politically difficult situation, deploying the military domestically wipes out the majority of the US's very robust anti-coup machinery. Normally, soldiers deployed in the USA are almost completely disarmed, unless they are actively running security, military police, etc. There is a separate base commander, distinct from and not reporting to the unit commander, who often has supervision of the storage of their armaments, fuel, transportation, equipment, etc. The major bases are far away from politically sensitive locations like DC and NYC. Discreetly equipping the 82nd Airborne and getting them from Fort Bragg to DC is effectively impossible. If you suddenly decide to deploy 10000 heavily armed troops to, eg, help pacify Real Virginia, suddenly there is an immense amount of possibility and temptation. [link]
  • But this idea of certainty is a sham, a distraction, something to turn your attention away from the only truly certain thing, which is that your time will run out. If you intend to have children, but you don't intend to have them just yet, you are not banking extra years as a person who is still too young to have children. You are subtracting years from the time you will share the world with your children. [Hmm]

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018 Bonus Links

  • McPhee has built a career on such small detonations of knowledge. His mind is pure curiosity: It aspires to flow into every last corner of the world, especially the places most of us overlook. Literature has always sought transcendence in purportedly trivial subjects — "a world in a grain of sand," as Blake put it — but few have ever pushed the impulse further than McPhee. He once wrote an entire book about oranges, called, simply, "Oranges" — the literary cousin of Duchamp's urinal mounted in an art museum. In 1999, McPhee won a Pulitzer Prize for his 700-page geology collection, "Annals of the Former World," which explains for the general reader how all of North America came to exist. ("At any location on earth, as the rock record goes down into time and out into earlier geographies it touches upon tens of hundreds of stories, wherein the face of the earth often changed, changed utterly, and changed again, like the face of a crackling fire.") He has now published 30 books, all of which are still in print — a series of idiosyncratic tributes to the world that, in aggregate, form a world unto themselves. [NY Times]
  • I believe that in hindsight — and I realize this sounds kind of crazy, as if I've binge-inhaled all of the Leica Kool-Aid at once — the Leica Q will be seen as one of the greatest fixed-prime-lens travel photography kits of all time. Fire up the percolator, pour over another single-origin, steep some English Breakfast, or just grab a flask of rye and your pitchforks and let's deconstruct this beautiful thing. [Craig Mod]
  • Warren Buffett once observed that this kind of arms race is not unlike a parade where one spectator, determined to get a better view, stands on their tiptoes. It works well initially until everyone else does the same. Then, the taxing effort of standing on your toes becomes table stakes to be able to see anything at all. Now, not only is any advantage squandered, but we're all worse off than we were when we first started. Such is the world of user acquisition in tech today: as growth becomes increasingly expensive, somebody must be footing the bill for all of this wasteful spending. But whom? It's not who you think, and the dynamics we've entered is, in many ways, creating a dangerous, high stakes Ponzi scheme. [Social Capital]
  • He opened Pizza Strada in 2011, right after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, amid rolling blackouts and fears of a full nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Since then, I've ushered at least a dozen New Yorkers over to the shop to eat his marinara pie. Most put up a fuss on the way in ("But we're in Japan."). Nobody complains after their first bite. Several returned on their own the following day to eat it again. [Craig Mod]
  • Historically, 600mm lenses have been useless except to those with excellent camera support technique. Alligator. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. SW Florida By adding an image stabilizer (the "IS" in this lens's model number), Canon has brought the fun of 600mm photography to the lazy and unwashed. The image stabilizer consists of a set of accelerometers that measure actual camera shake. The movement of the camera/lens is compensated out by laterally shifting an internal optical lens element. All of the measurement and compensatory jiggling is accomplished elecronically, with power derived from the camera body battery. [Phil G]
  • It seems like Jiro is an aberration. Nobody could possibly care about anything else like Jiro cares about his sushi. The joy in exploring Japan is you quickly realize Jiro is not an aberration. Perhaps his skills are, but his ethos isn't. That ethos pervades. And what a joy it is to witness, unexpectedly, on the fourth floor of a new building, in a smoke filled café. [Craig Mod]
  • If there is a Mount Rushmore of great world cities, O.K.C. is nowhere near it; it's more like the discount parking lot in the next town, with intermittent shuttle service. The place sits way out in the middle of the Great Plains, profoundly landlocked, 1,300 miles from both Los Angeles and Washington. It is home not to the Getty or the Smithsonian but to the American Banjo Museum. If someone tells you she is from Oklahoma City, your brain will process that information in the same area it uses to process different shades of brown socks or clouds that almost look like something but don't. Even the name "Oklahoma City" sounds like something a panicked kid would make up on a pop quiz about state capitals. [NY Times]