Monday, September 3, 2018

September 3rd Links

  • The true motivation for the takeout, I believe, is that Musk realised that Solar City was on the verge of financial catastrophe. Changing regulations (particularly given Trump's hostility to climate change policies) and unbundling billing practices was likely to mean that the company was going to need to provide massive subsidies/compensation to its customers (or let them walk away from existing contracts) to avoid both lawsuits and a a PR disaster, and this was a financial burden the company could ill-afford. Furthermore, such a public blow-up of one of Musk's companies could be highly damaging to his reputation and credibility, potentially impacting Tesla's ability to raise much-needed funding as well. It was preferable to absorb SolarCity's problems into the larger Tesla entity, where the losses/evidence and PR-fallout could be quietly buried, and public scrutiny avoided. [LT3000]
  • Among the issues: The cars can't always make left turns. During the year and a half that Waymo's self-driving cars have been tested on the streets of Chandler and nearby suburbs, they've sometimes had to stop trying to make left turns because the software wasn't safe enough. [link]
  • Alphabet's Waymo unit is a worldwide leader in autonomous vehicle development for suburban environments. It has said it would launch a driverless robo-taxi service to suburban Phoenix residents this year. Yet its self-driving minivan prototypes have trouble crossing the T-intersection closest to the company's Phoenix-area headquarters here. Two weeks ago, Lisa Hargis, an administrative assistant who works at an office a stone’s throw from Waymo's vehicle depot, said she nearly hit a Waymo Chrysler Pacifica minivan because it stopped abruptly while making a right turn at the intersection. [link]
  • Bay Laurel or Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis): This leathery-leaved plant is the easiest herb to grow indoors. You can place it in sun or partial shade or under a fluorescent lamp. Its growth is very slow, but it does grow, and it seems indifferent to the entire indoor temperature range, from 34 to 95F. By bringing your bay laurel indoors every fall and putting it back outdoors every summer (it can stay outdoors all year in zones 8 to 11), it will gradually become a fairly sizeable shrub or even a small tree, but that will take decades. [link]
  • "While it isn't perfect, a low-variety diet is psychologically very close to total abstinence (fasting), only it's safer to do in the long-term without all the risks of extended fasts. Basically, it turns a major complaint about monotonous diets (they're boring!) into a virtue. Getting bored with your food removes a lot of the reward that you get from eating. The urge to eat past the point of satisfying hunger fades, and meals become nothing more than a pit stop to refuel." [link]
  • This is curious, the company has a large coal deposit which hasn't been mined yet being carried for $700,000. When I read about this I wondered what 92m tons of coal would go for on the spot market. Using a NYMEX quote of $57.87 per ton that coal has a gross value of $5 billion dollars! Sure there are mining costs, and transport costs and all sorts of other things but remember that Central Natural Resources's market cap is $13,000,000, there is a lot of wiggle room there. The value of the coal alone is 400x the trading price of this company. [Oddball]
  • After a century, 16 of the iconic "Treasure Island" paintings created by N.C. Wyeth as illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson's beloved novel are shown together for the first time. Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Penn., has reassembled these memorable images of pirates, swashbucklers, and high seas adventure in an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wyeth's illustrations for the classic tale. The 1911 edition of "Treasure Island" was a critical and popular success, establishing Wyeth among the period's foremost illustrators. His publisher, Scribner's, paid him $2,500, enough to buy 18 acres along the Brandywine River Valley that became home to generations of Wyeths, and their studios. [link]
  • As an illustrator of books, Wyeth was very sensitive to the author's words, and his philosophy was to avoid depicting scenes that the author describes in detail (what was the point?), and instead illuminate smaller moments that are only briefly mentioned, in order to enhance the story. The resulting illustrations are neither trivial nor superfluous, but help develop the characters and advance the story. He managed to choose just the right moment, which is an art in itself. [link]
  • In crystallography, crystal structure is a description of the ordered arrangement of atoms, ions or molecules in a crystalline material. Ordered structures occur from the intrinsic nature of the constituent particles to form symmetric patterns that repeat along the principal directions of three-dimensional space in matter. The smallest group of particles in the material that constitutes the repeating pattern is the unit cell of the structure. The unit cell completely defines the symmetry and structure of the entire crystal lattice, which is built up by repetitive translation of the unit cell along its principal axes. [Wiki]
  • For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. For his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He is one of four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize (the others being Marie Curie, John Bardeen and Frederick Sanger). Of these, he is the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes, and one of two people to be awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields, the other being Marie Curie. [Wiki]
  • I don't get what they mean by him working 100+ hour weeks. What does it mean when he goes down to the factory when the robot is malfunctioning? I'm assuming he's not programming, so is he working the assembly line? Stapling on the bumpers? It just seems like such an artificial mythology that he is working so hard when there is seemingly nothing practical for him to be doing other than doing meetings and helping with strategy. Additionally, if he is working so much, how does he have so much time to tweet about random stuff? [CoBF]
  • One key component of that growth of inequality is that the wealthy have high savings rates. r is typically around 4-5%, and g tends to be more like 1%, so the First Law is doesn't produce interesting results unless the wealthy save more than 20% of their income. Those savings rates seem more remarkable to me than r > g, yet Piketty treats those as if it were obvious that the wealthy can't spend most of their income. He seems to have some bias against caring about the savings rate, maybe because it undercuts his story about wealth not being due to merit. I consider a high savings rate to be a sign of merit. Not necessarily an especially important one, but enough for my attitude to differ noticeably from Piketty's. [link]
  • Eventually, the Left would run out of ways to address the immutable racial differences. That means they would run out of possible explanations, leaving them with just one conclusion. That is, racism is what defines white people, so the only way to achieve social equality is to get rid of white people entirely. This is why the media is full of over-the-top anti-white rhetoric. The Left is now entirely defined by a visceral hatred of white people. [Zman]
  • Instead of cash flow, I prefer using a less volatile valuation technique for asset-heavy commodity businesses. Specifically, I use replacement cost. In effect, my goal is to buy a dollar of reserves (oil, natural gas, gold, timber, etc) at a discount to the cost required to replace those reserves. For example, if it costs $300 to find and develop an ounce of gold and I can buy a proven and developed ounce for $150 in the equity market, I'm interested. Focusing on developed mines with a sufficient history in production and operating costs can also reduce risk. Accumulating reserves by building a new mine often comes with uncertain production, operating costs, and financing. In effect, instead of taking the risk of building a new mine, I'd rather buy the reserves of a developed and operationally efficient mine selling at a discount. [Cinnamond]
  • Correia's narration is notable for its sanity and practicality, and (a rarity in the gun world) for not viewing all problems as solvable with more and larger guns. He used to carry more than one gun on his person, plus a spare mag in case he needed to reload. But in his study of violent encounters, he has seen zero emergency reloads and zero uses of a backup gun (or bug, in gun lingo), so he seldom carries extra mags anymore and has stopped carrying an extra gun altogether. Overwhelmingly, the lesson of his videos is to avoid violence in the first place. "The answer to most social violence is: Check your ego." [Atlantic]
  • The size and bulbousness of a B.B.J. or an A.C.J. invite class resentment, and, worse, might remind onlookers of the easyJet they flew in on. A Gulfstream is regarded as a more prudent and tasteful choice. The G650, Gulfstream's flagship product, is currently the skyfaring object of greatest desire, and it is no exaggeration to call the $70 million aircraft the world's single greatest status commodity. Desire for them is so ardent in part because of their physical elegance — they have a phocine aspect, with a silkily sloping underbelly and large, widely spaced elliptical portholes, with an interior like a conch shell — and in part because they cut a more discreet profile. [NY Times]
  • I said, "Look, last year I sold my company for $22 million. I've got plenty of money. It's not an issue." He said, "Oh, just put 'retired' then. God you'll make our life a lot easier. You fill out one of these immigration cards. When it asks your profession just write 'retired.'" [Sivers]