5/27/21 Power Five

1. Inflation is Thankfully TransitoryYet, inflation is completely misunderstood today. Its definition has evolved over the years; however, many hold on to its old one which no longer applies. Inflation once meant the debasement of a monetary standard of value. Today, it simply means “price increases.” These are very different definitions with equally distant implications.

2. Poets in Myanmar are Being Jailed and Killed – “They started to burn the poets. But ash makes for more fertile soil.

3. Lockdowns Saved Lives Without Harming Economies As Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syversen of the University of Chicago said of their study of the economic slump during the pandemic, “The vast majority of the decline was due to consumers choosing of their own volition to avoid commercial activity.”

4. Shrek at 20 – “One of the major metaphors in the movie, “ogres are like onions,” might also reflect the layers of meaning fans have discovered in the storytelling. Arguments are still waged online over whether the movie is a commentary on gentrification or racism. But even on its surface, “Shrek” captures the essence of unlikely friendships and unsuperficial romance, making its happily-ever-after ending feel triumphant.

5. Subway Reorientation – “That’s a rat. Sometimes called “rail puppies” or “garbage furs,” these precious critters roam the subway, cleaning up the mess that humans leave behind. They are similar to the ones in your apartment, but even bigger and cuter! Although they are adorable, it’s important not to get too attached to one. They have very short life spans; hence the old adage “Never name a subway rat.”

5/26/21 Power Five

1. Are Government Benefits Contributing to Worker Shortages? – “Some workers are taking care of children or elderly relatives, while others may have health concerns about returning to work, particularly if the job involves interacting with the public and doesn’t offer paid sick leave. “Typically, where you have a labor market that has excess demand for workers, what’s needed is for employers to raise wages,” Lopezlira said. In economics, he explained, the “reservation wage” is the wage at which a worker will choose to accept a particular job rather than not work. “The reservation wage has changed for some of these workers.”

2. An Investment Bonanza Is Coming – “We find that global tech firms are expected to boost capex by 42% this year, relative to 2019. Apple will invest $430bn in America over a five-year period, an upgrade of 20% on previous plans. Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor-maker, recently announced that it would invest $100bn over the next three years in manufacturing. Analysts reckon that Samsung’s capex will rise by 13% this year, having gone up by 45% in 2020.”

3. 33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me – “There are professional habits and amateur ones. Which are you practicing? Is this a pro or an amateur move?”

4. Bob Dylan at 80 – “A dominant presence for more than sixty years, Dylan has made an indelible mark on the history of rock and roll, in part by not treating age and longevity like most here-and-gone performers. The New Yorker has covered him from the start.

5. Five Things My Roomba Does Better Than My Tesla – “My Roomba reduces my workload, which is exactly what I want an automated product to do. My Tesla? It just makes me trade one task for another. Instead of traditional driving, I have to learn new skills behind the wheel…like staying engaged when Autopilot is on, and predicting when it might hit something, then braking and/or turning the wheel before it does. This doesn’t make my life easier. In some ways, it makes my life more complicated. I love my Tesla, but in the product versus promise debate, Roomba wins by a mile.”

Daily Shot

5/25/21 Power Five

1. The Texas Mask Mystery – “It had no effect in either liberal or conservative counties, nor in urban or exurban areas. The pro-maskers kept their masks on their faces. The anti-maskers kept their masks in the garbage. And many essential workers, who never felt like they had a choice to begin with, continued their pre-announcement habits. The governor might as well have shouted into a void.

2. Welcome to the Space Jam – “Space Jam happened at a moment in time when the internet was still whispering its promise.”

3. How Kanye Changed Wyoming – “If Kanye pulls out of here completely, Cody is still going to be on people’s mental map,” says Mayor Matt Hall. “They may be driving through the park and say, ‘Let’s go out the east entrance and see where Kanye moved.’ That kind of stuff will continue to help in the long run.”

4. What Activities Can Unvaccinated Children Do?“There is a higher risk of acquiring the infection indoors. Also, as more variants emerge, some of them may be more serious for the children.”

5. There’s a Reason Utah is Not on Ford or Apple’s Shortlist – “It starts with our underfunded schools, our determination to stick to a fossil-fuel economy and despoil public lands and a reputation, not fully deserved, for being hostile to minorities and newcomers.”

Daily Shot

5/21/21 Power Five

1. Is it Time to Panic About Inflation? – “The implication: High asset prices and rising price inflation aren’t the same thing. Whether with asset prices or other aspects of inflation, being precise and detailed is a way to make the essential ephemerality of money a little more concrete.

2. The Ultimate Guide to the Creator Economy – “As many as 29% of American students no longer want to become bankers, doctors or lawyers. Instead, they aspire to become creators. At current rates, this trend could see a generational shift in the global workforce.

3. The Electrification of Everything – “…electrifying nearly all transport and buildings could contribute to doubling or more the amount of electricity used in the U.S. by 2050. That would lift electricity’s share of total energy used to close to 50% from about 20% today.”

4. Why the CDC Changed Its Advice on Masks – “We really need to practice being good at responding to changing situations.”

5. Flowers Are The Ultimate Status Symbol – “For years, this was the status quo: men painted women, women painted flowers. As the center of painting shifted from the Netherlands to France, men’s paintings of women ended up in the grand salons, while women’s paintings of flowers landed in the apartment foyers of the type of Parisians who attended the salons only to be shocked by the unveiling of Gustave Courbet’s “The Origin of the World.” One can hardly hang a vagina in a respectable entryway, unless it’s disguised as a flower, of course. But if women continued, disproportionately, to paint bouquets, it wasn’t necessarily by choice. As the French painter Marie Bracquemond, one of only three women to be featured in the Impressionist exhibitions, complained, women in art school in nineteenth-century Paris were assigned “only the painting of flowers, of fruits, of still lifes, portraits and genre scenes.” Formal painterly education for men, meanwhile, revolved around the anatomy of the nude—in particular, nude women.”

There continues to be more Realtors than homes for sale!

5/18/21 Power Five

1. Why is Covid Killing So Many Young People in Brazil? – “There’s a barrier to access for many,” said Dr. Ana Luisa Pacheco, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Heitor Vieira Dourado Tropical Medicine Foundation in Manaus. “For some children, it takes three or four hours by boat to get to a hospital.”

2. The World Economy is Suddenly Low on Everything – “Copper, iron ore and steel. Corn, coffee, wheat and soybeans. Lumber, semiconductors, plastic and cardboard for packaging. The world is seemingly low on all of it. “You name it, and we have a shortage on it.”

3. If California is an Anti Business State, Why is the Economy Booming? – “Yet these factors don’t inherently have good or bad effects on business climate. Taxes that are too low to fund basic public services aren’t a virtue, and no intelligent CEO is going to prefer a state with potholed roads and dysfunctional courts to one with serviceable transportation infrastructure and efficient venues to work out their legal disagreements.”

4. Called By God – “Operation Underground Railroad is now famous for its international sting operations. They are a big fundraiser: In 2015, a Silicon Valley man funded a sting with $40,000 and watched it happen in real time. With the help of OUR, a rich person can become a vigilante hero for the day, their living room transformed into a personal situation room. For those who can’t afford the situation room, Ballard carries the drama with him to every interview and every fundraiser. That drama, and a real desire to save children, moves a lot of donors, whether or not it’s accurate. Vice recently investigated a few of Ballard’s stories and found “a pattern of image-burnishing and mythology-building, a series of exaggerations that are, in the aggregate, quite misleading,” and has detailed “disturbingly amateurish” operations like the one I attended.

5. A Town in Japan Spends Covid Money on Giant Squid Statue – “Noto, a fishing town where the squid is a delicacy, erected the statue in March in a bid to promote tourism after the pandemic subsides. The five-and-a-half-ton pink sea creature sits outside a squid-themed restaurant and tourist center.”

What $230,000 buys you – NYT

5/4/21 Power Five

1. The Price of Stuff that Makes Everything is Surging – Inflation is slowly rising but largely driven by commodity fluctuations and supply chain/transportation constraints. Will this be a blip or the new normal? “The prices of raw materials used to make almost everything are skyrocketing, and the upward trajectory looks set to continue as the world economy roars back to life.”

2. Highlights from Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Meeting – “I think the whole damn development is disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization.” Munger on Bitcoin.

3. Reaching Herd Immunity Now Unlikely in U.S. – “Rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.

4. Nicola Sturgeon’s Quest for Scottish Independence – “Sixty-two per cent of Scottish voters opted to remain in the European Union. The S.N.P. sees an independent Scotland taking its rightful place alongside other small states, such as Ireland, Denmark, and Finland, secure within the broader architecture of the E.U.

5. Facial Hair is Biologically Useless, Why Do Humans Have It? – “The two main explanations for male facial hair are intersexual attraction (attracting females) and intrasexual competition (intimidating rival males).” Basically, facial hair signals one thing to potential partners (namely virility and sexual maturity, hubba-hubba-type stuff) and some­thing else to potential rivals (formidability and wisdom or godliness). Taken together, these signals confer their own brand of elevated status to the men with the most majestic mustaches or the biggest, burliest beards.

Daily Shot

4/30/21 Power Five

1. Renewable Energy is Now Cheap – “We haven’t yet fully grasped this potential because it’s happened so fast. In 2015, zero per cent of solar’s technical potential was economically viable—the small number of solar panels that existed at that time had to be heavily subsidized. But prices for solar energy have collapsed so fast over the past three years that sixty per cent of that potential is already economically viable. And, because costs continue to slide with every quarter, solar energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere on the planet by the decade’s end.”

2. The Ultimate Deliberate Practice Guide – “Deliberate practice means practicing with a clear awareness of the specific components of a skill we’re aiming to improve and exactly how to improve them. Unlike regular practice, in which we work on a skill by repeating it again and again until it becomes almost mindless, deliberate practice is a laser-focused activity. It requires us to pay unwavering attention to what we’re doing at any given moment and whether it’s an improvement or not.

3. 15 Million Guesses About a Neighborhood’s Politics – “If you could accurately estimate the income level of a neighborhood, that would be another helpful clue. Both the richest and poorest places voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Biden. But it’s not so easy to determine income — even at the extremes — from a single street view image. Among the precincts within the highest-income census tracts in our sample — places where the average household earns more than $150,000 a year — 81 percent voted for Mr. Biden (readers guessed Biden about 61 percent of the time).”

4. Why Utah’s Conservatism is Better – “Utah conservatism is a reminder to the American right of its more expansive, optimistic past. It also offers a warning of where Republicans’ current pessimistic course may lead. Almost half of Mormons under the age of 40 voted for Joe Biden.”

5. China’s Commodity Binge – “China was the first place the coronavirus struck, but it was also the first country in the world to start recovering from the pandemic. As the rest of the world went into lockdown and commodity prices plunged in March and April 2020, China went on a buying spree. Chinese manufacturers, traders, and even the government approached the global commodity markets much as a shopaholic might approach a fire sale.

JPM

4/29/21 Power Five

1. Bitcoin Mining in China Threaten Climate Goals – “China’s energy consumption from Bitcoin mining in 2024 will exceed the total energy consumption level of countries like Italy and Saudi Arabia, the study said, and the carbon emissions will exceed the annual greenhouse gas emissions outputs of countries including the Netherlands, Spain and Czech Republic.”

2. Andrew Yang and the Age of Blah – “Maybe even some of these guys’ ideas will help humanity in the long term (doubt it): electric cars, UBI, “hyper-loops,” going to space. But for some reason they just fill me with a sense of despair. Is this the future? Is this what we have to look forward to? Goofy inventions and the rule of doofuses you can’t even call “evil” because they just don’t even have the depth or energy to be evil.”

3. How Poverty Affects Young Brains – “Over the past 15 years, dozens of studies have found that children raised in meager circumstances have subtle brain differences compared with children from families of higher means. On average, the surface area of the brain’s outer layer of cells is smaller, especially in areas relating to language and impulse control, as is the volume of a structure called the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory.

4. Weight Gain in the Covid 19 Era – “A recent survey of more than 3,000 American adults, by the American Psychological Association, showed that 42 percent of those surveyed had gained more weight than they intended over the past year. The average weight gain was 29 pounds (the median amount gained was 15 pounds). Millennials reported the largest average weight gain – 41 pounds.”

5. The Magical Realism of Tesla – “Besides AI and software, Mr Musk is also doubling down on Tesla’s original plan to build, alongside an affordable car, a zero-emission energy business. He has outlined the intention of producing three terawatt-hours of battery capacity within a decade, more than 12 times as much as the goal of Volkswagen, its nearest EV competitor. Besides bringing the cost of cars down to $25,000 a pop, the batteries will also go towards Tesla’s home-energy-storage business. That would create what he calls a “giant distributed utility” that can cope with increased electricity demand as more people use EVs, as well as provide grid stability at times of bad weather. Mr Dorsheimer, who is particularly bullish on Tesla’s solar and storage business, thinks its energy brand could become “Apple-esque”.

4/28/21 Power Five

1. Why Are American Workers Becoming So Hard to Find? – “Nearly 4m people are not looking for work “because of the coronavirus pandemic”, according to official data. And consider which industries are experiencing the most acute worker shortages. Jobs in health care, recreation and hospitality report the highest level of job openings, relative to employment. Many of these involve plenty of person-to-person contact, making their workers especially vulnerable to infection (a study from California earlier this year found that cooks were most at risk from dying of covid-19). By contrast, in industries where maintaining social distancing or being outside is often easier, labour shortages are less of an issue. The number of job openings per employee in the construction industry is lower today than it was before the pandemic.”

2. China’s Government is Starting to Screw Up – From Belt and Road, to vaccine roll-out, China is starting to slip.

3. Why Cryptocurrency is a Giant Fraud – “But as is generally the case when someone is trying to sell you something, the whole thing should seem extremely fishy. In fact, much of the cryptocurrency pitch is worse than fishy. It’s downright fraudulent, promising people benefits that they will not get and trying to trick them into believing in and spreading something that will not do them any good. When you examine the actual arguments made for using cryptocurrencies as currency, rather than just being wowed by the complex underlying system and words like “autonomy,” “global,” and “seamless,” the case for their use by most people collapses utterly. Many believe in it because they have swallowed libertarian dogmas that do not reflect how the world actually works.

4. How America’s Great Economic Challenge Turned 180 Degrees – “You can’t turn the world economy off, then turn it back on, and expect everything to come back to normal instantly, in other words. The question for 2021 is just how slow that rebooting process turns out to be.

5. Oatly, The New Coke – “Oatly’s main ingredient is their oat base, which they make through a process of breaking down raw oats into their loose fibers to mix them with water and create a watery oat-based liquid that “contains macronutrients from the oats, in other words, protein, fat, and carbohydrates.” The problem with this process is that it creates quite a bit of a sugar called maltose, which is why Oatly packaging shows 7g added sugar per serving. Of all the different kinds of sugars you can eat, maltose has the highest glycemic index, with a rating of 105 out of 100. For comparison, table sugar has a rating of 65, and the high-fructose corn syrup you get in a Coca-Cola has a GI around 65-75. There’s less of it, but the sugar in Oatly has a higher gram-for-gram impact on your blood sugar than the HFCS in Coca-Cola. Putting 12oz of Oatly into your latte and adjusting for the higher GI of maltose means adding almost a tablespoon of table sugar to your drink. Put a tablespoon of sugar next to your coffee next time you have a chance and seriously consider if that’s a decision that’s “made for humans.”

Maximize the Green Before we Move to Mars

4/27/21 Power Five

1. Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market – “We’re seeing an inventory crisis,” said Katie Wethman, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty. Indeed, total home supply at the end of March sat at only 1.07 million units, down 28.2 percent from a year ago, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. The association’s data also found that homes typically sold in a record-low time of just 18 days in March, down from a 29-day average in March 2020.”

2. The Golden Ratio May Have African Roots – “These scaling patterns can be seen in ancient Egyptian design, and archaeological evidence shows that African cultural influences traveled down the Nile river. For instance, Egyptologist Alexander Badawy found the Fibonacci series’ use in the layout of the Temple of Karnak. It is arranged in the same way African villages grow: starting with a sacred altar or “seed shape” before accumulating larger spaces that spiral outward.”

3. The Greatest Story Ever Told – “Eventually paper currency was added to the system of coins. Humans assigned value to worthless pieces of paper, and everyone bought in to the story. Then banks began to hold deposits and offer loans. Corporations allowed many people to own stock in a company, pooling their money to build something larger than they could ever build alone. Companies could also borrow, and investors purchased bonds. Governments borrowed as well, financing wars, infrastructure, social programs, and deficit spending during economic recessions. Some companies and countries borrowed too much and defaulted. Some corporations went bankrupt, and investors lost their equity. But all along the way, life on Earth became a lot easier for humans.”

4. Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Your To-Be Read Pile – “There’s a Japanese word for this accumulation of books that pile up without being read: tsundoku. At three syllables, it economically sums up the fact that book lovers buy and borrow books even when we already have plenty of books to read.”

5. CEO Pay Remains Stratospheric – “The gap between executive compensation and average worker pay has been growing for decades. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1. From 1978 to 2019, compensation grew 14 percent for typical workers. It rose 1,167 percent for C.E.O.s.”

NYT