Category: What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading



Media:

We don’t have interviews of Thomas Jefferson. There’s no interviews of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington. Why is that? Because the interview format, as we now know it, came about as a form of entertainment education in the 1950s on The Tonight Show, and then other spinoffs on daytime talk shows and so forth.

Risk:

I define risk as uncertainty about lifetime consumption broadly defined. People invest because they want to use their wealth in the future. Some might plan to spend all the money on themselves for things like food, shelter, travel, recreation, and medical care. Others may plan to spend some of their wealth on political contributions, charitable donations, or gifts and bequests to their children. My definition of lifetime consumption includes all these and any other anticipated uses of wealth.

Alcohol:

Among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths actually outnumbered deaths from Covid-19 in 2020; some 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, while 74,075 individuals under 65 died of Covid. And the rate of increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 — 25 percent — outpaced the rate of increase of deaths from all causes, which was 16.6 percent.

Phoenix:

The median home was worth about $285,000 at the beginning of the pandemic; it was valued at $435,000 two years later. It wasn’t unheard of for a seller to receive 50 offers or more, or for a prospective buyer to make offers on a dozen different homes before finally closing (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Moods:

Since 1972, the survey has asked respondents the following question: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days–would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” Typically, the people who say they’re very happy outnumber the not too happy crowd by about three-to-one. Indeed those numbers have been fairly constant for half a century.

But in 2021 that all changed. The very-happies plummeted from 31 percent of the population in 2018 down to 19, while the not-too-happies surged by a nearly identical amount, from 13 to 24 percent.

Time:

I love going to the American Museum of Natural History, and I’ve been three times since I moved to New York in 2009. If that rate continues, I’ll step into the museum 12 more times. For an activity I think of as “something I like to do,” that number seems shockingly low. I also love going to the movies, but ever since it became effortless to stream everything at home, I’ve been averaging one or two movie theater trips a year. In my head, I’ll go out for hundreds more movies in my life, but the real amount is probably some weirdly small number like 53.

Fracking:

“Half a trillion dollars was more or less set on fire, as producers chased more production, and in the process depressed the global price of oil. They never really made much money out of it,” said Rory Johnston, a commodities economist at (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Wages:

Those who are gaining most right now in a workers’ market are in lower-wage industries that typically employ younger people—a section of the workforce that was hardest hit in the early days of the pandemic. Wages for Americans ages 16 to 24 rose in December at the fastest pace for records tracing back to 1997. Pay for workers with a high-school diploma or less is also increasing at a faster rate than more-educated workers for the first time on record.

Weirdness:

I think today the variance of weirdness is increasing. Conformists can conform like never before, due say to social media and the Girardian desire to mimic others. But unusual people can connect with other unusual people, and make each other much weirder and more “niche.” For instance, every possible variant of political views seems to be “out there” these days, and perhaps that is not entirely reassuring. A higher variance for weirdness probably encourages creativity. But is it a positive development on net? We are going to find out.

College:

More than 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. According to new data released Thursday, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, continuing a historic decline that began the previous fall.

WFH:

In a 2017-18 BLS survey, 51.9% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher said they could work from home, while only 11.1% of (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Ports:

One thing to remember here is that in America, the ports are owned by the local city that they’re in. Therefore, they’re not managed as a strategic national asset, which they clearly are. We’re realizing the implications of this right now. For example, I live in San Francisco and our main port is the Port of Oakland, which is owned by the City of Oakland. The mayor of Oakland has a lot of local issues to focus on and probably won’t prioritize multi-billion-dollar investments in their port as the city simply can’t afford it. So there’s just an inherent underinvestment in many U.S. ports and until recently it was really hard to get the federal government to make major investments in our ports.

Attention:

Nigg said it might help me grasp what’s happening if we compare our rising attention problems to our rising obesity rates. Fifty years ago there was very little obesity, but today it is endemic in the western world. This is not because we suddenly became greedy or self-indulgent. He said: “Obesity is not a medical epidemic – it’s a social epidemic. We have bad food, for example, and so people are getting fat.” The way we live changed dramatically – our food supply changed, and we built cities that are hard to walk or cycle around, and those changes in our environment led to changes in our bodies. We gained mass, en masse. Something similar, he said, might be happening with the changes (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Vaccines:

A vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease could be on the horizon after scientists carried out successful trials in animals. Researchers were able to reverse memory loss in mice and are keen to move quickly to human trials.

Teaching:

Surveyed academics explain why they remain in academia:

10%: “My work is useful.”

65%: “I have no other skills” or “My skills were expensive.”

Retiring:

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Forecasting:

Across America, historically anomalous weather is overwhelming infrastructure and government systems designed to withstand the weather of the past, forcing cities and utilities to rethink resiliency plans … American cities have been battered by severe weather for generations, but recently many have had to contend with more extreme events, including some they have little experience with, local government officials said. Compounding the problem: infrastructure that has deteriorated in many places, leaving cities with weakened dams, aging pipes and strained electrical grids.

Childcare:

In most states, putting a baby in a licensed child-care facility costs more than in-state college tuition, yet the people who provide that care make an average of about $24,000 a year, less than a fast-food worker or janitor, even though 87% of them have some form of higher education. Every year a quarter of the industry’s workers leave. All this adds up to an exceptionally precarious business model; according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the typical child-care center’s profit margin is only 1%.

Have a good weekend.

What We’re Reading



You:

The ironic thing about feeling bad about ourselves because of what people might think of us is that others actually have much fewer opinions about us—positive or negative—than we imagine. Studies show that we consistently overestimate how much people think about us and our failings, leading us to undue inhibition and worse quality of life. Perhaps your followers or neighbors would have a lower opinion of you if they were thinking about you—but they probably aren’t. Next time you feel self-conscious, notice that you are thinking about yourself. You can safely assume that everyone around you is doing more or less the same.

Yale:

“One [cause] is the tremendous increase in revenue generated by these universities that more or less has to be spent,” Campos said. “This means that as revenues go up, there has to be found ways to spend them. And one of the most natural ways to increase spending is to increase administration, the size of it and the compensation of the top administrators in particular.”

Since 2003, the University’s operating revenue has jumped 200 percent from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion.

Truck drivers:

In a majority of cases, these drivers don’t come close to my union wages. They pay for all their own repairs and fuel, and all truck related expenses. I honestly don’t understand how many of them can even afford to show up for work. There’s no guarantee of ANY wage (not even minimum wage), and in many cases, these (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Beliefs:

A total and complete stranger doesn’t have to share your investment beliefs. Doesn’t have to agree with your opinions about the right way to trade or the right investments to hold.

That difference in opinion is not a repudiation of your beliefs. It is not making a mockery of your philosophy. It’s not a challenge to your wisdom or a taunt about your positions. If you believe it to be, your mind is playing tricks on you. You’re not in a one on one competition with any other investor, unless you count the only real competitor – your own self.

Eliud Kipchoge:

He has a thing about celebrating, Kipchoge. Sees it as something sinister, something dangerous, a self-indulgent act that might derail his mindset, make him think, somewhere in his subconscious, that he has arrived, the inference being he has nowhere left to go.

Confidence:

The perennially insightful investment strategist Michael Mauboussin often references a famous study of horse race handicappers. They first asked the handicappers to make race predictions with 5 pieces of information for each horse in the race. Then they asked the handicappers to make the same predictions with 10, 20, and 40 pieces of information.The handicappers didn’t get any more accurate *with each additional piece of information, but they did get more *confident.

Attention:

Equipped with this knowledge, people decided that they didn’t want to spend their entire lives thinking about money. They wanted the Nothingness of Money to start (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Evictions:

When the federal moratorium on evictions ended in August, many feared that hundreds of thousands of tenants would soon be out on the streets. More than six weeks later, that hasn’t happened.

Instead, a more modest uptick in evictions reflects how renter protections at the city and state levels still remain in parts of the country, housing attorneys and advocates said. Landlords, meanwhile, say the risk of an eviction epidemic was always overstated and that most building owners have been willing to work with cash-strapped tenants.

Vaccines:

As soon as Edward Jenner introduced the first smallpox vaccine in 1798, posters appeared in England showing humans who had been vaccinated “sprouting horns and hooves,” Dr. Snowden said.

“In 19th-century Britain, the largest single movement was the anti-vaccine movement,” he added. And with vaccine resisters holding out, diseases that should have been tamed persisted.

Quitting your job:

“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something (Read more...)

What We’re Reading



Making water:

Bowman said his company’s machines — made for use at homes, offices, ranches and elsewhere — dehumidify the air and in doing so create water that’s filtered to make it drinkable.

The technology works especially well in foggy areas and depending on the size can produce between 200 and 1,900 gallons (900 and 8,600 liters) of water a day. The machines also operate efficiently in any area with high humidity, including California’s coastline, he said.

Malaria:

The world has gained a new weapon in the war on malaria, among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases: the first vaccine shown to help prevent the disease. By one estimate, it will save tens of thousands of children each year.

Collections:

I like to collect the cashflows of the best businesses in the world. I pile them up high in my accounts, adding to them when values fall, automatically buying more when dividends and distributions are paid out. My collection gets larger every year. I can’t touch it. I can’t hold it. It’s virtual, it’s digital, it lives in the online environment created by the brokerage firms and exchanges. There are many collections like it, but this one is mine. I count up the cashflows coming my way when I’m in a bad mood and that makes me happy again. I think everyone should collect the things that make them happy.

Back to the office:

Griffin said many employees in Corporate America haven’t returned because (Read more...)