Friday, June 28, 2019

Believe it or not, if I had more time, I'd tie Chucky in with the Joe Biden campaign

I've been meaning to do a thread about how we have come to put irrationally high value on name recognition and known IP. Chipman's argument here -- that this is a clever premise clumsily tied to a deserving cult classic in a way that does disservice to the old and ruins the new -- would be a great fit.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to write that now, so I'm just going to post this and go to bed. Maybe next week.


OK, NOW I;m going to bed, but first I stayed up a little longer and checked out this deep dive by Chipman into why there are two ongoing Chucky franchises. If you're into both pop culture and the strange world of intellectual property law (which sadly puts me in the center of the target audience), it's definitely worth your time.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

You know the writers are running out of ideas when they start doing cross-overs

From Steve Moore’s New Crypto Start-up Is Dumb Even by Crypto Start-up Standards by Josh Barro

Here’s how Moynihan and Gasparino describe the proposed venture:
“Decentral,” as it is known, will attempt to perform Fed-like duties in terms of regulating the supply of crypto in the same way as the Fed controls the supply of money for the U.S. economy, they contend. It will exchange its own new token for other cryptos; the supply of the new cryptocurrency will be tied to the value of the dollar or some other “stable” valuation method and will be strictly controlled by an algorithm, company officials tell Fox Business.

You may have some questions. Like “What?” or “Why?” or “What could that possibly even mean?” When I read that paragraph, I also had these questions. It sounds like announcing you’re going to start a private “central bank” that trades in gold in order to control the supply and price of gold. How would that possibly work? It wouldn’t, is the short answer.

So I spoke with Moore’s business partner, Sam Kazemian (a 2015 UCLA graduate whose previous venture, Everipedia, is a blockchain-based competitor to Wikipedia), to ask what it would mean for a crypto start-up to “perform Fed-like duties” and “regulate the supply of crypto.” Having spoken with him and gotten more detail on the proposed business plan, I think the “central bank” branding is distracting and it’s most accurate to say that Kazemian and Moore hope to issue a fiat stablecoin. Let me explain what that means. (Spoiler: It’s still not a good idea.)

Before we go on, let's pay a quick visit to Everipedia.

The closer you look at Everipedia, which didn’t respond to questions or a request for a list of its most visited pages, the less substantial it appears. Almost every page on the site is copied verbatim from Wikipedia — although not updated as frequently as Wikipedia — and the trickle of entries posted by Everipedia users relate almost exclusively to sensational topics including YouTube trolls, the “meme war of 2017” and the hip hop producer who tattooed an image of Anne Frank onto his face. Other recurring subjects are activists, white supremacists, and people who were shot and killed by police — all topics that seem engineered to capitalize on trending search terms.

Also unlike Wikipedia, a collaborative nonprofit encyclopedia launched in 2001, Everipedia has its eye on revenue. The site offers a service in which individuals and businesses can pay an annual fee in exchange for a custom-made Everipedia entry that receives “full-time monitoring for updates and preventing vandalism,” starting at $299 per year. Its home page claims that it is “free from ads,” but ads periodically appear on the site, and a link at the bottom of every page labeled “Advertise” links to information for prospective sponsors. Maghodam has trumpeted the site’s growing traffic, but its Alexa score indicates limited popularity.
Which these days is enough to net you $30 million.

Now back the main stage.

For a number of reasons, Moore and the founders of Decentral would like to avoid backing their stablecoin 1:1 with traditional currencies. The premise behind their venture: What if you could have a coin that was stable but that wasn’t backed by a whole bunch of stable assets? What if, like a central bank, you found a way to issue currency and achieve a stable price not through backing by valuable reserves but by fiat — that is, through reliance on a reputation for stability plus certain open-market operations designed to influence the value of the currency you have issued?

Of course, there are some problems with this idea.


Sovereign governments fail at this despite having advantages that Decentral will not. For example, they can levy taxes. They regulate banks that take deposits and issue loans in the fiat currency and adjust the supply of that currency by telling them how much they must hold in reserve. They also preside over economies in which people are likely to feel compelled to hold and use the local currency — because they have to pay taxes in it, for example. Nobody will need to pay taxes in Decentral’s coin.

Kazemian told me he understands these concerns, and that is why Decentral will begin its operations with a more traditional stablecoin model, achieving a stable price by holding other stablecoins in full and equal value to the coins Decentral itself will issue.

He said a key reason the company brought Moore onboard was to help understand how big it would need to get in order to successfully behave like a central bank and issue a stable fiat currency. “When it is big enough, when it’s the kind of self-fulfilling prophesy of the Fed,” Kazemian said, they would pivot to a model similar to the Fed’s, in which the currency isn’t fully backed by reserves.

That's right, Moore is supposed to be the economic brains of the operation

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Paul Krugman is just scratching the surface here, but it's a valuable scratch

In fairness, this is only a prelude to a longer talk, but even if he stopped here, Krugman would deserve credit for clearly laying out points that are vitally important and should be obvious but are all too often ignored. Part of the problem, I think, is that the mainstream centrist press, especially the paper Krugman writes for, tends to be overwhelmingly deferential toward the rich and the powerful. That, however, is a topic for another post.

While popular discourse has concentrated on the “1 percent,” what’s really at issue here is the role of the 0.1 percent, or maybe the 0.01 percent — the truly wealthy, not the “$400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff” memorably ridiculed in the movie Wall Street. This is a really tiny group of people, but one that exerts huge influence over policy.

Where does this influence come from? People often talk about campaign contributions, but those are only one channel. In fact, I’d identify at least four ways in which the financial resources of the 0.1 percent distort policy priorities:

1. Raw corruption. We like to imagine that simple bribery of politicians isn’t an important factor in America, but it’s almost surely a much bigger deal than we like to think.

2. Soft corruption. What I mean by this are the various ways short of direct bribery politicians, government officials, and people with policy influence of any kind stand to gain financially by promoting policies that serve the interests or prejudices of the wealthy. This includes the revolving door between public service and private-sector employment, think-tank fellowships, fees on the lecture circuit, and so on.

3. Campaign contributions. Yes, these matter.

4. Defining the agenda: Through a variety of channels — media ownership, think tanks, and the simple tendency to assume that being rich also means being wise — the 0.1 percent has an extraordinary ability to set the agenda for policy discussion, in ways that can be sharply at odds with both a reasonable assessment of priorities and public opinion more generally.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

I've probably said this before, but I wonder how much of the postwar futurism that seems wildly optimistic today would have been viable if nuclear thermal rockets and fusion reactors had progressed as expected.

Here's one for the social scientists in the audience.

Keep this in mind when we come back to the voter suppression thread.

When studies favor the predictions of social psych crowd over the economists, people are always surprised, even though that seems to be how things generally break.

Presented without comment.

The smarter commentators (Pierce, Marshall) are starting to point out that, while you can never entirely dismiss the election chances of a sitting president and a lot can happen in a year and a half, the odds against Trump pulling off a legitimate (or even semi-legitimate) win in 2020 are looking pretty high. More on this soon.

Monday, June 24, 2019

There's even a Gwyneth Paltrow connection

There's a lot to unpack in this piece by Reeves Wiedeman, but here are a few points I want to highlight.

Its core business is simple: lease offices from landlords — the company owns hardly any real estate — slice them up, and rent them out in smaller portions with an upcharge for cool design, regular happy hours, and a more flexible short-term lease. There are hundreds of co-working companies around the world, but what has long distinguished WeWork is Neumann’s insistence that his is something bigger. In 2017, Neumann declared that WeWork’s “valuation and size today are much more based on our energy and spirituality than it is on a multiple of revenue.” He has long maintained that categorizing WeWork as a real-estate concern is too limiting; it is a “community company” with huge ambitions. “We are here in order to change the world,” Neumann said that same year. “Nothing less than that interests me.”

We've seen a lot of tech messiahs promising disruptive transformation over the past few years, but I can't recall a case where this level of grandiosity rested on a business plan as mundane as subletting office space. Say what you will about Elon Musk, he could promise big.

Here, it's almost like we've moved past the need to ground the god complexes in even the suggestion of a viable argument.

And what Neumann has accomplished is staggering: WeWork now has 466,000 members working out of 485 locations in more than 100 cities in 28 countries. Its revenue has grown from $75 million in 2014 to $1.8 billion last year. Three years ago, it had 1,000 employees; today, it has 12,000 and is adding 100 every week. It has installed 22 million square feet of the glass partitions that have defined an era of workplace aesthetics, and last fall, it became Manhattan’s largest tenant. (In Central London, it is second only to the British government.) In the wake of Uber’s (disappointing) debut on the New York Stock Exchange, the We Company is now America’s most highly valued start-up, at $47 billion — at least for the moment. At the end of April, Neumann announced that the company had filed paperwork to begin the process of an IPO.

Inside the company, however, employees and executives describe an environment that can be marked by the chaos, churn, and misbehavior that have come to characterize hypergrowth start-up life, not to mention questions about its business: WeWork lost $1.9 billion last year. But WeWork has already reshaped the commercial real-estate world, and it has its eyes on the rest of our lives. As Neumann recently told a person close to the company, he believes that WeWork’s size and scale could put it in a position to help deal with some of the world’s largest problems, like the refugee crisis, saying, “I need to have the biggest valuation I can, because when countries are shooting at each other, I want them to come to me.”
I probably shouldn't have to say this, but hitting $1.8 billion in revenue when you're losing $1.9 billion isn't actually  all that staggering an accomplishment.

During the dot-com boom, a company called Regus became a stock-market darling by offering similar but much blander flexible offices. In 2000, Fast Company published a story about Regus titled “Office of the Future,” highlighting its efforts to bring “community” to the workplace. But the bubble burst and Regus went bankrupt. The company recovered and rebranded as IWG, but its existence presents another conundrum for WeWork. IWG currently has roughly 3,000 locations and 2.5 million customers worldwide, numbers that dwarf WeWork’s. IWG is profitable and now has a hipper, WeWork-ish offering. It is publicly traded and worth around $3 billion.

I'm just going to stop now.

Friday, June 21, 2019

"Start your day a little bit better"

A fun piece of marketing history from a magazine that's consistently better than it ought to be.

 In many ways, the cereal flake is the perfect consumer product. It's easy to produce, easy to sell, and surprisingly lucrative. To this day, cereal comes with an eye-popping profit margin of 50 percent. These merits became clear to Charles Post, a failed suspender salesman who moved to Battle Creek in 1895. Post began selling knock-off versions of Kellogg's products with a twist of his own—advertising. At the time, advertising was associated with snake-oil salesmen and con artists. But Post, who had a background in sales, didn't mind drizzling a little snake oil on his product. He published pamphlets with titles such as "The Road To Wellville" and claimed his cereal, Grape-Nuts, could cure appendicitis, improve one's IQ, and even "make red blood redder." By 1903, he was clearing $1 million a year.

Across town, Dr. Kellogg refused to sully The San's reputation with heathen advertising, and his profits suffered as a result. W.K., however, had no such qualms and set out to emulate Post. In his first national campaign, he told women to "Wink at your grocer, and see what you get." (Answer: a free box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes.) Within a year, he'd sold 1 million cases of cereal. With the leading cereal makers embracing such unabashed hucksterism, it was clear that cereal's connection to its fundamentalist roots had come to an end.

But the real winner was a cereal called Force. Its mascot, Sunny Jim, was a strutting, top-hatted gentleman who became so popular in newspapers and magazines that other cereal makers rushed to create their own mascots. For a cereal called Elijah's Manna, Charles Post even tried putting a picture of the prophet on the label. Although the product was eventually pulled, one industry ground rule had been established: Every box needs a character.

Before long, cereal makers had an insatiable appetite for finding the right mascot, regardless of the cost. During the Depression, Post Toasties decided to use cartoon animals on its boxes and paid its cartoonist $1.5 million in the first year. That artist was Walt Disney, and he used the earnings to build the Disney empire.

Cereal's total reliance on advertising meant that it was essential for companies to keep up with new forms of media. Quaker Oats, for example, hitched its sales to the rise of radio in a Dennis the Menace type who frequently interrupted his adventures to extol the virtues of Wheaties, Skippy was the first cereal character directly marketed to children. As it turned out, kids ate him up, and cereal producers learned an important lesson: Children are suckers. The flood of kid-friendly, cereal-shilling characters that followed reads like a Who's Who of American iconography, including the Lone Ranger, Dick Tracy, and Buck Rogers. By the 1960s, cereal advertisers were devoting 90 percent of their budgets to reaching children.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Repost -- We'll be revisiting this again

Thursday, March 2, 2017

There will be safe seats. There are no safe seats.

In 2017, we have a perfect example of when not to use static thinking and naïve extrapolation.

Not only are things changing rapidly, but, more importantly, there are a large number of entirely plausible scenarios that would radically reshape the political landscape and would undoubtedly interact in unpredictable ways. This is not "what if the ax falls?" speculation; if anything, have gotten to the point where the probability of at least one of these cataclysmic shifts happening is greater than the probability of none. And while we can't productively speculate on exactly how things will play out, we can say that the risks fall disproportionately on the Republicans.

Somewhat paradoxically, chaos and uncertainty can make certain strategic decisions easier. Under more normal (i.e. stable) circumstances it makes sense to expend little or no resources on unwinnable fights (or, conversely,  to spend considerable time and effort deciding what's winnable). The very concept of "unwinnable," however, is based on a whole string of assumptions, many of which we cannot make under the present conditions.

The optimal strategy under the circumstances for the Democrats is to field viable candidates for, if possible, every major 2018 race. This is based on the assumption not that every seat is winnable, but that no one can, at this point, say with a high level of confidence what the winnable seats are.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Running out of snarky Musk titles

I know we've covered this before, but this is such an apt example of how Elon Musk still doesn't get engineering, despite being surrounded by some of the most brilliant people in the fields of aerospace, transportation and artificial intelligence. They spend endless hours briefing him on technical subjects, and as long as he stays on script, he seems to grasp the concepts. The moment he starts to ad lib, however, his lack of comprehension becomes painful to watch.

There is a certain mindset that you find in pretty much all fields of applied mathematics (engineering, statistics, computer science, etc.), at least among the competent. It's a tendency to think in terms of complex systems, ranges,constraints,  trade-offs. Musk does exactly the opposite. He seems to believe that evaluating a design is done by taking a bunch of numbers, picking the best ones and shoving them together.

This wouldn't be so bad if Elon Musk were just another clueless CEO, but the myth of the real life Tony Stark has been so internalized by journalists, investors and politicians that it has started to warp our discourse and decision making.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

I've been going back and forth on posting this for years. It makes more sense in periods of high unemployment. Maybe I'll dust it off for the next recession.

For a long time now, we've been pointing out that the culture of education reform movement left it vulnerable to abuses.

If more journalists had actually listened to Margaret Sullivan, journalism (and the country as a whole) would be in better shape.

Another one I'd like to revisit.

When you can get your summary down to four letters.

No one knows the subtleties of this stuff like Silver.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The sad part is I'm sure this isn't the first time the worlds of cryptocurrency and Perlstein's "the Long Con" have collided

From Madison Malone Kircher writing for New York Magazine.
In the name of the father, the son, and the HODL spirit … amen. Rick Santorum — former Pennsylvania senator, two-time failed Republican presidential candidate, conservative Catholic — is getting into cryptocurrency. He’s an adviser on the board of a new company called Cathio, which says it “provides Catholic organizations with a payments platform that aligns with Catholic values, provides the tools necessary to increase donations and connect with both local and global Catholic communities.” Santorum’s son-in-law is Cathio’s CEO.
From the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog:
There are some other big hitters on the board too, including former US ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson, and former head of the US Mint Ed Moy, who also happens to have been an adviser for “bitcoin IRA”, an investment fund that encourages people to put their retirement savings into crypto (what could possibly go wrong, etc). Also on the board — and co-founder of Cathio — is Cameron Chell, chairman of ICOx Innovations, the company that ran Kodak’s infamous “Kodakcoin” ICO, which managed to raise less than 7 per cent of its target.
And in case you never read Rick Perlstein's essential essay...

Friday, June 14, 2019

Opossum is a real mood killer of a safe word

More solid work from the Last Week Tonight team.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

And if we committed to tithing to Uber, the company would break even within the decade

You always have to be careful reading too much into an anecdote, particularly one that came to your attention via social media, but they can be instructive. As Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik puts it:

I know there’s sort of a stereotype about a certain sort of painfully obsessed Tesla fan/Elon Musk worshipper that is, likely, an unfair categorization of most Tesla fans. But then you see something like this recent discussion on Reddit’s r/TeslaMotors forum, and you remember that, oh yeah, sometimes stereotypes do come from somewhere.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Once you're on the list, you're pretty much set.

Parul Sehgal has a devastating review of the latest from Naomi Wolf, but while Sehgal is being justly praised for her sharp and relentless treatment of her subject, she stops short before she gets to the most disturbing and important implication of the story.
There's an excellent case made here that Wolf's career should have collapsed long ago under the weight of her contradictions and factual errors, but the question of responsibility, of how enablers have sustained that career, and how many other journalistic all-stars owe their successes to the turning of blind eyes.

For example, Sehgal's review ran in the New York Times. One of, if not the most prominent voice of that paper is David Brooks. If you'll recall, Brooks got his sinecure (and if NYT opinion writer doesn't qualify, I don't know what does) in part because of a widely read article based largely on fabrications. There were no consequences for Brooks when this came out, or when similar complaints were raised later.

That her advice can contradict itself from book to book doesn’t appear to distress her (she fluctuates between regarding women as all-powerful sorceresses and abjectly dependent). The method has worked too efficiently, and at every stage of her life — as a young woman protesting beauty standards (“The Beauty Myth”) through motherhood (“Misconceptions”) and, later, the aging of her parents (“The Treehouse”), as she has grappled with her ambition (“Fire With Fire”) and her sex life (“Vagina”). Always the books are lit by a strange messianic energy, shored up by dubious data and structured around a moment of crisis and revelation as some veil — some long-held notion — falls away.

Recently, we had the opportunity to witness such a revelation in real time. Wolf was a guest on a BBC radio program, publicizing her new book, “Outrages,” a study of the criminalization of same-sex relationships in the Victorian era. She spoke passionately about discovering “several dozen executions” of men, including teenagers, accused of having sex with other men.

“Several dozen executions? I don’t think you’re right about this,” the host, Matthew Sweet, said, very politely filleting one of Wolf’s central claims. What Wolf regarded as evidence of executions — the notation of “death recorded” on court records — indicated, in fact, the opposite, that the judge had recommended a pardon from the death sentence. Sweet said he could find no evidence that anyone had ever been executed for sodomy in Victorian Britain, and furthermore, that Wolf mistakenly regarded sodomy in the court records as referring exclusively to homosexuality when, in fact, it was also used for child abuse. “I can’t find any evidence that any of the relationships you describe were consensual,” he pointed out.

It was a surprisingly cordial interaction, however. Wolf took the news on the chin, and later expressed her gratitude: “It’s such an important story and I welcome the chance to correct these two out of hundreds of citations and make it perfect.” Her publishers regretted the error but stated they believed the overall thesis still held.

Her first, career-making book, “The Beauty Myth,” is well-known for exaggerating the number of women who died of anorexia (Wolf stated that anorexia kills 150,000 women annually; the actual figure at the time, in the mid-1990s, was said to be closer to 50 or 60). One academic paper found that fully 18 of the 23 statistics about anorexia in the book were inaccurate and coined a term — “WOLF” (Wolf’s Overdo and Lie Factor) — to determine the degree to which Wolf was wrong: “On average, a statistic on anorexia by Naomi Wolf should be divided by eight to get close to the real figure.”

Throughout it all, she remains impervious to criticism. “I’m lucky,” she said in a recent profile in The Guardian. “I had a good education. I know my books are true.”

Not accurate or factual, but true. This is a key to understanding why charges of sloppiness or misrepresentation don’t seem to stymie, or even embarrass, writers like Wolf (or Jared Diamond and Annie Jacobsen, who have both been involved in similar scandals in recent weeks, facing them with the same blithe indifference). The issue isn’t simply that publishers don’t spring for fact-checking and leave writers vulnerable to making such errors. These writers see themselves in service of something larger than grubby reporting. “The important thing is that these stories are told,” Wolf recently told The Times of London. They are the emissaries of great stories, suppressed stories, and if they take liberties or eschew careful research — as consistently as Wolf has done — it is because they believe they have a right to them, that the story, the cause, somehow sanctions it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

And a thoughtful thread.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Repost: Phoenix Interruptus -- just ashes

Disney can certainly take the hit, but still:

According to Box Office Mojo, Dark Phoenix tanked with $33 million in its first three days, domestically. That is by far the worst opening in the franchise, finishing well below The Wolverine's $53.1 million back in 2013. It's more than $20 million less than the original X-Men from 2000, even though there have been nearly 20 years of ticket price inflation and premium formats such as 3D. Dark Phoenix finished second for the weekend, trailing The Secret Life of Pets 2 ($47.1 million).

It goes without saying this is a disaster for Fox. While it's true Dark Phoenix was something of a lame duck from the get-go since the Disney/Fox deal made a hard reboot inevitable, everyone involved was still hoping for the film to be successful. Dark Phoenix was even one of the more expensive X-Men movies, with a budget of $200 million. Odds are, it won't turn a profit for the studio; X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened with $65.7 million in 2016, earned $543.9 million globally. That's a figure Dark Phoenix is unlikely to match or surpass, especially with how low interest was at the start. This decidedly was not a must-see cinematic event, and due to the bad reviews, it's not going to have strong legs.

Keep in mind a good rule of thumb is that a film has to more than double its box office to break even, making this a big money loser for Disney/Fox.

The thinking in the film industry for a number of years now has been that the more you spend on these big franchise films, the more you'll make. For those versed in the history of the industry, this line of reasoning strikes a familiar note.

This isn't to say that we're looking at another late-sixties type crash, but the bigger budgets=more profits assumption never ends well.

Film history for fools -- box office disasters

Consider this a footnote to the previous Motley Fool rant.
There's an old and very common saying in Hollywood that the biggest money-losing film ever was the Sound of Music. The joke here is that though the film did rather well...
Upon its initial release, The Sound of Music briefly displaced Gone with the Wind as the highest-grossing film of all-time; taking re-releases into account, it ultimately grossed $286 million internationally. Adjusted to contemporary prices it is the third highest-grossing film of all-time at the North American box office and the fifth highest-grossing film worldwide.
... The films it inspired lost a lot of money. That's a bit of an oversimplification. Music was just the last of a string of hit musicals in the early Sixties ( West Side Story, The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins) but it was the biggest and it suggested an upward trend and, to the extent that it was responsible for what followed, it might well justify that money-losing title. 
The commercially and/or critically unsuccessful films included Camelot, Finian's Rainbow, Hello Dolly!, Sweet Charity, Doctor Dolittle, Star!, Darling Lili, Paint Your Wagon, Song of Norway, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Man of La Mancha, Lost Horizon and Mame. Collectively and individually these failures crippled several of the major studios.
I don't want to push the analogy with comic-book movies but there are similarities, particularly regarding the budgets and the stories executives told themselves to justify them. 
And I'm pretty sure if Motley Fool had been around in, say, 1967, these upcoming movies would have generated lots of optimistic exclamation points.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Repost -- engineers were ambitious back in the day

With all this discussion of the hyperloop, it's useful to remember just how long people have been thinking about the basic concepts.


If there's an engineer in the audience, I'd very much like to know what the relationship is between this very cool 1890 system and the history of linear induction trains.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

If only it were underground...

From the good people at Closer than We Think:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"IEA: Nuke retirements could lead to 4 billion metric tons of extra CO2 emissions"

I know I'm wading into a fiercely heated debate here, but simply as a matter of consistency, it seems like the degree you take climate change seriously should correlate strongly with support for nuclear power, at least for the next 20 or 30 years.

From Ars Technica

A report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns world leaders that—without support for new nuclear power or lifetime extensions for existing nuclear power plants—the world's climate goals are at risk.

"The lack of further lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants and new projects could result in an additional four billion tonnes of CO2 emissions," a press release from the IEA noted.

Though politicians have said that nuclear power will be replaced by renewable energy, in practice that may be less likely to come to fruition. When New York state announced the closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant in 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he believed its power could be easily replaced by low-carbon sources of power by its closing date in 2021. But Platts Analytics says that most of Indian Point's 2GW will be "replaced with output from the newly constructed 1,100MW Cricket Valley and 680MW CPV Valley gas-fired power plants."

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

A few stories I'm keeping an eye on.

A thoughtful thread on the internet of things..

And one on the impact of technology on the economics of entertainment.

It's not just that Disney content is leaving Netflix; it's that it's going other places:

Remember back a few years ago when we kept insisting that the charter school system, as currently configured, was vulnerable to graft and corruption?

I'm not sure if it's a question  for a linguist or a political scientist, but the way that this childish borderline putdown has moved from rightwing talk radio to the mainstream GOP would be an interesting phenomena to study.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Even by Musk standards, the Boring Company has always been based on bait-and-switch.

Elon  Musk has a long history of debuts that arrive late and, more importantly, fail to include the very features that constituted the promised innovation, but at least products like autopilot were still cool and technologically sophisticated, even if they fell short of the revolutionary advances they had been billed as.With Musk's latest, though, the product isn't just a disappointment in relative terms. It's embarrassing any way you look at it.

Aaron Gordon of Jalopnik pretty much just cuts to the chase.

Elon Musk Says ‘Hyperloop’ Tunnel Is Now Just a Normal Car Tunnel Because ‘This Is Simple and Just Works’

Back in 2017, Elon Musk had grand visions for the test track built by The Boring Company, his tunneling firm, in Los Angeles. The Boring Company’s tunneling work was closely linked to Musk’s Hyperloop idea, which would require hundreds of miles of tunneling to be viable, although the actual test track in California bore none of the traits of an air vacuum-based transportation system. It would have proprietary vehicles with varying capacities for private travel, public transport, or freight. They would travel along electrified skates for frictionless movement. It would be fast and efficient, but more importantly, it would be different, because he’s a genius.

Six months ago, the first demonstration of that track didn’t quite match that vision: it was a Tesla Model X on a sled going down a very bumpy tunnel at roughly 50 mph.

At the time, Musk said the bumpiness was only temporary: “That bumpiness will definitely not be there down the road—it will be smooth as glass.”

Credit where credit’s due: it does appear to be smooth as glass now, according to a video The Boring Company released of a car going 127 mph down the tunnel. How did it achieve such miraculous speed and comfort improvements in a mere six months?

They paved it.

Yes, for those keeping score, in a mere two years we’ve gone from a futuristic vision of electric skates zooming around a variety of vehicles in a network of underground tunnels to—and I cannot stress this enough—a very small, paved tunnel that can fit one (1) car.

The video’s marketing conceit is that the car in the tunnel beats a car trying to go the same distance on roads. You’ll never believe this, but the car that has a dedicated right of way wins. Congratulations to The Boring Company for proving dedicated rights of way are important for speedy transportation, something transportation planners figured out roughly two centuries ago. I’m afraid for how many tunnels they’ll have to dig before they likewise acknowledge the validity of induced demand.