134: Transdigm for Pools, Amazon + MGM, Heico, Cannabis Payments, John Malone, Apple Espionage, Lateralus, Scientific Citations, Citations, and Undersea Cables

"a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it"

There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.

—Christopher Morley

😖 Sometimes it feels like software companies don’t have any UX/UI people.

Look at these button from Google Meet’s video calling software, no doubt being used simultaneously by millions of people as you’re reading these words:

See the problem?

The button that people use the most — to mute and unmute — is right next to the button to end the call.

Power-users may know that you can mute and unmute with the keyboard (CMD-D), but most people clearly just click the button (that’s when they mute at all when they’re not speaking… You’d think that after the year we’ve had everybody would have learned mic etiquette, but alas ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

So when I’m having video calls with friends, mostly to play D&D (yeah, I know 🤓🧙‍♂️⚔️🧝‍♀️🎲), once in a while someone just disappears, and then calls back in.

I haven’t run a scientific survey on it yet, but I’m pretty sure that it’s mostly “oops, I meant to unmute”.

💸 If you think Transdigm over-charges for parts, look at pool supply manufacturer Hayward. Here’s a flow sensor.

This thing probably costs three bucks to manufacture, max, and they sell it for almost $200 CAD (with tax). It’s just an open circuit, and when the water flowing through the pipe pushes against the metal blade, it makes a connection. There’s absolutely nothing to it.

I wonder what kind of gross margin they make on that…

The alternative is to order a knock-off with lukewarm reviews from Amazon for $80 CAD (even that feels expensive to me), but it’s not FBA or Prime, so it’ll arrive in an unknown number of weeks, as your kids look at you with puppy-eyes because they just want you to fix the pool… 🥺🥺

Where’s AmazonBasics when you really need it?

🌬🌍 Scientists are not good at branding.

“Climate change/global warming” should’ve been “climate chaos”.

That has some bite.

🛀 Large parts of human civilization are built around the constraints of human bladder capacity.

It impacts how physical infrastructure is built — buildings and cities — but also intellectual pursuits, like the arts (how long is that movie or that play?). It probably even has some impact on the research part of science & technology — how long can the genius sit around in a deep state of flow before nature calls and breaks this concentration?

💚 🥃 Do you pay for groceries? Gotta feed your body.

If you feel this thing here feeds your mind, you know what to do:

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Investing & Business

Amazon buys MGM Studios for $8.45 billion

Amazon said Wednesday that it will acquire MGM Studios for $8.45 billion […]

Amazon said it hopes to leverage MGM’s storied filmmaking history and wide-ranging catalog of 4,000 films and 17,000 TV shows to help bolster Amazon Studios, its film and TV division.

How many shoes can James Bond sell? How many snow shovels can Fargo sell? How much gym equipment can Rocky move? How much lotion can Silence of the Lambs… 🧐

…bits per dollar…

Byrne Hobart (sub $ required):

Part of Amazon's capital allocation strategy is that it's aiming for an information advantage, maximizing bits generated per dollar of capex and opex. [...]

Build a twenty-year model of Procter & Gamble, Con Ed, or Kraft Heinz, and you have a pretty good idea of what they'll be doing to produce whatever revenue you pencilled in for 2040. But for Amazon, a big chunk of the 2040 number comes from businesses that you haven't heard of yet, that don't exist yet, or that exist but are not on the radar as growth drivers even for Amazon's senior leadership.

Cannabis Industry Shows Value of Digital Payment Rails

Interesting piece of industry trivia that I wasn’t aware of:

legal marijuana businesses continue to struggle to find financial service providers to fill their needs, often forcing businesses to drown in physical cash. […]

Chung noted that cannabis firms will typically allocate 10 percent of their overhead just to counting cash, according to conversations with various CFOs in the industry. (Source)

So if we invert a bit, this means that the ability to accept credit and debit card is saving a crapload to the companies that do accept them (we already knew this — but it’s always nice to find a real-world example of a theory in practice, a kind of natural control group).

Maybe payment companies should use this in their marketing materials… “See how much trouble you’d be in without us! We’re worth the fees you pay us!”

Of course, this wouldn’t be entirely honest, since the alternative isn’t really going back to cash or seashells, but rather to less expensive forms of payments (which would probably mean lowering fees by lowering rewards, not necessarily by cutting those few bps that go to the rails, but that’s another story).

h/t Extra-Deluxe supporter (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃) Byrne Hobart

I Contain Multitudes… of Investors

Good column by Jason Zweig (👋) on Daniel Kahneman’s new book:

You aren’t an investor. You contain multitudes of investors.

You aren’t the same when you lose money as you are when you make money [...] Nor do you invest the same when you’re calm, rested, well-fed and alert as you do if you’re upset or tired or hungry or bored. You may even make different investing decisions in the evening than in the morning.

This is the classic study about judges/parole officers being more or less lenient before and after lunch or near the end of a day than at the beginning.

decisions by people and organizations are far less consistent and more variable than we think. Every investor needs to take account of that; otherwise, your long-term results will always be hostage to short-term whims and circumstances. [...]

When I ask Prof. Kahneman if the opposite of noise is quiet, he says no: “The opposite of noise is discipline. It’s just doing things in a reasoned way, organizing your thinking so it is as intentional as possible.”

Here’s how.

First impressions are dangerous. [...]

Break decisions into their components [...]

Get multiple opinions [...]

In a world full of noise, discipline is your greatest asset.

Learned something about Jason too:

Before I joined The Wall Street Journal, I spent two years helping him research, write and edit his previous book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” although I don’t earn royalties from it.


h/t Rishi Gosalia (🌴🏝🌸☀️🏄‍♂️🌊)

Heico Lost their %

One thing I don't like about Heico is that they stopped giving percentages on their numbers in press releases since the pandemic started. They're otherwise doing very well, but this is in the negative column for me.

Interview: John Malone (31 minutes)

Malone hasn’t been doing too many interviews lately, so this one by David Faber is a nice treat:

h/t to friend-of-the-show Alex Morris for sharing the non-paywalled MSN version

Being Poor

I’ve had this one in my notes for a while, but friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Jim O’Shaughnessy posted some thoughts from John Scalzi (one of the OG bloggers in the early 2000s, and a science-fiction writer — I’ve only read Old Man’s War from him, but remember enjoying it) and it reminded me of it, so I’m posting it now.

It’s a blog post from 2005 that I still remember:

A few that stood out to me:

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

I didn’t grow up poor, though far from rich either.

But many in my extended family were probably around that level of poverty.

I never really realized it growing up — as a kid, things were just the way they were — but thinking back, the bare plywood floors, broken mismatched furniture with stains, every house on the street having junk in the front yard and peeling paint, and pan-fried bologna and mac & cheese meals at some of my cousins’ places now can be seen in a different light.

IAC Magic, Vimeo Edition

Industrial Espionage as Media Tech Gossip, Apple Edition

I’ve long said that Apple is in a weird position...

Industrial espionage is a real concern for any successful company, but Apple is the victim of the largest, most distributed and well-organized espionage system in the world, and most of it is out in the open as tech rumor sites.

Everybody is trying to figure out what their next product is, what they’re going to do next, bribing suppliers, etc. This has to be annoying, but there’s also a real bottom line, and not just in the obvious way (ie. Samsung copying features).

Dan Rose writes:

Tim Cook once shared with me that Apple put a precise dollar value on the free press they received from big product announcements, which was undermined by leaks.

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Science & Technology

‘Adenovirus Trojan horse delivers genes for cancer therapeutics directly into tumor cells… doing no harm to healthy cells’

Scientists at the University of Zurich have modified a common respiratory virus, called adenovirus, to act like a Trojan horse to deliver genes for cancer therapeutics directly into tumor cells. Unlike chemotherapy or radiotherapy, this approach does no harm to normal healthy cells. Once inside tumor cells, the delivered genes serve as a blueprint for therapeutic antibodies, cytokines and other signaling substances, which are produced by the cancer cells themselves and act to eliminate tumors from the inside out. (Source)

This isn’t a new approach, a lot has been done on this for a while, but hopefully this one works well and makes its way out of the lab and into real therapies rapidly.

Until it does, let’s not celebrate too early, because sometimes there are show-stoppers with these things that are promising in the lab.

But it’s still great to see progress!

Idea: Bi-directional/Dynamic Scientific Citation Links

Maybe I’ve been thinking too much about Roam and Obsidian lately, but reading this paper on how ‘Nonreplicable publications are cited more than replicable ones’:

published papers in top psychology, economics, and general interest journals that fail to replicate are cited more than those that replicate. This difference in citation does not change after the publication of the failure to replicate. Only 12% of postreplication citations of nonreplicable findings acknowledge the replication failure. Existing evidence also shows that experts predict well which papers will be replicated.

It wouldn’t solve the problem, but I was thinking that it may help if now that we’re in a digital world, a new format for citation links was created and it had a bi-directional/dynamic aspect to it, kind of like when you create [[ ]] links between pages in Obsidian and Roam.

For example, let’s say that 200 papers cite one big popular paper. But later it turns out that some fatal flaw is found in that paper, or it fails to replicate (repeatedly).

You could update some metadata on the original paper and automatically, the 200 papers that cite it would see that citation annotated with something that points this out (ie. “This paper failed to replicated, follow this link for more details”).

Why not use 21st century tools to better disseminate this kind of data via the same mechanisms that allow these papers to spread in the first place? Otherwise you run into the same kind of thing that happens when newspapers make errors and then print a correction/retraction; only a fraction of people who say the original will see the follow-up (and even those that see it may not even update, may still keep believing the original).

Cross-Section of Undersea Power Cable

In edition #2, all the way back in the Mesoproterozoic era of July 2020, I had a photo of a cross-section of an undersea fiber optics cable.

This is a different undersea beast: This is power. This specific one from an offshore wind farm in Scotland.

As far as I can tell, it’s high-voltage alternative current (HVAC). Not sure how much juice it can handle, but I’m going to guess: a lot a lot.

Photo by Ann Lingard. Source.

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The Arts & History

Has it been 20 years already?, Lateralus Edition

On May 15th, 2001, the band Tool released Lateralus.

It’s probably my fave album of theirs, though I have a really hard time deciding between it and Ænima.

For a long time I preferred Ænima, but Lateralus kept growing on me over time, and in recent years it may have taken the lead..

But whatever, I don’t have to decide, so I’ll just say they’re both my fave Tool albums.

In honor of the 20th, here’s a few videos of a composer listening to tracks from it and “decomposing” them:

But if you only watch one, make it this (below). Just LOOK AT HER reacting to Tool playing the song Sober live.

She’s a voice coach, but that’s not the most interesting aspect of the video.

Look at what she feels. She gets it.

Do you feel it too, through her?

I love when I get to experience something I know well as if it was the first time again. Like showing your fave film or tv show to a loved one, and they love it too, and you can glimpse what it is to discover it through them.

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