70: Texas Instruments & Hooters' Child, Elfenbein’s 2021 Buy List, Reverse Engineering Pfizer, Shomik on Enterprise Software, Germany, and What Future for Villeneuve’s Dune?

"It doesn’t matter what you create if you have no fun"

It doesn’t matter what you create

If you have no fun

—Lyrics ‘Party Girl’, Michelle Gurevich, a Canadian singer-songwriter.

(For a few weeks, I’ve fallen asleep listening to this song almost every night. It’s lo-fi, just a voice and a repetitive guitar… the lyrics are kind of impressionistic, the singing mostly a flat-affect intonation, with some bits of inflection sometimes… I don’t know, I like it, but probably not for everyone)

I wonder if for some people there will be rebound to the rebound after things go back to (mostly) normal when the pandemic is under control.

There will be a honeymoon period when it's indeed great to see friends and family and go to restaurants and slam poetry readings (or whatever you kids do in your free time).

But then, some may realize that they were blaming all their problems on the pandemic, and that even though it’s over, many problems remain. Or they're still sad or anxious, or now they have to deal with things that they had been kicking down the road for a long time… After holding it together for months because they had no choice, mental health strains may catch up with them at at time when external factors may seem like things should be fine.

Hopefully for most people things will just get better, but we should keep an eye out for those who could be blind-sided by this effect, and put some empathy aside for that eventuality.

ⓖ You know who we haven't heard much about lately? Larry Page and Sergei Brin. They've been pretty successful at dropping off the map...

Considering the current climate — in the media and with politicians — when it comes to Big Tech and their controlling billionaires, I’m a little surprised by how successfully they pulled it off.

⁇ Do Germans have a word for that exact moment when you realize that something you bought or received as a gift isn't what you expected and actually kind of sucks but now you're stuck with it for a while as additional clutter to your life?

Investing & Business

It's like if Texas Instruments and Hooters had a child

Also by Post M. in the same thread: “It's almost like in order to drive TSR he is held to a much higher standard, given you have a limited set of potential buyers. Interestingly adverse selection.”

These are interesting adaptations. Creatures are shaped by the ecological niche in which they evolve.

Eddy Elfenbein’s 2021 Buy List Updates (+5/-5)

As per Holidays Tradition since Times Immemorial, Eddy has updated his buy list with five additions:

The five new stocks are Abbott Laboratories (ABT), HEICO (HEI), Miller Industries (MLR), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) and Zoetis (ZTS).

And five goners:

The five sells are Becton, Dickinson (BDX), Eagle Bancorp (EGBN), Globe Life (GL), Hormel Foods (HRL) and RPM International (RPM).

You can see the complete list with a little more context here.

A Major Reason Why I keep Researching my Companies…

Most of the extra research after the important things are identified is to build the confidence to hold long-term, IMO, and to understand what is going on during volatile times and not be shaken out.

Not to have some extra insight into valuation or whatever. (originally posted here)

Interview: Shomik Ghosh on VC’ing and Enterprise Software

Lots of good interviews on Brandon’s Value Hive podcast lately. The latest one is with my friend Shomik:

Among other things, they discuss this ‘Framework for Evaluating Enterprise Software Companies’ presentation. I also like the discussion on the Salesforce distribution muscle and what an advantage that is, and how Benioff’s style worked to shape his company differently than the product-centric CEOs that are more in-vogue.

Interview: Eugene Wei

I’m fairly certain most of you know Eugene Wei, and if not, you’ve got a bunch of stuff to add to your reading list, because his essays are very good (he’s like an alternate universe Matthew Ball, but somehow in the same universe — if they ever meet, one of them may start to slowly disappear).

Good podcast interview with him from earlier this month (published December 2, 2020):

Blue Apron’s Venn-TAM

Science & Technology

‘Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine’

RNA is the volatile ‘working memory’ version of DNA. DNA is like the flash drive storage of biology. DNA is very durable, internally redundant and very reliable. But much like computers do not execute code directly from a flash drive, before something happens, code gets copied to a faster, more versatile yet far more fragile system.

For computers, this is RAM, for biology it is RNA. The resemblance is striking. Unlike flash memory, RAM degrades very quickly unless lovingly tended to. The reason the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine must be stored in the deepest of deep freezers is the same: RNA is a fragile flower.

Great analogy, at least if you know what RAM and flash storage are…

The spikes are mounted on the virus body (‘the nucleocapsid protein’). But the thing is, our vaccine is only generating the spikes itself, and we’re not mounting them on any kind of virus body.

It turns out that, unmodified, freestanding Spike proteins collapse into a different structure. If injected as a vaccine, this would indeed cause our bodies to develop immunity.. but only against the collapsed spike protein. [...]

So what to do? In 2017 it was described how putting a double Proline substitution in just the right place would make the SARS-CoV-1 and MERS S proteins take up their ‘pre-fusion’ configuration, even without being part of the whole virus. This works because Proline is a very rigid amino acid. It acts as a kind of splint, stabilising the protein in the state we need to show to the immune system.

Source. h/t Elliot Turner

Share of Renewable Energy Production in Germany

Storm to the rescue: 40 GW of wind power flowing into the German public grid at the moment (60% of total generation*), securing the country’s first year with over 50% renewable electricity!

The second half year saw a lower renewable electricity share in Germany than the first half. Windy February was this year’s champion with 61.7%, and December can become the lowest month due to little wind at first (share now at 37.7%). Average for the year to date now 50.5%!

The share of renewable electricity delivered to Germany’s public grid doubled in just 8 years, from just over 25% in 2012 to 50+% this year! (Source)

‘Ultra-detailed fighter plane concept inspired by the XB-32, the F-35 and the Mig-21’

When an art project is this detailed, it basically becomes engineering…

From Alexander Yartsev and the Renderdock team:

Ultimate Fighter (Concept)
Concept design of the fifth generation fighter MiG-41 Fulmar (project LFMS, experimental design work "Burevestnik"). A lot of design and engineering work was done during this project, so we wish MiG-41 clear skies!

Check this out for a ton more renderings and technical details. h/t ToughSF

The Arts & History

Nail-Bitter: What Future for Villeneuve’s Dune?

Fight between Warner/HBO Max and Legendary, who financed a big chunk of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune epic:

When Legendary originally announced their irritation with Warner's bold, new plan to release Dune via HBO Max, the studio argued that releasing Villeneuve's latest sci-fi odyssey on the streaming service could potentially kill its chances at becoming a full-blown franchise. As it stands, Dune is the first of a two-part plan for the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel. The film is also designed to pave the way for a television series, which could also be put into jeopardy if the film doesn't sell like gangbusters at the box office. [...]

As of this moment, it sounds as if Legendary is willing to sacrifice Godzilla vs. Kong to HBO Max if Dune is preserved for theaters. (Source)

So if this thing comes out in theaters, you know what to do: Buy 15 tickets, even if you only go once, and then buy a digital copy, just to be on the safe side. Do it for your pal Liberty… 🙏

I still wish I had gotten to see Blade Runner 2054…

h/t Jerry Capital

Tchaikovsky’s Patron Who Never Wanted to Meet Him

Tchaikovsky’s fortunes changed in 1877 when he gained the emotional and financial support of wealthy patron Nadezhda Von Meck. The generous annual stipend of 6000 roubles she gave him – about 20x what he would have made as a civil servant – enabled him to quit his job with the Conservatory and become Russia’s first full-time, professional composer.

While the composer and his patron exchanged more than 1,200 deeply personal letters in the course of 13 years (that’s nearly two a week), they met only once—accidentally and awkwardly—and they never spoke a word to each other. Von Meck stipulated that she never wanted to meet as a condition of her patronage, and the socially awkward Tchaikovsky was more than happy to comply.

Just an anecdote that I like, nothing else to add. Source. Via Reddit