15 February 2019

(Don't) Paint It Black

There are all manner of oddities in modern art. Read up this obit of one who took modern to the most extreme. It is a puzzlement how he gained any traction, but it turns out he did.
"It was never an intention of mine to make white paintings," he told Art News magazine in 1986. "The white is just a means of exposing other elements. White enables other things to become visible."

Of course, it's not clear that there are 'other elements' to be found in a plain white surface.

14 February 2019

The Asymptote of Progress - part the thirteenth

First the Concorde, now the A380. The light is dimming as the Permanent Dark Age dawns. Once you've filled in the periodic table, life changing innovations peter out. My paternal grandfather was born in 1880 and died in 1967. Just consider how the world around him changed over that span of time.
- automobiles
- telephone
- radio
- TeeVee
- aircraft, and all that brings
- space travel
- medicines of nearly every description
- computers, initially analog then digital then semi-conductor

You can continue to fill in that list at your leisure. Nearly every 'innovation' since 1950, say, is merely an incremental (at decreasing rate) nudge to those items. While population heads toward 8 billion, water becomes scarce, and wealth concentrates.

Have a nice day.

13 February 2019

Revenge of the VT-220

One has to wonder: how many operational databases can't run in 192GB? With 5G bandwidth in process, what's the point of "doing transactions in the client", as one of my more dense former COBOL colleagues put it? Dr. Codd is screaming from his grave. Host/terminal computing rises from the crypt.

12 February 2019

The Asymptote of Progress - part the twelfth

Now for the latest episode. Gilead (GILD) just experienced another trial failure, and there's been great gnashing of teeth and other forms of flagellation. Here. And here.

Here's the j'accuse:
$GILD spent $20B on R&D over the past 5yrs, and pretty much every pipeline project outside HIV/HCV has failed...

[For what it's worth, Gilead bought the HCV drugs and the HIV were a bit of both discovery and buying in. And most of the rest] were pure buy in.

The problem with slam dunking the easy 80% is that you convince yourself that you're "like, really smart" and a "very stable genius".

There's a reason that PhARMA has been going the orphan drug route for the last decade or so.

10 February 2019

I'll Bet You Don't Know

Here's a factoid that beggars explanation:
The only places that have decriminalized sex work are New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia. In both places, sex work is not penalized through punitive laws, and regulation are premised on worker health and safety, as with any other profession.

Both started as penal colonies of the Brits. But nooky noshing is legit. Who knew?

09 February 2019


Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
-- The Manchurian President/2019


Well... he's way, way too late. First off, what is 'socialism' anyway? Communism is based on widespread/universal common, i.e. state, ownership of capital. But 'socialism' isn't that. Rather, it revolves around the recognition that some goods and services are necessary to full functioning of the society. That is, such goods and services are too important to be left to profit-taking private enterprise for at least one of a few possible reasons. Here are some:
1) private enterprise deems profit too slim to warrant providing the good/service; many vaccines, many forms of R&D
2) the good/service is too vital to survival that consumers have no choice but to buy; again, vaccines
3) individual consumers face monopoly in buying; electricity
4) the good/service is either a directly or indirectly scarce resource in the country; clean air and water
5) enforce 'payment' for otherwise coerced externalities; tailings from smelters

Here is a list, just off the top of my head, of all the 'socialist' vectors currently in our economy.
1) Social Security
2) Medicare
3) Medicaid
4) publicly owned utilities (electricity, water, sewer, gas, innterTubes)
5) public education
6) highways
7) FAA
8) Dept. of Agriculture food inspection
9) $20 billion/year in farm subsidy
10) FDA drug approval
11) EPA (I know, it has no legitmate remit)
12) publicly financed sports arenas
13) pro sports restrictions: salary caps, drafts, limited player movement
14) tariffs (yes, these are just taxes on consumers, allowing domestic producers to raise price)A
15) NOAA (yes, it's being run by the guy from AccuWeather who wants to put NOAA down)

05 February 2019

A New Coat of Paint - part the second

Below were my considerations when Apple brought in Ahrendts (2013) to be 'retail chief'. I wasn't impressed. Today we find out I was right. I will say that 5 years, give or take, is longer than I expected.

This isn't going to go well. The data make it quite clear that the high-end cellphone market is full up. With countries, outside the Euro in particular, aiming to aggressively control their exchange rate, it is foolish to assume that US/Euro upper-class exist elsewhere in large numbers. One fiat from the Berserkerstan Central Bank, and all that moolah goes poof!

Angela Ahrendts was able convince the well-to-do that a Burberry coat was only good for one season, therefore only the poor had one. The truly conspicuous consumer must have a different one for each season.

From an interview. What is Apple thinking? Can't imagine a worse fit.

Furthermore, we were almost ignoring some of our strongest assets. Our weaving facility in Yorkshire produced the exclusive waterproof gabardine on which the company was founded. Thomas Burberry had created this fabric and the trench coat design for those early military and exploration commissions. The weaving facility was near the Castleford trench coat factory, in the north of England - fortunately, we hadn't resorted to outsourcing in faraway places. What could be better than an authentic heritage brand with a great vertical supply chain? But we weren't investing in it. We weren't optimizing it.

So, Burberry was the best maker of its products? And Apple, et tu? Round nut, square hole.

Burberry used to have just a few basic styles of trench coats: Almost all were beige with the signature check lining, and the differences between them were minor. Now we have more than 300 SKUs, from capes and cropped jackets to the classic Burberry trench in a range of vibrant colors and styles, with everything from mink collars and alligator epaulets to studded leather sleeves.

Somehow, this just isn't going to work for Apple. 300 different iPhones? What, one for each day of the year? Cellphones aren't coats, for crying out loud! Oh, boy.