28 February 2019

Carbon Midwife

For a long, long time these endeavors have complained that the Amazon Way cannot be sustained. The complaint boils down to a simple sentence. It's cheaper to ship by the tonne than by the each. There's a reason national stores exist: they ship from producers by the railcar load and ship to their distribution centers the same way. From there, semi-truck loads deliver to stores. Shipping by the each in 747s doesn't work. The main reason Amazon has rarely shown a profit.

Well, boy howdy, today brings news that Jeff finally concedes to the obvious.
Starting Tuesday, all Prime members in the United States will be able to select a particular day to receive a week's worth of Amazon deliveries. After a Prime member enrolls in the "Amazon Day" service, Amazon will hold everything they order throughout the week, and it will deliver the items together on the customer's selected day.

Well, d'uh.

We'll see if Amazon can sustain if its method becomes indistinguishable from Sears circa 1900. What do you think?

27 February 2019

Sixteen Candles

If you're not watching "How the Universe Works", you must turn in your geek credentials. While "Parts Unknown" was the best show on the TeeVee, "Universe" is the most interesting. From what I can tell, each 'new' episode is cobbled together from past segments stitched with one or two new ones. Yesterday dealt with dark matter, dark energy, and the End of It All.

So, I read today's NYT, which being Tuesday has the "ScienceTimes" extra section, and there is a Dennis Overbye piece on the front page and most of the back page. Dealing with the self-same topics. Much of the text could have been from the "Universe" episode (or vice versa), which makes sense given that the science is just a bunch of facts.

Hubble discovered universe expansion in 1929, but in 1998 it was found that the expansion was accelerating. How that can be is the subject of the "Universe" episode and much of the article. What caught my attention in the article was this:
But to calibrate the Hubble constant, astronomers depend on so-called standard candles: objects, such as supernova explosions and certain variable stars, whose distances can be estimated by luminosity or some other feature. This is where the arguing begins.

For some years, I'll guess from the time I first heard about acceleration, I wondered how that could be known. Expansion is deduced simply from red shift, but acceleration requires a benchmark to make the comparison. That's the standard candle. I never bought that such a thing could actually exist, from the point of view earthlings being able to measure such. To do so we need to know both the local (to the distant object) luminance and the distance from here to there.

The article spends some time attempting to nail the standard candle down. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether it's been nailed.

25 February 2019

Revenge of the Server

Came across this juicy quote from a piece on 5G:
The 5G network can also act like a cloud server, performing much of the computing and storage that otherwise would have to be done by the self-driving cars themselves. That could potentially save the cars a lot of power and space.

One might also re-phrase, thus:
The 5G network can also act like a cloud server, performing much of the computing and storage that otherwise would have to be done by net-clients themselves. That could potentially save net-clients a lot of power and space.

Yet another episode in that thrilling soap opera, "Revenge of the VT-220", brought to you by TCP Productions. While many still view transaction control as a client process, that notion's never been truly intelligent, and the excuse is getting a tad long in the tooth. Toss in Organic Normal Form™, and the times they are a changing.

The Asymptote of Progress - part the fifteenth

David Leonhardt today adds some data to the assertion that Depressions are driven by collapsing aggregate demand. Using data from Piketty, Saez, and Zueman one can clearly see that growth has been held down by stagnant moolah in the hands of the many.

You can't have growth, if most of the folks don't have the moolah to buy stuff. Once again.

Alas, once again, Leonhardt makes the common mistake of comparing groups by mean/average. So, we see the 'upper middle class' tracking with per capita GDP. Of course it does!! Per capita (mean/average) tracks with the upper 10% of the income distribution!!! Income/wealth in our kind of economy is heavily right skew. What else would you expect? Leonhardt makes no reference to the meaning of the confluence. Sad.

22 February 2019

The Asymptote of Progress - part the fourteenth

A recurring theme in these endeavors is that actual progress was/is driven by the filling out of the periodic table. Turns out that 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the first attempt at the table. So, here's some reporting memorializing the year.
Quite literally, the periodic table and quantum mechanics explain everything that is familiar about the world. They explain water and rock and people. They explain how the air we breathe oxygenates our lungs. They explain how fires burn and why diamonds are what they are.

So, I guess it's true that progress has been driven by the filling in of the periodic table. Which, I guess, tells us about the future of progress.

19 February 2019

I Wish I Said That

Yesterday I heard a mainstream pundit call out "Humpty Trumpty". My head exploded. Not least because I'd failed to coin the epithet. Dang.

So, off to the innterTubes to find out who did it first. Turns out there's more than one version, of course. There's also "Dumpty Trumpty", "Trumpty Dumpty", "Trumpty Dumpy", and so on.

Earliest I found was here on SNL, November, 2015. That long ago. Since I only watch the cold open, hoping for Baldwin, I guess I missed it.

18 February 2019

What's Old Is New Again


In today's (deadtrees division) NYT Tech page, Steve Lohr makes the following assertion:
IBM cannot compete head-on with Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the big-spending game of building out massive data centers to provide the infrastructure layer of cloud computing to one and all. So it is seeking to shift the competition.

Fun factoid: it was IBM who invented the cloud way, way back in the 1960s (or, depending on how picky a definition one wishes to use, 1932) , under the name The Service Bureau (a lengthier history is here). So, yes IBM has and could if it decided to. But IBM hasn't ever really been a tech company, but a marketing machine.

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.

04 February 2019

It's Black and White - part the second

Now that it's been reported that other pages of That Yearbook have racist photos inserted, when will the Mainstream Pundits figure out that the most likely explanation is that some of the yearbook staff were mocking N-word loving white folk?

02 February 2019

It's Black and White

The moment the yearbook picture appeared, I wondered whether either was Northam. My recollection was that he is 6 foot. He is. The KKK guy on the right is clearly a shrimp. The blackface on the left is about a head taller. Forensic photo analysis, aka FBI/CIA/CSI, can figure his height to a fraction of an inch. Based on the window drape relative to the ceiling, using my house as standard, he's taller than 6 foot. We'll see if anyone cares to know.