7/27/22 (14:21)
  • A month ago Planet Money had a podcast about the "recession referees," which is the first time I heard that there was such a thing. I always thought it was a cut and dried distinction - 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth = recession. Nice and simple. But as soon as I heard that there were referees who officially label the recession it made me think that they would try to game the system this time around. I figured that since unemployment is low and we're coming out of a pandemic, they would probably play politics with it and call it a "slowing recovery" or some other (probably more creative) Orwellian bullshit. We'll see tomorrow when the official numbers come out, but I'm sure they've been working on this for a while. They continue to lay the groundwork: "The administration’s message: what’s often called a “technical recession” isn’t necessarily a real one." source.

  • 7/26/22 (16:20)

  • During our trip to Mammoth we found out that our offer on a new property was accepted. I'll rewind a bit...
  • We've been looking for a new place to live for about 3 years and made 3 offers in that time, but it's never worked out. Originally our plan was to have one big warehouse that could hold all the staging furniture, my shop/work materials and tools, and our living space. We currently have 2500sf for living space and our office, which is more than enough for that so we were looking at probably downsizing to about 2,000sf for living area, 2,000sf for my shop/work space, and 2,000sf for the staging storage. When we first hatched this plan I think Meryl had one or two storage units worth of stuff and it totaled maybe 500sf, so 2000sf sounded like more than enough. We we were looking for 6-10k sf of space and we came up empty for about a year. Our first real hit was a 10k space that had two warehouses and a living space on site, as well as gated parking. Basically seemed perfect, but we were outbid after dragging our feet a bit because of existing tenants living there and the complications that would bring.
  • Then we found another place that was like 22k sf and it was way outside of our price range, but it had some commercial tenants and we felt like we could optimize those spaces more to the point where we could charge more and it would make up for the gap between the cost and what we could afford. Even with that in mind, we had to buy it for about 10% less than it was offered at so we tried for that and our bid was rejected because it was too low.
  • After this one didn't work out we amended our plan to splitting the spaces. Try to find one warehouse for the staging stuff (which was growing all the time) and one warehouse/space for our living area and my work area combined. The staging space didn't really need to be on the same property and this new strategy would open up the number of eligible properties. By this time we were renting like 7 storage units and the lack of security, rising monthly costs, and inaccessibility of the units (the storage place was often closed because of maintenance issues, etc.and, at best, was only open 7a-7p anyway) all led us to think we would need more than the initial 2,000 sf of space anyway.
  • Then we found the warehouse on Miller (fortuitous location). 7200 sf and in good enough shape to make it work for the staging stuff. For a minute Meryl thought we should move into this warehouse and make it all work there. But we had so much staging stuff that there was no way that was going to work. Also, it's in a shitty neighborhood so I don't think either of us would want to live there.
  • The 4th place we found had the best location of the bunch and wasn't a warehouse (it was more like a home that was renovated into an office) and the plan was to convert it into a home upstairs and a workspace downstairs. We had an accepted offer with the contingency that we wait for them to find a new office. A month or so went by and they didn't find anything. We realized that we could potentially be on the hook for many months and decided to back out. We offered again on the property later on thinking that maybe they had figured out where they were going to move, but they hadn't so we gave up on that one.
  • Then the 5th place came up. That's the place we're in contract on now. It's about 5500 sf over 3 "buildings." One is an old ice house up front that's used by a GC as an office. The second "building" is more of a shed and it's used as tool storage for the GC. The third building is a post and beam building that's about 3750 sf that's used as a maker workshop of sorts. It has fenced in parking as well. The entire time we've been looking only in Oakland and Alameda. We like Alameda, but it's more expensive and generally doesn't have these kinds of properties. It would also require the girls changing schools, but they seem fine with that.
  • So, that's the biggest news of the last month or so. It's not official yet, but it's looking good. It will be a large project and we'll have to do it with permits mostly because Alameda isn't Oakland and Oakland de facto doesn't care about laws. Alameda does care about laws which is nice if you're going to live there, but less easy if you're going to be converting a commercial space to a live/work space and need to integrate egress, etc. on a challenging property with a zero lot line and potential seismic upgrades, etc. At any rate, we'll do what we need to do to get it considered a residence and then make it work like we want after the smoke has cleared from that process. In the meantime we'll be carrying 3 properties and trying to push the design process forward as quickly as possible.
  • I like the concept of revealed preference. Basically, people say they want to eat vegetables or whatever and that's fine and dandy, but what actually matters is what they actually buy/eat. So, you look at what they buy and that reveals their actual preference. Society may say they want the WNBA to thrive, but the revealed preference is that they would rather watch the NBA or Real Housewives of Miami. Real Housewives, for example, has ratings twice that of the WNBA finals games. Go into a local bodega in a shitty part of town and see what actually sells. They usually will have a few bananas or apples and 10x as many candies. It's not because they have a limited shelf life. It's because basically no one buys them so why would they have more?
  • At what point is it reasonable to show skepticism of the institutions that we're supposed to trust? How many things do they need to get wrong in order for it to be acceptable amongst the elite intelligensia to doubt what they say? 2 weeks to stop the spread, Herd immunity will kick in at 60% or 80%. Vaccines will prevent you from getting the virus. Vaccines will stop you from spreading the virus. Masks don't work. Masks are necessary. Even cloth masks will help. Masks aren't for you, they're for others. Masks don't help others, but they help you. Only n95 masks work. We're having some "breakthrough cases". Vaccines don't work anymore so you need a booster. Now you need another booster. This variant (delta) is worse than the original. This variant (omicron) is even worse. This variant (BA.4) is even worse. This variant (BA.5) is the worst one yet. At what point do these declarations just become noise from a dying beast? When can you have these conversations in polite society and not be considered a pariah?
  • I have a prediction spreadsheet I started a while back, but I don't add to is at much as I should. One of my predictions is that by 2023 we will have had a recession. I also predict by that time that inflation will be back to 4%. Core inflation is at 9.1% now and it was 8.7% the time before that so it's going the wrong direction. But I think the supply chain stuff will get figured out, the bull whip effect will slow down, and aggressive Fed policy will tamp down demand. That's my guess for the next 18 months or so.
  • Each day I start out by listening to the NYT daily podcast. Usually I also listen to the Megyn Kelly podcast at some point. During the January 6th hearings it was actually a perfect contrast. NYT would say that there were damning revelations and that Trump was basically a stark raving mad lunatic who tried to attack secret service agents and drive the car off the road. He didn't care about the guns being brought to the protests, etc. Then MK would say that it was a show trial and that the witnesses were flawed and exaggerating and their stories weren't corroborated by secret service personnel and that none of them were cross-examined because the hearing isn't a real trial, but it's being portrayed as such. And there was a lot of hand waving and complaints about the process. As far as conservative news goes, she's one of the more fair mainstream ones (which is why I have the show in my feed). It's pretty sad that this is where we are with things.
  • Home Depot started off with the idea that it would be like a huge supply house, but with friendly staff and entirely open to the public. The problem with supply houses has historically been that they are gruff and difficult to deal with. You need to know what you want and ask for it in the right way or they might roll their eyes, etc. You might not know exactly what you need or what it's called (I still don't with some plumbing or mechanical fittings) and that introduces friction into the process. Art Blank had a great idea with Home Depot and I think it started off pretty well. And, actually, it still pretty good in some locations if they take it seriously and hire the right staff. Unfortunately, it's quite shitty in many of the locations around me. Even though the employees don't know anything and the stock is not well rotated or often lacking, I know it well enough that I can use the app to find where things are supposed to be or I can find things in overstock myself and it suits my needs well enough 90% of the time. Lately, however, it's becoming more like a supply house where more and more items are "behind the counter." It's not the same as a supply house where things are actually behind the counter...instead they are behind a locked gate or similar because people steal so much shit. So, you need to hunt down an employee and get them to open it up for you and take it to the front and then retrieve there upon checkout. Thus making the full circle from supply house, to open supply house, to closed supply house minus helpful/knowledgeable employees. At least they're still cheap. I guess if enough stuff gets stolen they'll have to raise their prices and then they'll just be a shitty supply house. Funny how it works.
  • To Art Blank's credit, in his book he talks about the importance of customer service and having knowledgeable employees, but they clearly drifted away from that over the years.

  • 7/6/22 (17:11)

  • Went to Mammoth mountain for my birthday. There were some grumpy moments, but it was good overall. The girls hiked to the summit and I'm really proud of them. 5 miles, 2,000' elevation gain from 9k ft. to 11,053'. Took 2.5 hours and when we got to the top I could tell they were proud of themselves, especially after finding out from the ranger that only 1% of people hike to the top (most take the gondola [$50/person]) and that the ranger was very impressed they could do it after acclimating to the elevation for less than a day. Definitely more than I ever did at that age, so I give them a lot of credit. On the other end of the age spectrum, the fact that I was able to do it without soreness gave me some hope for the future.
  • Now that abortion is officially a state by state decision (notice I didn't say illegal), it will be interesting to see how things shake out. There will be a few states that try to truly make it illegal in every form and they'll have to be held accountable by the voters for that one way or another. As I've pointed out before, this isn't a gender issue as the polling I've seen on the issue generally has women more pro-life than men. It will be interesting to see where the rubber hits the road and how some of the more moderate states land on the issue. I've pointed out before that the US was one of the most liberal countries in the world on abortion rights. After this, there will probably be a plurality of states that are closer to France, Germany, etc. which restrict abortion to 12-15 weeks unless there are extenuating circumstances. Tactically, like the pro-gun nuts, I think the pro-abortion nuts made an error by taking a very hard line on the issue. Had, a moderate Democrat staked out a moderate position on abortion and enshrined it into law then maybe we wouldn't be where we are today. I've written before about some compromise solutions on the issue, but I honestly almost never hear any pundits talking about solutions that could appease both sides. It makes sense to me that birth control could be free or highly subsidized, family planning services and counseling could be a part of that. A cap at 15 weeks could be part of that. Anyway, I've thrown out some good ideas in the past to find common ground, but we're not able to do that anymore so it is what it is.
  • One talking point that comes up a lot is exceptions for rape or incest. This seems like a pro-choice talking point that doesn't actually make much sense. First of all, how much of an issue is incest? What percentage of abortions 1 year ago were because of incest? It's like trans activists talking about intersex people, who are like 0.1% of all people. It's a device employed to make the other side seem horrible. So incest is a dumb thing to bring up as far as I can tell.
  • How about rape? Let's game this out...let's say you can't get an abortion because you live in Alabama, but they decide to listen to the pro-choice crowd and put in an exception for rape or incest. The outcome of this would be a surge in rape and incest. All the people who would be getting abortions normally will simply state that they got drunk and had sex with their brother or whatever and so they need an abortion. Or they'll say they were raped and need an abortion. Will there be mandatory paternity testing with this exception? Pro-choice advocates would fight that. But without it, the exception for incest is pointless. Again, incest is a dumb argument. Back to rape... how does this exception play out in the real world? A woman comes in and says she was raped and then she is granted an abortion? So, that "exception" becomes de facto legalized abortion. If you are a pro-life person with half a brain then of course you couldn't allow such an exception...unless you required some proof. But, again, the pro-choice advocates would never want to allow that. How does one prove it was rape? Do I need to get a court to adjudicate the matter? How long would that take? Do I need to at least report the rape to the local authorities? Then what happens? The cops who don't like abortion will lose the paperwork or take forever processing it and so the abortion clinic won't have the required "proof" that the pregnancy was the result of rape and the woman won't be able to get her abortion in time. There's no way people of either side would give in on these issues, and understandably so.
  • All this is to say that the realities of the rape and incest exception are impossible and totally impracticable. It's just a device used by pro-choice pundits to make the pro-life people look like assholes.
  • I should interject here to say that I'm pro-choice in the first 15 weeks (somewhat arbitrary number) no problem. After that I have some reservations and would want to talk about it some more, but I'm not a pro-lifer. Having said that, it's very easy for me to see how each side plays this stupid game and how they don't talk to each other to gain understanding, but rather yell at each other because they hate the other side.
  • There are some people who claim they like diversity and multi-culturalism. I think these people need to really sit with the idea that happiness is not a guarantee in life. Life is suffering (for the Buddhists out there). Life is compromise. You shouldn't expect to be happy. On these big issues there will necessarily be about 50% of the people who will be dissatisfied if the other gets their way. The best we can hope for is that 100% of the people are only moderately dissatisfied. I'm somewhat of a pessimist so I don't expect great things in life and I don't expect happiness. Find a way to be only moderately dissatisfied in your political life and you'll end up being happier and actually living in the diverse culture you claim to want.
  • Diversity is your neighbor parking his 1980 station wagon on his lawn and your other neighbor mowing his lawn in a speedo while you have a pristine paint job and brand new driveway. Diversity is having your black neighbor flying a Trump/Pence flag while your lesbian neighbor has a Bernie lawn sign. I don't know how many people actually like that kind of diversity.
  • Back on the abortion issue...the other thing that will be interesting to see play out is how much abortion being illegal ends up actually mattering. My guess is that abortion pills will only get easier to acquire with time as back channels open up. Corporations like Tesla, Disney, Chase, Netflix, and others have said they will pay for travel for employees to get abortions if they live in a state that restricts them.
  • I think laws should come with explanations. It could be like a wikipedia article with hyperlinks and such so you could learn more about each topic or idea along the way. It would be easy enough to implement such a system, but it would require the will to do it. We have this in an informal way where you can read court decisions, but it's not compiled in any sort of user friendly way. You could even do it with social norms, if you were so inclined. For example, let's say there's a law against people having kids without getting married. The law would be required to first state its larger purpose. It's not simply about restricting an activity, it's about restricting an activity because society has found that the activity causes problems 1, 2, and 3. You would have to list the problems and provide some proof of those problems being associated with the activity you are seeking to outlaw. The deeper into the law you go, the more information or evidence could be provided.
  • The purpose of such a format is two-fold: 1. I want the lawmakers to think about the law they are making and be explicit in its intent. 2. I want future people to be able to see the reasoning, as laid out by the lawmakers themselves, for the law.
  • Some laws kind of do this already. Some court decisions help flesh this out. But it doesn't seem to be standard practice to do this in an intentional way. There are plenty of laws that are later challenged and require interpretation because the law isn't clear in its intentions. Sometimes historians will look at the contemporary debates over the issue or at documents like the Federalist Papers to interpret intentions of a law or the Constitution, for example. But it seems it would be much better to have the lawmakers interpret their own law the way judges and historians do after the fact.

  • I also think that laying it out like wikipedia article complete with links and evidence and the like makes it more user friendly and invites the public in somewhat. Thinking of Chesterton's fence, I also like the idea of each law (fence) being essentially labeled as to its purpose. The idea of Chesterton's fence essentially says one shouldn't remove a fence unless he knows what the purpose of the fence is first.