eliminate most words (and other wise ideas)

So you’re at the grocery and you turn over some of your hard earned international gold reserves and in exchange are provided various food products.  You can then consume those various food products in order to sustain life.

And you stare down at the box containing (an ultimately mediocre) breakfast bars and they have this little nugget on the box:

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“New Look – Same Great Taste”

What exactly is the point of this?  Who on the planet could possibly care about the look of the box?  Even the text of this graphic is all squiggly and happy.  Like I’m supposed to assume the emotional core of a blissful meth elf because they updated the design of this box?

Does this sort of thing actually, really work on people?  It must, because it happens a lot.  Advertising goons do this all the time.  They throw out words in some desperate attempt to engage your brain.  For example, when they change the names of companies for no reason at all.

When The Onion isn’t busy shaming itself by getting in on the already overly tedious and incessant bash Trump wagon they put out some pretty darn hilarious stuff.  Years ago they put out something similar to this nonsense post when they wrote about “Under New Management” with this one.

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The only solution to this problem is to eliminate most words.  In order to put a word on a box of cereal bars, the advertising goons have to submit themselves to a trial by ordeal with a drunk thug from Valhalla.  The price goes up by each word used.

For example, if the ad executive uses the term “Great Taste” it’s 30 seconds in the ring with the thug.  Why is the thug drunk first thing in the morning?  It’s what he does.

Thus, “New Look – Same Great Taste” equals about one minute and 15 seconds of action with the thug.  Given that these folks are all losers (they work in advertising) I’m guessing they’d defer the thug battle.

And the rest of us would have less words to deal with in the daily course of our lives.  It’s win / win!

Please hold your applause at the display of brilliance contained within this post.  [claps hands in an empty room]

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supersonic will soon be back, but it won’t be big

Sometimes technology seems to go backwards.  For example, the US used to operate the shuttle which was a relatively advanced reusable spaceplane.  Now NASA has nothing, and the replacement vehicle in development has more in common with the Apollo or Soyuz space capsules than it does with the shuttle.

Likewise, Concorde first flew in 1976.  Here we are over 40 years later and every single commercially viable passenger plane of any size is exclusively subsonic.  I’ll save my thoughts pf NASA’s failures for another day.  Today I want to focus on supersonic.  More and more in the news you see that several companies are trying to dive back into supersonic.

But first, what happened after 1976?  In short, supersonic failed for a number of reasons:

– It was never cost effective: Concorde burned a lot of fuel, had a large maintenance footprint, and could never get the cost per seat / seat vacancy ratios correctly to turn a consistent profit.

– Development: Because of the cost considerations, nobody saw a reason to develop a successor to Concorde.  By the end of the 20th Century, Concorde was a 20 year old design and the airframes were reaching the end of usable service.

– 2000: The Air France crash was the end of the road.  Adding up the cost and service life against the reality of a full crash was the end of the program.

And there we’ve sat for decades.  But now folks are willing to try again.  Why:

a) Air travel and airline technology has become so advanced as to be scary in terms of safety. Western airlines have a safety record that’s downright miraculous. Lawnmowers kill more people each year.

b) Modern super fuel efficient engines combined with advanced computing might be close to cracking the code on the cost problem. When you add in the composites that make the newer airframes strong and lighter I think they might cross the threshold on turning a profit per flight.

c) Humanity is more obsessed with time. In the business world, seconds matter whereas when Concorde last flew perhaps only minutes mattered. Think of it, in 2000 smartphones didn’t even exist.  The world has gotten faster, and so I think folks will be far more inclined to put down the cash when they’re staring at the reality of a flight time that gets cut in half.

But will it work?  Well, let’s examine the most realistic commercial supersonic venture.

Boom Supersonic has already booked aircraft orders, 10 from Virgin, and 20 from JAL.  The expectation is they’re flying commercially by 2025.  Its jets will seat 55 passengers, go across the Atlantic in half the current time, and cost approximately $5K per ticket.  Boom claims to have cracked the code on fuel efficiency and subduing the impact of the dreaded sonic boom.

My conclusions:

1) I searched online, trying to book over two months in advance, Heathrow to JFK with a one week dwell.  The cost for an Economy seat is $400.  Boom’s jet is single aisle, single seat each side.  To me, this is an exclusively Business / First Class jet.  Economy does not apply. For a Business flight it’s all over the place.  You can go on TAP Portugal for $2.1K.  Air France is $6K.  United is $7K  To fly BA is $7.5K.

So let’s get something straight.  If Boom states that it’s $5K per seat they either mean the cost to them and/or they’re fibbing on future prices.  When all the major carriers are already charging Atlantic rides for well over $5K for subsonic, then my back of the napkin math says a Boom supersonic seat costs closer to $10K.

So right off the bat you’re looking at a ticket that’s 20 times more expensive between Economy and supersonic.  Thus, to declare that the supersonic ticket is already in the realm of the super-rich is an understatement.  Already it’s the same high-risk niche market Concorde had to struggle with.

2) I don’t care what Boom or others claim, the sonic boom problem is a major problem.  Even if Boom can produce a severely muffled boom, they still can’t break physics, there will still be a boom.   And if there’s a sonic boom, it’s going to be regulated.  If it’s regulated, it’s not going to be easy.

All supersonic has to do is lightly tap one skyscraper apartment window in Manhattan and there will be people up in arms about how the boom is giving them phantom headaches.  Then the lawyers come out of the bushes and it’s a gigantic mess.  Can Boom and other companies get around this by only going supersonic over water, sure.  But in the end as with Concorde, the sonic boom problem is not going to be a rounding error.  It’s a big problem.

3) Think about the turnover rate of a standard subsonic jet.  Take a 737 flying inside the US.  On any given day, one jet is expected to fly over half-a-dozen flights.  They have to turnover at the gate in less than an hour and get back in the air.  They have to not seriously break over hundreds of hours of constant flight.  They have to do it at the safety rate of zero crashes.  Can Boom or other companies crack the code on this, keep the aircraft available enough to fly again and again to generate profit, and do it safely every single fight?  I think they can definitely do it.  But I’m not sure they can do it and consistently make money.  New technology is hard to master.  And going supersonic on a completely new airframe isn’t going to be an easy thing to do.

You need only look at the development hell Airbus and Boeing have gone through with their latest subsonic jets to realize how hard building airplanes is.  Going supersonic is going to generate a whole new level of difficulty.  Plus, Boom is a company that doesn’t have a sustained record of success with previous aircraft models.  Look at what happened with the Bombardier CSeries.  That jet crashed out in development hell because Bombardier made too many mistakes.  They had to sell out the airframe to Airbus for like $1 to avoid bankruptcy.  And the CSeries is a pretty basic modern subsonic jet, and it still was impossible for Bombardier to succeed.  I’m not sure I think companies like Boom truly understand how hard their task will be to develop and build supersonic without going bankrupt in the process.

In closing, I think we’ll see supersonic return and soon.  But given that the passenger market is still only the exclusive rich, the remaining associated problem of profit risk, and my concerns about technology development, I think the end result is supersonic is going to be a very, very small footprint by say 2030.  Only a handful of jets will fly and the companies that run them will be scraping by paycheck to paycheck on cost.  In the end, I don’t think supersonic is going to be viable for major airlines on anything but a small scale.  It’ll be a niche market, or perhaps become a major chunk of the private jet market.  But large scale from major airlines?  I just don’t see it.

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But who knows, maybe I’m wrong?

the false promises of doing good

It seems every few weeks something that was once benign is placed in the crosshairs and suddenly becomes beyond the pale.  Did you know plastic straws were evil?  Well, I guess they are now.  Because a bunch of people said so.

Accordingly, Starbucks is set to ban the use of all plastic straws within two years.  This will supposedly help do better for the planet by removing a source of plastic that for the most part can’t be recycled.

Here’s my problem though.  People might feel good about this, but in the end it’s not even a rounding error.  Plastic straws were fine, now they’re bad.  So folks will hate on them and get rid of them.  Just like plastic bags.

In the end though, what does all this actually accomplish?

I read an article that said in order to overcome the carbon footprint of making a reusable bag verses a plastic bag that you have to use the reusable bag like 150 times.  Let’s say the average shopper goes to the grocery once a week.  That’s three years of using your reusable bag before you were better off asking for plastic.

Are folks actually using their reusable bags for north of three years?  I do, but I’m not sure most people do.  And so banning plastic bags may have done some good, but not nearly as much good as folks probably think.

Think banning plastic straws is going to help the planet?  It might, but not nearly as much good as folks probably think.  Just take a gander as this report from The Economist which shows the life cycle of plastic throughout the planet.

The vast, vast majority of plastic that enters the oceans comes from Asia where consistent recycling and landfills do not exist.  So Starbucks can ban all it wants, but that’s not going to stop rivers of plastic from flowing down the Yellow River into the sea.

And Starbucks also doesn’t seem to love the planet enough to stop using disposable coffee cups that can’t be recycled.  I hope folks realize this.  That over 99% of disposable coffee cups are in fact not recycled regardless of what’s claimed or where they’re tossed.

But do you think Starbucks is going to do something about getting rid of disposable coffee cups?  I doubt it.  Why?  Because: $

There are ways to help the planet.  And even executing rounding error efforts like banning plastic straws helps.  But false promises can also be dangerous.  Solving ocean plastic is hard.  Just comprehend what it’d take to help all of Asia establish coherent trash and recycling policies.

But when all you’ve got from folks is easy answers like: “Oh, I’m not using a plastic straw, I’ve done good for the planet today. [pleasing sigh]”  Then that’s a false promise and in the end doesn’t really help the planet.  Particularly if the thought stops there, and doesn’t move on.

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Godless – this was good

Netflix has rolled the dice on an awful lot of content.  They’ve placed their faith in a business model where they generate their own stuff and not show other people’s stuff.  In short, they want to be HBO, not a distributor like Blockbuster [cue scene of creepy cemetery with Blockbuster jingle playing in background].

The problem is as they’ve transitioned to this model they’ve ended up producing or contracting a large amount of garbage.  In other words, Netflix is no longer infallible and falls into the same trap as other content creators.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they’d don’t.

If you’re looking for one where Netflix mostly succeeds, you can safely go with Godless.  This was good.  It wasn’t great, but good.  With all the recent Netflix failures I’ve had, I’ll take good, and be happy for the experience.

As Western’s go, this one’s pretty straightforward.  The plot almost doesn’t quite matter.  What you get is incredible acting, set design, costumes, etc.  And you can then check out your brain and enjoy the experience.  The plot isn’t magical, but it works and works well.  You care what happens to these people.  You’re invested in what’s happening on screen.

Where it nearly comes off the rails is in tone, which is why I can’t consider it great.  I could list several examples.  Instead I’ll just list one:

Is this a shocking, horrific Western like Unforgiven?  It certainly starts out that way.  The very first scene is a town massacred with a child hanging from a church.  But, then later in the series they seem to forget about this horror and it becomes some kind of cooky Western where in a battle where thousands of bullets are flying they won’t allow themselves to show one horse shot (because everybody loves horseies) and an important villain comically gets shot out a window into a pile of flames.  Not the biggest of problems, but often in Godless the tone just didn’t make sense.

My biggest two positive takeaways:

1) They take their time.  Did you ever think a modern series would take 15 minutes of screen time just to show how a cowboy tames a wild horse?  I didn’t.  And I loved it.  In a world where studios think the viewer’s attention span is eight seconds this idea is to be supported.

2) Jeff Daniels.  I don’t get why people don’t think Daniels is one of the great actors of our time.  This is a dude who can play an outstanding role as random dude (a), George Washington, a comedy idiot, a Civil War general, and here in Godless an absurdly creepy villain.  Daniels is simply amazing.  Godless is worth it just to see him go at it.

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This was good.

Chasing the Chinese pink dragon

Great news everybody!  Chairman Xi’s new tome is out.  Entitled “The Governance of China II” it supposedly lays out all the answers you’ve been looking for in life, including:

1) How to interpret your place in a materialistic, existential world when your true calling is to become one with Xi Jinping Thought.

2) What happens to you when you assume your bleached skeleton status.

3) How Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics is the new Master Plan for Eternal Global One Man Rule.

4) Why The Walking Dead remains an active television show.

5) How thirteen year old Chinese girls who profess their love for K-Pop will be liquidated for crimes against the Party.

6) Why folks care about celebrities who they will never meet and who will never give them a single moment’s thought.

7) Obey.

8) Why royal weddings are a thing, even for people who are not British.  As a coworker said to us the other say, this is downright creepy.

And so on.

Please hold your applause at the awesomeness of all this.

xi clapping

[perfunctory clapping from crowd ensues, clapping continues incessantly until permission to stop clapping is given by a ringing bell]

But it’s all good, because estimates state that Xi has sold less than 100 copies of the hardcover version (the soul infused version is offered free) in Britain.  This means there are more people in Britain who are attempting to brew their own homemade Celtic barley wine in bathtubs than bought this book.

But don’t fret!  For a few weeks ago a big London shindig involved several hundred honored guests with the keynote address from Prince Andrew himself.  His Highness (not Highness) called Xi’s piece a “milestone”.  Oh my, what praise!

Now I’ve briefly met folks who have directly worked with Andrew and did not have a very high opinion of him to say the least.  So it could be that Andrew simply sold out.  Xi gave him straight cash to make a guest appearance at this event.  Kind of like how celebrities endorse deodorant.

But, let’s go ahead and give Andrew some credit and say that didn’t happen (cue laugh track).  What I think is happening is Andrew is either a complete idiot and actually likes Xi’s book (possible).  Or, he is sucking up to Xi in order to further Britain’s goal to get a post Brexit free trade deal with China.

Which brings us to the real point (cue laugh track) of this post.  Everybody is chasing the Chinese pink dragon.

For the uninitiated, the pink dragon is a reference to the use of narcotics in the 60’s.  As I was not alive then, I was first introduced to this concept by South Park where Stan literally chases a pink dragon in the video game Heroin Hero.

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Everybody wants in on that sweet, sweet Chinese heroin.  Oh, I mean gold, yeah, gold.  Not heroin.  Or fentanyl.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]  So what you’re seeing more and more in the modern world is people losing their minds over a market of 1B people essentially commanded by one man.  Folks drool over it.  So much freaking money.

This is why Britain rolled out the gilded carpet last year when Xi visited and the world’s second true liberal democracy was left to shame itself by placing the flags of a dictatorship outside it’s royal palace.  Thus Andrew is just continuing the theme.

One of the video games I play is Gwent, which is an online card game published by CD Projekt Red.  It’s based on The Witcher 3 which many folks (myself included) consider the greatest video game of all time.  Gwent (to abbreviate) is your standard warriors and spells kind of card game.

Anyways, Marcin Iwiński is the co-founder and CEO of CD Projekt.  When interviewed in a documentary for Noclip, what did Iwiński say his number one priority was for Gwent?   What was his goal?  Wait for it: He wants Gwent to be a success in China.

I literally had to rewind the interview to make sure I’d heard him right.  Man, to be blunt:

– There are no Asians, let alone Chinese, in Gwent or The Witcher

Andrzej Sapkowsk wrote The Witcher series with a background of Polish culture, this culture is relatable even to dumb Americans like me because it’s still a part of our shared Western culture

– China has it’s own unique and special culture which does not easily translate to the Western mindset, and when you really try it hurts your head, trust me

And yet, Iwiński seems to think Gwent can win in China?  Iwiński even went to live in China for six months so he could learn the language and generally live there and get the culture.  He’s now back in Poland, I think because his family rebelled.

Iwiński is just like Andrew though, he’s chasing that dragon.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Other folks have tried chasing the dragon too.  How has that worked out for Uber, academic apologists, Google, Hollywood, Facebook, and so on.  Not so good.

I’m not saying folks in the West can’t influence or pull gold from China, I’m just saying it’s really, really hard.  My take is that certain people in the West might be interested in Xi and China, but that Xi and China aren’t interested in them.  China’s on it’s own very carefully crated plan and agenda, like it or hate it.  And Xi and China don’t give a shit what anybody thinks about it.

Good luck to Andrew and Britain, but they’re not getting a post Brexit deal out of China.  Good luck to Iwiński, but I don’t see Gwent working in China.

You never catch the dragon.  Even Stan eventually figured this out, even after Randy Marsh is caught playing Heroin Hero too.  Stan: “You don’t ever catch the dragon, Dad!”

Facebook continues to win

Hey remember when everybody hated Facebook since it trashed their privacy?  That was all of three weeks ago.  Remember THAT?  No?  Apparently folks don’t.  Nobody cares anymore.  Facebook understands that the planet’s attention span (largely because of the internet) is about eight seconds.  So Zucky had to keep his cool, talk like a robot, play it safe, and eventually it would all blow over.

It certainly helped that all the rich, self-inflated, but ultimately dumb people in Congress couldn’t tell the difference between a Facebook algorithm and a ham sandwich.  These are the guys and gals with the power to regulate Facebook so it doesn’t sell your personal data to a KGB backed hedge fund or a bunch of alien overlords who will one day enslave you using Zucky as the turncoat Emperor of all Humanity.

But Zucky banked that Congress is so gridlocked, and so incompetent that he could ride it out.  All he had to do in front of Congress was not stand up, give them all the finger, both barrels, and say, “Fuck you all.  I might be the most powerful man on the planet.  Do your worst.  Foools.”  But since he didn’t do that, Facebook continues to win.

After Congress let Zucky handle them like a seven figure donor, coincidentally Facebook’s stock went up north of 5%.  That means Zucky’s performance over a two day span increased his personal net worth by over $3B.  Never has one human in all of history made so much money so quickly by saying so little to people so incredibly dumb and ineffective at their jobs.  It’s the perfect harbinger for where the planet is headed.

It gets better because of a number of tidbits that STILL inexplicably came out during Zucky’s testimony.  It goes to show you how easy it would have been for competent questioners to hand Zucky his ass.  The guy just doesn’t know how to deal with people getting in his face.  It’s why he (I’m not kidding) walks around with a personal security detail close in number to that of the President.

First, whoever you are, Facebook has a profile on you.  Whether you have a Facebook account or not, Facebook has a profile on you and is tracking you.  They do this in case one day you create an account they already have a head start.  But they really do this so they can connect you into the network of networks which involves your friends, family, coworkers, etc, most of whom have Facebook accounts.

The network of networks is what Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc will need to truly let the future AI algorithms do their magic.  The idea is that the AI knows what you want for breakfast before you know what you want for breakfast.  I’m not joking.  It’ll be the digital voice assistant which is the ultimate end game to engage with you on this.  Whoever can get to you first, gets your money and loyalty.  That’s why the arms race of AI is so hotly contested.  As is the race to get ever more amounts of your personal data into one bag.

Second, Zucky emphasized that he sees Facebook as an international company and not an American company.  He essentially punted on the “only in America” idea when directly asked about it.  As in, Zucky doesn’t believe in the idea that the freedom, entrepreneurial spirit, and rule of law that Facebook was afforded by America makes Facebook an American company.  If he’d been born in China or Egypt or Poland he seems to think Facebook would still exist.  This is kind of a shocking statement from a guy who runs a company that is (in theory) bound by American law.  Especially for a guy who is said to harbor political ambitions.

Third, Zucky also refused to answer Congress on whether or not Facebook tracks its users when the user is not physically logged in.  Zucky said he didn’t know.  Which was of course a blatant, shameless lie.  Facebook tracks its users when they’re not logged in.  Similar to how Google tracks its users credit card purchases via a backdoor agreement with many national retailers.

Again, Facebook needs their user’s offline activity tracked because it further feeds the AI networks.  But since Congress doesn’t understand any of this, and can’t do basic tasks like pass a budget on time, don’t expect things to change.  Facebook will continue to win.

I think folks are waking up to this, that Facebook can’t be stopped.  And in one of the first dominoes to fall is the resignation of Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp and for the last four years an employee of Facebook.  Koum has battled with Facebook’s leadership for years over monetization, ads, WhatsApp’s privacy and encryption, you name it.  He’s leaving now.  And most of those who see things his way will undoubtedly follow.  Then Facebook can finally have its way with WhatsApp.

So if you use WhatsApp (as I unfortunately have to do at the moment overseas; I’ll be deleting it one day after I get home) be prepared for some major changes as the program becomes more invasive, less secure, gets ads, and otherwise further links itself into the Facebook hive.  But it’s okay, because in the end it isn’t about you, it’s about the people who will further own your life.

Take Koum for example, he might have lost the battle with Facebook, but in terms of winning the war of life?  He has won.  Quote:

“In his Facebook post, Koum said he would take some time off from technology to focus on other pursuits, “such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.””

There are serious, long term concerns to the future of humanity with regards to what the internet is going to do to us all.  But to Silicon Valley, in the end, it’s about success.  As in, money.  To Koum, he might genuinely share the same concerns I do about these matters.  But in the end, to Koum, it’s all about those air-cooled Porsches baby!