----- 3 stars -----
My First Gulfstream / Vanity Fair
An interesting read (albeit from 1998):
After his initial reaction, I expected a lecture about what a pathetic, cosseted wimp I was even to consider such an extravagance. Instead, he said, “That’s the smartest thing you’ve said tonight,” and proceeded to detail all the reasons I was stupid for not already owning a private jet. Emboldened by this response, I asked several other friends the same question, and I found the results were very predictable. Those who have jets had a strong positive response. There was an almost conspiratorial tone to the conversation, as if I had confessed to a secret passion they shared. People I had known for years without hearing a word about their plane would suddenly wax eloquent about it. In retrospect, the reason was obvious. You cannot really talk about your jet to non–jet owners, unless you want to come off as some kind of braggart. So, after biting their tongues all that time, jet owners were happy to help when somebody had a sincere interest in joining the club. The disapprovals were just as strong. Responses ranged from the barely articulate “Why spend all that money on a frigging jet, for Chrissake?” to holier-than-thou put-downs. “That is not a use of capital I find acceptable” was one retort. People worth billions could suddenly sound like Marxists when confronted with the private-jet issue. One famously parsimonious billionaire I talked to said, “Jesus, do you know what those cost to operate? Maybe four grand an hour! Who is worth that?” I offered on the spot to buy the next year of his time for $5,000 an hour, as long as I got his profits in return. Sadly for me, he rethought his position. My favorite reply came from Warren Buffett. “That sort of prurient interest isn’t suitable for a youngster like you,” he said in a father-knows-best tone. Accepting the inevitable, as a good father should, he concluded, “but when you get it, I want a ride.” [...] Decorating a plane is even more wildly expensive than flying in one. No matter how outrageous you think a ground-based price is, wait until you try to put the stuff into a jet. Part of this is the genuine need to use special lightweight materials. Strict F.A.A. regulations also play a role. Mostly, however, it seems to be a way for the completion centers to take a rich guy for a ride even more expensive than he’ll get in his jet. People who have been in business a while tend to develop a good bullshit detector—a sixth sense that tells them when things do not add up. I fancy myself an expert in this arena, and count on it to see me through many tough situations—jets included. What I failed to realize is that my bullshit detector would be in constant alarm. Everything I heard told me I was being taken advantage of left, right, and center. It wasn’t a question of detecting bullshit—I was swimming neck deep in it. But you can’t fight it all, you have to prioritize.
Here’s How America Uses Its Land / Bloomberg
What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure. [...] Putting all those pieces together, this map gives you a rough sense of all the ways U.S. land is used. Much of U.S. land serves specific purposes, such as the 2 million acres devoted to golf courses or the 3 million acres for airports.
----- 2 stars -----
A Cardiologist’s 9/11 Story / Nautilus
The morgue was inside Brooks Brothers. I was standing at the corner of Church and Dey, right next to the rubble of the World Trade Center, when a policeman shouted that doctors were needed at the menswear emporium inside the building at One Liberty Plaza. Bodies were piling up there, he said, and another makeshift morgue on the other side of the rubble had just closed. I volunteered and set off down the debris-strewn street. It was the day after the attack. The smoke and stench of burning plastic were even stronger than on Tuesday. The street was muddy, and because I was stupidly wearing clogs, the mud soaked my socks. I arrived at the building. In the lobby, exhausted firefighters and their German shepherds were sitting on the floor amid broken glass. A soldier stood at the entrance to the store, where a crowd of policemen hovered. “No one is allowed in the morgue except doctors,” he shouted. [...] Heart rhythms are strongly influenced by emotional states. But how do emotions trigger rhythm disturbances? How does psychological injury disrupt the heart of a traumatized young woman that has beaten a billion times without fail?
Why Kodak Died and Fujifilm Thrived: A Tale of Two Film Companies / PetaPixel
The Kodak moment is gone, but today Fujifilm thrives after a massive reorganization. Here is a detailed analysis based on firsthand accounts from top executives and factual financial data to understand how and why the destinies of two similar companies went in opposite directions.
‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss / Washington Post
Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.
After a year of #MeToo, American opinion has shifted against victims / Economist
Yet surveys suggest that this year-long storm of allegations, confessions and firings has actually made Americans more sceptical about sexual harassment. In the first week of November 2017, YouGov polled 1,500 Americans about their attitudes on the matter, on behalf of The Economist. In the final week of September 2018, it conducted a similar poll again. When it came to questions about the consequences of sexual assault and misconduct, there was a small but clear shift against victims. [...] Surprisingly, these changes in opinion against victims have been slightly stronger among women than men. Rather than breaking along gendered lines, the #MeToo divide increasingly appears to be a partisan one.
----- 1 star -----
How Precision Engineering Made Modernity Possible / Kottke
But it’s the Industrial Revolution that created — or was created by — this notion that machines could be made in parts that fit together so closely that they could be interchangeable. That’s what got our machine age going, which in turn enabled guns and cars and transistors and computers and every other thing.
Specialization and the Flowering of Personality, and Choice / Marginal Revolution
A new paper in Science adds support to the so-called gender-equality paradox. Using a survey of some 80,000 people across 76 countries Falk and Hermle find that for a variety of preferences the differences between the genders gets larger the greater is economic development and gender equality. [...] One point which many people are missing is that small but growing gender differences with development are only one minor effect of a much bigger phenomena. In a primitive economy, everyone does more or less the same thing, subsistence farming. Only in a market economy under the division of labor can people specialize. Specialization reflects and amplifies diverse personalities and interests. People sometimes complain about “excess” variety in a market economy but do they extend that complaint to careers, arts, and lifestyles? In a market society we get Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes and Coconut Flakes and we get cardiologists, dermatologists and otolaryngologists and we get Chicago Blues, dub step, and K-Pop and we also get a flowering of sexual preferences and lifestyles.
Jupiter’s Frozen Moon Is Studded With 50-Foot Blades of Ice / The Atlantic
Scientists envision the dramatic surface of Europa, one of the best candidates for alien life in the solar system.