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The Weekender

Morning Nuggets – Saturday-Sunday, November 28-29, 2020

Photo by Sid Leigh – Unsplash

We Have No Idea What Happens Next · Collaborative Fund

Liebig’s work – improved upon in the following decades, particularly by scientists who learned how to manufacture ammonia synthetically – gave rise to the ammonia-based fertilizer industry that still dominates global agriculture. It’s hard to exaggerate how big a deal it’s been.

Bill Gates, Covid-19 and the Quest to Vaccinate the World – The New York Times

Working behind the scenes is one of the world’s richest men, neither a scientist nor a doctor, who sees himself and his $50 billion foundation as uniquely prepared to take a central part.

The story of mRNA: From a loose idea to a tool that may help curb Covid

Every strand of mRNA is made up of four molecular building blocks called nucleosides. But in its altered, synthetic form, one of those building blocks, like a misaligned wheel on a car, was throwing everything off by signaling the immune system. So Karikó and Weissman simply subbed it out for a slightly tweaked version, creating a hybrid mRNA that could sneak its way into cells without alerting the body’s defenses

How Democrats Suffered Crushing Down-Ballot Losses Across America – The New York Times

“People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.”

Inside Trump?s failed quest to overturn the election – The Washington Post

With his denial of the outcome, despite a string of courtroom defeats, Trump endangered America’s democracy, threatened to undermine national security and public health, and duped millions of his supporters into believing, perhaps permanently, that Biden was elected illegitimately

The Cost of Trump’s Assault on the Press and the Truth   | The New Yorker

Trump may have devoted more mental energy to his degradation of the press—through lawsuits, threats, and hundreds of tweets—than to any other issue.

Why I’m Losing Hope in India – Bloomberg

For many of my generation, our long-cherished hope for a better, greater India is all but gone. We wanted to trade some of our democratic chaos for a little bit more growth. We ended up with less of both.

What’s in a name? A lot. – On my Om

You have to have a name. But with the borderless nature of our economies, various trademark challenges, and other hurdles, you are lucky to land on one that is worth having.

With Toyota’s Help, This Secretive Entrepreneur May Finally Give Us Flying Cars – Forbes

“If we can fly, we can turn our streets into parks and fundamentally make our cities much nicer places to live in,”

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Black Friday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Friday, November 27, 2020

by Scott Loftesness

Live It Up – HumbleDollar

Let me offer some advice you won’t hear elsewhere: Go ahead and splurge

Black Friday is here — and it’s completely different – The Washington Post

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that, fundamentally, everything has changed. Will there be more stimulus money? Will people be shy about spending? We just don’t know.”

Holiday Shopping Moves to the Couch, Mostly: Black Friday Update – Bloomberg

With sparse crowds and none of the stampedes of holidays past, some retail watchers started to refer to Black Friday as Blasé Friday instead — and that was even before the virus hit.

Eroding coast paves way for ‘managed retreat’ in California – Los Angeles Times

Here at Gleason Beach, once referred to as Malibu North, the beach gets drowned during high tide. Bits of concrete and rebar are all that remain of 11 clifftop homes that have already surrendered to the sea.

Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump? – The New York Times

Three factors — the logic of partisan polarization, which inaccurate polling obscured; the strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy; and the success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic — mostly explain why Democrats didn’t fare better.

Trump’s Refusal to Concede Wasn’t Some Sideshow – The Atlantic

A democracy at grave risk one day cannot be pronounced healthy the next.

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal – POLITICO

At a low point in his party’s existence, with much of the GOP’s leadership class pre-writing their own political epitaphs by empowering Trump to lay waste to the country’s foundational democratic norms, an obscure lawyer from west Michigan stood on principle.

TSA screens record number of travelers on Thanksgiving eve – The Washington Post

The number of travelers flying Wednesday was half of what it was on the day before Thanksgiving in 2019, before the coronavirus was a threat in the United States.

‘It’s finally got to rural America’: coronavirus surges in Dakotas – Financial Times

South Dakota has a positivity rate of more than 43 per cent of those tested, according to Johns Hopkins University. That is among the highest in the nation and compared with about 3 per cent in New York.

What’s a Semi-Log Plot and How Can You Use It for Covid Data? – WIRED

If you have data that spans a very wide range of values (different orders of magnitude) then you pretty much have to create a semi-log plot so that you can see all of it.

Take A Look At This Documentary About The Skunk Work’s History And The Birth Of The SR-71 Blackbird – The Aviationist

About the Blackbird on this Black Friday!

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Thanksgiving 2020

Morning Nuggets – Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sunrise – Marin County, California – Thanksgiving 2020 – by Scott Loftesness

This blog began November 25, 2001 – nineteen years ago yesterday.

Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November since 1941 due to federal legislation, has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 …

Blessings in a Hard Year – WSJ (Peggy Noonan)

This year we emailed a dozen people whom we respect and who know a lot, asking what they’d seen, experienced or realized this annus horribilis that left them moved or grateful.

Thanksgiving 2020 – AVC

We are going to need everything we can get from science and the human spirit because we are facing enormous challenges that will not end with the pandemic.

Reasons to be thankful during coronavirus Thanksgiving – The Washington Post

“I used to think I didn’t spend enough time at home. … Now it’s like, ‘Get me out of the house!’ ”

The Online Photographer: Happy Gratitude Day

Gratitude is absolutely a key component in a practical spiritual toolkit. For one thing, it’s the antidote to self-pity. The two are incompatible feelings; you can’t be grateful and self-pitying at the same time—the two won’t arise together and seldom co-exist.

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving — MacSparky

A few years ago, I started the practice of writing down one thing I was grateful for every day. It is one of the first things I do every morning, and I find it helps me get the day started right.

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Thanksgiving Eve 2020

Morning Nuggets – Wednesday, November 25, 2020

36 days remain until the end of the year. I started this blog on November 25, 2001 – nineteen years ago today! What a trip it’s been!

Marin Morning – Fall 2020 – by Scott Loftesness

The Losses We Share – New York Times (Meghan Markle) – So this Thanksgiving, as we plan for a holiday unlike any before — many of us separated from our loved ones, alone, sick, scared, divided and perhaps struggling to find something, anything, to be grateful for — let us commit to asking others, “Are you OK?”

A novel approach to truth-telling – Financial Times – Twenty years ago, I assumed that the world’s two largest democracies, India and the US, would stay on course, never imagining that both countries — among many others — would see the rise of populists and the loss of so many freedoms.

It’s Time for a Digital Detox. (You Know You Need It.) – New York Times (Brian Chen) – “The difference between getting 10 likes and 20 likes, it’s all just meaningless,” Dr. Alter said.

We Begin Our Lives as Growth Stocks, But End Our Lives As Value Stocks – Of Dollars and Data – The high expectations of youth (growth) eventually get replaced by lower expectations and upside surprises as you age (value).

Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix – Eisenhower – The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.

I Remember When Rock Was Young – New York Times (Jennifer Finney Boylan) – The combination is weird, joyful and gorgeous.

Bitcoin finally finds a rationale in doomsday scenarios – Financial Times – To be clear, I don’t believe in the risk of global authoritarianism painted by the cryptocurrency’s most fervid backers. But as a doomsday contingency system, I am glad someone created bitcoin just in case.

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Thanksgiving Tuesday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Photo by Scott Loftesness

On (not) leaving San Francisco – On my Om – Right now, it seems that not just leaving San Francisco, but kicking it on the way out, has become a bit of a meme. And with all the bizarre propositions on our election ballots, our rabid political ecosystem, our declining quality of life, and the prospects of rising taxes, I can understand the temptation.

How Venture Capitalists Are Deforming Capitalism – New Yorker – Dunlevie admitted to a partner that he wasn’t certain how WeWork would ever become profitable, but he was taken with Neumann. Dunlevie said to the partner, “Let’s give him some money, and he’ll figure it out.” – see also Fred Wilson’s comments: Thoughts On Charles Duhigg’s New Yorker PieceThere is more truth to that article than anyone in the venture capital industry wants to admit. The idea that capital alone can create a strong company is a flawed idea that the VC industry pursued with a lot of passion for most of the last decade.

Podcast: The Talk Show – ‘A Craptastic Craptacular’, With Joanna Stern – Daring Fireball – Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

iPhone 12 Diary: Apple ProRAW photos are the clincher for me – 9to5Mac – ProRAW is Apple’s attempt to give us the best of both worlds. To include computational photography features, but also to give us a file with as much data as possible for use in editing. 

Trump Lost The Election. Why Do His Supporters Refuse To Believe It? – Refinery29 – Trump, of course, knows he has lost the election. But by creating doubt around the results, he is not only trying to undermine both the eventual Biden administration, but also to position himself as a winner to his base in an effort to subsequently make money on speeches, rallies, and books.

How Trump placed a ticking time bomb at the center of our system – Washington Post (Greg Sargent) – While this time the state legislatures appear unwilling to carry out Trump’s scheme, and a few GOP senators have signaled that they would not agree to count rogue electors in any case, that’s hardly a guarantee against future breakdowns.

It’s Time to Unfollow Donald Trump – GQ – Soon, the contents of his timeline will be no more important than that of any of this country’s many replacement-level MAGA social media personalities with bald eagle avatars, and I hope you do not follow many of them, either.

Qantas Will Require Passengers To Be Vaccinated – OneMileataTime.com – In an interview with Australian TV show “A Current Affair,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made some interesting comments. Specifically, Joyce said that Qantas will require that passengers show proof of having received a coronavirus vaccine to travel internationally with the airline.

Need a Hypothesis? This A.I. Has One – New York Times – The machines may already have cracked hidden codes behind many human behaviors, but it will require live brains to help tease those out.

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Thanksgiving Monday 2020

Morning Nuggets – Monday, November 23, 2020

Welcome to a new week as we near the end of 2020! Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan.

Photo by Scott Loftesness

Now comes the hardest part: Getting a coronavirus vaccine from loading dock to upper arm – Washington Post – The stakes are enormous. The massive undertaking to immunize most of the population requires extraordinary communication, planning and coordination. 

What to Know About California’s Vaccine Rollout – New York Times – “Don’t anticipate or expect that you can go down to a local pharmacy anytime in this calendar year and likely get a vaccination.”

Productive Uncertainty – Jerry Neumann – It’s tempting, as a venture investor, to back companies developing amazing new technologies. But this often doesn’t work out as well as investing in companies that are using existing technologies in a new way.

7 things we just learned about Sequoia’s European expansion plans – TechCrunch – Sequoia now believes Europe is producing market leaders ahead of Silicon Valley.

Expert advice on the near future of cheap travel – SFGate – The most surprising and deepest discounts have been those summer flight deals to Europe. Cheap summer flights to Europe in July and August are almost unheard of.

Bitcoin Trades Again Near Record, Driven by New Group of Buyers – Wall St. Journal – The rally has attracted a wide cast of characters, from the Wall Street billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller to momentum investors who aim to ride winning assets higher and losing markets lower.

Paypal CEO Schulman Say He’s Bullish on Bitcoin as a Currency – CoinDesk – Schulman said central bank digital currency is a global inevitability. As that happens, “you’ll have more and more utility happen with cryptocurrencies,” he said. – See also: Bitcoin Shortage? Pantera Thinks Market Rally Driven by PayPal Buys

Barack Obama’s A Promised Land — the thrill of the journey  – Financial Times – Once he reaches the White House, however, Obama’s storytelling arc hits a plateau. Some of the life drains from the writing.

Every Thanksgiving, my mental health strategy is recalling memorable, personal moments – Washington Post – So it goes with me every Thanksgiving. Call it my mental health strategy. I compile a highlights reel featuring the moments in my life I hold most dear.

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The Weekender

Morning Nuggets – Saturday and Sunday, November 21-22, 2020

Today: Stan Musial was born on Nov. 21, 1920 – 100 years ago.

In 1864, Like in 2020, America Just Got Lucky – The Atlantic – History’s hypotheticals lead easily to scenarios few of us would like to imagine. We have just come close to another moment that would likely have produced a worse future for this country, and, for now, I’m glad we don’t have to find out for sure.

Chris Christie calls the conduct of Trump’s legal team a ‘national embarrassment’ – Washington Post – “The rearview mirror should be ripped off,” Christie said.

San Francisco was flattening the curve — until our urge to gather spiked it. Now we need to reverse the surge – San Francisco Chronicle (Heather Knight) – So what happened? Despite the city’s repeated insistence on following data, science and facts, we don’t have the data, science or facts to identify the exact problem spots.

Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo and the perils of pandemic stardom – Washington Post – Pandemic fatigue is a thing, tempers are short all over, and no one likes scolds or hypocrites — especially when it occurs at a Marie Antoinette level of obliviousness — but that’s hardly the only problem here.

The Lady and the Trump – New York Times (Maureen Dowd) – I’ve been riveted all week by the spectacle of the most famous blond phenom on the planet, a child isolated and miserable living inside a national landmark, lashing out and spiraling into self-destructive acts.

RV Owners Take to the Road With ‘Covid Campers’ – Wall St. Journal – They are turning to “Covid Campers”: specially fitted recreational vehicles—or retrofitted existing vehicles—that offer the comforts of home and office without exposing them to the risks of public restrooms, restaurants and even people altogether.

Google Pay’s Massive Relaunch Makes It an All-Encompassing Money App – The Verge – It turns the app from something that most people think of as a tap-to-pay card repository or peer-to-peer payment system into a much more ambitious service.

The calculus behind new retailer payment methods – A16Z Newsletter (Seema Amble) – These ideas aren’t new. Retailers have been trying to cut down on interchange spend for years, mostly with limited success.

The World in 2021 – Ten trends to watch in the coming year – The Economist (Tom Standage) – Do you feel lucky? The number 21 is connected with luck, risk, taking chances and rolling the dice. It’s the number of spots on a standard die, and the number of shillings in a guinea, the currency of wagers and horse-racing. It’s the minimum age at which you can enter a casino in America…

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Fall Friday

Friday Morning Nuggets – November 20, 2020

Fall 2020

Iowa’s Covid Wave and the Limits of Personal Responsibility – Wired – “The governor’s reversal this week (on mask wearing) is tantamount to an admission that the policy of personal responsibility isn’t working.” and “The absence of a mask mandate, the open bars, the public gatherings—they created the illusion of normalcy. And if things feel normal, people are going to act like they are.”

When the World Seems Like One Big Conspiracy – New York Times (Yuval Noah Harari) – “The key premise of Global Cabal theories is that it is relatively easy to manipulate the world. A small group of people can understand, predict and control everything, from wars to technological revolutions to pandemics.”

The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs – New York Times (Larry Smith) – “The world has never felt smaller.” and “Can’t smell the campfire on Zoom.”

California Wants Its Imperial Valley to Be ‘Lithium Valley’ – Bloomberg Businessweek – “Hot brine trapped beneath the desert floor contains potentially one of the world’s biggest deposits of lithium. Demand for the metal is soaring as automakers worldwide shift to electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries.”

In D.C., a resident tracks the flying machines hovering above on the city’s ‘helicopter highway’ – Washington Post – “At the start of the year, he launched the Twitter handle @HelicoptersofDC as a clearinghouse for all things chopper-related. Now more than 7,700 followers strong, the account uses publicly available data to identify the sources of all that buzzing, often tweeting out photos of the choppers.”

The hit machine has to learn from history – Financial Times (John Gapper) – “The balance is threatened in music because streaming makes the back catalogue more potent.”

An Interview with an Asian Captain at United Airlines – Sam Chui – “What’s your favorite route in the United Airlines system? For me, it is San Francisco to Hong Kong! Bar None.”

The Fraud of Fish Oil Is Exposed. Will Kale Be Next? – Wall St. Journal (Joe Queenan) – “Taking fish oil supplements is just another weird thing people in northern California dreamed up in the 1980s.”

Starlink…Talking to the Heavens – Moose Peterson – Moose is liking his new satellite-based Internet connection!

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Third Thursday

Morning Nuggets – Thursday, November 19, 2020

Reader – New York – 2014

Today is International Men’s Day.

The Elements of Good Judgment – Harvard Business Review – “I’ve found that leaders with good judgment tend to be good listeners and readers—able to hear what other people actually mean, and thus able to see patterns that others do not.”

As U.S. Passes a Quarter Million Dead, Response Remains Disjointed – New York Times – “With coronavirus cases on the rise in all but one state and a newly reached American death toll of 250,000, this would not seem the moment for the United States to take a patchwork response to the pandemic.”

We know how to reduce the virus’s spread — even though we’re not doing it – New York Times – “We know a lot about how to control the virus’s spread. Mask-wearing makes a big difference. So does limiting indoor gatherings.”

Trump Has Abdicated in the Face of Disaster – The Atlantic – “The nation cries out for leadership, yet amid one of the worst crises to face the country in decades, President Donald Trump is nowhere to be found. He is hunkered down in the White House, not giving interviews or speaking to the public except through his Twitter account, where he is mostly spreading misinformation about the election.”

In the Covid Economy, Laid-Off Employees Become New Entrepreneurs – Wall St. Journal – “To adapt to the pandemic and the job loss it unleashed, more Americans are becoming their own bosses, setting up tiny businesses to work as traveling hair stylists, in-home personal trainers, boutique mask designers and chefs.”

Artificial intelligence is reshaping finance – Financial Times – “Essentially, Barclays and Amazon are linking data with AI analysis to approve credit (or not) and predict what customised services clients will want next.”

African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos – Techcrunch – “African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.”

Deutsche Bank Says Investors Increasingly Prefer Bitcoin Over Gold as Inflation Hedge – Coindesk – “Bitcoin has long been considered by supporters as digital gold, due to its limited, predictable supply and use case as a store of value outside banking influence.”

George Clooney When We Need Him Most – GQ – “So, he says, he’s chosen directing. “Directing is the painter,” he says. “Acting, writing, you know, those are the paints.””

Programmable money isn’t new, we’ve had it for ages – Moneyness – “No fancy blockchains here.”

It’s hard to get rid of a bad boss. Instead, try a ‘soft coup.’ – Washington Post – “A dim bulb isn’t going to change itself. And rotating the room around it instead is terribly inefficient. But those seem to be the options your chief executive prefers over the most direct solution.”

How to prepare your digital assets in case of death – Macworld (Glenn Fleishman) – “Most of us feel macabre talking about death, but dealing with the fussy details ahead of time can solve endless problems later. It’s especially true with digital resources, as giant technology firms, including Apple, may not be responsive to your queries when someone’s gone.”

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Wet Wednesday

Morning Nuggets – Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Albert_S – Unsplash

Pfizer and BioNTech Conclude Phase 3 Study of COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate, Meeting All Primary Efficacy Endpoints – Pfizer – “We are grateful that the first global trial to reach the final efficacy analysis mark indicates that a high rate of protection against COVID-19 can be achieved very fast after the first 30 µg dose, underscoring the power of BNT162 in providing early protection,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech.

Larry Brilliant Says We’ll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell – Wired (Steven Levy) – “And if you are thinking of spending your 2020 Thanksgiving dinner the way an epidemiologist does, go Swanson instead of Butterball.”

Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint – New York Times – “How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study…”

Boeing Responds to FAA Approval to Resume 737 MAX Operations – Boeing – “The FAA’s directive is an important milestone,” said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.”

Trump and his supporters are discovering how hard it is to sabotage election results – Washington Post (David Ignatius) – “When the history books about this election are written, (Christopher) Krebs will be one of the heroes.”

How Bill Demchak turned PNC into a US banking powerhouse – Financial Times

How to Get Started with Street Photography – Borrowlenses.com – “Street photography requires a lot of grace.”

Apple announces App Store Small Business Program – Apple – “New program reduces App Store commission to 15 percent for small businesses earning up to $1 million per year…”

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication – Basecamp – “Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.”