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Economics

  • From Nikhil Suresh’s blog:

    And then some absolute son of a bitch created ChatGPT, and now look at usLook at us, resplendent in our pauper’s robes, stitched from corpulent greed and breathless credulity, spending half of the planet’s engineering efforts to add chatbot support to every application under the sun when half of the industry hasn’t worked out how to test database backups regularly. This is why I have to visit untold violence upon the next moron to propose that AI is the future of the business – not because this is impossible in principle, but because they are now indistinguishable from a hundred million willful fucking idiots.

  • Houston, infamous for it’s Viet-Cajun cuisine, the Johnson Space Center, the old Astrodome, and notably its sprawling highways and blacktops. For those who have never visited Houston, the marshes of Texas’ coasts can be unforgiving. The prairie regions surrounding the port of Houston had to be transformed to solidify its foothold as the energy export capital of Texas. City planners replaced natural creek-beds, prairie lands, and marshy ditches with concrete culverts and drain-ways — sealing Houston’s fate as a flood-prone metropolitan city forever.

    Apart from the occasional hurricane, and the muggy summers, the cost of living in Houston used to be relatively inexpensive — at least until recent decades. The rising economic cost of flood damages, growing gridlock, gasoline prices, and maintaining a car during the era of tumultuous climate change has made it difficult for the middle class to thrive. In fact, it’s much worse than we thought.

    According to reporting from Texas Monthly, Houston’s affordability has dried up along with its protective prairie lands:

    Furthermore, when considering housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income, Houston (and Dallas–Fort Worth, for that matter) appear significantly less affordable than cities with much more expensive housing, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. The annual median household income in Houston was just under $61,000 in 2016, while in New York that same figure was just over $69,000. As a result, Houstonians spend just under 50 percent of their income on those combined costs, whereas New Yorkers spend just over 45 percent.

    It may be a cheaper opportunity cost to move and to live in Houston. For example, buying a house in a Houston suburb is vastly cheaper than buying a home just about anywhere outside the Tri-State area in New York. But, transportation and environmental costs continue to mount in Houston.

    Until Texas Central builds a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, I’m afraid that all Texas metropolitan areas will face the same fate. Cars and highways don’t scale well when the vast majority of city residents live in suburbia.

  • The New York Times reports:

    The company has been mired in the worst crisis in its 103-year history since the crashes of two 737 Max jets killed 346 people. The plane has been grounded since March, and Boeing has faced cascading delays as it tries to return the Max to the air. 

    The company said David Calhoun, the chairman, would replace Mr. Muilenburg on Jan. 13. Until then, Boeing’s chief financial officer, Greg Smith, will serve as interim chief executive, the company said.

    Firing Muilenburg won’t mend the damaged reputation nor will it fix the highly problematic MCAS system that plagues the 737 Max aircraft, but it will catalyze Boeing to switch gears. Never mind the fact, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft test over the weekend was an orbital failure.

    Previously, the ramifications of Boeings accumulated failures had begun as a slow moving tidal wave affecting airline operators such as Southwest being forced to leave Newark. Now, as the plane’s future remains unclear, aerospace supply chains have begun to feel the pressure as well. Boeing, just a week ago — halted the production of the Boeing 737 Max airplane. As many as 8,000 suppliers and third-party vendors will be affected by the halted production.

    Not good.

  • From Andy McNamara, Editor-in-Chief at Game Informer:

    Yesterday, as part of a GameStop restructuring plan, our parent company eliminated the positions of about 120 employees across its various offices. We lost seven members of our team – our cohorts, compatriots, and friends. They shaped us and made us who we are today, just like every member of the Game Informer team who passes through this company.

    Welp. That sucks. I haven’t visited a GameStop in years. Probably won’t visit one ever again to be honest. That’s not out of spite either. Hell, I barely play video games these days at all. Let alone buy used games or consoles. I’ll tell you what definitely do — read Game Informer online.

    I have a deep suspicion that these layoffs (or any others that follow in the coming 90 days for that matter), have to do the damned inverted yield curve:

    So for the curve to invert implies that investors are forecasting that something unusual will happen. Something that will push future interest rates down low enough to justify long-term yields being low despite the risks. Something like a future collapse in private sector investment demand that makes government borrowing cheap. Or something like a series of Federal Reserve moves to try to reduce interest rates and spur more economic activity.

    In other words, a future recession.

    And, indeed, if you look at the historical track record, every time the two-year/10-year inversion has happened, a recession has followed.

    Sigh. We’ll know if we’re in a recession in 6 months. The winds of change are pretty good that Trump will astroturf the U.S. economy in an ego-driven, exploitative ego-driven (and as a reminder, 100% totally avoidable) trade-war with China.

    Regardless, GameStop is shitty business, even if Game Informer is a great online and print publication. It’s umbilical cord to GameStop is financial poison. The parent company that manages the magazine is just absolutely terrible. The level of incompetence mismanagement is gargantuan. They closed hundreds of stores in 2012. GameStop was caught intentionally deceiving customers in 2017, and the company has been trying to sell itself to private equity firms for pretty much half a decade. Perhaps, instead of peddling snake oil — they should hire back the seven game journalists, and should spin off the publication wholesale to someone who cares. Microsoft, The Verge or shit, even Rooster Teeth are all wealthy contenders happy to expand their media empire. Literally anyone would benefit from the editorial prowess Game Informer brings to the gaming beat.

  • From G Zero Media:

    If the state of California were an independent country, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world, according to a fascinating report by The Economist that looks at both that state and Texas as the harbingers of two alternative futures for the United States. That got us thinking – how do the economies of the individual US states stack up against other countries? California’s economy is about the size of the United Kingdom’s, while Texas’s matches up with Canada’s. Who’s on par with Sri Lanka or the Czech Republic? Our map’s got ’em all.

  • Rummaging through old Vimeo Staff Picks during some downtime this morning, I came across this beautiful short. Miguel de Olaso, (aka Macgregor), is a Spanish filmmaker who typically specializes in high-speed racing filmography, commercials and short-films.

    He has a knack for the unique camera movements and well-paced storytelling. I have a deep fascination and love for locomotives and foreign lands — so naturally this film was an absolute treat for the eyes.

    Despite being rich in natural resources such as iron, gold and copper, Mauritania maintains a severely depressed GDP. Their primary transportation network is a single railway that pretty much dissects their country (across a portion of the Sahara that borders several other countries). In many ways, Mauritania’s economic future seems dim. But in other respects, it represents the tenacity of a growing, natural resource-rich nation and their relationship with their lifeline — The Mauritania Railway.

    You can read more about the making of this short, here. Absolutely nuts. Enjoy!