Coffee, Evil, Pots, Dignity, Caviar

Starbucks, Monetary Superpower

J.P. Koning | Moneyness | 21st August 2019

Starbucks reports a $1.6 billion liability on its stored-value payment cards — which sounds like a problem, but is in fact a gold-mine. It is money which regular customers have put on to their card accounts with Starbucks, but not yet spent. It is an interest-free loan to Starbucks — and then some. Typically 10% of such deposits never get used; so this $1.6 billion is more like a loan on which the lenders pay Starbucks a 10%. bonus, plus whatever Starbucks can earn by lending out the money elsewhere (1,760 words)

What Lies Beyond Capitalism?

David Bentley Hart | Plough | 18th July 2019

Critique. For Christians, capitalism is intrinsically evil. Christ condemned not merely the greed for riches but the very possession of riches. Capitalism works well on its own terms, but those terms include the exploitation of people and natural resources for personal gain. To say that capitalism is amoral may be true, but it is not enough, it is almost an exculpation. “Viewed from any intelligible moral perspective, that which is beyond the distinction between good and evil is, in its essence, evil” (3,800 words)

An Idea Needing To Be Made

John McDonald | 22nd August 2019

Notes on contemporary ceramics; they are generally less radical than other “contemporary” art-forms. Every potter is part of a tradition stretching back to the “earliest days of civilisation”. The skills needed to shape and fire a pot have to be learned, and rarely change. The need to put everything though a kiln obstructs spontaneity. There are no formal constraints on subject-matter, but ceramicists are “drawn primarily to the vessel”. Rare is the practitioner, or collector, who strays very far from “pots on plinths” (1,190 words)

Chris Arnade’s Dignity

Ann Finkbeiner | Last Word On Nothing | 22nd August 2019

Conversation with Chris Arnade, ex-Wall Street trader who has made a new vocation for himself sharing and retelling in words and pictures the lives of America’s have-nots. He wrote most of his latest book, Dignity, sitting in a MacDonald’s. “When I told people I was writing a book they would look at me like I was crazy, then they would ask me the title. I tried various things, and found that what resonated most was: ‘You can learn everything about America in a McDonald’s’. So that was my working title” (1,390 words)

When Caviar Was A Free Bar Snack

Mark Kurlansky | Delancey Place | 22nd August 2019

In the early 1800s American rivers churned with sturgeon and bars offered free caviar alongside salted nuts as a courtesy snack. In Russia caviar was cheaper than sauerkraut. The price of caviar began rising in the late 1800s as overfishing and industrial pollution destroyed sturgeon populations worldwide. Price differences between the main varieties of caviar — beluga, ossetra, sevruga — reflect rarity, not quality. Giant beluga sturgeon are the hardest to find, so their caviar is the most expensive (1,100 words)

Video: Einstein Was Not Quite Right. Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder explains, in a fairly accessible way, how quantum mechanics exposes the limitations of general relativity (5m 27s)

Audio: Mice And Maths | More Or Less. Early-stage drug trials often claim headline-grabbing outcomes. What rarely gets due emphasis is that such trials are carried out on mice, not people (9m 18s)

“We don’t have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined”
— Warren Buffett

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