Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Links

WSJ Links

Section D: This is nice. Ranking of airlines for 2012. Overall #1: Delta. Followed by Alaska, US Airways, and Southwest. Surprisingly, Jet Blue was #5 of the seven listed. Other gauges (#1, #2, and #8 listed):
  • Getting planes off on time: Alaska, Delta .... American
  • Fewest canceled flights: Delta, Southwest ... American
  • Fewest extreme delays: US Airways, Alaska ... Jet Blue (hmmmm)
  • Fewest bumped passengers: Jet Blue, Delta ... United
  • Fewest lost bags: Jet Blue, Delta ... United
  • Fewest complaints: Southwest, Alaska ... United
I've never found much usefulness in airline rankings; every flight is a potential adventure.

The sports page, very interesting today:
Actually, the second story of those three links is the story of "deep weirdness." In the modern vernacular: "creepy."

Section C: 
This is simply very, very interesting. All that talk of global warming and one would think that South America -- much of it at the equator -- would be hit hard by global warming. And then this huge photo-story on the front page of section C: Brazil's surprise coffee call throws off the market's bean count -- with 50 million bags, this is at the upper end of Brazilian government's forecast for the country's 2013 coffee harvest. There has been talk that slightly increased CO2 and slightly warmer temperatures does do wonders for agriculture (all other things being equal). The story is actually on page C4; only the huge photo is on the front page. Years ago I was part of a research team studying the efficiency of Arctic plants. We were based in Barrow, Alaska. It was obvious that a slightly longer growing season would do wonders for these plants and a degree or two in temperature increase would do the same. The lemming population would probably do better, also. But I digress.  Another story along this line (agricultural profits) is on page B3 -- Cargill and Monsanto are reporting sharply higher earnings. Weather around the world varies immensely, but overall, the data does not suggest the world is coming to an end due to that forecast of one to two-degree rise in global temperature over the next century.

Apple is in the news with talk of a low-priced phone. As an elitist when it comes to Apple, I wish Apple stuck to its high-end, high-margin, high-priced business model. [Update, one day later: that story was pulled by Reuters. It never did sound "true" to me; Apple doesn't "dumb down" for profit margin or market share. Tea leaves suggest Apple will continue making high-end, high-margin, high-priced products and accelerating the product cycle.]

Section B:
A nice story on Clearwire, Sprint, Dish. Huge front page story. [Wow, a most beautiful male cardinal just showed up -- it's quite interesting that putting out different types of bird seed results in different birds showing up.] Back to Clearwire, Spring, Dish. I don't think folks understand how important spectrum is. I remember the challenge the military had back in the early 2000's with not enough spectrum, and then the government turning over some of that spectrum to the civilian sector. I don't follow telecom, but for those who, it would be interesting to track value of company based on spectrum.

As tax hikes loomed, some CEOS sold stock. Five biggest sales of stock by executives or directors in December, 2012 -- companies mentioned: Teavana Holdings (#1 by a huge margin), First Citizens Bancshares, Google (Eric Schmidt), Starbucks (Schultz), and Shaw Group. I would not have linked this story except for the fact that my daughter buys an excellent honey for our older granddaughter from Teavana. The honey is priced right and, best of all, it doesn't crystallize.

Natural-gas rally fizzles.

Section A:
Page A3 (followed closely by page B3) is always the most interesting. Today: schools get taste of own medicine; states assign A to F grades based on test results, other factors; some parents, administrators are shocked by poor scores.  [This link is first one today that I could not access on the web without logging in with a paid subscription.] I have mixed feelings about over-reliance on testing.

US lags peers in life expectancy. [Link required password, see above.] This is the list with average life expectancy at birth for men in 2007:
  • Switzerland: 79.33
  • Australia: 79.27
  • Japan: 79.20
  • Sweden: 78.92
  • Italy: 78.82
 ... then, Canada, Norway (78.25), Netherlands, Spain, UK, France, Austria, Germay, Denmark, Portugal, Finland, and then the US, in 17th place at 75.64. "The shorter life expectancy for Americans largely was attributed to high mortality for men under age 50, from car crashes, accidents, and violence." Apparently American men play hard, work hard, and die hard.

Having said that, the "verbal conclusion" tends to overstate the actual numbers. I can't get too excited about 76 vs 79 years of age, especially considering the number of 76-year-olds with Alzheimers and other quality of life issues. My attitude will probably change when I have my 76th birthday. American women: life expectancy for those born in 2007, is 80.8 years. That is five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy.

Northern Gateway pipeline in Canada under seige

Supreme Court case to watch: forced DUI blood tests.


  1. Teavena was bought out by Starbucks which is why insiders were selling.


    1. Now that you mention that, I seem to recall reading that. At the time, that was huge news --- Starbucks/Teavana, if I remember correctly (that it was big news).

      Completely rambling: three, four, five years ago, I "hated" Starbucks. Felt it was "elitist," at least targeting a demographic that did not include me.

      But over time, I have become absolutely sold on Starbucks as a destination for coffee and access to the internet. I don't invest in Starbucks, so this is just idle chatter, but there is a reason for Starbucks' success.

      The Teavana honey I was talking about: Tupelo honey.

      Thank you for taking time to write.

  2. An item that I would suggest skews the US data on life expectancy: There are two populations in the US, those with adequate health care and those without. I would posit that the 'withouts' skew the figures for life expectancy downward. In countries with government health services, this skewing does not happen. Apples and oranges maybe?

    1. You are so correct.

      There is so much to consider. Along your lines (that you brought up):

      1. Huge discrepancy in US between "haves" and "have-nots" when it comes to health care access.

      2. Of the 17 countries, the US is most culturally diverse. Many of the other countries are homogeneous -- think Norway, Sweden, Japan.

      3. In the US: huge discrepancy between those leading healthy lifestyle vs unhealthy lifestyle -- for all kinds of reasons, least of which is how expensive fresh fruit and vegetables are.

      4. US -- huge gun culture; huge "violence" culture -- again, compare to Japan, Norway, Sweden. Actually, no comparison.

      5. Perhaps minor, but of the 17 countries, how many of those have a real military? -- With low rates of death between ages 5 and 50, it doesn't take many military deaths to start skewing data.

      6. Cars and drinking. Americans' higher standard of living allows more 18 - 28 year olds to drive / access to muscle cars. Then, comparatively speaking, the US has more lax attitude toward drinking and driving -- compare again to Germany, Norway, Sweden, where DUIs is the end of one's life as one knows it.

      But you are absolutely correct: so much to discuss when looking at life expectancy. I think one could argue, that despite the issue you mentioned, and all the other factors, the life expectancy in the US is really quite good.

      Perhaps the better question is: why are countries like Norway, Sweden, and Japan not doing so much better? The gap between Norway and the US should be a whole lot more if one looks at all the factors entering into this. Again, I personally don't see a big difference between 76 and 79, though I probably will when I celebrate my 75th birthday.

      Thank you for taking time to write.

  3. Not as homogeneous as you might think.
    As of 2012, an official study shows that 86.2%[4] of the total population are Ethnic Norwegians and more than 660 000 individuals (13,2%)[4] are migrants and their descendants (110 000[4] second generation migrants born in Norway).

    Ethnically, the residents of Norway are predominantly ethnic Norwegians who are of North Germanic / Nordic descent, although there are communities of the Scandinavian native people Sami who settled the area around 8,000 years ago, probably from continental Europe through the Norwegian coast and through Finland along the inland glaciers. The national minorities of Norway include Scandinavian Romani, Roma (“Gypsy”), Jews, and Kvener, as well as a small Finnish community.

    Sami = Laplander

    1. Okay. I stand corrected. Norway is a remarkably diverse country with a huge Hispanic population; a huge African population, a huge Asian population, a huge Arabic population as well as Finns, Jews, Romans, and Puerto Ricans. And a few Danes, I suppose. I guess I was talking of the Norway I visited back a few years ago.