Nov 14, 2021
14 mins read
👋 Hello there,
Welcome to another edition of Stellar Recap, a weekly newsletter where I share my latest explorations, discoveries, and updates. Thank you for being here. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share it with a friend. If this message was forwarded to you, make sure to follow me so you don’t miss out on future issues 😊.
💎 Stellar Recap 💎
Photo of auroras taken from the ISS by T. Pesquet, ESA/NSA
📊 Business, Economics & Personal Finance
Used car prices jumped 9.2% in October, and more than 38% year-over-year.
E-bike sales in the US hit $400 million during the first half of 2021. Growing demand and prices are also causing a spike in thefts: over 113,000 e-bikes have been reported stolen this year compared with 96,500 in 2020.
Gas prices are up 62% year-over-year.
The amount of cash on Berkshire Hathaway's balance sheet reached $149.2 billion.
Global sales of cannabis products increased 50% to $21.6 billion.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, briefly reached a market cap of 🤑 $2 trillion this week after reporting a 41% increase in revenue and 69% increase in profit. It's the third company to ever reach the $2 trillion threshold, after Apple and Microsoft. The stock prices of all three companies have nearly doubled over the past two years.
The economy is on track for robust recovery so why are people so pessimistic? Nearly 6 million jobs were created between January and October 2021 and unemployment has fallen to 4.6%. Average earnings are up 4.9% annually, reaching $31 per hour. The average checking account has 50% more money than before the pandemic. The bottom 50% of the population also accrued more than $3 trillion in household wealth, which is 55% higher than before the pandemic. Yet more than half of all voters believe the country is on the wrong track and that the economy is weak.
Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips aim to sell nearly $1.6 billion worth of art over the next two weeks, with 15 individual pieces expected to sell for more than $20 million each. The boom in art is driven by fears about tax changes over the next year. For context, the number of millionaires increased by almost 10% to 56.1 million in 2020. Almost half live in the US.
Colorado had the second largest increase in layoffs and separations in August and had the seventh highest quit rate.
Child YouTube star and influencer, Ryan Kaji of Ryan's World, sold more than $250 million (🔒Bloomberg) in merchandise in 2020.
NFTs are a tax nightmare. Every minor action can result in a taxable event, and most are classified as short-term capital gains. If you convert your NFT into a cryptocurrency before cashing out, that counts as two separate transactions. If you swap a game item, that also has tax implications.
Total household debt in the US topped $15 trillion for the first time. The number of 💳 credit cards also reached an all-time high of 520 million but overall balances are $123 billion lower than the end of 2019.
The consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—increased in October by 6.2% from a year ago, the largest jump since December 1990. Fuel prices climbed 12.3% in October, which is 59.1% higher than the same time last year. Meat, 🐟 sea food, and eggs climbed 1.7% in October and are 11.9% higher than last year. When adjusting for inflation, average real earnings are down 1.1% (🔒WP) this year.
Sales of pregnancy tests increased at an annual average of 13% since June 2020.
Grocery store inventories of frozen turkey 🦃 are 24% below the average three-year volume while price per pound is up around $0.26.
A record 4.4 million (🔒WP) US workers quit their jobs in September, beating the previous record of 4.3 million in August. The quit rate was higher in more rural areas than urban areas and in accommodation and food services. Job postings for human resources and warehouse positions (🔒WSJ) have seen the largest increases since the pandemic began. If you want to learn more about labor dynamics and the economy during the pandemic, check out the most recent episode of The New Bazaar (78 min.).
Industrial manufacturers purchased 29,000 robots for $1.48 billion in the first nine months of 2021, representing a 37% increase in purchases and a new record in total spending.
Employment among working-age moms increased at a faster rate than any other group of prime-age workers (those between the ages of 25 and 54) in October.
Toys'R'Us is turning Geoffrey the Giraffe into an NFT (🔒AdAge).
⏩ Pop Culture & Entertainment
Carson Ellis describes a party game called Paperback (I think you could also use hardcover books): A player presents a paperback novel to the group and reads the description of the novel. Everyone else listens and then writes what they think the first sentence of the novel would be on a slip of paper. The player who read the description of the novel writes the actual first sentence and shuffles all of the slips of paper together and reads them aloud to the group. The rest of the players guess which sentence is the real first sentence.
Netflix's hit series "Squid Game" has drawn attention to the growing shortage of quality translators. This is consequential for their bottom line and for media directors who want to reach a larger audience. A survey of 15,000 streaming subscribers in Spain, Germany, France and Italy found that 61% were unsatisfied with subtitles and dubbed content and 70% stopped watching as a result.
Women account for 46.7% of VFX producers but only 21.6% of VFC credits in the 400 top-grossing films released between 2016 and 2019. Men outnumber women 302 to 52 while women of color were outnumbered by men 208 to 1.
The average number of times that Mariah Carey's hit song, 🎄 "All I Want for Christmas Is You," has been played between Thanksgiving and Christmas reached 78 days over the past three years, up from 40 days in the early 2010s. If you want to learn more about the song and its history, I highly recommend this podcast episode of Switched on Pop (42 min.).
Illinois became the first state to require all high schools to teach a course in media literacy.
Undergraduate enrollment fell 3.2% this fall semester, following a 3.4% drop last year.
Managerial and professional staff at Yale University has increased 3x faster than the undergraduate student body over the past two years and is now greater than the entire size of the undergrad population.
Almost 90% of school districts have been short on 🚌 school bus drivers for 3 years. Average pay has increased from $15.15 per hour in 2015 to $18.82 in 2021 but it's not enough to attract more staff.
🧘 Health/Well Being & Society
There are only 🚽 8 public toilets for every 100,000 people in the US, a similar rate to Botswana.
Actors and influencers are increasingly using performance enhancing drugs to achieve their masculine physique. These drugs are not as highly regulated in the entertainment industry compared with professional sports.
Research by Meta (formerly Facebook) found that 1 in 8 (🔒WSJ) users demonstrates compulsive use of the platform, reporting that it negatively affects their sleep, work, parenting, and/or relationships.
MJ Eberhart became the oldest person to complete the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail at age 83.
Dr. Don Moore, Professor of Management of Organizations at UC Berkeley, explains how probabilistic thinking can help us strike a balance between overconfidence and under confidence. (52 min. podcast)
Teen girls suddenly began developing tics and doctors started to suspect that it was due to TikTok (🔒WSJ). The Hopkins University Tourette's Center reported that 10%-20% of their patients began reporting tic-like behaviors with the start of the pandemic compared to only 2%-3% the year before. The number of patients reporting tic-like behaviors is also suddenly dropping off.
A new study by RAND found higher incidences of sexual assault among soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, which became infamous after Latina soldier Vanessa Guillén was sexually assaulted and murdered. The rate of sexual assault on Army women is 8.4% compared to 5.4% for all women in the Army.
Around 367,000 Veterans live in Colorado and about 1 in 4 have a disability.
About 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely and new research by the March of Dimes shows its links to structural inequalities like redlining.
The telemedicine company NUE Life Health raised a $3.3 million seed round to launch a digital platform that will offer at-home ketamine therapy.
Portugal made it 📵 illegal for employers to text their employees after work hours to improve work-life balance.
Uber begins charging passengers based on the amount of time they take to get into the vehicle, in addition to a charge for the ride itself. These charges result in additional fees for people with disabilities, which the DOJ considers discriminatory. Lyft settled a case with similar accusations last year with four passengers and paid a $40,000 (🔒NYT) civil penalty.
Tips for harnessing creativity to get through feelings of isolation and uncertainty when life hands you lemons.
During the 2018-19 ski season, only 1.5% of the 59.3 million skiers and snowboarders 🏂 were Black.
About 71% of moms will become the primary financial providers of their household before their children turn 18 years old.
🌴 Lifestyle & Travel
Florida may replace its official state bird, the mockingbird, with one that is unique to its state. Current contenders include the scrub jay, 🦩 flamingo, osprey and roseate spoonbill.
Residents in NYC reported 21,000 rat sightings (🔒NYT) so far this year compared with 15,000 over the same period in 2019.
Cute 50-acre retro camper resort right outside of Asheville, NC.
Between July and September, 20% of Airbnb bookings were for stays of 28 days or more.
New research suggests that men are just as emotional as women, debunking biological arguments for emotional stereotypes.
Documents including names of the American far-right militia organization, Oath Keepers, were leaked and it includes several Libertarian and Republican officials on a list of 35,000 current and former members. At least 10 are state legislators (2 in NC, 1 in Alaska, 1 in IN, 1 in GA, and 2 AZ). Others include county commissioners, city council officials, policemen, firefighters, and more.
🏡 Real Estate
Bill McBride from CalculatedRisk provided an example of a bad business decision by Zillow Offers. They purchased a home in La Habra, CA for $768,000 in April and listed it for $815,900. They were forced to reduce the price four times until the home sold on September 20th. It's currently pending so we don't know the official sale price but it was listed for $749,900. If we assume that they sold it for this price, Bill estimates that Zillow lost nearly $90,000 on the sale. The house sold for $18,100 below the price that Zillow paid minus at least $16,873 (average brokerage commission of 2.25%) and probably another $15,000 for administrative costs (usually 2% of the home price but they probably negotiate lower costs) minus borrowing costs for holding the home for seven months and 3%-5% in service fees to fix up the home.
The Urban Land Institute and PwC identified Nashville, TN as the best real estate market, defined by a strong local economy, housing affordability, and investment opportunities. Active inventory of houses for sale in Nashville is down 33.9% year-over-over.
The number of factories and nonresidential buildings that were converted to multifamily housing with 50 residential units or more jumped to 20,122 in 2021, up from around 11,800 in 2018 and 2019.
The average home that was sold between July 2020 and June 2021 sat on the market for a median period of just 1 week (🔒WSJ) before going under contract.
Median rent prices in Manhattan are up nearly 20% (🔒Bloomberg) since last year, while median rent prices in Brooklyn fell year-over-year for the 16th consecutive month.
The median sale price for single-family existing homes increased in 182 of the 183 metro (🔒WSJ) areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors. Median prices increased more than 10% since last year in nearly 8 in 10 of those metros.
🧪 Science, Technology & Climate
The history of the first picture on the internet embodies many of the flaws that society is confronting with Big Tech. The picture is of former Playboy model Lena Forsén and the photo has been used over and over again without her consent. Despite ongoing attempts to stop sharing the image, it continues to spread on the internet. We should be more thoughtful about the systems and technologies we create:
While social norms are changing towards non-consensual data collection and data exploitation, digital norms seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Advancements in machine learning algorithms and data storage capabilities are only making data misuse easier. Whether the outcome is revenge porn or targeted ads, surveillance or discriminatory AI, if we want a world where our data can retire when it's outlived its time, or when it's directly harming our lives, we must create the tools and policies that empower data subjects to have a say in what happens to their data… including allowing their data to die.
The Big Bang Theory is (probably) not how the universe began. The idea that the universe began at a singularity has consequences for the way we model the universe and these assumptions aren't supported by research. The evidence suggests that the early universe exponentially expanded before the Big Bang that most of us were taught.
Walmart began using fully driverless trucks in Bentonville, Arkansas.
A 16-year-old girl was rescued after using a hand signal for distress (🔒NYT) that went viral on TikTok. The signal was created by the Canadian Women's Foundation and is a discrete way of communicating that they need help without alerting their abuser.
Americans now spend more time on TikTok than on YouTube. TikTok users watch around 24 hours of content per month compared to 22 hours and 40 minutes on YouTube.
The total amount of seasonal snowfall is projected to decrease by 10%-30% by the end of the century. ⛷️ Ski seasons have already decreased by an average of 34 days since the 1980s and about 88% of ski resorts have resorted to manufacturing snow.
The average whale carries 450kg of barnacles--that's almost 10 Stellas.
There's an app that is designed to help users recall memories exactly when they need them called Personal.ai. Your personal AI allows you to speak, write, or upload insights, information and experiences from sources as diverse as meetings, conversations, personal notes, your Twitter feed, and more to build a “Memory Stack” which can be used for contextual recall. A (soundless) demo is available here.
The average American did not have ⚡ power for 8 hours last year. Some states are worse than others. Louisiana, for example, lost more than 60 hours on average because of 5 hurricanes. Residents in Oklahoma and Connecticut lost almost 50 and 44 hours, respectively. Maine, Alabama, Iowa, and Mississippi residents lost between 25 to 30 hours on average.
16-year-old Nathanial created a 🐶 smart device that detects and responds barking to try and ease the pup's separation anxiety.
Dope Labs outlined 5 reasons behind science doubt, denial, and resistance: (1) mental shortcuts and cognitive biases like confirmation bias; (2) epistemic cognition or beliefs about knowledge and who to trust; (3) motivated reasoning--i.e., the different goals we may have, (4) social identity which informs our beliefs about who we are and is influenced by our need to belong and feel accepted; and (5) emotions and attitudes which can alter our reasoning process and willingness to engage with certain topics and ideas. Listen to the episode (44 min.) to learn what we can do when we encounter science denial in others and ourselves. Learn more about how conspiracists exploited the provisional nature of scientific consensus to paint scientists and public health leaders as malign actors.
✍️ Writing & Communication
Person-first language may reduce stigma against mental illness. In other words, "people with mental illness" should be used over "the mentally ill" to mitigate negative biases.
Slate's How To! podcast (37 min.) shared tips for writing and publishing a children's book: To tell a story in 700 words or less, utilize your illustrator for details about your characters rather than using up your precious word count. Take 14 sheets of paper and fold them in half. Take each one of your lines and put them on each of the pages so you can start pacing your story. Lastly, share your story with a small focus group of children to see how they react to the story. When it comes to publishing, know that most editors won't read your work unless you find a reputable agent who has sold books like yours.
⚠️ ICYMI ⚠️
I shared 6 frameworks to help aspiring entrepreneurs think of business ideas. I also wrote about the AIDA model and how it shapes marketers' understanding of the customer's journey.
Wishing you a productive week
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