Goodbye to Netflix DVDs, The Last Good Tech Company, Vice, Aaron Gordon, April 21, 2023
“Netflix announced it is ending its DVD by mail service after 25 years.” (!) I’m old enough to sometimes feel old.
There were, by some accounts, upwards of 100,000 titles in Netflix’s library, making it likely the largest collection of rentable films ever assembled for mass consumption….they had every movie. I was living in a major metro area making about $40,000 a year, but I could pull up a website and order almost any movie I could think of to appear at my door for about $10 a month.
Netflix went from being content-agnostic, a truly unbiased platform, if you will, to being content-obsessed, preferring to show you only its own content, and always its own content first.
Gordon goes on to critique the general bent of tech today, and how it isn’t really about giving us tools to make our own lives or choices easier.
For a different view of the old DVD business, check out this newsletter post from a financial analyst:
Customers loved Netflix because it paid the two way postage, which at its peak was a bill around $700 million. It solved its issue by taking Facebook’s mantra of “move fast and break things” literally. Getting discs to customers was the goal; broken discs were worth the price. Because it was a subscriber based system, fixing a broken disc did not mean customers got their money back as much as they might get an extra disc for a time or a free month of service. Netflix made up that money quickly.
In 2007, the USPS audited the Netflix issue and their classification as “machineable.” Instead, the discs would often “sustain damage, jam equipment and cause mis-sorts during automated processing,” amounting to an additional $61 million per year. The audit suggested forcing Netflix to pay an additional $0.17 per mailer, which would have cut its profits per customer by 67%.
(That did not happen.)
Nutrition Science’s Most Preposterous Result, The Atlantic, David Merritt Johns, April 13, 2023
“I do sort of remember the vibe being like, Hahaha, this ice-cream thing won’t go away; that’s pretty funny,” recalled my tipster, who’d attended the presentation. This was obviously not what a budding nutrition expert or his super-credentialed committee members were hoping to discover.
Ice cream appears to help diabetics avoid heart problems, and even help prevent diabetes, at least as much as other dairy products, if not more. This is a finding which has popped up in various studies and which various statistical corrections have not made go away. It may or may not be an artifact of poor or mistaken self-reporting from the subjects of health studies. Johns suggests that it has popped up too much to be entirely an error.
It’s a really interesting article which gets into how what we think we know or want to be true influences how we interpret apparent evidence to the contrary.
This is interesting:
Could the idea that ice cream is metabolically protective be true? It would be pretty bonkers. Still, there are at least a few points in its favor. For one, ice cream’s glycemic index, a measure of how rapidly a food boosts blood sugar, is lower than that of brown rice. “There’s this perception that ice cream is unhealthy, but it’s got fat, it’s got protein, it’s got vitamins. It’s better for you than bread,” Mozaffarian said. “Given how horrible the American diet is, it’s very possible that if somebody eats ice cream and eats less starch … it could actually protect against diabetes.”
In other words, something objectively unhealthy produces a health-boosting signal in studies because the background diet is so awful. The lesser of two evils.
And this conclusion made me think of all of the controversy over public health messaging and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Many stories can be told about any given scientific inquiry, and choosing one is a messy, value-laden process. A scientist may worry over how their story fits with common sense, and whether they have sufficient evidence to back it up. They may also worry that it poses a threat to public health, or to their credibility. If there’s a lesson to be drawn from the parable of the diet world’s most inconvenient truth, it’s that scientific knowledge is itself a packaged good. The data, whatever they show, are just ingredients.
Read the whole thing.
Portland crafted a building code aimed at walkable, green neighborhoods. Developers say it’s part of the housing crisis, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Alex Zielinski, April 14, 2023
Justin Wood knows the vacant lot at Northeast 60th Avenue and Northeast Ainsworth Street could easily accommodate 10 households.
The 13,000-square-foot Northeast Portland corner currently holds one 1,200-square-foot house. Wood, a developer, says he could repopulate it with a cluster of 10 affordable townhouses of 800 square feet each — a small step in adding to Portland’s dearth of housing supply.
“It’s the exact kind of development the city says it wants to see right now,” said Wood, who owns Fish Construction NW, a company that focuses on building new homes for families making at or below median income levels.
Why? Permits. Regulations. Red tape. Some of all of that is useful and important. A lot of it isn’t. And it all adds up.
Wood is far from the only Portland developer deterred by these costs. A recent city poll of local housing developers identified these kinds of new building requirements — ranging from mandatory bicycle parking spaces to bird-safe windows — as policies the city should suspend to accelerate housing development in Portland.
You could say the most pro-housing regime is the one that gets the most housing built. That’s simplistic, because there are certain standards, mostly health and safety, that nobody would advocate scrapping. But some are debated (e.g., should single-stair buildings be allowed, when should a sprinkler system requirement be triggered, etc.).
I don’t know enough about all of the individual rules and regulations to say what the optimal set would be. But the article gives a pretty clear picture of how small, local developers—exactly the people we should be empowering—struggle to make a profit under all of this red tape taken together.
Where I live… Fairfax, Virginia, United States, Charter Cities Institute, Jeffrey Mason, April 24, 2023
“I’ll highlight some of the good things about Fairfax (and Northern Virginia generally) as well as some of its problems or things I think could be improved,” writes Mason, who recently moved to Fairfax (the city of Fairfax, which sits roughly in the middle of the county). I’m familiar with the ground he covers here, a mix of downtown Fairfax and the small city’s suburban-sprawl penumbra (mostly along U.S. 50).
He notes, in particular, that the walkable old town is now engulfed by thru-traffic, and that the nearest Metro station is mostly just for commuting. Because most area residents can’t really walk into the old town, it’s full of parking lots.
If the regional land use and transportation were better, those parking lots could be buildings, which could house more businesses and people. You begin to see how the car almost imperceptibly squeezes the vitality out of places. Nonetheless, Mason notes, the Fairfax area is among Northern Virginia’s most walkable, outside of Arlington and Alexandria.
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Well, time to eat some mint chocolate chip. For *my health*.