Monday, 17 August 2009

Theories, In Progress

Why does driving through 10 miles of Delaware on 95 take an hour? Why does the Belt Parkway have bumper to bumper traffic at 1am on Friday night/Saturday morning? If they gave out frequent flier miles for 95 we could take a trip to Fiji.

As it turns out my toe isn't broken. I have a corn. No one could believe that I'd never had a corn before, no one could believe the size and severity of the corn, no one could believe that I'd been able to deal with it for as long as I have, and no one believes that I'm stupid enough to have put up with it without investigating it. Guilty as charged. By Friday I could barely walk. I'm very glad that the cure is underway.

Did you ever stop to think that the greenest act that a human could possibly undertake is to decline to reproduce? The obvious answer to the meaning and purpose of life is to further the species in one's own manifestation. Talk about too much of a good thing being a bad thing. In order to save a lot of time and humorless misery, I'll just refer people to the movie "Idiocracy." While it's not quite parallel to the point I'm raising here, it's close enough.

Amidst the reemergence of unbelievable pay schemes for Wall Streeters (did anyone think the game had really changed?), we had a discussion yesterday which brought up an old topic for me: the distortion of the means of production initiated by "unnatural" concentrations of wealth. I put unnatural in quotes because you can't quantify naturalness or appropriateness of wealth concentrations. You and I might think a $10mm guaranteed bonus (?) for a trader is insane, indefensible and any number of words that begin with "in." The employer who granted that package thinks it's the cost of gaining and retaining talent, and the recipient thinks it's simply the wages of his inhuman talent and heroic effort. We live in the market, and if the market allows it, I guess it must be natural, right? In any case, we seem to be moving toward a world where you can either shop at WalMart or Tiffany's, where you can dine at Burger King or Le Cirque, you can drive either a Yugo or a Bentley. For a while this trend seemed stalled, but I think it's now back underway. In my experience, this is a natural flaw in the market and also touches on probably the biggest reason why I'm against PEDs. It also leads to one of my favorite rants, entitled "The Mailman Doesn't Get Granite Countertops, or Why The Housing Market is Hopelessly Fucked."

The racing that most sailors do falls under the description of "one design." This means that the boats (hulls) are more or less exactly the same, and some or all of the stuff on them is regulated to a generally somewhat strict degree. Little kids race these boats called Optimists, which at their basic (and I’d say intended) level, they’re dead simple and cheap to manufacture and operate. Add in a competitive marketplace and a willingness on the part of parents to overspend and you have what there is now, which is mayhem. Kids with level 3 skills have level 10 equipment (my own scale of 1 to 10 – there are no such categories I’m just making it up) because the kids with level 6 skills who are beating them have level 10 equipment, because the kids with level 8 skills who are beating them have level 10 equipment. Not only is the level 10 equipment unnecessary and ineffectual when paired with a level 3 sailor, it’s harmful for the level 3 kid because it’s more complex to set up and when set up improperly it’s not as safe or reliable. It also provides a pretty serious deterrent to the kids whose parents either can’t or don’t want to splash out for the level 10 equipment – this being kids the ostracism can be pretty horrendous and the coaches (a good couple of whom are actually worth the paper they’re printed on) give short shrift to the kids with the appropriate beginner equipment because obviously their parents either can’t or don’t splash for their kids sailing so they obviously either can’t or won’t pay for these expensive coaching schemes on which the coaches depend.

Take this to the cycling scene and imagine a world where there is already too much fancy equipment being bought by people who haven’t got the legs to use it (myself certainly included – although if I hadn’t got the fancy wheels for about half the price that I would have spent on garden variety Ksyriums I’d never have gotten them, but that’s just rationalization too) and aren’t savvy enough to maintain it safely (that I can do), but where there is also universal acceptance of PEDs as a necessary step in attaining competitiveness. The Ivan Bassos of the world (just an example here – don’t need to be brought up on libel charges here – and I’m actually kind of a fan) could afford and reap rewards enough to justify well planned and supervised medical programs for their PED use. A level 9.5 rider on a level 10 meds program. But what of the (whether realistically or just imagined to be-) upcoming level 4 rider looking for a program? He’s probably dropped enough coin on bike, wheels and parts that there’s nothing left there, so onto the medical program we go. But without access to the best dirty doctors and their products and plans, he goes to the interwebs and buys a bunch of stuff of unknown provenance and starts stuffing his face with them. Maybe this manifests itself in some good results and maybe he thinks more of a good thing is a better thing and winds up winning the local office park crit and his trophy is a fatal heart attack that night. No evidence that any of this is happening (although apocryphal stories abound, even around here), but you could see it happening.

The more interesting part of yesterday’s drive conversation, which was closely tied to this topic, questioned when and why professional sports salaries got so off the charts high, and how and why the big three of American sports muscled their way to the top. There were some pretty neat branches of this conversation – some on the “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” theme. For example, Gatorade is a good thing when you are exercising. It (and other similar products) is proven to have performance advantages and it’s easy to argue that using Gatorade makes the semi-knowledgeable committed exerciser safer. But when a bunch of slacker guys who want to answer a resounding “yes” to the IS IT IN YOU question, it gets somewhat dangerous. The message is that Gatorade is better than water, and you have to stay hydrated all the time. Everything from rotten teeth to diabetes ensues. But then of course you have provider constituencies to profit from these conditions. When you see Glaxo and Gatorade co-marketing, be sure that the apocalypse is nigh.

A shitload of thought fragments to prove that I spend too much time battling 95 this weekend, and not enough time on my bike.

All of this will someday congeal into some definable and coherent deal, but until then I think that it points to a market niche in housing that I want to explore. Anyone looking for a pretty intuitively logical investment? Because I'd like to get started.

1 comment:

Sigberto said...

I'll take a Yugo.

Also, I was sad to see a lack of bike-related discourse near the end of the blog, as would be usual standard for your financial analysis writings. I guess mentioning Ksyriums suffices.