And in Sports

  • Lamar Jackson, Ravens QB, was widely criticized for negotiating his own contract without an agent. He just signed for $260m for 5 years making him the highest QB for now. Agents get something like 5%, so Jackson has a $13m bucket for quarterly estimated taxes.
  • A friend asked why 15 University of Colorado players entered the transfer portal on the same day. Because the student-athletes discovered academic programs more to their liking at other institutions of higher learning. It is no longer college football, it’s semi-pro football.
  • In the London Marathon, it took Kelvin Kiptum 27:50 to run from the 30k mark to the 40k.
  • If I had one player to pick to start a team for these NBA playoffs, it would be Steph Curry. Everyone overlooks his uncanny ability to get to the rim. It’s really not fair that he’s also a scratch golfer.
  • Giannis’s presser has gone viral. The critics are wrong. It’s a wonderfully heartfelt, fiery, but respectful response. Major props to the Greek Freak. Subtlety and nuance is lost on the critics. There’s a difference between disappointment and failure.
  • My NBA theory. Total bench scoring is the single most important stat. Every team has similarly talented starters who usually cancel each other out. Hey ChatGPT, what percentage of games do teams win when their bench players outscore their opponents’ bench players? My guess, 85%.
  • Best baseball story of the young season, Drew Maggi. When you look up resolve in the dictionary, you see his face. Second best story, the $75m Pirates kicking ass.
  • Some people are spreading a weird rumor that Seattle has a hockey team. And they aren’t stopping there. They’re saying they’re in the playoffs.

The Largess of Billionaires

Portland Oregon’s historically black Albina District would be better off with a more Scandinavian or Western European social safety net. Which would, of course, require a more progressive tax system reflecting genuine concern for the common good.

Absent Europe’s political values, and stuck with the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” individualism so deeply engrained in the (dis)United States, Allbina’s residents are left with the generosity of Oregon’s favorite plutocrat, Phil Knight, Nike’s 85 year old founder.

After reading Shoe Dog, the story of Nike’s founding, I’m a Phil Knight fan. In fact, he would probably be my first pick in a draft of billionaires.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Señor Swoosh is investing $400m to revitalize education, housing, and the arts in Albina. That’s less than 1% of Knight’s $47.2 billion estimated net worth.

That’s not meant to be disparaging especially given this:

“The Knights’ donations to the University of Oregon have funded professorships, expanded the main library and built numerous lavish sports facilities. The Knights have given $1 billion in the past seven years alone to launch and expand the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. 

They have given $500 million to cancer research at Portland-based Oregon Health & Science University. Mr. Knight also has given hundreds of millions to Stanford University, where he earned an M.B.A. in 1962.” 

It’s dumbfounding how much you and I have enriched Knight through our shoe and other sporting good purchases.

I’m glad he has a social conscience and is using some of the money we gave his company to improve the quality of life in a section of inner North and Northeast Portland.

Sifan Hassan Is Fine The Way She Is

If you’re ever in a race with Hassan, you better damn well drop her before the final 400 meters. Or you’re toast.

120 mile training weeks in the lead up during Ramadan, meaning no water or food during daylight, is inconceivable.

Her first marathon after dominating on the track. Afterwards, she was asked if she’s the best ever. She said, “No.” The followup, “What do you need to do to be considered the greatest of all time?” Hassan paused, and said, “I don’t need to be the greatest ever, I’m fine the way I am.”

Fireworks on the men’s side too. Kipchoge has a peer. Kelvin Kiptum ran the second half in 59:45 to finish in 2:01:35, 16 seconds off Kipchoge’s world record.

Why I Cancelled My Rivian R1S Order

Like the sad (sick) superficial materialist I sometimes am, I fell pretty hard for the Rivian R1S when I first saw it on-line almost four years ago. The squared off looks harkened back to the 70-series Land Cruiser. And the performance numbers were hard to comprehend. And the interior, sumptuous. I watched videos, read about the founder, and coughed up $1k as a downpayment on a launch green with a limestone interior with wood accents.

One friend, who for some crazy reason thinks I’m too frugal for my own good said, “You’ll never follow through.” I immediately looked forward to proving him wrong one day in the not-to-distant future.

And then Rivian, almost as if they were conspiring with my friend, strung me along for three and a half years with false promises of delivery date after pushed delivery date. It felt like going to a restaurant and being told the wait will be five minutes, and then at fifty-five minutes, you seriously doubt whether you’ll ever be seated.

We interrupt these proceedings to state the obvious, this is a quintessential “first world” problem for which I seek no sympathy. It’s meant more as a free-market capitalism case study.

In hindsight, I fell for Rivian’s Apple-like marketing. The glossy profiles of the brilliant, hard-working CEO coupled with videos of the R1S tearing across South America covered in Andean dust. Unlike Rivian however, Apple is run by a keen operator whose genius is mastering supply chains.

During delay two or three or four, I lose track, right before RIVN went public, reports surfaced of a top female executive leaving amidst allegations of gender discrimination and a “toxic bro culture”. More recently, several other top executives jumped ship.

Sidenote. I wasn’t the only who was hoodwinked by Rivian’s mystique. Not even close. RIVN’s initial public offering price was $72/share and over the next few months it skyrocketed to $172. After thinking hard about investing in the initial offering, I wisely decided not to. Today, RIVN closed at $12.82.

Rivian’s communication with reservation holders was always poor. Of course, if in mid 2019 they had been completely honest and said, we’re confident you’ll take delivery by the close of 2023, very few people would’ve sent them $1k.

Fast forward to today. Seemingly every week some combination of new electric cars, trucks, and SUVs are announced. At present, I dig the Polestar 3. And recently, every couple of weeks, Tesla has been leveraging its market share to lower its prices, and thereby turning up the heat on every new entrant. Today, you can buy two Model Ys for the cost of one Rivian. And the Model Ys qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit while the Rivians do not.

Also, over the last two years, as people have taken delivery of their Rivians, I have perused on-line forums to get a feel for owners’ experiences. In short, the reviews are mixed. Of biggest concern to me was the large number of people who said the truck drove quite a bit better than the SUV. And the talk of wind noise, poor service, and “vampire” battery drain, all left me questioning whether I have it in me to be an early adaptor. Those concerns coupled with the fact that the nearest service center is a three-hour roundtrip lead me to prove my friend right.

I probably should’ve done what so many others are, taken delivery and then sold it since initial reservation holders like me are paying 15-20% less than the “price-adjusted” Rivians currently for sale. But I just wanted to wash my hands of the planned purchase and so I mailed the recently arrived charger back.

UPS confirms that Rivian received the charger two weeks ago, but Rivian can’t process the return, and therefore, hasn’t returned my deposit yet.

Here’s the most recent “explanation” from my “Rivian Guide”:

“Hi Ron,

Thanks for reaching out. 

To be transparent, this is an ongoing issue that I have surfaced to upper leadership.

We’re working on a solution to get wall charger return labels out faster as well as return processing times expedited. 

Many of my colleagues are running into the same bottleneck and we are working diligently to get this moving faster for all. 

Thank you for your continued patience.

Have a nice evening and we will be in touch soon, hopefully with good news!”

Had I written back to Alicia, I would’ve written “Dear Alicia, Whatever patience I had nearly four years ago, I’ve lost.”

No matter how great the vehicle, if a company can’t deliver in three and half years and can’t process a returned charger in two weeks time, it’s going to get destroyed by equally hungry, but far more competent rivals.

The Difference Between the (dis)United States and South Korea

Like the (dis)United States, South Korea is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Japan too.

From CNN:

“Some South Korean youth are so cut off from the world, the government is offering to pay them to ‘re-enter society.’

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced this week that it will provide up to 650,000 Korean won (about $500) per month to isolated social recluses, in a bid to support their ‘psychological and emotional stability and healthy growth.’

About 3.1% of Koreans aged 19 to 39 are ‘reclusive lonely young people,’ defined as living in a ‘limited space, in a state of being disconnected from the outside for more than a certain period of time, and have noticeable difficulty in living a normal life,’ according to the ministry’s report, citing the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.”

And yet. . .