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.

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.

I Run With My Knucklehead Friends

On Saturdays.

This Friday morning, ever-so polite Siri saved all of their text messages until the end of the podcast I was listening to on my solo jaunt. The group text topic was initiated by one knucklehead’s public service announcement about our preferred running shoes being half off at REI. Somehow, very funny accusations of snow-flakery followed.

Brooks Ghost if you were wondering, regularly $140, for a limited time $70 for florescent yellow in certain sizes.

Let’s do the math. Running shoes typically last 500 miles. We run 10 most Saturdays at a cost of $2.80 based on the $140 shoes and $1.40 based on the florescent yellows. For a difference of, drumroll please, $1.40 per Saturday run.

That highlights one of the coolest things about running, its groovy minimalism. Especially compared to cycling. You could buy about 100 pairs of full-priced Brooks Ghost for a carbon race bike with the correct wheels.

I’d have to create a second blog to fully detail all the ways in which my running friends are knuckleheads, but upper-middle class professionals arguing over $1.40 gives you a little flavor flav of their knuckleness.

Of course, in true knucklehead fashion, they’d probably point out that a year from now, since one can earn 5% on cash now, the savings would be $73.50.

Inside The Swiss Clinics Where The Super-Rich Go For Rehab

Subtitle: For the ultra-wealthy and the super-famous, regular therapy won’t do.


The clinics seek recurring revenue more than their clients’ health and well-being. Some financial advisors are “fiduciaries” meaning they have a legal/ethical responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests.

To prevent these types of clinics from proliferating, the mental health profession should have a similar type of designation. Absent that, they may weaken the public’s trust in the mental health profession.

Speaking of Economic Classes

This year, a 30 second Super Bowl commercial cost $7m. How much airtime could you have bought? If you have saved $1m, you could’ve aired your own 4.3 second commercial. What would you have said and how would you have said it?

I would’ve projected the world’s most important url on the screen without any audio . . .

Alas, I suspect the network was only selling advertising spots in 30 second increments, so you and I would have had to partner with six other people willing to pitch in $1m. And I don’t know if my friends are rich enough. Because we don’t talk about money.

Two Classes of Electric Vehicle Owners

Dan, Dan The Transpo Man and the non-rich majority.

From The Atlantic:

“It’s not just battery size. In an electrified America, charging access may become a status symbol. Because the first wave of new EVs have been so expensive, America’s affluent tax brackets made up the bulk of early adopters. The same people are also those most likely to be able to afford their own homes and install a charger that can power up their car overnight. As EV adoption reaches mainstream levels—which is happening at rates outpacing even rosy expert predictions—lots of new electric drivers will be the same urban dwellers that have been priced out of their local housing market, creating two classes of EV owners.

‘You’re talking about renters who may not have the option to install charging infrastructure,’ Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the director of its Vehicle Electrification Group, told me. ‘And even if they have charging infrastructure this year, renters tend to move, and they don’t know whether they’ll have that access next year. Even a lot of homeowners don’t have off-street parking, and relying entirely on public charging infrastructure is a whole different ball game.'”

There’s A Lot of Bullshit To Go Around

There I was, spinning furiously down Lemon Rd NE in brilliant, balmy (low 50’s) sunshine. Listening to this author talk about her book on a podcast.

I like the way Dunlap talked about the patriarchy as not anti-men as much as anti-gender conforming. I liked her related insight too—that the patriarchy harms men as much as it does women.

But she really lost me when she said that unlike women, men are always talking about money, “at the golf course, at the whiskey bar”. Here’s a direct quote, “They’re (men) talking openly and honestly about money in ways that women are not.” Hahaha. LOL. Stop, you’re killing me!

Makes me wonder how many men Dunlap knows. My friends and I NEVER talk about money. I don’t know how much they make, how much they’ve saved, how they invest, what they worry about financially. Nothing, nada, zilch.

Note to Dunlap—money may be the last great taboo.

Then Dunlap said girls are criticized for spending too much money on frivolous things. Another direct zinger, “And for girls the very things that are deemed frivolous are always lattes, manicures, and purses, but not NFL season tickets or golf clubs.”

I’m wondering if she had a bad experience on a golf course.

Dunlap started out so well, subtle, nuanced, insightful, but then dove head first into, borrowing from her title, bullshit stereotypes.

It was enough to make me stop mid-Lemon Road and switch to Spotify. It takes A LOT to get me to stop mid-workout. And Dunlap is A LOT (at times).