Weekly Link Roundup: February 19, 2021

Source: @NASAaero

Experience Entry, Descent, and Landing (NASA Mars 2020)

Why Is Landing on Mars So Difficult? (The New York Times): “Perseverance had to decelerate from more than 12,000 miles per hour to a full stop during what NASA calls ‘seven minutes of terror,’ for the period of time from the rover’s entry into the atmosphere until its landing. There was no chance for a do-over. The path of Perseverance intersected with the surface of Mars … The thin atmosphere of Mars adds several levels of difficulty. A spacecraft needs a heat shield, because the compression of air molecules heats its bottom side to thousands of degrees. But there is not enough friction to slow it down for a gentle landing with just parachutes. The spacecraft had to handle the landing operation all by itself. It takes 11 minutes for a radio signal to travel from Mars to Earth. That means if anything went wrong, it would already be too late by the time people in NASA’s mission operations center got word.”

What Fashion Can’t Seem to Get Right About the Plus-Size Market (The Business of Fashion): “In some ways, it’s never been a better time to shop for plus sizes. Hundreds of brands … have introduced plus-size lines or incorporated additional sizes into their collections … plus-size women’s clothing sales totalled $28.3 billion last year, or about 21 percent of the overall market. But many retailers are still struggling to get the category right, launching plus-size lines to great fanfare, only to quietly discontinue them when sales fail to match the early hype … Plus-size fashion is often about more than the size number on the tag … the wrong marketing, boring looks and bad fits can instantly sour customers on a brand’s entire plus or extended line … Retailers also need to feature plus-size models in their campaigns and be up to date on the conversation around body image. ‘Plus-size’ and ‘extended sizing’ mean different things within the plus-size community … Plus-size refers to sizes typically ranging from a US 14 to a US 24, while extended sizing extends beyond that, in some cases up to a US size 40. Use the wrong term, and consumers might assume a brand doesn’t carry their size.”

The Shocking Meltdown of Ample Hills (Marker by Medium): “Ample Hills filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just short of the company’s 10th anniversary. It had nothing to do with the pandemic: Even as annual sales had grown, reaching nearly $10.7 million at their peak, so had the losses. Over 2018 and 2019, the company lost about $13 million. In June 2020, Ample Hills sold for just $1 million to perhaps the unlikeliest of buyers — Schmitt, an Oregon manufacturing company that makes laser scanners and sensors for propane tanksProducing ice cream in a factory is a feat of engineering. Mess up something like the flow rate of the mix during production and you can end up with ice crystals that are too large, ruining the end product’s taste, look, and mouthfeel. To do the process engineering for their factory, Smith and Cuscuna got two bids between mid and high six figures … they ended up taking the one that was $100,000 cheaper, but from a company with a less than stellar reputation, ultimately costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more to correct the problems … In the interest of cost cutting, they also ended up with some poorly chosen equipment. The company’s 600-gallon storage tanks, which were designed for milk, not viscous ice cream mix, failed immediately. They were replaced with tanks that also failed, and every time they did, it wasted about $4,000 worth of product.”

A Tense Lunar New Year for the Bay Area After Attacks on Asian-Americans (The New York Times): “Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative formed last March aimed at tracking and responding to incidents of violence and discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, received more than 2,800 reports of racism and discrimination targeting Asian-Americans between March 19 and Dec. 31. Of those, a vast majority, about 71 percent, were incidents of verbal harassment. Physical assaults made up 8.7 percent.”

Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are on the Rise. Many Say More Policing Isn’t the Answer (TIME): “Because the model minority myth suggests upward mobility, it creates a fallacy that Asian Americans don’t experience struggle or racial discrimination, a stereotype that’s been bolstered by limited … media representation like the film Crazy Rich Asians and more recently, Netflix’s Bling Empire. In reality, the community is America’s most economically divided: a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that Asian Americans experience the largest income inequality gap as an ethnic and racial group in the U.S. and a 2016 report from NYC Mayor’s Office of Operations found that Asian immigrants have the highest poverty rates in the city.”

How the Stock Market Works Now: Elon Musk Tweets, Millions Buy (The Wall Street Journal): “Wall Street has always resembled Hollywood far more than most financial types care to admit … Analysts, economists, strategists and portfolio managers still play the roles of clairvoyants, even though they are just guessing like the rest of us. No wonder financial advisers who generate a lot of business are called ‘big producers,’ as if they were Kathleen Kennedy or Cecil B. DeMille. And a fund’s return is called ‘performance’ because it is often a show: Managers dramatize positive results by crediting their own skill, while downplaying bad returns by wagging a finger at the Federal Reserve or the irrationality of ‘the market.'”

Britney Spears: Our Part in Her Downfall (Financial Times): “The irony of celebrity worship is that we scour their lives for evidence that, as US Weekly’s popular feature puts it, ‘Stars — They’re Just Like US!’ It’s easy to forget that they break like us, too, only with their pain projected to an international arena.”

The True Story of the Married Woman Who Smuggled Her Boyfriend Out of Prison in a Dog Crate (The Atlantic): “The prison was full of 18-by-36-inch cardboard boxes; the inmates used them to carry their belongings when they moved to a different cell. Manard set about trying to fit himself into one of these boxes. Every time, the box either collapsed or burst. He lost more than 20 pounds in a few weeks to make himself fit. Then one day he told Toby that he’d dreamed of a certain way of pretzeling himself in. When he woke up, he tried it, and it worked. Then one of the unit leaders at the prison asked Toby to remove some old equipment that had been sitting around: bowls, leashes, and a big wire dog crate. A crate big enough to fit an 18-by-36-inch box inside. Piece by piece, it felt like they were solving an abstract problem together.”

Change by the Plateful: Covering Restaurants in a Pandemic (The New York Times): “For months after all the restaurant dining rooms in the city were forced to close last March, I wrote nothing that resembled a review … I spent my time as a reporter, finding out how some of them were getting along. I quickly learned that when talking with anybody who had earned a livelihood from restaurants or bars, I needed to budget at least an hour. Before the pandemic, I normally called chefs after I’d written a review of their restaurant but before it was published, to check facts. The chefs usually sounded as if I were calling with the results of a lab test … The [conversations] I had last spring were different. It was as if the fear and distrust all chefs feel toward all critics were gone. They talked about going bankrupt, they talked about crying and not wanting to get out of bed. What did they have left to lose by talking to me?”

♥ One of my favorite holiday traditions is raiding big box stores and pharmacies after candy holidays for their 50-75% off themed candy; I love that I can now do this online (though the selection is admittedly smaller). Shop discounted Valentine’s Day candy at Walmart.com: Jolly Rancher Assorted Flavor Candy Lollipops, Kit Kat Valentine’s Heart Box, Hershey Miniatures Gift Box, Reese’s Miniatures Heart Box, Mars Minis Assorted Chocolate Candies, Hershey’s Giant Kisses, and Welch’s Valentine’s Fruit Snacks.

Pfizer, BioNTech Begin Covid-19 Vaccine Trial Focused on Pregnant Women (The Wall Street Journal): “Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE … hope to enroll about 4,000 healthy pregnant women at least 18 years old who are 24 weeks to 34 weeks into their pregnancies, with half receiving the vaccine and the rest receiving a placebo. Participation is scheduled to last seven to 10 months, depending on whether the subjects receive a placebo or vaccine. Women enrolled in the trial will be allowed to know if they received a placebo or vaccine after giving birth, as researchers will monitor the infant for six months to assess the vaccine’s safety as well as the transfer of antibodies that may protect against the virus.”

The State of Gucci (The Business of Fashion): “… while Gucci delivered a ‘soft landing’ of slowing growth in the months leading up to the pandemic, the coronavirus crisis has since seen the brand’s trajectory change from gentle slowdown to steep decline … the brand’s sales had continued to fall in the fourth quarter, falling 10 percent year-on-year. For the full year, Gucci’s sales fell 22 percent to €7.4 billion (about $8.9 billion). That decline is roughly in line with … the global luxury industry overall, but far lower than that of other big and influential brands which rebounded more quickly from coronavirus lockdowns this spring … The pandemic has had an outsized impact on Gucci in part due to its heavy reliance on selling to tourists, particularly in its home European market. The flow of international visitors from China and other key regions like the Middle East is not expected to return to 2019 levels for many years due to travel restrictions and changing consumer behaviour, meaning that Gucci will need to grow its appeal with local customers to fill the gap. Gucci’s underperformance was also exacerbated by a plan to reduce wholesale exposure during the year … But the biggest challenge could be evolving the brand’s market positioning and aesthetic … Kering had already begun to prepare for some fatigue with Michele’s maximalist vision before the pandemic. The designer debuted a more streamlined offering on the runway as early as September 2019, and his recent collections have been titled ‘Epilogues,’ positioning them as a postscript to the previous fashion cycle.”

♥ (This is a review of No One Is Talking About This: A Novel) The Voice That Gets Lost Online (The New Yorker): “Twitter did not usher in a definitive dawn of democracy abroad. Democracy in America has barely survived it. Meanwhile, much of the medium’s fun has gone sour and sharp. Twitter is still a comedy club and a speakers’ corner, the cozy back booth at an all-night diner. It’s also a stoning square, a rave on bad acid, an eternal Wednesday in a high-school cafeteria, an upside-down Tower of Babel pointing straight to human hell. What began as one of the biggest literary experiments since the birth of the world, everyone invited to shoot out words from their fingers at any time, has calcified into a genre clogged with clichés.”

The Top 0.5% Underpay $50 Billion a Year In Taxes and Crushed the IRS Plan to Stop Them (ProPublica): “The Schaeffler case offers a rare window into just how challenging it is to take on the ultrawealthy. For starters, they can devote seemingly limitless resources to hiring the best legal and accounting talent. Such taxpayers tend not to steamroll tax laws; they employ complex, highly refined strategies that seek to stretch the tax code to their advantage. It can take years for IRS investigators just to understand a transaction and deem it to be a violation. Once that happens, the IRS team has to contend with battalions of high-priced lawyers and accountants that often outnumber and outgun even the agency’s elite SWAT team … In 2010, the IRS as a whole audited over 32,000 millionaires. By 2018, that number had fallen to just over 16,000 … Audits of the wealthiest Americans have collapsed 52 percent since 2011, falling more substantially than audits of the middle class and the poor. Almost half of audits of the wealthy were of taxpayers making $200,000 to $399,000. Those audits brought in $605 per audit hour worked. Exams of those making over $5 million, by contrast, brought in more than $4,500 an hour.”

Tinder, Bumble and Hinge Show Surge in Americans Looking for Love Online (The Wall Street Journal): “… eight of the largest dating apps in the U.S. saw a 12.6% year-over-year increase in monthly active users in the final quarter of 2020, the biggest such jump in nearly two years … The growing interest in dating apps is leading to more downloads and more time spent on them. In all, downloads of the eight apps increased 7.4% year-over-year in the fourth quarter; in comparison, downloads in the fourth quarter of 2019 decreased 8.5% year-over-year. Meanwhile, time spent on the apps rose 13.4% in the fourth quarter, up from 4.1% in the prior year.”

What to Do When Retailers Don’t Pay (The Business of Fashion): “Brands and retailers have tussled over bills since the dawn of wholesale. Often, missed payments are a sign a retailer is struggling. But even thriving department store chains have been known to delay payments to vendors. However, these conflicts have become more common since the start of the pandemic, as stores closed and apparel sales plunged globally. For small brands in particular, the results have in some cases been catastrophic. Many labels that rely on wholesale have seen the bulk of their cash flow held in limbo, or … caught up in the bankruptcy process … Retailers often have the upper hand in these fights. Brands are typically unsecured creditors, meaning they don’t have collateral they can collect if a wholesale partner fails to pay. A designer can sue for nonpayment, but small labels rarely have the spare time and cash to pursue a legal battle. That leaves negotiation as the more popular option. For brands, the objective is to keep the lines of communication open. It might be in their best interest to reach a compromise with a retailer to preserve a normally lucrative account. Often payment will come, though perhaps via installments or the return of unsold merchandise.”

The Wedding Is Postponed. Again. (The New York Times): “A recent study by The Knot … found that 47 percent of couples who planned to wed in 2020 will now celebrate in 2021 or later, with health and safety remaining a top priority … For most weddings, the final decision over whether to go ahead needs to be made at least two months in advance to give vendors and guests time to adapt and adjust … Even if venues are cooperative, the decision to postpone or cancel can still be costly to couples and their guests. Destination weddings are complex productions where vendors are usually paid ahead of time and hotels are booked with strict policies against last-minute cancellations.”

Love, Loneliness, and the Chicken in My Freezer (Eater): “In this pandemic, a never-ending cycle of bad and worse news, tiny things have started to splinter and break inside of us, too. What we once loved can feel laborious and exhausting. For me, cooking has become a Sisyphean task. I’m always in the kitchen, which is also my makeshift office, but I’ve been cut off from food in one of the ways that matters to me most: There is not a soul to cook for. The layered cakes, huge pots of brisket, and piles of cookies I made in the early pandemic months eventually gave way to less inspired meals. The hard-boiled eggs and cans of chickpeas started to add up. Apart from the occasional burst of energy, which propels me through a flurry of cooking, the joy has seeped from my kitchen. I don’t look forward to my next meal much.”

Emotional-Support Animals Are Banned on Airplanes, but Service Dogs Can Still Fly Free (The Wall Street Journal): “Trained service dogs, and only dogs, are allowed to fly free uncaged, and that includes dogs trained to help with physical limitations as well as psychiatric service dogs. Service-dog owners have to sign statements on federal forms verifying their dog’s training, health and behavior and potentially face fines for false statements. They also have to name the service-dog trainer or training organization and acknowledge the rule that if the dog barks, jumps or otherwise misbehaves it will be treated as a pet, sent to cargo and fees will be collected. Officials think the federal form will discourage cheaters … Miniature horses, used by only a small number of disabled people, typically live longer than dogs and may be the only option for people with dog allergies. The ADA gives miniature horses special access, but DOT said that wasn’t practical on airplanes.”

Reply All Is Having Its Own Reckoning Now (Vulture): “Gimlet managing director Lydia Polgreen sent out an internal email announcing that Sruthi Pinnamaneni, the show’s longtime senior reporter who was leading ‘The Test Kitchen,’ was stepping back from the miniseries immediately, while P.J. Vogt, Reply All’s founding co-host, had asked to take a leave of absence from the show as a whole. Vulture has since learned that Vogt’s departure from the show will be permanent. These developments come after a former staffer, Eric Eddings, published a Twitter thread accusing Pinnamaneni and Vogt specifically of contributing to a ‘toxic dynamic at Gimlet’ that was ‘near identical’ to the Bon Appétit culture depicted in the miniseries.”

♥ Recently purchased: lululemon Rain Rebel Jacket (on sale!), lululemon Power Stride No-Show Sock with Active Grip, GOODEE x The Organic Company Organic Cotton Oven Mitts, Free People Bi-Coastal Jumpsuit & Cardigan Set, and Uniqlo Stretch Double Face Straight Pants.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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