Weekly Link Roundup

Why Ships Keep Crashing (The Atlantic): “Seldom does a ship get stuck in the Suez (though it does happen every few years), and seldom does a maritime disaster attract such attention. But even though the world is incredibly dependent on ships … major maritime incidents are surprisingly common … 41 large ships were lost in 2019, and 46 in 2018. Over the past decade, about 100 big vessels have been lost annually … Every maritime accident, like every plane crash, has its own unique failures. But one key to the improvement in aviation safety was the advent of a radical new approach to safety and training … Airplane failures still occur, but they rarely become fatal catastrophes. The shipping industry has tried to learn from aviation’s success, dubbing its equivalent ‘bridge resource management,’ but the implementation and modernization of the approach have largely failed.”

Giant Next-Gen Container Ships Will Make Ever Given Look Like Toy (Bloomberg): “Big enough to carry 20,124 twenty-foot equivalent units … the Ever Given was one of the world’s largest such vessels when it was launched in 2018 … There are nearly 100 ships carrying more than 20,000 TEUs on the seas or under construction, and the bigger vessels being assembled in Chinese and South Korean shipyards are mostly around the 24,000 TEU mark … Chinese shipyard Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group Co. has already registered designs for a 25,000 TEU vessel, and it has become relatively commonplace to predict that 30,000 TEU monsters will be plowing the oceans before the decade is out.”

Brand Equity Can’t Be Borrowed (The Business of Fashion): “Leaning on the cache of well-known names may seem like a fast track to brand building, and the lure of luxury quality at affordable prices is effective in getting consumers in the door. But convincing customers to keep coming back has proven to be more challenging.”

How Beeple Crashed the Art World (The New Yorker): “For art works, the N.F.T. format functions a little like a museum label noting the piece’s provenance—a proprietary stamp, attached to digital pieces that can still circulate freely across the Internet. In new online marketplaces such as Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, and Foundation, artists can upload, or ‘mint,’ their works as unique N.F.T.s, then sell them … the accelerating market for N.F.T.s, is causing a bout of soul-searching within the traditional art world: Could such vulgar Internet kitsch really be worth as much as masterpieces that have been carefully anointed by critics and curators?”

They Had Mild Covid. Then Their Serious Symptoms Kicked In. (The New York Times): “The study of 100 patients from 21 states … found that 85 percent of them experienced four or more neurological issues like brain fog, headaches, tingling, muscle pain and dizziness … The report, in which the average patient age was 43, underscores the emerging understanding that for many people, long Covid can be worse than their initial bouts with the infection, with a stubborn and complex array of symptoms … many of the symptoms resembled those of people who had concussions or traumatic brain injuries or who had mental fogginess after chemotherapy … experts believe that the symptoms are caused by ‘an inflammatory reaction to the virus’ that can affect the brain as well as the rest of the body. And it makes sense that some people experience multiple neurological symptoms simultaneously or in clusters … Participants in the study were overwhelmingly white, and 70 percent were women.”

The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different. (The Atlantic): “We should immediately match variant surges with vaccination surges that target the most vulnerable by going where they are … Ring vaccination involves vaccinating contacts and potential contacts of cases, essentially smothering the outbreak by surrounding it with immunity … A vaccination surge means setting up vaccination tents in vulnerable, undervaccinated neighborhoods—street by street if necessary—and having mobile vaccination crews knock on doors wherever possible. It means directing supply to places where variants are surging, even if that means fewer vaccine doses for now in places with outbreaks under control … We should not condemn anyone to be the last person to die unnecessarily in a war that we will win, and shortly. The vaccinated can clearly do more, and safely, especially two weeks after their final dose. But it’s a particularly perilous time for the unvaccinated, who deserve our attention, resources, and continued mitigation measures as appropriate.”

The Pandemic Ignited a Housing Boom—but It’s Different From the Last One (The Wall Street Journal): “In 2020, sales of previously owned U.S. homes surged to their highest level in 14 years … The current housing boom is far more stable than the last one and poses fewer systemic risks, economists say. A downside: There are more barriers to entry, and it’s more difficult for buyers who aren’t already homeowners to make that first purchase … Millennials, the largest living adult generation, continue to age into their prime homebuying years and plunk down savings for homes. At the same time, the market is critically undersupplied. New-home construction hasn’t kept up with household demand, and homeowners are holding on to their houses longer. Buyers are competing fiercely for a limited number of homes … U.S. house prices soared 10.8% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis, the biggest annual increase in data going back to 1992 … The median home purchase price climbed above $300,000 last year for the first time. Nearly one in four home buyers between April and June bought houses priced at $500,000 or more.”

The Revenge Shopping Opportunity (The Business of Fashion): “After a year where consumers seemed to want nothing but sweatpants and leggings, cocktail dresses and clutches are suddenly back in fashion. High heel styles and bodycon dresses are selling out at a far faster rate than this time last year … It’s not just clubwear, either. Urban Outfitters Inc. chief executive Richard Hayne told investors recently that seven of Anthropologie’s top 10 best-sellers were dresses, compared with perhaps one or two over the course of the pandemic … And just because party dresses and stilettos are slated to be popular again doesn’t mean the era of sweatpants is over. In places where lockdowns have already been eased, such as Australia, categories like underwear, sleepwear and comfort dressing have continued to sell out.”

The End of Tesla’s Dominance May Be Closer Than It Appears (Bloomberg): “VW last year became the No. 1 electric-vehicle maker in Europe, where sales of battery-powered cars surged thanks to stricter carbon dioxide limits … This year, VW plans to deliver 1 million plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles, and Diess aims to surpass Tesla in EV sales no later than 2025. Some analysts predict it will happen much sooner … EVs are shifting from what seemed like a one-man show to an extravaganza with an increasingly crowded stage.”

Squishmallows Are Taking Over (The New York Times): “Squishmallows, a line of soft, huggable toys created in 2017, have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, thanks to social media and in particular TikTok (or ‘SquishTok,’ as fans call it). Collectors say the stuffed animals have given them comfort in a painful year, and that hunting for them has fostered a much-needed sense of community during an extended period of isolation … Jazwares said in early March that it has sold more than 73 million toys … According to the company, sales of Squishmallows have tripled in the past six months.”

♥ Shop Nordstrom‘s Spring Sale and take up to 50% off; sale ends April 5, 2021. Tons of cold-weather gear and athleisure are on sale. Shipping and returns are free on all orders. My picks:

People’s Expensive NFTs Keep Vanishing. This Is Why (Vice) “… why would an NFT go missing? The answer, it turns out, points to the complex working of NFTs that are often misunderstood even by the people willing to shell out large sums for them. When you buy an NFT … in most cases you’re not purchasing an artwork or even an image file. Instead, you are buying a little bit of code that references a piece of media located somewhere else on the internet. This is where the problems begin … When you buy an artwork, rather, you’re ‘minting’ a new cryptographic signature that, when decoded, points to an image hosted elsewhere. This could be a regular website, or it might be … a large peer-to-peer file storage system … NFTs are rendered visually only on the front-end of a given marketplace, where you see all the images on offer. All the front-end code does is sift through the alphanumeric soup on the blockchain to produce a URL that links to where the image is hosted, or less commonly metadata which describes the image … while NFT artworks can be taken down, the NFTs themselves live inside Ethereum. This means that the NFT marketplaces can only interact with and interpret that data, but cannot edit or remove it. As long as the linked image hasn’t been removed from its source, an NFT bought on OpenSea could still be viewed on Rarible, SuperRare, or whatever—they are all just interfaces to the ledger … a common problem with Ethereum and cryptocurrencies generally, which despite being immutable and unhackable and abstractly perfect can only be taken advantage of via unreliable third-party applications.”

Where Are Those Shoes You Ordered? Check the Ocean Floor (WIRED): “All told, at least 2,980 containers have fallen off cargo ships in the Pacific since November, in at least six separate incidents. That’s more than twice the number of containers lost annually between 2008 and 2019 … Parametric rolling happens when the time that passes between two adjacent waves suddenly lines up with the natural roll frequency of a ship, something that’s more likely to happen in bad weather … Onboard, parametric rolling feels like abrupt, terrifying side-to-side movement, which quickly changes from just a few degrees to up to 35 or 40 degrees in each direction.”

Discord and Microsoft Said to Discuss Deal That Could Top $10 Billion (The New York Times): “The talks were preliminary and no deal is imminent … Many of Microsoft’s acquisitions in recent years have focused on online communities, such as its purchases of LinkedIn, GitHub, and the gaming developer that created Minecraft … In September, Microsoft also bought ZeniMax Media, the parent company of several large gaming studios, for $7.5 billion … In the last three months of 2020, its gaming business generated $5 billion in revenue for the first time, following the release of new Xbox consoles.”

Owner of Playboy Brand Looks to Invest SPAC Money in ‘Sexual Wellness’ Sector (The Wall Street Journal): “Los Angeles-based PLBY Group Inc. in February listed on the Nasdaq after combining with blank-check company Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp. The deal armed PLBY with about $100 million to grow its business. Earlier this month, PLBY spent $25 million to buy TLA Acquisition Corp., a firm that sells sex toys, vibrators and lingerie through a subsidiary … Today’s PLBY looks very different from the company Hugh Hefner founded in 1953. Under Mr. Hefner’s leadership, it specialized in adult entertainment and media. In recent years, it has reinvented itself as a lifestyle company by generating revenue from licensing the Playboy name and bunny-ears logo and direct-to-consumer sales of products in sexual wellness, apparel, beauty and gaming … PLBY sees its future growth largely coming from sexual-wellness products, such as condoms and CBD-based items, as well as lingerie. In January, the company expanded its licensing business into India for apparel and fashion items.”

How Two Lonely Generations Are Helping Each Other Heal (The New York Times): “The loneliest people, as a group, are young adults. About half of 18- to 25-year-olds reported that not a single person in the past few weeks had ‘taken more than a few minutes’ to ask how they are doing in a way that seemed genuinely caring. The second loneliest demographic appears to be the elderly.”

Don’t Confuse Archegos Collapse With Contagion (Bloomberg): “… the inability of Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management to meet margin calls … is an everyday Wall Street story writ large, not a disaster that should worry regulators or anyone outside of Archegos and its lenders … Hwang typically ran dollar-neutral portfolios, equal amounts long and short. A portfolio that is long $25 billion of stocks and short $25 billion can be much safer than one holding $10 billion of unlevered stock. Lending $40 billion against such a portfolio might be prudent … Hwang’s history suggest that his long positions were concentrated in about 10 stocks, while his shorts were more diversified, perhaps even among index hedges.”

America Ruined My Name for Me (The New Yorker): “I’ve tried to inhabit the name Bich. I used to add the accent over the ‘i’ to show the correct spelling: Bích. The sound is somewhere between a question and an exclamation. But how can I get away from the gaze? It is one of my historical facts that the name is steeped in shame, because living in the United States as a refugee and a child of refugees was steeped in shame. America made sure I knew that, felt that, from my earliest moments of awareness. I cannot detach the name Bich from my childhood, cannot detach it from the experience of people laughing at me, calling me a bitch, letting me know that I’m the punch line of my own joke, too stupid or afraid to do anything but take it. When I see the letters that spell out Bich, I see a version of self I’ve had to create, to hide from trauma. Even now, typing the letters, I want to turn away. America has ruined the name Bich for me, and I have let it … all my life, America has told me that I’m overreacting. That it is still O.K. to laugh at Asian names, still O.K. to make fun of Asian people—those weird foreigners who all look the same and have those hilarious, ugly accents. I know that it’s still O.K. because it keeps happening, in media and in real life. And, when it does, and Asian people express anger about it, they are countered with “you’re too sensitive; it’s just a joke.” I get it—the joke is more important than our existence.”

Support for Covid-19 Vaccine Passports Grows, With European, Chinese Backing (The Wall Street Journal): “China is working toward launching certificates that will declare a person’s vaccination status or recent test results … Similarly, the European Commission plans this month to present proposals for a ‘digital green pass’ for EU citizens, which will specify if someone has been vaccinated, and if not, carry details of their test results … The Biden administration hasn’t said if Covid-19 vaccinations will factor into U.S. travel requirements. The U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t yet issued guidance on the issue and says there are no established international standards for vaccines or documentation of vaccination … Many disease experts and the World Health Organization are wary of vaccine passports on the grounds that it remains unclear if vaccinated individuals can or can’t still spread the virus. Governments, though, are increasingly coming around to the idea as a potentially useful tool to underpin the post-pandemic economic recovery.”

♥ Recently purchased: Maje Metallic Fiber Cotton Blend Cardigan, The North Face Fleece Full Zip Hoodie, Ann Taylor The Hutton Blazer In Tweed, Bardot Lace Slipdress, Sister Jane Triffle Tweed Mini Dress, and Uniqlo 3D Knit Cotton Short-Sleeve Flare Dress.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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