Weekly Link Roundup

As a not-so-secret HK fan, I am very excited about all the Hello Kitty collaborations planned for her upcoming 50th birthday

+ SANRIO® Announces a Celebration of 50 Years of Hello Kitty (PR Newswire): “In anticipation of her 50th anniversary [on November 1, 2024], Hello Kitty will release several digital promotions … including an AR (Augmented Reality) app, short animations on TikTok, monthly promotions in My Hello Kitty Cafe on Roblox, and a presence in the digital world of Zepeto.”

+ Buy Now, Pay Later Plans Fuel Record Online Holiday Shopping (The Business of Fashion): “Plans that let US consumers pay over time helped generate a record $222.1 billion in online holiday sales Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 … up 4.9 percent from the same period in 2022.”

+ The Man Who Destroys $3,000 Handbags on the Internet (The New York Times): “… Tanner Leatherstein … has more than 950,000 followers. Leatherstein, whose real name is Volkan Yilmaz, has attracted a cult following … for his butchering of exorbitantly expensive items. The reason, he says, is to show his viewers the true quality of the materials and craftsmanship and then break down how much the item may have cost to make.”

+ Damages (Atavist Magazine): “… Perwaiz’s patients made him rich, a fact all the more disturbing because so many of them were Medicaid recipients … In the years immediately leading up to his arrest, Perwaiz made about $1 million annually. (Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average estimated salary of an ob-gyn in the United States in 2020 was about $239,000.) And the more money Perwaiz made, the more the hospitals where he performed surgeries benefited. According to trial testimony, from 2010 to 2019 Chesapeake Regional made $18.4 million from Perwaiz’s use of its facilities, while Harbour View made $3.1 million.”

+ Three Ways to Tell If Research Is Bunk (The Atlantic): “… a series of study flaws: experiments that are too small to trust; cases in which a result seems valid because of mathematical sleight of hand but is effectively meaningless; poor experimental designs; and—the most entrenched—academic bias caused by career incentives to find particular results … three basic rules … If it seems too good to be true, it probably is … Let ideas age a bit … if a finding is too new, it may have so far escaped sufficient scrutiny—and been neither replicated nor shredded by other scholars … Useful beats clever.”

+ (Podcast) Lenny (Heavyweight)

+ Am I the Victim of an International Sushi Scam? (Plus Some Thoughts on Podcasting) (Search Engine with PJ Vogt): “My understanding of the economics of ad-supported podcasting in the last decade went like this: take a show’s audience, multiply it by how often it publishes. Multiply that by your best guess for ad revenue per episode … Whatever number you wind up with, you can subtract from that number the show’s overhead. The lion’s share of overhead is always staff salaries and benefits. If the number’s positive, you have a healthy show. If it’s negative, you don’t … Heavyweight is a small, disciplined show with a large, devoted audience. It publishes seasonally, sure. But if the numbers weren’t there, they must have been close. I look at this Heavyweight moment and I tell myself that my hopeful theory here is that the same companies that grew too fast are now cutting too fast. But the alternative is that maybe I don’t understand this industry as well as I thought I did.”

+ Retail Group Retracts Startling Claim About ‘Organized’ Shoplifting (The New York Times): “… retail theft has been lower this year in most of the country than it was a few years ago, according to police data. Some exceptions, including New York City, exist. But in most major cities, shoplifting incidents have fallen 7 percent since 2019. Organized retail crime … is a real phenomenon … But … were likely responsible for just about 5 percent of the store merchandise that disappeared from 2016 to 2020 … exaggerated narrative of widespread shoplifting was weaponized by the retail industry as it lobbied Congress to pass bills that would regulate online retailers, which they claim is where much of the stolen product ends up.”

+ Arc’teryx and Salomon Owner Amer Sports Files for US IPO (The Business of Fashion): “Founded in 1950, Amer Sports operates in three segments and is home to iconic sports and outdoor brands including Arc’teryx, Salomon, Atomic and Peak Performance. Its world renowned Wilson brand is associated with several legendary athletes including Roger Federer, Russell Wilson and Jamal Murray. The Wilson tennis racket has been used by 643 Grand Slam title winners … Amer Sports’ revenue was $3.05 billion in the nine months ended Sept. 30, compared with $2.35 billion a year earlier. Adjusted EBITDA, or core earnings, surged to $422.1 million versus $261.8 million … The billionaire founder of yoga-inspired athletic apparel company Lululemon Athletica, Dennis ‘Chip’ Wilson, has been nominated to sit on its board in connection with the IPO.”

+ The protagonist of John Vaillant’s Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World is MWF-009 (aka the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire), a “transformative fire which makes familiar objects … disappear … and leaves whatever’s left … altered at the molecular level.” Fire 009 is “a hunter, just like us,” motivated by a desire to “to exist, to consume, to grow, to flourish”; Fire Weather put fire’s awesome power of nature and rapacity for fuel on full display. Fed by the combustibility of modern furniture and clothes, Fire 009 vaporized everything in its path and couldn’t be extinguished for 15 months.

But Fire Weather, which reads like a thriller, is also bigger than Fire 009; it’s a foreboding glimpse of what’s to come. Some people might find Vaillant’s multiple interruptions–forays into the history of bitumen, lengthy descriptions of Alberta’s history and Canada’s vastness, lectures on governmental failures to prevent and warn of disasters, detours into the history of climate science–distracting, but I liked the numerous factoids that Vaillant included in the book, as I think they all contribute to the larger discussion about the manmade disaster at hand.

Fire Weather also turned me into a Vaillant fan–The Tiger is now on my to-read list.

+ We Will Never Reach Peak Croissant (The New York Times): “… what the world’s leading pastry chefs are doing with croissant dough: coiling it into pinwheels and squiggles, tying it in knots and stacking it into cubes. They are turning it into breakfast cereal, tie-dyeing it and … wrapping it around baguettes … Creative passion is just one reason bakers keep testing the boundaries of croissants. The other is, simply, business … The rules underpinning a good croissant have not changed … clean cuts and sharp lines are the test of a skilled baker and should be visible in the finished product, whatever shape it takes. It should be tightly rolled and completely golden-brown — pale patches and puffiness are often signs of a croissant made with hydrogenated fats instead of butter. The exterior should be crackly enough to break off in shards. Beyond that, anything is possible.”

+ AI-Powered Drive-Thru Is Actually Run Almost Entirely By Humans (Bloomberg): “… disclosures in recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and changes to marketing suggest that the technology is less autonomous than it first appeared. [Presto] which went public last year, now says ‘off-site agents’ working in locales such as the Philippines help during more than 70% of customer interactions to make sure its AI system doesn’t mess up … The company was notified by the SEC in July that it’s under investigation over disclosures made ‘regarding certain aspects of its AI technology.’ Meanwhile, Rajat Suri, its founder and chief executive officer, left in March and was replaced internally by Xavier Casanova. The new boss has implemented several changes, including laying off 17% of the company’s staff and disclosing the human agents … for all the hype surrounding AI the widespread swapping of chatbots for employees at the drive-thru intercom faces hurdles … One issue is that it’s difficult for AI chatbots to discern the variety of accents, speech patterns and noises they encounter at a drive-thru, including a car’s radio or traffic sounds. Orders could also be too complicated for AI to decipher.”

+ Want to Help a Business You Love? Don’t Pay With a Credit Card. (The Washington Post): “… when it makes sense, you could choose cash or a debit card at a neighborhood hair salon or another small business. Money-transfer apps like Venmo or Zelle linked to your bank account also tend to have lower fees for a merchant than credit cards.”

+ AI Is Coming for the Influencers (New York Magazine): “It’s not quite right to say that virtual influencers are coming for the entire strange and maligned job of influencing. The advertising industry has been pushing the idea of synthetic talent for years … This makes for an odd new sort of advertisement that you might be likely to ‘recall’ for no other reason than not having seen such a thing before. It also situates virtual influencers less as a replacement for human influencers than as a new trick for juicing certain campaign metrics. This is the way Amazon suggests that AI-generated product photos get people to click ads at higher rates, even if those ads depict products in situations that defy physical reality. This is no small thing, though — online advertising runs on such metrics, which measure influence in the bluntest possible terms.”

+ They Sold Everything to Go on a 3-Year Cruise. How It All Unraveled. (The New York Times): “The cruise seemed ideal for a post-pandemic era, targeting people longing for an escape. With fares starting at $90,000 for an inside cabin and going up to $975,000 for a suite, the trip even seemed like a bargain to some prospective passengers, cheaper than living three years in many cities. Within the first month of sales, more than half of the ship’s 400 cabins had been reserved. But putting together a cruise of this magnitude is a monumental task, requiring a ship large enough to carry hundreds of people, docking rights around the world and secure funding … questions were raised about the ship and its itinerary. Could it even hold enough fuel to sail between some of the more distant ports?”

+ A 9-Month Cruise Is TikTok’s Favorite New ‘Reality Show’ (The New York Times): “… the Ultimate World Cruise, a nine-month-long, round-the-world voyage with Royal Caribbean … launched from Miami on Dec. 10 … Videos with the hashtag #UltimateWorldCruise have had more than 138 million views on the social media app … Fares for the full trip — which stops in 65 countries — start at $53,999 per person and can go up to $117,599, excluding taxes and fees … Despite TikTok’s fixation with the cruise (and hope for drama), most of the videos coming from the Serenade of the Seas has been more mundane than gripping.”

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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2 Comments

  1. Elena wrote:

    Hi Elle! Since you love Hello Kitty — have you heard of the Baggu x Hello Kitty collection? They have a Gudetama one coming soon too.

    Posted 1.9.24 Reply
    • Elle wrote:

      Happy New Year, Elena! I love the Baggu x HK collection, and have the packing cubes and canvas tote in my shopping cart–but I’m suffering from a bit of consumerist guilt after ordering a bunch of (admittedly “small”) stuff from the F21 x Hello Kitty collaboration (with “Blue Angel” HK) last month. Did you get anything from the Baggu x HK collection? If so, please send recs. 🙂

      Posted 1.9.24 Reply