Food lasts longer than you’d think, especially if you freeze it

Let’s start with the things you definitely don’t have to worry about. Vinegars, honey, vanilla or other extracts, sugar, salt, corn syrup and molasses will last virtually forever with little change in quality. Regular steel-cut or rolled oats will last for a year or so before they start to go rancid, but parcooked oats (or instant oats) can last nearly forever. (Same with grits versus instant grits.)

Original source: The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow

Who wanted all this?

Government leaders are the only ones who’re saying this virus stuff will end soon. Everyone else says it’s two years or so:

the only viable endgame is to play whack-a-mole with the coronavirus, suppressing it until a vaccine can be produced. With luck, that will take 18 to 24 months. During that time, new outbreaks will probably arise. Much about that period is unclear, but the dozens of experts whom I have interviewed agree that life as most people knew it cannot fully return. “I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “This is about the next two years.”

The confusion is compounded by all the different governments globally. Here in the Netherlands, I’m not sure there’s a sense of how long it will last except…longer?

The US is a massive country, and it’s governance system (State and city run when it comes to day-to-day operations) is causing huge problems, especially when there’s no plan from the Federal government:

“These problems might be surmountable. The U.S. is still a scientific and biomedical powerhouse. To marshal that power, it needs a massive, coordinated, government-led initiative to find the cleverest ways of controlling COVID-19—a modern-day Apollo program. No such program is afoot. Former Trump- and Obama-era officials have published detailed plans. Elizabeth Warren is on her third iteration. But the White House either has no strategy or has chosen not to disclose it.

Without a unifying vision, governors and mayors have been forced to handle the pandemic themselves. Ludicrously, states are bidding against one another—and the federal government—for precious supplies. Six states still haven’t issued any kind of stay-at-home order, while those that moved late, such as Florida, may have seeded infections in the rest of the country. “A patchwork approach to fighting a pandemic is very dangerous,” said Jeremy Konyndyk of the Center for Global Development. “It’s a recipe for a response that’s less than the sum of its parts.” While several states have created their own coordinated groups, Konyndyk’s worry, shared by others, is that there are limits to what even the most capable state leaders can do without federal coordination. “We almost need to devise a public-health government in exile which can take on the responsibility of national coordination,” said Osterholm, the University of Minnesota epidemiologist.”

It’s all baffling. As an American, I’m continuly confused about how we all let things get this weird. First, how we elected and put up with the Trump administration, then how we’ve had such a limp response to the core purpose of government: to keep people thriving, pursue happiness and and all that.

I rarely blame the government for problems and instead blame ourselves, "we the people." As they say, we get the government we deserve, rather, asked for.

I don’t know, man.

Getting finance to keep moving and get out of the way, lessening executive helpfulness

The role of finance in agile stuff, getting better at using software to create and drive business, is to first mover faster and get out of the way, and second, to figure out how to actually help innovation and growth beyond “investing.” I’m not sure we know how to do the second.

Finance is in a position like security. When things go wrong, they go really wrong. So, the most human way to operate is as cautiously as possible: lots of detailed plans, operating slow (takes many months – a year even! – to ask for, approve, and actually get the money), and requiring people asking for funding to be “accountable.”

Here’s some ideas:

The CFO taught leaders of all agile teams to sequence their activities by constructing a simple financial scenario: How much value would be lost if each initiative began six or 12 months from now rather than today? Initiatives that had the highest cost of delay—either because the benefits were so big or because seasonal opportunities or competitive advantages would be squandered—rose to the top of the backlog.

And, then, instead of just being the experts and authority on money related metrics, doing so on business health metrics:

Her most important work lay in her own domain. She began revamping the planning, budgeting, and reviewing process—first for Project Fusion and then for other parts of the company that were tackling innovation programs. She reset corporate objectives to reflect the new priorities. She created new financial reports for the strategic agile initiative. She also commissioned agile teams to develop planning and budgeting processes similar to those used by venture capital firms with start-ups. Previously done annually, the processes would now occur more frequently—at least quarterly—but would be less onerous. Rather than relying strictly on financial forecasts, teams would increase the transparency of key assumptions, create ways to test them, and identify potential impediments. For example, teams would not simply forecast sales; they would break them into the number of customers per year, frequency of purchases per year, number of items per purchase, and average revenue per item. The most critical and risky assumptions could thus be tested first, and deviations from expectations could be examined and refined. As data began to come in, frequent feedback loops would accelerate decisions to grow gains and limit losses, just as in the venture capital world.

I go over the growth board model in my recent book The Business Bottleneck.

I don’t know though: a lot of bottlenecks in large organizations are just due to scale and the inability of higher level executives to understand what’s going on below them. There’s just too much to understand and know across the organization: no one could know how to govern and manager 100’s, if not thousands of projects.

One school of agile thought wants to “push down” decision making. This implies that (1.) executives primary set strategy and operational constraints (how you can do business and how you can’t, e.g., we’re not going to sell in the Nordics, we’re going to start an hourly rental business, we should remove costs from our building insurance business, etc.), and, (2.) be less involved in day-to-day operations, mostly by reducing the time to not takes to do over-site and, er, “helping.” Number two is colloquially known as “meetings”:

We studied the calendars of three senior executives whose companies became agile organizations, quantified how they spent their time, and then interviewed them. We ran the findings past about a dozen other agile executives, and the results were consistent and eye-opening. By the end of the transition to agile (a three-year process for those firms), the leaders had quadrupled the time spent on strategy (from 10% to 40%) and reduced the time spent on operations management by more than half (from 60% to 25%). The time spent managing talent had risen slightly (from 30% to 35%).

Original source: The Agile C-Suite

Learning from failure isn’t always worth it

In another experiment we raised the stakes in a different way: We approached about 300 U.S. telemarketers and gave them a challenging test about customer service, a topic directly relevant to their jobs. But, again, our results were similar. The telemarketers who received success feedback on the questions they answered right demonstrated learning, while those who got failure feedback on the questions they answered wrong didn’t. Sure, performing poorly on a customer service test might have made those participants feel a little rotten, but the failure wasn’t so big that they felt compelled to attend to it. They preferred to protect their egos.

Original source: Maybe Failure Isn’t the Best Teacher


Paperno quotes the painter Eugène Delacroix, who grandly defined his journal as “the history of what I feel.”


“Two years after her mother died, Virginia Woolf—another teen-age girl in crisis—began a diary, apparently seeking a stable narrative thread, and a more deliberate identity. But the Virginia she constructed, and would continue to construct, in journals, over the course of her life, lacks the robust unity of the Romantic “I.” This Virginia exists as a sequence of intense perceptions, which Woolf called “moments of being” plucked from the “cotton wool” of the everyday. She is a serial subject: open-ended, resilient, ever-changing. Who better to greet an unknown future?”

Original source: Dear Diary, the World Is Burning

Profit doesn’t always choose for social good

What matters to public health is each society’s preparedness: stockpiled tests, masks, ventilators, hospital beds, trained personnel, etc., to manage dangerous viruses. In the U.S., such objects are produced by private capitalist enterprises whose goal is profit. It was not profitable to produce and stockpile such products, that was not and still is not being done.

Original source: Capitalism Has Failed in Fighting Coronavirus

The governance must be as complex as the governed

In colloquial terms Ashby’s Law has come to be understood as a simple proposition: if a system is to be able to deal successfully with the diversity of challenges that its environment produces, then it needs to have a repertoire of responses which is (at least) as nuanced as the problems thrown up by the environment. So a viable system is one that can handle the variability of its environment. Or, as Ashby put it, only variety can absorb variety.

But, if you automate those rules, maybe there’s less need for them, so to speak:

“Using automation and mass surveillance, the control system becomes more fine-grained; more complex. This means the allowed complexity of society should also be allowed to increase — that is, become less regulated.”

Original source: experiments, A/B testing, etc.

“If I have any advice for CEOs, it’s this: Large-scale testing is not a technical thing; it’s a cultural thing that you need to fully embrace. You need to ask yourself two big questions: How willing are you to be confronted every day by how wrong you are? And how much autonomy are you willing to give to the people who work for you? And if the answer is that you don’t like to be proven wrong and don’t want employees to decide the future of your products, it’s not going to work. You will never reap the full benefits of experimentation.”

Original source: Building a Culture of Experimentation

Dutch take on the long term, social impact of the virus

According to Makenbach, there are two main issues in dealing with the coronavirus. The first is to what extent this disease, which mainly affects the elderly, should be allowed to damage younger generations who are losing their jobs and falling behind in education, he said. And the second is to what extent the virus and measures against it should be allowed to further increase inequality. Socio-economically vulnerable people are more likely to become seriously ill, and also most disproportionately affected by drastic anti-coronavirus measures, Makenbach said.

Original source: Netherlands could be dealing with coronavirus pandemic for over 2 years: report

Not much room for competition in banking

“At the end of the day, almost any product or feature can be copied,” Simple’s Hijirida said. “Our secret sauce for competing in this market is creating a culture focused on fast experimentation and then quickly doubling down on what works. We will win because we can pivot quickly to respond to customer data and feedback.” That being said, a 2019 survey by Cornerstone Research suggests that Simple, which was founded in 2009, has less than one-third the number of deposit accounts as competitors Ally and Chime have.

Original source: The transatlantic battle for the future of banking

People listen to their leaders

Democrats seem to be taking the crisis more seriously than Republicans. In a poll by the Pew Research Centre, 59% of Democrats said covid-19 is a major threat to the health of Americans; only 33% of Republicans said that. The Unacast data suggest people are acting on their opinions, risking infection from, and spreading, a virus that has killed more Americans than the 9/11 attacks

Plus, movement by county and 2016 voting patterns.

Original source: Democrats seem to take social distancing more seriously than Republicans

Stranger danger

Six had made friends with Second Lieutenant Hopkins, who was mechanically minded and happy to show her things. At first, Thaniel hadn’t been too pleased with the idea of letting her go off with strange men; not because he thought Mori would let anything bad happen, but because it seemed dangerous to teach her to trust everyone. Mori, though, had pointed out that it was just as dangerous to teach a little girl that one foot wrong would mean a lunatic and a dungeon. It made it sound inevitable, whereas if you were brought up safe in the knowledge that people were supposed to be good, you approached the bad ones with a healthy fury that might just see you out of the dungeon.

Original source: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (English Edition)

Blame China

America’s allies, along with many Trump administration officials and members of Congress, worry about China posing an unprecedented challenge to the post-1945 global order and the norms that underpin it. All evidence suggests that Mr Trump’s concerns are narrower and more domestic. His “China” is a proxy for globalisation, and for the failure of elites to shield American workers from competition. As for the actual autocracy called China, Mr Trump takes its ruthless self-interest for granted, and even praises it.

Western leaders disagree about how to handle China partly because the country has become a larger, more daunting and more assertive competitor. It is also because of a crisis of Western unity.

Original source: China is also an idea, revealing much about Western hopes and fears

People don’t like advertising

The survey of nearly 14,000 middle income consumers in 23 countries found 61 percent of consumers are less inclined to use a product if their personal data is used for any purpose, while 56 percent of consumers want more control over their data.

I mean, people don’t like advertising, but it works and business will grind to a halt without it. So it’s an arms race to be as subtle as possible and come up with new tricks to make people realize it’s not an ad. That’s the whole egg eaing, as they say.

Original source: Consumers don’t believe use of personal data leads to more relevant ads, report finds