24-05 Links

Getting stuff built


Given all the debate about airport expansion, it's extraordinary that the fact the second Gatwick runway already exists isn't more widely known.

This second runway was created for emergency use by upgrading the existing taxiway in 1979. However, the two runways can't be used simultaneously because they are too close to each other by a mere ten metres.

When Gatwick says it wants a second runway, it is merely asking to shift its northern runway 12 metres further north.

If this happened it wouldn't double capacity but would push the airport up to 75 million passengers a year. (Heathrow’s busiest ever year was circa 80m)

There is a planning inspectorate examination that runs until August. Then up to 3 months to submit a report to SoS. Then up to 3 months for SoS to decide. Presumably, the election is going to delay some or multiple parts of this.

Gatwick offers the best experience for most travellers. Relatively nice terminal. Compact compared to Heathrow, and the station is literally in the terminal building with direct trains to Victoria, London Bridge, and Brighton all taking 30 mins. The main advantage Heathrow has is its scale with a greater range of flights.

We should expand both

Rotherhithe Footbridge

It's increasingly crazy that you can't cross this stretch of river on foot. The Rotherhithe tunnel has a pavement in it but comes with health warnings. And it still drops you out nowhere near Canary Wharf.

We need a pedestrian/cycle bridge to Canary Wharf from Rotherhithe or Surrey Quays. It feels like the sort of thing you could fund with a couple of S106 agreements. I wonder if you even need the S106. A developer could surely take the initiative on their own if enough planning permission was granted

Surely this is not the equilibrium:

The publicly funded bridge scheme is very expensive and once again on hold

I assume some of the expense is because it has to let at least as much stuff as Tower Bridge (which can lift) is able to

I wonder if it would be cheaper to have it start and end further from the river so it could rise higher? Or even just bore a tunnel?

An interesting idea I've heard is to get Swiss cable car engineers to come and build cost-effective cable cars along the river. They build them magnitudes cheaper than us and they’re often fully integrated into network timetables and fares.

Holding back the floods for 40 years: Thames Barrier is due an upgrade

The barrier was designed to protect Londoners from rising sea levels and the north-south tilt, which is gradually sinking the south-east of the country.

TIL about the north-south tilt

England is sinking while Scotland rises above sea levels, according to new study

The new study shows that land levels could rise by up to 10cm in some areas of Scotland over the next century, offsetting the effects of sea level rise caused by global warming. But in parts of England, where the land is set to sink by up to 5cm over the next century, it could add between 10 to 33 per cent on sea level rises.

Levelling up eh

Expanded mobile phone coverage goes live on Elizabeth line and Underground

Apparently, Paris have just integrated their metro ticketing system with Apple Wallet I was there this month and used it about 15 times last week. Didn't realise it was brand new. Certainly a massively easier experience since the last time I was there.

The Highway to Nimbyism

SF had a similar plan to London's Ringways plan

Many Colorado cities require parking with new housing. Here’s why lawmakers just passed a bill that will undo some of those rules

After a sweeping attempt to undermine such local regulations failed last year, lawmakers are tackling them this session in separate bills. One bill nearing the finish line would force some cities to allow more dense housing near transit lines; another would overrule some local governments and legalize accessory dwelling units. Others would fund new transit projects and services.

Miscellaneous business links

Quite interesting to see people who have made their way to the very top more of less through a single institution:

Stripe launched the ability to pay by bank . In theory, everything using this gets a few percentage points cheaper.

And a great Patrick McKenzie post about the innovation that lead up to this

It'd be interesting to read a theory by which some careers become

  • Well-paid with a good work-life balance e.g. tech
  • Well-paid with a bad work-life balance e.g. banking/law
  • Badly paid with a good work-life balance e.g. most things
  • Badly paid with a bad work-life balance e.g. medicine (though badly paid for medicine is a bit of a UK thing. Amazingly paid in USA. WLB Decent for nurses/PA too)

Byrne Hobart has an explanation for the second of these groups

In related news Freshfields NQ pay rockets past A&O Shearman’s to £150,000

According to Wikipedia, in 2019, Freshfields became the first non-US law firm to raise the salaries of newly qualified junior lawyers in the United Kingdom to £100,000, then £125,000 in 2022.

No wage stagnation in lawyers' salaries!

Brewdog boss James Watt steps down from CEO role

Jim Simons

Numberphile interview

How should we judge Renaissance's performance? On the one hand...


On the other hand...

Buffett got rich in life much earlier than Simons. Buffett ended up much richer than Simons. Buffett made more people wealthy along the way. Buffett got rich with never ending scale. Buffett didn’t have to cap his investment fund to $10b to maintain above 20% returns. What Buffett created, Berkshire, produces as much operating income in 3 years as Simons Medallion fund has in the past 30 years of accumulative profits. Comparing Jim Simons to Buffett is comparing a small hedge fund to a fortune 10 company.


they figured out an amazing way to take out a few billion dollars a year from markets with very low (not zero) risk. That is nothing to sneeze at to put it very very mildly! But they didn’t crack how to run 100s of billions in institutional capital with anything like that risk-adjusted return. When they try to do that they look like the rest of us (which I hope is not an insult!).

A little discussion on how they do it, and how little we can know, and how little knowing would even help us if we did know, etc...

God and Renaissance Technologies' Black Box

Inside a Moneymaking Machine Like No Other

In 1993, Renaissance stopped accepting new money from outsiders. Fees were also ratcheted up—from 5 percent of assets and 20 percent of profits to 5 percent and 44 percent. “They raised their fees to exorbitant levels and were still head and shoulders above everyone else,” says Bonnefoy, who, along with every other outsider, was finally booted from Medallion in 2005.

Byrne's model of Renaissance is very illuminating. In particular, the stuff about employee retention:

Nobody compounded their money at 66% annualized for thirty years. Not Jim Simons, not James Ax, not Leonard Baum, not Elwyn Berlekamp. Everyone gets cashed out to some degree, because it's economically implausible for their money to keep compounding that fast forever. And when a given strategy can produce high returns on capital based on the specialized knowledge of the people creating and implementing that strategy, the specialists will have all the leverage in deciding how returns will be allocated... The most sustainable structure for such an investment vehicle is for all of the returns to go to the people who are producing them, except for a slice that goes to people who could produce a subset of them but could be paid not to.

Taking Risk

A great piece reflecting on how start-ups are a more accepted career route in the US than the UK. Ends up saying that we just have to wait for the numbers of former founders and execs with money and skills to grow.

Monzo Nabs a $5.2 Billion Valuation After Raising More Money - Bloomberg

Amongst my friends, Monzo is the overwhelming winner. But on the continent, Revolut is everywhere.

Meanwhile, Latin America's NuBank is even bigger still

Product recommendations

Notion Calendar, formerly known as Cron, is the best calendar product I've found. I've tried Google and Apple and neither are as good. Sync NC with Google and away you go.

For any keyboard-only power users and/or RSI sufferers, Homerow looks very cool

Around the world

I always assumed things were going great down under but apparently not...

Australia’s never-ending per capita recession

Immigration and the housing crisis

You only have to look at Australia’s performance over the past 20 years of this ‘big Australia’ experiment. Australia’s per capita GDP has fallen significantly, our productivity growth has collapsed, we have experienced capital shallowing, (because) if you grow your population faster than you can grow infrastructure, business investment and housing, you’re going to have less capital per worker,” he says.

Initially, it does look like Australian growth has stagnated

But apparently this is mostly just exchange rates. In PPP with constant currency Australia has grown by 15% since 2008, Vs 10% for the UK and 17% for the US.

Taiwan's Housing Crisis

Taipei has only built 25,000 units in the last five years.

There's quite a lot in here about how Taiwan's land tax system is broken.

Apparently, rental yields are less than 2% in Taipei. The piece doesn't explain that but probably should.

This Tooze piece has some interesting quotes about the depth of US wealth in places you’ve never heard of

Auto dealers are one of the five most common professions among the top 0.1 percent of American earners. Car dealers, gas station owners, and building contractors, it turns out, make up the majority of the country’s 140,000 Americans who earn more than $1.58 million per year. Crunching numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, data scientist and author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz found that over 20 percent of car dealerships in the U.S. have an owner banking more than $1.5 million per year. And car dealers are not only one of the richest demographics in the United States. They’re also one of the most organized political factions—a conservative imperium giving millions of dollars to politicians at local, state, and national levels.

These elites’ wealth derives not from their salary—this is what separates them from even extremely prosperous members of the professional-managerial class, such as doctors and lawyers - but from their ownership of assets. Those assets vary depending on where in the country we’re talking about; they could be a bunch of McDonald’s franchises in Jackson, Mississippi; a beef-processing plant in Lubbock, Texas; a construction company in Billings, Montana; commercial properties in Portland, Maine; or a car dealership in western North Carolina. Even the less prosperous parts of the United States generate enough surplus to produce a class of wealthy people. Depending on the political culture and institutions of a locality or region, this elite class might wield more or less political power. In some places, it has an effective stranglehold over what gets done; in others, it’s important but not all-powerful. …. An enormous number of organizations and institutions are dedicated to advancing the interests of this gentry class: chambers of commerce, exclusive country clubs and housing developments, the American Society of Concrete Contractors, and fruit growers’ associations, just to name a small cross-section. Through these organizations and their intimate ties to local and state politics, the gentry class can and usually does wield significant power to shape society to its liking. It’s easy to focus on the massive political spending of Sheldon Adelson or Michael Bloomberg; it’s harder, but no less important, to imagine what kind of deals about water rights or local zoning ordinances are being struck across the U.S. on the eighth green of the local country club.

It links to this piece which had some interesting history of car dealerships but might need some salt

NYC's Education Budget by the Numbers

If you took a grand accounting of all the money that NYC spends per pupil, it would be much higher than discussed in this post ($34,667 as of FY2022, according to the IBO)

Fully one-third of NYC’s annual operating (expense) budget goes to the DOE. This is about $37.5 billion dollars, compared to the NYPD’s $11 billion.

That seems insanely high. Britain's equivalent number is £7,460 according to this. I wonder if London is much higher than the British average?

How safe is SF

Cool dataviz. Confirms everyone's preconceptions.


Wayve raised a billion dollars

Some discussion in [this episode of the Autonocast](https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/autonocast/id1168333433?i=1000655083284. The case seems to be that they are the best candidate to compete with Mobileye selling assisted driving tech to OEMs.

And the government have passed the Automated Vehicles Act. Wayve and Oxa seem happy with this. I don't get where the 2026 date comes from though. Is the idea that companies can start the process of getting approval now and that the process takes 18 months? What actually are the concrete metrics/tests that a company as to pass?

American AI group CoreWeave to invest £1bn in Britain

Scale AI chooses Britain for first international headquarters

Always interesting to be reminded that of the £124.6bn of GVA created by the UK's creative industries in 2022, £53.4bn (42.8%) came from the IT, software and computer services subsector. (To be clear, this doesn’t mean “statisticians identified £53.4bn of creative output produced by the IT sector and included it in creative industries”; rather, the whole IT services sector is classified as part of the creative industries.) Link

Due to GenAI and in-house built developer productivity tools, we have increased the output of our software developers by around 70% year-over-year and cut external developers by 60%.

The Evolving Landscape of LLM Evaluation

Platforms and Publishers: AI Partnership Tracker

How to make more money renting a GPU than Nvidia makes selling it

The next iOS will have eye tracking

I've wanted a Remarkable or some other e-ink tablet for years but never actually needed one. The new Daylight tablet looks gorgeous. But, as a quote tweet points out, this has the same sense of freshness and excitement as Roam Research in 2020...

Emulating humans with NSFW chatbots

It’s interesting how different the business model is from other generative AI companies because NSFW monetises so much. Still a bit baffled by the appeal.

Several years after this piece we finally have some updates on desalination progress:


Vauxhall owner to sell cheap Chinese EVs in UK and mainland Europe

Stellantis, which owns brands including Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall, will start selling two Leapmotor models in September, at prices of less than €20,000 (£17,200). UK sales will start in March 2025.

China’s BYD closes in on deal to build all-electric London buses

The Go-Ahead Group is set to award the company a contract to build more than 100 all-electric double-deckers at a price of about £400,000 each — £100,000 cheaper than UK competitors, sources said. It is the first time that BYD has won a contract to provide EV double-deckers in the UK, pipping local competitors such as Alexander Dennis.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford in London and a former Conservative Party leader, lamented the decision to award the bus contract to BYD. “We’ve yet again gone to China to build buses. What is the matter with our domestic production? These are iconic, British London buses. Why is it that we simply do not look for a contractor based, if not in the UK, then certainly in Europe,” he said

I think the answer is right there Sir Iain. We could probably close some of the gap by permitting more energy infrastructure. Remember we have the most expensive commercial energy in the world.

New Kia EV3 is a £30k electric car with a 372-mile range

If the 30k version actually does that range this looks like a new price-to-range milestone

Tesla makes push to roll out advanced FSD self-driving in China

New BYD Hybrid Can Drive Non-Stop for More Than 2,000 Kilometers

Science stuff that I can't judge the importance of

AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso greatly slows cancer for some people with stage 3 lung cancer

World-first tooth-regrowing drug will be given to humans in September

British-built ‘unhackable’ navigational system flown in world first


I'm trying to improve my shoulder mobility. Some useful videos I've seen:

Keen for any other tips/routines


My friend Theo is selling these Tweed Nehru gilets which I think look great

Fashion stopped changing for about a decade after the financial crash. But there seems to be a shift happening now. We're getting baggier and more high-wasted e.g.

People and Relationships

How do I handle a friendship breakup?

Looking for Rejection

David Friedman on his parents

When my parents got married, they decided that there were certain things that were difficult to say and should therefore be replaced by numbers. Only one survived in actual usage. In their family  “number two” meant, in my family still means, “You were right and I was wrong.” One reason is that it is shorter, so easier to say. A second reason is that using the number reminds speaker and audience that admitting error is a difficult and virtuous thing to do, which makes it easier to do it. A third reason is that using a family code reminds the speaker that he is speaking to people who love him, so are unlikely to take advantage of the confession of error to put him down.


Are running clubs the new dating apps?


Wagner in Africa

The Last Freeminers of England

Nice account by a girl who is perpetually repairing her Land Rover. There's a part of me that wishes I knew more about engines but mostly I hope that the EV transition is just going to abstract this stuff away

Plans approved for £61.8m redevelopment of Lord's. I don't get the stuff in here about Middlesex considering moving. Presumably, they're negotiating rent and want to generate some leverage.

Great thread on the economics of Clarkson's Farm

There are new Eleven Labs and Suno music generation models out this month. They can now do proper 4-minute songs. I spent a day generating songs full of in-jokes and spamming group chats but haven't gone back. A big unlock for me would be if they can start generating background music indefinitely that has a particular vibe. e.g. Something that sounds like the Halt and Catch Fire soundtrack while I code, or the Köln Concert.

The new ‘Lord of the Rings’ film is titled ‘THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM’ Andy Serkis will return as Gollum & also direct the film.

Pretty low expectations for this, obviously. It's worth mentioning though that there is quite a charming amateur film on Youtube on this subject. If you like it you might also like this one about Arathorn. Just 19 more years until Tolkien's works enter the public domain. Hopefully, we'll then see more stuff from people who "get it".

Nice 5-minute video about San Francisco's Victorians and how the styles vary by decade

Some rather nice infill new-builds in Deptford

I’d hadn't seen a video of the Jetson, the vehicle that was the profiled in the New Yorker flying car story last month until now

Yes, People Still Buy Books

How a viral post got some key statistics wrong

Probably not a good one to cite when making the case for “traditional architecture cheaper than modern architecture”… https://www.smh.com.au/cbd/castle-s-still-in-the-air-for-scots-college-20230913-p5e4gk.html

Although actually….80 million Australian dollars is 42 million pounds which is the same amount that Lambeth Palace spent on their incredibly cheap-looking library https://anglicanmainstream.org/stratospheric-costs-of-ugly-new-lambeth-palace-library-need-explanation/ 

New Zealand’s sheep-to-people ratio fell again in 2023

Meanwhile, the lamb price in Britain is really high. We've been getting £190 a lamb this year. Some discussion of why here

Computer Scientists Invent an Efficient New Way to Count

This is delightfully simple yet clever

DNA confirms there IS a big cat roaming the British countryside

The DNA of a big cat in the Panthera genus – probably a leopard – has been identified from a swab taken from a dead sheep in the Lake District. This is the first time that big cat DNA has been found on a carcass in the UK. The analysis was carried out at a laboratory at the University of Warwick run by Prof Robin Allaby.

Cool piece on picture framing with examples of how it can improve a painting

Wyoming on 35mm

1898: The Birth of New York City

Did you know Staten Island nearly seceded in the 90s and there are still rumblings

(In 1989), the state Legislature passed a measure signed by then Gov. Mario Cuomo authorizing a study and initiating the process for Staten Island to secede from New York City on the last day of its legislative session.

By 1990, Staten Islanders voted overwhelmingly in favor — 83 percent — of a secession study and by 1991, Cuomo swore in a New York State Charter Commission for Staten Island.

Two years later, in 1993, Staten Islanders approved — 65 percent — a non-binding referendum to secede from New York City and the state Senate also approved a secession bill.

But those efforts came to a halt when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to allow a similar measure to be voted on in the Assembly without a “home rule message” from New York City.

The city never held a secession vote and the measure for Staten Island to secede died in committee

When Queens Tried To Secede

Singapore’s shophouses — hotter than Fifth Avenue?

The Windows 10 desktop background is a real photo

It's worth spending some time looking for the same product on other websites

One of the reasons why "if the UK joined the USA it would be the poorest state" is probably not true is that the UK isn't getting given 17% of its GDP as free money from the generous tax payers of New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Mississippi is.

Obviously a moot point in the real world where we're not joining, but worth pointing out.

To actually calculate something like this you would need to disentangle income from income (which would be pushed up) from output - which would be pushed up only insofar as the higher income was spent on location-based activity, and then you would need to estimate population flows, etc

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