Weekly Roundup, 29 January 2021

 

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Good morning

I’ve been traveling for much of this week, including 552 miles of driving on Thursday.  Both the Wednesday and Thursday driving featured extended periods of heavy snow – tiring and time-consuming, so this is a short newsletter today.

During my many hours behind the wheel, I pondered on many things.  Two points in particular – I’m starting to become disillusioned with Waze – formerly my preferred GPS mapping app.  Several times it has done strange things in terms of how it has wanted to route me, and while I used to consider it the absolute “gold standard” and delighted in some of the short-cuts it has imaginatively revealed to me, I’m now pondering other times when it has sent me in different directions that have added considerable time and miles to a journey.  But what to do, in an unfamiliar area, when one GPS app says “go left” and another one says “go right”?

Even more puzzling is that Waze has been owned by Google for almost eight years, but it and Google Maps sometimes disagree on which is the better route to take.  They can’t both be right when they’re contradicting each other with “go left/no, go right” opposite directions.  Shouldn’t two Google apps agree on issues such as that?

I’m also pondering what to do with my car.  I bought it new in December 2005 (a 2006 model Landrover LR3 HSE), and have driven it 168k miles since then, and love it dearly.  But the car needs some work done – indeed, after some “deferred maintenance”, just about everything that moves other than the engine itself has issues (radiator, transmission, suspension, traction control, differential, a/c, brakes, battery, tires, some electronics).  I estimate perhaps $15,000 in repairs.

The thing is the vehicle is worth only about $5000 if I were to spend the money to fix it.  Should I really spend $15k on an old high mileage car, or is it time to retire it with copious thanks for 15 years of (mostly) outstanding and faithful service.  Well, my daughter still remembers being ‘totally embarrassed’ one time when the electronic handbrake jammed on while it was parked in her school’s car park when I was collecting her after school one time and a tow truck had to come and tow it away to be fixed, and the car was blocking access for other parents in their cars!

On the other hand, $15k would return it back to almost like-new condition, and is a lot less costly than buying a replacement.  If repaired, the car is very functional, comfortable, and convenient, and has/does everything I need, and still looks reasonably modern and not at all like a “beater”.

I’ve always thought many people needlessly replace their cars based on a fallacy – “it is cheaper to buy a new one with a warranty than it is to meet the cost of repairing my old car”.  The depreciation on a new car vastly exceeds any normal repairs, and with an old car like mine, which has essentially bottomed out in value, a monthly allowance for repairs is almost always much less than a new car would depreciate each month.

Some experts suggest the “sweet spot” is to buy a car that is about three or so years old – it has already taken a heavy hit in depreciation (typically it will have lost 50% – 60% of its value in those three years – different sources quote different numbers, and it does vary depending on make/model) and so you’re getting a relative “bargain” that will not plunge as rapidly in value for the next some years, while still being nearly-new and reliable.

I can understand the logic of that, but what I’m fussing over now is the rule of thumb for when to sell (or junk) a car – if you buy a car that is three years old with say 30,000 – 35,000 miles on it, is there a matching rule of thumb for when it is time to replace it?

One third point of mention.  I remember way back when I used to have a satellite radio receiver in my car.  I loved it at the time, and it was magic, or the next best thing to magic, being able to get good quality music and other programming everywhere, with almost no dead spots anywhere in the entire country.

But now I have a different approach.  I listen to my favorite internet radio station, or podcasts, via my phone.  Most of where I travel has good enough cellular data service to be able to stream internet radio to my phone and from there into the car’s sound system, and now that has become an even more magical enhancement than was satellite radio, with more choices and less cost (depending on your data plan).  I’m not sure exactly how much data I’ve used while streaming music when driving, but I see my max amount used this week was 0.24GB of data on Thursday’s long day of driving, and I’m not even sure how much of that was music streaming compared to other data uses such as regular email, web browsing, etc.  It has made my traveling very much more pleasant – if you’ve not tried it, you should.

A few other quick items below, plus a lengthy Covid diary entry is attached as well.  I’ll be writing more about my travels in the Sunday diary entry – I was largely in the “other” America where masks are seldom if ever seen.

  • Air Passenger Numbers Moderately Dropping
  • Wall St Journal’s Domestic Airline Rankings for 2020
  • Boeing’s Bad Result Surprises the Market
  • Due Process vs Delta
  • Does Apple Hate the Environment?
  • And Lastly This Week…..

Air Passenger Numbers Moderately Dropping

Compared to 2020, there’s been a slow but steady decline in the seven day rolling average of air passenger numbers during the last week.

The numbers are now the lowest for the year, but that’s not saying much as we’re not quite one month into 2021 yet.  They are however the lowest since the middle of December – the lull between the distorting effects of Thanksgiving in late November and Christmas/New Year in late December.

But I can’t start to guess as to what the next few weeks will bring.  My sense is the decline will not last – states are relaxing their most recent restrictions, and optimism about vaccines will be encouraging (vaccinated) people back into the air.

Wall St Journal’s Domestic Airline Rankings for 2020

As I never tire of saying, I find most lists that rank things from best to worst to be very unpersuasive.  But I moderately liked this ranking of US airlines, by Scott McCartney in the WSJ, because it explains and discusses how the ranking was created and shows the component score elements.

Is Southwest truly the best airline in the US (followed by Delta), and American Airlines truly the worst (followed by UA and JetBlue, tied for second worst place), as the WSJ suggests?  What do you think?

Boeing’s Bad Result Surprises the Market

The market was expecting Boeing to report a fourth-quarter loss of $1.80 per share.  Boeing actually reported a loss of $15.25 per share.  Ooops.

For the year, Boeing ended with a loss of $11.9 billion on total turnover of $58.2 billion.  But with $25 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the year, it is happily untroubled and still very much a going concern.

One particularly disappointing item is their timetable for getting the new 777X model plane into service has slipped to 2023.  Originally, it was expected to have started being delivered to customers in 2019.  $6.5 billion of the company’s loss was the result of taking a charge to reflect the further delay to this program.

But a small morsel of good news – the European and UK aviation authorities have now cleared the 737 MAX to return to service in their markets.

So, a loss eight times worse than expected, a plane that is four years behind schedule, and, ummm – exactly how many senior executives have been summarily fired for abjectly awful performance?  Apparently none.

Due Process vs Delta

We’re facing a double pronged attack on our right to travel at present.  I wrote last week about how the TSA is eager to place people on the no-fly list if they suspect the person might be traveling to attend a disruptive protest.

This week, Delta is boasting it will ban passengers, for life, if they are deemed to be rude.

Now, much as we joke about hating to fly, and wishing we’d never need to ever fly again, the truth is that just about everyone reading this will, from time to time, either need to fly or at the very least, really truly want to fly as a precursor to something enjoyable like an international vacation.  To have one of the only three remaining US full-service international airlines willing to ban people for life, based on nothing more than a vicious lie from a bad-tempered flight attendant seeking to shift blame for their own bad attitude and rudeness from themselves to a passenger (something that has happened many times in the past), is a fairly draconian threat and a massive penalty, quite likely entirely out of proportion to the alleged act of rudeness.

Delta is a “common carrier”.  It is obliged to provide transportation services to all people.  It enjoys privileged protection from normal monopoly rules.  This obliges it to be fastidiously fair and tolerant in its dealings with the public.

A person can demand a court hearing and possibly even jury trial for other civil disputes and criminal misdemeanors (and of course for more serious felonies too).  But what is the due process, the deliberative decision making, and the appeal provisions of Delta’s internal actions to ban people – not just for a day or even a year, but for life – from access to their common carrier services?  What are the evidential standards Delta will apply when a passenger disputes being rude?  Will Delta have a transparent process, and will it obtain testimony from other passengers seated close to the accused person?  Does Delta acknowledge that flight crews invariably back each other up and can’t be considered unbiased witnesses?  Will there be a range of penalties, starting off with “banned for a week” and only in the most extreme and repeat offender cases, will Delta ban people for life?

Will this make flying more pleasant?  Is it possible to bully and bludgeon people and force them to be polite, even when the flight attendants are unhelpful and rude themselves?

This is so wrong on so many levels.

Does Apple Hate the Environment?

Apple, like many other large corporations, loves to anoint itself in politically correct claims to love the environment and claims to be doing everything it can to be more environmentally friendly and reducing their “carbon footprint”, whatever that actually is and however you actually reduce it.

I was reading about how Apple is planning to end its OS updates for another generation of iPhones and iPads, and I look at my otherwise still perfectly good iPhone and iPad, which are diminishing in value all the time due to no longer getting OS updates.

Because modern phones and tablets are so good, we no longer buy new phones or tablets every year because we need/want the new features of the new devices.  Instead, we continue to enjoy our current devices until the manufacturer makes them semi-obsolete by ceasing to support them.  For example, I’ve a perfectly good and nearly new lovely Apple Watch that I can’t update because Apple unnecessarily requires it to be updated via an iPhone rather than directly, and not just any phone, but only a recent model iPhone with the latest OS on it.

The thought occurs to me – how many millions of phones and tablets are prematurely junked and thrown away because Apple (and, of course, other companies too – they all have similar policies) stop updating them and make them artificially obsolete?

Isn’t that bad for the environment?  How about it, Apple?  Instead of planting a few more trees to compensate, why not plant the trees anyway because you say you care so much about the environment, and also continue to support older model devices.  That way, you’re not just “carbon neutral”, you’re actually “carbon positive” (or should that be, carbon negative?).

And Lastly This Week…..

Flying cars/taxis/whatever (see the image at the top) – another of those topics that journalists love to uncritically write about, along with supersonic travel and amazing new electric cars and their batteries.  But, just like the other topics, the reality is we’re not likely to see commercial common use of flying taxis any time soon, a point that is overlooked by this article and its headline “Jet Powered Flying Taxi Startup to Develop Hubs Across Florida“.

The big question of course is “When will this happen?”.  The answer is “in coming years”.  What does that mean in terms of actual dates?  All the article can say is that the timing of the first flights (not the actual commercial operation) “could be announced as soon as this spring”.  That’s a very vague and conditional sort of statement, isn’t it – we don’t even know when an announcement will be made, let alone what the announcement might contain.

In other words, don’t expect to see any type of flying taxi infrastructure in Florida any time soon.

If you’re one of the “One Percenters” (or maybe the 0.1 percenters), would you like to go and spend eight days on the International Space Station?  And if you’d like to do that, how much would you pay?

These three people are looking forward to their eight day packages, and have happily paid $55 million each.  I wonder if they’ve also signed up for the $250k Virgin Galactic rides as well?

Have you received a package from Amazon with something inside that you never ordered?  I did one time – it was a gift, and obviously intended for me, but there was nothing to indicate who it was from, and when I asked Amazon, they first said they couldn’t tell, then said they wouldn’t tell due to privacy issues.  Then they said there should have been a note included indicating who it was from – there wasn’t.  I managed to puzzle out who it was from eventually.

But many people are getting things in a totally different manner and context.  It is a scam, but not a scam on you (the recipient) directly.  More it is a scam on all of us – another convoluted way of cheating Amazon’s review system.

What a strange new world it has become when things like this are now an issue and problem.  Here’s an interesting article about it.

Until next week, please stay healthy and safe

 

David.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup, 29 January 2021”

  1. David, I share your dilemna about when to buy a new vehicle versus fixing up an older model.

    One of our vehicles is a 2011 Toyota Highlander that we purchased used two years ago; it was low mileage so we know it will last a long time. However, this year our car insurance took a big jump. I contacted the insurance company about the reasons for the increase other than the increase in our ages. He said something interesting— the insurance on older cars is higher than a new car because if the automobile is damaged in an accident the cost to repair is much higher than on a newer car due to availability of parts. The other reason is that new cars have all sorts of safety equipment and sensors that assist the driver to avoid an accident in the first place.

    The reasons weren’t enough to convince us to trade this car in on a new model.

    As an aside, we live in Arizona and in this state if one purchases a used vehicle from a private party there is no sales tax. Otherwise purchasing a new or used vehicle from other than a private party such as a dealer there is a hefty sales tax of at least 10%.

    Fran Razmus

    1. Hi, Fran

      Thanks for these extra insights. I think I feel an article on this topic evolving and bubbling to the surface!

      The insurance cost issue is a new one on me. But with my other car being a 1995 model car, I guess the increase in costs has been blurred because both would be rising.

      Interesting about improving safety.

  2. David, I am a reader of you since 2004, a loyal Apple user since 1985 (currently use apprx 25 Apple devices, between work and home), a strong environmentalist, and on the left side of the political bird.

    Apple is just plain wrong in how they update operating systems and programs to interact with each other. Just this past month, I had to trick my new iPhone to work with a 2 year old MacBook Pro. 2 years old! I spent yesterday trying to update a 2013 Mac to run a newer OS that Apple states it’s qualified to run but won’t provide the update anymore.

    Apple makes money on selling things and planned obsolescence is one lousy way. The better way is to create things that delight and/or are necessary. Recognize that there are many long term repeat customers and don’t treat each like today’s mark. And..respect the environent!

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