Trucking in Japan

Sharp New York Times profile on changes in the trucking industry in Japan, worth reading in full (or at least scrolling through the lovely photos of Japanese Apple Orchards).

What’s happening:

Japan’s trucking industry is a crucial cog in one of the world’s largest economies, and it is the lifeblood of the Japanese culture of ultra-convenience. But it, and its drivers, are under immense strain. To improve job conditions and make the work more appealing, the government is moving to cap overtime for the first time next year, easing the punishing hours that have long defined trucking in Japan.

One of the drivers of the issue, lack of standardization:

Trucks in Japan do not have detachable trailers, unlike trucks in much of the developed world. Cardboard boxes are not standardized — there are 400 different sizes for shipping oranges, for example.

December 23, 2023

France has figured out compute and energy

The canonical caricature I have of France in my mind that it is a country that shuts down in August, shuts down in December, and frankly shuts down seemingly every time of the year.

But it seems like they have two prongs of the next few decades — compute and energy — figured out:

  • Mistral: Probably the best open-source model as of today, headquartered in Paris.
  • Nuclear: Compared to every other European country struggling to figure out how to power the needs of its citizens and industry, France derives about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy.” Problem solved.

Getting the basics right is difficult. France seems to have done it.

December 22, 2023

Patrick McKenzie (patio11) on Payroll and Taxes

From an overall great essay worth reading, a couple of excerpts that caught my attention.

On withholding taxes:

Withholding also reduces fiscally consequential tax non-compliance. Most individuals who forget to file a return have already paid all taxes that are due, and may be forgoing a refund against their own interest.

It also has one side effect in the political economy, whose consequences we deal with a century later: withholding is quiet and sending in tax payments is loud. Most taxpayers, including relatively financially sophisticated taxpayers, do not carefully scrutinize their payroll withholding statements. Most do not understand how their payroll tax is calculated; it is simply a law of nature, handled by dutiful clerks somewhere. The only time they really think about tax withholding is once a year when the government pays them. In that blissful moment, their thought is not Wow, I am paying so much in taxes!”

Tax withholding is one of a very few ways in which you can licitly bribe someone with their own money.

On why the IRS has not been able to get into the tax preparation business (presumably making everyone’s lives easier?):

And, relevant to the question of whether Intuit controls U.S. tax policy: it can’t, because that would imply they have wrested control from Norquist. Norquist considers a public filing option a tax increase by stealth and opposes it automatically. (I offer in substantiation ATRs take on a specific policy, which was bolded for emphasis in the original: Americans for Tax Reform rejects the use of unauthorized taxpayer dollars being used to expand the IRS into the tax preparation business and urges states to reject participation in the program.” You can find much more in the same vein.)

December 21, 2023

Working music by ultravclet

YouTube playlists have almost entirely replaced background music from other apps for me. This is one that just released today I like:

December 20, 2023

John Steinbeck and Ideas

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

December 20, 2023

Retro - Link

Retro: A new photo-sharing app

I’ve been enjoying Retro, a new social app that’s built as a friends-only photo journal.” Some things I really like:

  • Populating the backlog is quite easy. Tapping on a photo from the past automatically slots it into the right day. Took me about 20 minutes to go through a year’s worth of photos.
  • At least for now, the UX has a very quiet and clean feeling to it.
  • The app is fast.

Try it out. I’d love to hear what you think.

December 16, 2023