Weekend Briefing No. 425
Weekend Briefing - A briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend. I’ve got a few notes for you this week before we dive into the briefing.
First, as I mentioned last week, I’m in Miami next week. I said I was cooking up something fun, so here’s the deal. I’m working with my friends (and clients) at Musicasa to host a private concert for my community in Miami on Wednesday night. It’s going to be a special evening. The event is sold out, but I have a few spots left for Weekend Briefing readers. If you’re interested, email me. First come, first serve.
Second, are you interested in how Web3 technology can create a positive social/environmental impact? If so, you should check out my upcoming newsletter Web3 Impact. Web3 Impact is a briefing about how blockchains, cryptocurrencies, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and all of the other Web3 tools are being used for good. Subscribe to the Web3 Impact newsletter.
Lastly, enjoy my April playlist.
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12.9 billion—The Hubble has taken a photo of the most distant single star ever imaged by a telescope, an object whose light took 12.9 billion years to reach us.
$38—The price of a 9-kilogram box of avocados from Michoacan in Mexico has hit $38. That’s up 81% this year and stands as the highest on record.
30%—Net childcare costs for 2-3 year-olds in the United Kingdom is 30% of take-home pay.
A Brick & Mortar NeoBank
Since last November, the Oxxo convenience store in Mexico has been pushing ready-to-go, app-connected Visa cards to its customers. It’s already making a huge dent in getting Mexico’s unbanked access to debit tools. Spin by Oxxo, a ready-to-use Visa debit card and app, is the company’s latest attempt to merge its massive retail infrastructure across Mexico with financial services. By early March, the company announced that 1.6 million people signed up for Spin. That rush of sign-ups made Oxxo, a traditional brick-and-mortar chain of convenience stores, one of the fastest-growing debit card companies in Mexico. Oxxo has gathered users in numbers comparable to established banks and more than most neobanks—technology-driven startups that aim to open up banking to the masses. Customers can sign up for Spin at every one of Oxxo’s approximately 20K branches in Mexico. An account comes with an accompanying app that allows digital payments, transfers and access to a loyalty program. Besides selling basic staples, SIM cards, cheap phones and prepaid Netflix cards, Oxxo cashiers also perform a bank clerk’s duties, allowing customers to pay their utilities, make bank transactions, buy data for their phones, send remittances or pay their taxes using payment processors like Conekta. Rest of the World (5 minutes)
Women and Burnout
According to McKinsey, women are the glue at many companies, and to put it bluntly, they are just barely hanging on. Forty-two percent of women report being burned out. Research shows that the burnout gap between women and men has almost doubled since last year’s report. Women are delivering the performance and business results but at a great personal toll. Despite their own increasing burnout, women take action more consistently to fight burnout—and generally to extend their support to colleagues and reports—than men in similar positions. To employees, these things matter not only because they feel good, but employees say when they’re receiving that type of additional support, they’re happier in their job. And they’re less likely to be thinking about a move. In a moment where we’re facing the great reflection, where so many employees are thinking about making a big move, having women leaders stepping in is really critical for companies. But it explains the burnout and fatigue because they’re disproportionately doing this additional work in the office context. Research shows that they’re disproportionately doing it at home too. McKinsey (21 minutes)
Inflation’s Worst Nightmare—The Dogefather
Elon just stunned the Twitterverse again issuing a battle cry on how to fight inflation. 6.2% ... 7.1% ... 7.9% ... It’s like there’s no sign of slowing down. According to the consumer price index (CPI), if you had $100K in cash a year ago, it’s worth just $92.1K today. So what does the Dogefather think you should do to defend your wealth? Well, he emphatically endorsed one type of asset to ward off inflation, and he’s not alone. Top financial institutions from BlackRock to JP Morgan agree with his thesis. It sounds crazy. But one that’s rapidly gaining popularity is an asset that historically appreciates by 23% when inflation is above 3%, far better than both gold and real estate. Now, thanks to new tech, more than just ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) investors can access these multimillion dollar assets in just minutes. New demand is driving a waitlist, but you can get priority access with this app. (Sponsored)
Axie Infinity is a crypto-based game, where people play it and perform mindless tasks in order to farm digital currency. One person managed to hijack five validators of a blockchain, then steal $625 million in USD coins (USDC) and ether cryptocurrencies, one of the largest ever if not the largest ever crypto hack. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear if “steal” is the right word here, as the individual who fleeced Axie’s blockchain for all its worth was doing so because it appears that when the organizational code that defined the permissions of the validators ended in December, the organizer simply didn’t remove the allow list part of the contract. Afterward, everything that the person did was arguably completely within the rights of the majority shareholder of the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Anyway, lots of people—particularly in places like the Philippines—were attempting to use Axie as their primary way of earning money, and the losses for the bag holders may be considerable. Coindesk (7 minutes)
This is the story of how an exiled Mexican president accidentally invented chewing gum. The modern stick of gum can be traced back to a strange meeting of the minds in Staten Island between a glassmaker and an exiled Mexican president desperate for funds. A historically controversial character, Antonio López de Santa Anna, served as Mexico’s eighth president, returning to office 11 times, more often as a dictator than a democratically elected leader. Then, through a strange series of events involving a Colombian scammer, he ended up in exile on Staten Island. He packed a supply of chicle: the flavorless, chewy sap of the sapodilla tree, which, like many in Mexico, Santa Anna was fond of chewing. As part of a plan to raise the money for a return to Mexico and to power, Santa Anna dreamed of turning that chicle into a new form of latex, in order to cash in on the era’s great rubber boom. He called on Thomas Adams, a local inventor working as a glassmaker, and persuaded him to take a shot at making chicle the next big thing in bike tires and blimps. For over a year, Adams tried, but the chicle refused to vulcanize, or harden, enough to be useful as a rubber substitute. But, just when he was about to give up, Adams saw a little girl at a candy store order gum made with paraffin wax, a not particularly pleasant chewing choices at the time. Adams was inspired to create a better replacement. His first batch of flavorless chicle balls, put on sale in 1859, sold out quickly enough to persuade Adams that his future lay in gum. Adams went on to found the American Chicle Company, which operated the largest chewing gum-making plant in the world at its time. The American Chicle Company is now owned by Cadbury, and some of the gums that came out of it—like Dentyne and Chiclets—are still on shelves today. Eater (12 minutes)
Weekend and Kids
If you have children of a certain age (let’s say below 10), you know firsthand how hard it can be to actually enjoy a weekend. Gone are the days of sleeping in, lingering over breakfast with your periodical of choice and doing much of anything you want to do. But there are ways to make those work-free days a little less chaotic and (hopefully) more enjoyable. (1) Do housework on Friday night. I know this sounds terrible, but it will allow you to be present with your kids for the rest of the weekend. (2) Get out of the house early on Saturday morning. It can be easier to motivate and set a positive tone for the day if everyone doesn’t stay indoors, on top of each other, well into the afternoon. (3) Kid swap. Create a designated chunk of time when one parent will take all the kids out of the house so the other gets “me time.” Lifehacker (7 minutes)
As social creatures, humans need interpersonal contact to survive. These connections range from your inner circle of family and close friends to the outer rungs of your social network—other pet parents at the dog park, for example—and it’s important to have this variety. Research shows that you thrive more when you have various people that meet your various emotional needs. Becoming a member of communities helps build this social diversity. However, finding community is much different from just making friends. What is community? Community is defined by four criteria: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. To be part of a community, you must feel a sense of belonging (membership); feel like you make a difference to the group and that the group makes a difference to you (influence); feel like your needs will be met by other group members (integration and fulfillment of needs); and feel that you share history, similar experiences, time and space together (shared emotional connection). Vox (9 minutes)
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. Set in London in the 1660s and of the early 21st century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi just before the plague hits the city, and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of 17th century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.” The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
Oz and Bimetallism—This week, I learned that The Wizard of Oz is an allegory for the 1896 presidential campaign. It blew my mind, so I had to share.
Carbon Capture—While there are numerous ways to capture or remove carbon, one big question is which methods will be able to scale rapidly this decade.
Gangster Gardener—Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA—in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where "the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
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Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. –Elbert Hubbard
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