Sunday, May 30, 2021

Uber and Lyft prices

Uber and Lyft prices have sharply increased along with car rental prices. Waiting times are longer, too.

Prepare to Pay More for Uber and Lyft Rides

Friday, May 28, 2021

Car rental prices

There have been several news stories lately about the high prices of rental cars. CBS News example. Prices are especially high in Hawaii, e.g. $700 per day. Revenues and net income of car rental companies plunged in 2020 due to the pandemic curtailing travel. Many companies suffered big losses and sold off inventory, probably to meet cash needs. With the pandemic's decline and travel demand surging, the supply of rental cars is well below demand. So prices have risen sharply.

While I haven't seen stories about "price gouging", I will not be surprised if I see some.  Of course, accusers will likely conveniently ignore what happened in 2020, and the now high prices are enabling paying interest, adding to inventory, and reducing debt rather than producing windfall profits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Major league baseball batting slump

The 2021 major league baseball season is only about one-quarter over. Yet there have been five no-hitters so far, whereas the whole season average is about two. The overall major league batting average so far this year is only .236, the lowest it has been since .237 in 1968. 1968 was dubbed "the year of the pitcher" for the weak hitting (link).  As a result the pitcher's mound was lowered and the size of the strike zone was reduced for 1969.

The number of home runs per team game has not fallen to 1968's 0.61. The overall major league number of home runs per team game this year is 1.14. That is less than the previous two years (1.28 and 1.39) but still well above what it was 2010-15 (range 0.86 to 1.02). Strikeouts are up slightly, 8.97 per team game. This number exceeded 7.0 for the first time in 2010. It exceeded 8.0 for the first time in 2016 and has remained there. 

What's going on? It seem that hitters are trying to swing for home runs more and more. I saw it claimed the lower batting average is mainly due to fewer singles, not fewer extra base hits. The stats I see here don't clearly support that. Extra-base hits have fallen about as much. The number of singles per team game is 5.05 this year. That is about the same as last year (a shortened season due to the pandemic) but less than 2019's 5.34. The statistic has fallen steadily since 2008's 6.02. The number of runs scored per team game is 4.36, down from 4.65 last year and 4.83 in 2019. Runs batted in (RBIs) per team game is 4.13, down from 4.44 last year and 4.63 in 2019. On the other hand, pitchers may have gotten better. The overall average ERA is down and strikeouts per team game are up.

Update 5/20: Corey Kluber pitched the 6th no-hitter of the year yesterday.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Coronavirus - new mask guidelines

There are lots of news articles about the CDC's (Center For Disease Control And Prevention) new guidelines about wearing masks. Here are examples:

Saturday Night Live satirized the new rules.

Obviously the new guidelines rely heavily on voluntary compliance. They are very difficult to enforce. Is Walmart or any other place going to ask for proof of vaccination if a person is not wearing a mask? How would the enforcer know if the proof of vaccination is fake or borrowed or not? If a person walks in with a mask, is the person going to be watched to assure the person doesn't remove it?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Cryptocurrency energy usage

This article says Tesla's CEO Elon Musk and former Federal Reserve chairperson Janet Yellen are concerned about the huge amount of energy used for cryptocurrency mining. Tesla has halted purchases of vehicles with bitcoin due to such concern.

The price of Bitcoin (BTC-USD) fell about 13% in the last two days. The price of Ethereum (ETH-USD) fell about 10% in the last two days. I suspect the amount of energy that mining consumes is a major driver for the price drops. The mining -- done by many miners -- is to verify transactions on the blockchain.

For many months I have suspected the amount of energy mining uses is a growing problem and will inhibit the growth of cryptocurrencies unless something is done to require less energy. On the other hand, some are less concerned. Professor Carol Alexander said: “Almost all the trading is not done on the blockchain. It’s done on secondary markets, centralized exchanges. They’re not even recorded on the blockchain.”

I assume Alexander refers to exchanges like Grayscale's trusts (e.g. tickers GBTC, ETHE). If somebody buys or sells shares in the trust, there is a counterparty selling or buying shares. The cryptocurrency per se, Bitcoin or Ethereum, is not traded and therefore the transaction doesn't need mined. Only the beneficial owner of the shares changes. The trust holds legal title to the Bitcoin the same way before and after. 

P.S. I didn't post for about two weeks due to selling our previous house, moving into our new house, and a vacation for several days to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix.