What I learned last week (#135): level up

Learned last week: wood prices, pixar, national parks, aptitude, and more!

A weekly selection of what I explored last week.


Quote I enjoyed:

Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling.

Bill Belichick

Why wood is so expensive:

As we are struggling to get our own building project started and hearing about the cost of materials being to high, this was timely.

Demand is up (as expected):

The price spike seems to be driven by a combination of increased remodeling/renovation and increased housing starts, which together make up about 70% of the demand for softwood lumber.

Home renovation is a significant user of lumber and wood products . Almost 60% of the lumber used in construction is used in renovation or remodeling, and Lowe’s and Home Depot combined make up over 50% of the building materials market (this might seem high until you remember that existing buildings outnumber new buildings roughly 100 to 1). And last year the home renovation market exploded: sales at Lowe’s and Home Depot were up over 20% compared to 2019.

But production hasn’t been able to keep up:

The bottleneck seems to be sawmill capacity – the price for finished lumber is way up, but the price for unprocessed logs is flat or even down. “Stumpage” (the price harvesters pay to cut down trees on a plot of land) is driven by the total inventory – how many trees are available to harvest. Post 2008, stumpage prices collapsed, and since then tree inventory has continued to increase

Lumber Price FAQ: https://constructionphysics.substack.com/p/lumber-price-faq


Great art celebrating US parks:

Mount Rainier by Glenn Thomas

National treasures: posters celebrating US parks – in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2021/jul/31/national-treasures-posters-celebrating-us-parks-in-pictures


Pixar began as a hardware company:

I always had it in my mind that Pixar was a relatively “new” company that made movies, but they actually grew out of Lucasfilm back in the 70’s and they were originally a hardware and technology company:

Each one of these pieces represented continued improvements in the underlying in-house technologies. Luxo Jr., for example, incorporated the first articulated objects that self-shadowed themselves from multiple light sources. Red’s Dream showed off our Pixar Image Computer: the principal background for the piece, a bicycle shop, was the most complex computer graphics scene ever rendered at the time.

The fifth jewel was CAPS, the Computer Animation Production System we created for Disney, building on our experience working on cel-animation tools at NYIT. It kept Pixar and Disney close in a mutually admiring relationship and was a major source of income for the fledgling Pixar. Every Disney cel animation for years following was executed on the system for a total of 18 feature films. It used Pixar Image Computers running animation software written by Pixar people and logistics software, used for keeping track of the complicated production process, written by Disney people. Disney first used CAPS for one scene in The Little Mermaid, released in 1989, and by 1990 produced an entire movie using the system, The Rescuers Down Under.

The Real Story of Pixar: https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-real-story-of-pixar


What is aptitude and why is it important:

This is an interesting way to measure and think about learning. Is aptitude a more useful term to describe why someone is great than the dreaded “talent”? I think so.

Now we have a slightly better way to measure aptitude. Aptitude is the rate at which you level up, by changing the nature of the problem you’re solving (and therefore how you measure “improvement”). The interesting thing is, this is not purely a function not of raw prowess or innate talent, but of imagination and taste. Can you sense diminishing returns and open up a new front so you can keep progressing? How early or late do you do that? The limiting factor here is the imaginative level shift that keeps you moving. Being stuck is being caught in the diminishing returns part of a locally optimal learning curve because you can’t see the next curve to jump to.

Mediocratopia: 10: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2021/07/29/mediocratopia-10


What I wrote and drew about this week:


What I did, was reminded of, or was thankful for last week:


Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

2 Comments

As you were talking, ever so briefly, about The Little Mermaid, I recommend the latest Revisionist History season podcast (Malcolm Gladwell). There are three episodes on the film and fairytales in general. Really interesting listening.

Oh nice! I haven’t gotten into a good groove with regular podcast listening ever since my commute went away, but I’ll add this to the list!

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