Toilet Paper Shortages in 1940 and 2020

I’m currently reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. It’s great (I might post some more extracts in the coming days) and it feels like a particularly appropriate read during the ongoing coronavirus crisis as the book focuses a lot on the the day-to-day realities of the Blitz, which all too often are starting to vaguely resemble what people are currently going through today. Example in point, toilet paper shortages:

Many other products, while not rationed, were nonetheless in short supply. A visiting American found that he could buy chocolate cake and a lemon meringue pie at Selfridges, but cocoa was impossible to find. Shortages made some realms of hygiene more problematic. Women found tampons increasingly difficult to acquire. At least one brand of toilet paper was also in perilously short supply, as the king himself discovered. He managed to sidestep this particular scarcity by arranging shipments direct from the British embassy in Washington, D.C. With kingly discretion, he wrote to his ambassador, “We are getting short of a certain type of paper which is made in America and is unprocurable here. A packet or two of 500 sheets at intervals would be most acceptable. You will understand this and its name begins with B!!!” The paper in question was identified by historian Andrew Roberts as Bromo soft lavatory paper.

‘Comfort food sales rise amid coronavirus self-isolation orders’

In the week that ended March 14, popcorn sales were up 48%, pretzels up 47% and potato chips up 30% compared to a year earlier, according to Nielsen data cited by the outlet.

“People are retreating back into comfort habits,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus. #

I think this is less about these items being ‘comfort food’ and more about them having a long shelf life. Lots of shops currently have very limited frozen goods and most people only have so much fridge and freezer space so buying items you can store at room temperature for a long time makes sense. I’m making sure I have plenty of nuts, tuna and tinned meats and vegetables.

‘Apple Acknowledges Personal Hotspot Issues’


In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has acknowledged that some iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 users may experience issues with Personal Hotspot.

I have had nothing but problems with Personal Hotspot for a long time. Long before iOS 13. And that’s actually a big problem because when I turn it on it’s because I can’t find Wi-Fi anywhere and I really need it to just bloody work right now. But all too often it fails. An iPhone is increasingly a digital Swiss Army knife and Personal Hotspot is an important part of that. It has to work 100% of the time. Imagine if Apple Pay didn’t work every single time?

‘No, coronavirus isn’t going to break the internet’

‘Some web services are facing outages but the internet is largely resilient to collapse’:

In response to concerns about networks not being able to cope with the demands being placed on them, BT has said it has “confidence” that it will be more than able to cope with people spending more time at home. The group says the highest peak its ever seen in demand hit 17.5Tb/s – during coronavirus there’s been a 35-65 per cent increase in daytime traffic but the highest peak has only been 7.5Tb/s.

And Netflix still isn’t delivering capped streams to me, by the way.

Rishi Sunak’s 80% + Universal Basic Income

Today the UK declared the closure of cafes, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres. And to help the employees of the affected industries the Chancellor of the Exchequer – Rishi Sunak – announced that the government will pay 80% of their salary for the foreseeable future so that they neither lose their jobs or struggle too much financially. It’s a bold and expensive move that will cost the taxpayer hundreds of billions of pounds and take decades to pay off. But I think it’s the right move.

And after watching the press conference for these announcements I turned to my Mum and said that Rishi Sunak is the only high-level UK politician currently responding appropriately and sensibly during the coronavirus crisis. James Kirkup of the Spectator agrees:

In some ways, it’s easy and even important to keep Rishi Sunak’s performance in announcing his coronavirus job retention scheme in perspective. It should, after all, be pretty easy to be popular in politics when you are offering to spend literally limitless amounts of money protecting people from economic hardship. […]

But even taking those things into account, I still consider Sunak’s performance one of the most impressive I’ve seen from a British politician in more than 20 years in and around Westminster.

With so many governments helping out their citizens finanically at the moment universal basic income (UBI) has appeared in the news several times. I’m still unconvinced by some of the maths and theory behind UBI but I do wonder if the coronavirus crisis will be the catalyst for more UBI adoption worldwide in the same way that the catalyst for the UK’s universal health care – the NHS – was World War II.

Links and Notes – Week 12, 2020

‘Working From Home — Tips, Tricks and Motivation’

I’ve read a lot of these type of articles this week. This is my favourite. I really like the ‘pairing up’ idea a lot:

Pick a buddy for an afternoon, install Discord, and stay persistently on Discord with them or your team so you can strike up audio conversations at will and feel like you’re interacting more. Hearing other people socialize even if you’re not interacting will help with the isolation.

[New Book] ‘Coffeeland: One Man’s Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug’

Near the end of Coffeeland, Sedgewick attempts to quantify exactly how much value a pound of coffee gives an employer (or, put another way, extracts from an employee)… He estimates that it takes 1.5 hours of Salvadoran labor to produce a pound of coffee. That’s enough to make 40 cups of coffee… In other words, the six cents that Hill’s plantation paid for an hour and a half of labor… was transformed into $22.50 worth of value [for the American economy,] an alchemy that reflects both the remarkable properties…

But the symbiotic relationship that coffee and capitalism have enjoyed for the past several centuries may now be coming to a sad close. Coffea arabica is a picky plant, willing to grow only in the narrowest range of conditions: Sunlight, water, drainage, and even altitude all have to be just so. The world has only so many places suitable for coffee production. Climate scientists estimate that at least half of the acreage now producing coffee—and an even greater proportion in Latin America—will be unable to support the plant by 2050, making coffee one of the crops most immediately endangered by climate change. Capitalism may be killing the golden goose.

To be released on April 7, 2020.

Apple Product Updates

Updated iPad Pros with a new keyboard that has a trackpad because iPadOS 13.4 now has ‘pointer’ support! The MacBook Air and Mac mini also have been updated. Daring Fireball has a good summary.

‘For, Then Against, High-Saturated-Fat Diets’

Could eating a lot more saturated fat and a lot less unsaturated help the obesity epidemic? Spoiler: probably not. But this article is still very much worth your time. If only because it doesn’t pretend to know all the answers, which I always appreciate when it comes to articles on nutrition and health.

‘How Saunas Could Boost Your Mental Health’

Jari Laukkanen, a Finnish cardiologist who’s fond of taking a daily sauna, has observed a similar pattern among larger groups. In a 2018 study of more than 2,000 Finnish men, he found a correlation between taking a traditional sauna four or more times a week and decreased risk of developing a physician-diagnosed mental-health disorder.

My current gym is a little bit out of my ideal price range. But I’m still a member because its the only one in town with a sauna and steam room. And I find 25 minutes in a sauna to be a truly wonderful thing. It’s a great way to unwind after a workout or a long week. And while I’ve never been particularly convinced by a lot of the supposed physical health benefits it wouldn’t suprise me at all if it does improve mental health.

I think this paragraph sums up the reason why you have to take a lot of sauna health studies with a grain of salt:

But critics contend that these associations could stem from selection bias — fit people who exercise regularly may just happen to sauna more often. Sauna bathing could also serve as an indicator for people who live in affluent societies and have healthier living patterns.

‘The Stoics in Exile’

Coronavirus self-quarantines are the closest many of us are going to come to being exiled. It’s important to use that time wisely. Learn from the stoics in exile:

Now imagine this. Imagine you’re at your peak in Rome with a remarkable influence, life is pretty good, and you get kicked out, you’re exiled, you go from Rome at its peak to some desolate island in the middle of nowhere. How would you respond to that?

Well, if you’re a Stoic philosopher you’d respond with taking responsibility and looking after yourself properly. That’s what Rufus did. He took exile as an opportunity to practice courage, justice, and self-control. Exile doesn’t prevent anyone from practicing these virtues, he said.

‘TikTok Told Moderators: Suppress Posts by the “Ugly” and Poor’

One document goes so far as to instruct moderators to scan uploads for cracked walls and “disreputable decorations” in users’ own homes — then to effectively punish these poorer TikTok users by artificially narrowing their audiences.

‘Netflix to Cut European Traffic by 25% Due to Coronavirus’

Netflix said on Thursday it would reduce its bit rates across all its streams in Europe, in effect cutting traffic on its European networks by 25% to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the coronavirus crisis.

The move came after talks between European Union industry chief Thierry Breton and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Breton had a day earlier urged the video streaming service to downgrade the quality of its video to avoid internet gridlock.

Pure PR, I suspect. I’m sure overall internet traffic has increased recently, but I doubt peak traffic has by much. And of all the services least likely to suffer due to overloaded networks, it’s Netflix. They frequently stress test their services and are directly connected to basically every internet exchange (IX) worldwide thanks to their Open Connect programme. This is just helping hand syndrome. Netflix wants to appear like it is ‘doing its part’.

I just went on Netflix and it’s not currently throttled. I’m being delivered full-fat 1080p streams. So either it’s not in place yet or they’re just getting rid of 4K.

Seneca’s Morning Routine

Seneca's Morning Routine

I’ve been re-reading “Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work” recently. It’s a wonderful collection of the daily routines of some of historys most iconic people. One person not in the book though? The Stoic philosopher Seneca. So here’s his morning routine according to his Letter LXXXIII.

He begins his day with some exercise. Usually a run with his trainer/slave Pharius. Only for a small amount of time though because as an older man he “only has to stir and is weary.”

After that he takes a plunge into his cold swimming pool.

Next, it’s time for breakfast and he has the most uncomplicated one imaginable: bread. He likes its simplicity, rejoicing that he doesn’t even have to lay the table.

Fitness, food, and bathing taken care of he follows them up with a short nap.

His morning routine is now over and the rest of his day is “wholly divided between rest and reading.”

‘Why Britain’s Coronavirus Strategy is Literally One of the Most Insane Things in Modern History’

Did you see a small problem between the British government’s definition of herd immunity…and what it actually is? Herd immunity is — the real thing — what happens after enough members of a population have been vaccinated. It’s not…just letting an entire nation be rampaged by a lethal virus for which there’s no vaccine. […]

The human species never developed “herd immunity” to polio or smallpox or any virus, really — ever, despite millennia of death and illness and misery. Why not? Because herd immunity depends on vaccines. We vaccinate a large number of people, and then all of us are protected, because transmission rates are reduced (among other things.) Let me make the point again. The human race never developed herd immunity to a lethal virus, precisely because herd immunity is not something that emerges naturally. What happens, instead, when we let a virus simply take its course? What happened with smallpox and polio: they just rampage through populations, forever.

Read more.

Links and Notes – Week 11, 2020

[New Book] Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution posts some extracts from a new book about ‘the elite global party circuit of “models and bottles” to reveal how beautiful young women are used to boost the status of men.’

The older, uglier men may have to pay 2k to rent a table for the evening, whereas “decent-looking guys with three or four models” will be let in for free with no required minimum.


Men familiar with the scene make these calculations even if they have money to spend: How many beautiful girls can I get to offset how I look? How many beautiful girls will it take to offset the men with me? How much money am I willing to spend for the night in the absence of quality girls?

My Sister spent some time in Los Angeles last year and I was shocked and fascinated by her stories of the bizarrely open shallow world of being granted entry into a club. Cowen said this is his favourite book of the year so far, so I will certainly be picking it up. To be released on May 26, 2020.

[Gallery] When Everyone Stays Home: Empty Public Spaces During Coronavirus

Photos from around the world of empty once crowded locations.

What Does It Really Cost to Run a Restaurant?

TL;DR: $1,215,037 income, $22,116 profit. Razor thin margins (1.8%).

Inside the Members-Only World of Online Beer Trading

Charging $155 for a single bottle of beer, as some did for Pliny [the Younger IPA], might cause the average beer drinker to spit out their average beer. But for a passionate community of craft beer aficionados who trade and resell rare beers online, that price was just business as usual.

Quibi Is Coming. Here Are the Famous People Making Shows for It.

Quibi, set to launch on April 6, stands for “quick bites,” which refers to the service’s plan to offer short segments (10 minutes or less) designed for small screens (your phone).

The list of people making shows for this new streaming streaming service is insane. I guess they’re giving stars a lot of money to make something that doesn’t require a big time commitment. Either way, this could actually be interesting.

“The Faster You Pour It Down”: On Charles Bukowski’s “On Drinking”

Bukowski is now, of course, a kind of patron saint of lowlifes, in Los Angeles and beyond; our eternal brownbag-swilling denizen of the liquor store, the poor East Hollywood–dwelling bum constantly hanging out at the racetrack. And it isn’t as if his type doesn’t exist today: it does, in abundance, the “community” of barflies of every color and non-creed, the tortured class, the not-quite or part-time homeless. He was one of them. But what set him apart was a heightened emotional sensitivity and genuine, stick-to-his-guns literary ambitions. […] He was dealt a bad hand in many ways, but one thing you could say for him: as a drinker and a writer he possessed the stubborn endurance of a cockroach.