Tag Archives: Great
Here come the doughnuts. Or, at least, the donut sticks. McDonald’s will bring six- and 12-stick versions of fried dough rectangles, covered in cinnamon sugar, to its breakfast menu come Feb. 20. Price will be $ 1.29 for 6 or $ 2.39 a dozen. (With a hat tip to Business Insider, which sussed this out in early January.)
McDonald’s in the fast food, not religion, business. But the company does seem to depend more frequently on Hail Marys. A little over a year ago, it tried bringing back its dollar menu–sorry, now the $ 1 $ 2 $ 3 menu–to get more people back to the chain.
Now it’s a version of a treat that Dunkin’ Donuts began to serve in 2017. Dunkin’ said in an earnings call that the snack was “one of the best-performing limited-time offer bakery items in recent brand history.” Though between “one of” and “in recent brand history,” that’s a lot of wiggle room.
Not that the concept even originated with Dunkin’. These are basically crullers, which go a long way back. Or churros, as Boston.com did. Shrinking the size and offering multi-packs as a single serving was a different twist, but even that didn’t start with McDonald’s or Dunkin’, as a little web search turns up references and recipes from years before.
I still think that McDonald’s has stifled innovation of its franchisees, who were the ones to invent the Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, and Egg McMuffin. None of that was the product of some central kitchen and executives who carefully considered what people would want.
One of the best ways to innovate is to crank out ideas and test them. That’s what franchisees can do. Let them try different things with their local markets. See what works. Give a bonus or reward or maybe even a royalty for items that prove themselves on a national or international stage. McDonald’s could have so many potential hits being developed.
But these days, that’s not what many big franchises seem to want. They’re interested in control. In fact, they’re so determined to be in charge that they’ve been willing to see many customers walk elsewhere.
Such is life. It does provide great opportunities for the company’s competitors, and even all the small restaurant operators out there who can try out what they’d like. A bit part of the fun of business is coming up with your own ideas and seeing what you can do with them.
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Even if it says so itself.
The airline just released some figures for July, and, at a cursory glance, they’re glowing.
Consolidated traffic (revenue passenger miles) increased 6.9 percent and consolidated capacity (available seat miles) increased 4.0 percent versus July 2017. UAL’s July 2018 consolidated load factor increased 2.4 points compared to July 2017.
Won’t you look at that?
This means the airline’s packing them in and making lots of money.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that domestic traffic rose by 9.1 percent in July. Compared to last July, that is.
And Lordy, the airline is doing wonderfully in the regions. There, traffic is up a pulsating 17.6 percent.
United’s also packing them in on each flight.
The so-called load factor (number of people who are actually paying) at home soared to 90.5 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent increase.
United was loaded internationally, too. A 2.2 percent increase to 87.8 percent.
People are paying to fly United and there are more flights to more places, which makes the United world a wonderful place.
Alright, if you read the headline at all — and if you didn’t, what are you doing here? — there’s a little bad news.
You see, when you pack more people onto your planes, it might take a little longer.
That’s what appears to be happening. All this success in selling tickets appears to be leading to a reduction in on-time departures, the beautifully named D0.
A mere 62.3 percent of mainline flights — that is, the non-regional variety — departed on time or even slightly early.
This is a 1 percent drop from this time last year.
This isn’t, of course, merely an inconvenience for passengers. When a plane departs late, cabin crew must explain themselves to their bosses.
Well, you see, it was like this. There were so many darned people. And have you seen all that stuff they bring on planes?
June 28th was the 194th birthday of Paul Broca, the physician and anthropologist who discovered the area of the brain responsible for our ability to produce spoken language. His discovery marked the first clear link between a region of the brain and a specific function, and it advanced our understanding of both brain structure and language. But Broca’s discovery, like much of the medical and anthropological research of his time, was born in a context of deeply racist ideas.
Huge swaths of anthropology and medical science in the mid-nineteenth century were explicitly racist, and Broca was no exception. Rather than a species with a common origin and variations in physical appearance, Broca and his fellow polygenists believed that human ethnic groups were actually completely distinct species which been created separately in different parts of the world. It’s not hard to imagine the kinds of things European colonial powers justified by viewing other peoples as different – and, almost always, lesser – species, especially since at the time, many anthropologists believed that cultures could be ranked along a continuum from barbaric to civilized – terms which make modern anthropologists cringe.
Broca’s preoccupation with racial classifications drove his interest in anthropometry, the measurement of the human body. Like many of his contemporaries, he espoused the idea that physical features, such as how far forward a person’s upper or lower jaw protruded, the ratio of the brain’s length to its width, or the length of a person’s arms relative to their torso, could predict intelligence. And Broca and his colleages, steeped in European ethnocentrism, always associated intelligence with traits that tended to be more common among European populations.
And that’s how Broca ended up examining brains. The mid-19th century was the heyday of phrenology, a field of study that claimed to be able to draw conclusions about a person’s character, personality, and intelligence based on the shape and features of their skull. A bump in the wrong place might brand you a habitual criminal or reveal an innate tendency to aggression, phrenologists claimed. The foundation of the whole discipline was the idea that certain areas of the brain controlled certain personality traits, as well functions like speech, memory, and motor control.
By the early 1860s the scientific community was starting to debate this set of ideas. At the Society of Anthropology of Paris, a scientific society founded and led by Broca, discussion centered on whether the capacity for language could be traced to a particular piece of the brain. In an effort to settle the debate, Broca paid a visit in 1861 to a patient named Louis Victor Leborgne, who had been nicknamed “Tan” because that was the only word he could clearly pronounce. Leborgne could understand other people’s speech with no trouble, and his mental faculties were intact – he just couldn’t make his mouth form the words he wanted to say.
Leborgne passed away shortly after Broca’s visit, and the surgeon returned to the hospital to perform an autopsy on Leborgne’s brain. He noticed a lesion in the left frontal lobe, and over the next few years he found lesions in the same spot in the brains of 12 other people who shared Lebourgne’s trouble with words. (Most of those brains are now on display at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.) Today, we know that that area of the brain plays an important role in the production of language, and it bears Broca’s name. The inability to form words which plagued Lebourgne is now called Broca’s Aphasia. (That’s distinct from Wernicke’s Area, a bit further back in the brain on the left temporal lobe. A lesion there produces Wernicke’s Aphasia, in which a person can’t understand language.)
Broca’s discovery marked the first known link between a specific region of the brain and a specific neurological function. Scientists have since discovered many others, and we now have a reasonably good map of which parts of the brain are linked to which functions – although the idea that their shape is linked to personality traits, let alone that the shape of a person’s skull can predict their character, has long since been thoroughly discredited.
The racist underpinnings of much of Broca’s body of work don’t alter the significance of his discovery, but it’s important to place his work into the context of his attitudes and assumptions. It gives us a stark look at how far science has come in just 150 years. And it reminds us that even those who make great discoveries are also capable of embracing some really awful ideas. Broca’s story reminds us that scientists are human, and good science requires evaluating ideas on their own merits.
For anyone who follows NBA basketball, there’s a war going on right now.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, it’s exactly the same scenario.
The Golden State Warriors are loaded to the gills with superstars like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but they play like a well-oiled machine. James Harden, meanwhile, is one of the most talented players we’ve seen in years and a likely league MVP–his dribbling and shooting prowess makes you do a double-take. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the fact that everyone else on the Houston Rockets (except Chris Paul) is often on the court standing around, waiting to see what happens. Four teams, but two completely different strategies. We’ll soon find out which strategy will prevail in the next few days.
The war raging between “team” and “superstar” has been around awhile. In business, you might be tempted to rely on a small group of overachievers. Yet, nothing quite compares to a larger group of people all working together in perfect synergy.
I was watching the Cavaliers the other night and realized the “old school” approach of driving the lane, passing the ball to the superstar on almost every play, and hoping that one person scoring 42 points is a good strategy matches up perfectly with how some leaders operate in business. “Give the ball to the superstar” is a common tactic.
It doesn’t really work, and part of the reason has to do with how teams function. In my own experience, individuals who can ramp up sales quickly are like a meme or a viral marketing video. It’s a big hit, but it doesn’t really lead to long-term success. I agree James is one of the best ever, but you could easily argue that one-guy-driving-the-lane has not worked. It has not helped the Cavs win an NBA Championship. Only when James surrounds himself with exemplary players, not pawns in a chess match, does he usually win the final series.
It won’t help your prospects as a leader, either. Teams in business who work together are far stronger, far more productive, and find far more success than a couple of greats.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
In one startup, I remember hiring someone who had exceptional graphic design skills. She could make Photoshop dance. And, she could crank out brochures and other items faster than anyone else. At meetings, she was always a little bored. But the other team members were also hungry to learn. Over an entire year, the other team members eventually learned how to use the design apps, shared ideas with each other, found workarounds, and built up their repertoire. In meetings, they would come up with far better ideas as a group. That one superstar was wildly talented, but had to rely on her own prowess.
Eventually, we ended up switching her to a different department, one that needed a solo producer. The rest of the team flourished, grew creatively, and became way more productive. There’s something about how a team of, say, five people working together creates more productivity than five individuals working alone. Each person fuels the entire team, generates new ideas, and pushes every project forward.
Watching the Cavs lately reminds me of that designer. Just give the ball to LeBron is not a great strategy against teams like the Boston Celtics. It becomes one against five. We’ll see how it all works out, but I’ll still hold to my view. Teams win in the end.
After hitting a high of over $ 61 this past march, Micron Technology’s (NYSE: MU) stock lost around 17% of its value and currently trades at $ 50.48. The decline came after the company announced its Q2 results, which didn’t quite live up to the hype of investors, even though Micron set company performance records in key metrics such as revenue, gross profit, EPS, and cash generation, driven by a strong demand for their DRAM and NAND products in the automotive market.
Q2 Results and Guidance
In their latest earnings call, Micron announced revenues were $ 7.35 billion, up 8% from the prior quarter and 58% from the prior year, and non-GAAP operating margin was 49%, up 3% compared to the prior quarter and 24% from the prior year period. This reflects a positive business environment and broad-based demand for Micron’s memory and storage solutions (cloud, enterprise, and mobile markets).
As a result of their performance, the company generated $ 4.3 billion in cash from operations, compared to $ 1.8 billion in the past year. Capex (net of third party-contributions) was $ 2.1 billion, resulting in a very positive free cash flow of around $ 2.2 billion, especially when compared to last year’s free cash flow of approximately $ 600 million.
According to the company’s guidance, revenue is expected to be in the range of $ 7.2 billion and $ 7.6 billion, with a gross margin of 57%-60%. An increase in operating expenses is also expected, primarily from an increase in R&D (funding of fourth-generation 3D NAND technology). Based on a share count of approximately 1.25 billion shares, these results should drive diluted EPS to $ 2.83 (+/- 7 cents). The company will also continue to evaluate additional opportunities to accelerate de-leveraging, while still providing a high rate of return for its investors.
Micron expects DRAM demand, which accounted for about 71% of their revenue this past quarter, to grow by about 20%, while they expect NAND demand to increase by more than 45%.
With smartphones and other devices looking to include and improve features that are data intensive, Micron is offering power efficient LPDRAM’s and TLC Managed NAND’s. The LPDRAM’s, which are great at optimizing battery life, should be in high demand considering battery life is still one of the main problem with smartphones. The TLC Managed NAND’s are also great news, since Managed NANDs allows for increased speed and system performance, while saving resources in hardware and software development.
According to Micron, they are also working with automotive customers to provide the needed components to support the new features that require rapid data analysis and storage, such as machine learning and other AI capabilities. Working directly with automotive customers is great news, since this should translate to better integration and performance of their components, as well as higher satisfaction from their customers.
Micron’s broad technology portfolio and strong innovation engine position us well for these growth trends. We continue to partner with our customers to ensure our technology and engineering roadmaps deliver the critical features for tomorrow’s solutions.
-Sanjay Mehrotra – CEO, president & director
Their increased spending in R&D has resulted in better products and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Micron seems to be investing in the technologies with increasing demand, which should translate to increased sales.
Financial Indicators and Comparison
(Chart made with data from Finviz)
Looking at some industry key metrics, we find that Micron’s P/E of 6.04 is the lowest of its industry peers, which might indicate Micron is undervalued compared to its competitors. This statement is supported by the PEG ratio (price/earnings to growth ratio), which is used to determine a stock’s value while taking into account the company’s earnings growth. Ratios lower than 1 (0.20 for Micron) are considered as a sign that the stock is undervalued and thus the company should provide a higher return than its peers. Micron’s PEG is also the lowest of its competitors.
The company’s debt to equity ratio of 0.36 is healthy, considering that it’s close to the average of the comparable companies, and the profit margin of 38.7% is also a very positive sign, since it is clearly the highest of the companies analyzed. Also, the company has a solid ROI of 19.20%.
As seen in the liquidity ratios, Micron has a quick ratio of 2.10, which means they can pay their short-term obligations with no problems. Even though this ratio may be a little high, the cash per share ratio of (6.74), which measures the percentage of a firms share price immediately accessible for spending, tells us that company has available cash to spend on R&D, which is fundamental in this industry. This is also supported by the fact that the company hasn’t declared dividends, as they are heavily spending on product and technology qualifications, and the funding of their fourth-generation 3D NAND technology, both of which primarily impact R&D. From 2013 to 2017, Micron increased their R&D by around 77%, and I expect their increased spending in R&D to continue.
(Chart taken from Finbox.io)
The DuPont model breaks down ROE into three separate components: net profit margin (how much profit the company gets out of its revenues), asset turnover (how effectively the company makes use of its assets) and equity multiplier (a measure of how much the company is leveraged). As seen in Table 1, MU’s net profit margin has increased for the last two fiscal years, reaching 33% in 2017, above each of the comparable companies. Regarding asset turnover, MU’s turnover ratio has maintained itself around 0.6x, slightly below the average of its peers. Finally, the equity multiplier has decreased from 2.0x in 2015 to 1.7x in 2017, meaning that the company has been deleveraging. These numbers are positive for MU, since they show the ROE of the company is increasing because net profit margin is increasing, and not the equity multiplier.
Price Targets and Fair Value Estimates
(Chart taken from Finbox.io)
Using 6 different models, Finbox.io calculated Micron’s average fair value at $ 66.79, which represents a 32.3% upside. In the chart above we can also see that the average price target for Wall Street analysts is $ 72.72 (44.05% upside). Similar to this number is the one provided by TipRanks, which consulted 22 analysts and found the average price target to be $ 73.67 (45.94% upside). Out of the 22 consulted analysts, 18 recommend strongly buying, 3 holding and just 1 selling, with the high projection being $ 100 (98% upside). However, in both Finbox and TipRanks there is a low projection of $ 35, which represents a 30.6% downside.
After losing money in 2016, Micron has been having nothing but positive results. Last year results were very encouraging, and that trend has carried over to this year. Business looks great, with Micron’s sales growing and demand expected to keep rising. With a heavy expenditure in R&D, we should expect new and better products, which should translate to higher revenue. Both their P/E (6.04) and PEG (0.2) ratios are considerably low, and their net profit margin has consistently risen for the past few years. Also, price targets and fair value estimates all point towards high upside. It’s clear then, that backed by solid financial metrics and a positive outlook, Micron’s share should rise in the near future.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
One of my favorite cameras ever is the original Polaroid SX-70. This marvel of engineering, chemistry, and industrial design introduced the world to fully integral instant photography—before the SX, instant photography wasn’t quite instant, requiring a peel-apart film that relied on some pretty gnarly chemicals.
The SX-70 was like the iPod of its time. With a sleek metallic and leather exterior, the device popped up, transforming a jacket-pocketable slab into a sophisticated SLR camera. It was an expensive, high-tech imaging solution the likes of which the world had never seen in the early ’70s.
Perhaps most importantly, the SX-70 was the first Polaroid camera with the iconic, instantly-recognizable square photos that define that photo format. Until recently, the only way to get that iconic square instant photo was by shooting imperfect, Dutch-made Polaroid Originals film in a compatible (vintage or modern) camera. But you Huey Lewis-types now have another photographic option: last year, Fujifilm developed a square version of its awesome Instax film. Unfortunately, Fuji then proceeded to hamper it with an expensive hybrid digital/analog camera.
Enter the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square. It’s the first analog camera to shoot square Instax film. Like the SX-70, this camera is compact, and folds up when not in use. So far, so good…
The design and build quality of this camera is impressive. Lomo didn’t always make great-feeling, tightly-assembled cameras but since the Automat series began, it’s clear that these areas have been vastly improved. My review unit was a creamy white hue with color-matched faux leather on it.
Opening the camera takes a bit of force, which means it’s unlikely it’ll spring open in your bag. That’s reassuring to me, since the camera uses rubber for a bellows assembly behind the lens, a potential point of failure if debris falls inside the camera’s body. When closed, it vaguely resembles a pair of electrobinoculars from Star Wars.
The camera also protects its own front lens, opening and closing shutters that cover the glass as it unfolds. I was annoyed by how the camera’s lens mechanism resets its focus every time the camera is closed, so you’ll need to remember to check it each time you take the camera out.
Speaking of focus, the Lomo’Instant Square has a fairly forgiving range of zones to choose from. That said, I recommend you splurge and get the combo version of this camera, since it includes a much-needed portrait attachment. Though the Lomo’Instant Square features a tiny selfie mirror, at arms’ length, you’d be hard-pressed to take a portrait that’s not out of focus. Screw the 0.5m attachment onto the camera and your selfies will look so, so, so much better.
Photo modes are plentiful since this shares its exposure system with Lomo’s other recent instant cameras. Multiple exposures, 1 stop +/- compensation, and even a bulb mode are all standard features. I’d say that’s just enough control to help steer the otherwise-automatic exposure system into giving you the results you want, and certainly enough to let you experiment.
One pain point for me was the viewfinder. Unlike the magical, complicated SLR setup inside the SX-70, the Lomo’Instant Square has an off-center viewfinder that’s far, far away from the long lens. It’s tricky to frame shots up just right, and you’ll need to mentally compensate for parallax to make sure your subject is where you want it.
There are a few things you should know before you take the plunge and pick the Square. First, it’s expensive at more than $ 200. For the sake of comparison, the newest Polaroid Originals-branded model, the OneStep 2 sells for about half that, and gives you true Polaroid-sized pictures.
If that doesn’t dissuade you, grab the combo option that includes the Splitzer, a must-have portrait lens attachment, and an adapter back that’ll let you use Instax Mini film. That last piece is super cool—Instax Square film isn’t cheap at around $ 1.30 per shot, so you’ll probably get more use out of your camera if you can also shoot the cheaper, easier-to-find Mini-sized film.
Taken on its own, I’m impressed with what Lomo’s done here. Do I love it as much as my SX-70? No. But the square prints, fabulous design, and reliable Instax chemistry make this a far more approachable experience.
The power of focus.
Without it, you’re doomed to a life of distraction. A life in which others’ priorities dictate on what you spend your time. As you move from one shiny object to another, you may get lots of things done–but few things ever get done well.
Or, you may find your life is ruled by procrastination, where doing great work is derailed by social media and YouTube videos.
But how can you learn to achieve focus, in a world that is built to distract?
20 years ago, Steve Jobs answered that question.
In 1997, Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple, the company he had been ousted from over a decade before. He was answering questions from developers at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference when someone raised the topic of “OpenDoc,” a software engineering framework that Jobs decided to kill upon his return.
In addressing the question about OpenDoc, Jobs took opportunity to drop some major wisdom.
“I know some of you spent a lot of time working on stuff that we put a bullet in the head of,” begins Jobs. “I apologize. I feel your pain.” The audience laughed appreciatively.
“But Apple suffered for several years from lousy engineering management. And there were people that were going off in 18 different directions–doing arguably interesting things in each one of them. Good engineers. Lousy management.
And what happened was, you look at the farm that’s been created, with all these different animals going in different directions, and it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of the parts. And so we had to decide: What are the fundamental directions we’re going in? And what makes sense and what doesn’t? And there were a bunch of things that didn’t. And microcosmically they might have made sense; macrocosmically they made no sense.
…When you think about focusing, you think, well, focusing is about saying yes. No.
Focusing is about saying no.“
Boom drops the dynamite.
Focusing is about saying no.
This ability to say no was arguably Jobs’s greatest skill. When Apple brought Jobs back, his first order of business was to shrink the product line–and make sure whatever Apple made, it made extremely well.
“Steve was the most remarkably focused person I’ve ever met in my life,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief and the man Steve Jobs once described as his “spiritual partner.” Ive went on to explain why achieving focus isn’t as easy as it appears on the surface.
Jobs would regularly ask him: ‘How many things have you said no to today?’ Ive says he would have “sacrificial” things he turned down. “Well, I said no to this. And no to that,” he would tell his boss. “But he knew that I wasn’t vaguely interested in doing those things anyway.”
“What focus means is saying no to something that you [think]–with every bone in your body–is a phenomenal idea,” he continues. “And you wake up thinking about it. But you say no to it because you’re focusing on something else.”
Putting It Into Practice
Whatever your role or position, you’re faced with choices about your work on a daily basis. Should I join this meeting? Do I really want to take on this client or project? Should I focus on this task at the expense of that one?
For many, it’s not easy to say no. You may try to rationalize: “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They won’t understand. I’ll find a way to get it all done.”
No, you won’t.
Learning to say no begins by sharpening your emotional intelligence–the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. By refusing to let temporary emotions lead to permanent decisions, you’ll realize that lack of focus easily leads to regret.
Then, instead of trying to do it all…
You can simply do it right.
So, choose wisely.
Because every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you do.
Understanding how electronics actually work can be pretty confusing. Often, inquisitive students succeed or fail in creating small electronic projects by simple trial and error. Thankfully, you can offer some structure to your pursuit of electronics knowledge with the SainSmart UNO for Arduino microcontroller board. It’s on sale right now for only $ 53.99 (19 percent off) from TNW Deals. This powerful board is the “sandbox” for inventive tinkerers to create their own electronics projects — then bring them to life. Powered by the open-source versatility and extensive library of Arduino, you can use the SainSmart UNO to build handfuls of simple electronic…
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While traveling is a great opportunity to expand your horizons and experience new adventures in foreign lands, if you’re unprepared you’ll quickly find yourself inconvenienced and overwhelmed. We’ve put together a selection of offers on the TNW Deals shop to help prepare you for the challenges that come with traveling, whether that’s international charging adapters, all-access streaming, an organizer travel bag or beyond. Rolo Travel Bag: $ 45 Traveling can be a hassle, so it’s important to remove as much friction from the process as possible. The Rolo Travel Bag is here to help, offering an innovative way to carry your belongings…
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