Today’s Surprising News: Actor Edition

In the 80s, I was a fan of St Elsewhere, which was a pretty unusual show for the time — reasonably smart, reasonably well written, and not a simple drama or comedy. The cast was even nominally diverse — or, at least, should be remembered for having cast a very young (28!) Denzel Washington before he was, well, Denzel Washington. (His role as Stephen Biko in Cry Freedom would come on the strength of this role.)


As with medical dramas everywhere, we had a cast of varying generations of doctors. Washington was part of the younger set (along with Howie Mandel, David Morse, and Ed Begley, Jr.); the middle range was held down by Ed Flanders as especially William Daniels (later famous as the voice of KITT on Knight Rider; sue me, I’m a child of 80s television). And the most senior physician, Dr Daniel Auschlander, was played by Hollywood veteran Norman Lloyd.

Lloyd was a decidedly senior 68 for the pilot.

Norman Lloyd died on Tuesday, in his home, at the age of 106. I had no appreciation of it at the time, but he was a giant. He started entertaining — vaudeville! — in 1923; his last came in 2015, at the age of 100 (it was Trainwreck, which as rom-coms go is pretty good — Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, etc.). 2015 was also the year he had to quit playing tennis, which I find immensely inspiring.

Lloyd was a frequent collaborator of Alfred Hitchcock, and a personal friend of Charlie Chaplin; not for nothing does the NYT obit begin by noting he was the last living link to the golden age of Hollywood.

He married his wife Peggy in 1936; they remained so until her death in 2011. You do the math. They had two kids, one of whom was the actress and director Josie Lloyd, who sadly passed away last year at 81.

“32-bit unsigned integer ought to be big enough for anyway”

Except, well, Berkshire Hathaway.

Warren Buffett’s company has eschewed stock splits forEVER, and as of now it trades at an eye-popping $429,172.43 per share. (The next priciest issue is around $5k.)

My Nerds are with me already, but for those of you not in the tribe:

You’ve probably noticed some numbers show up as “limits” in computing. One common one is 255. Lots of data input fields, for example, limit you to 255 characters. You may or may not have ever wondered why, but I’m gonna tell you anyway: Remember that, at the end of the day, computers are powered by tiny tiny circuits, and at that level everything is either “on” or “off.” That’s binary. With a bit of handwaving, you can see how the limit of number storage for a given variable type would be tied directly to how much memory is set aside to store that variable type, and the limit can always be expressed as a power of 2 (because with binary, there are 2 states: on or off).

Two to the 8th power is 256. That number takes 8 bits to store.

Now, back to stocks.

NASDAQ, on which Berkshire trades, used a 32-bit integer data type to store stock prices. A regular 32-bit int has a range that’s centered on 0, but since stocks can’t have a negative price they used the unsigned version. 2 to the 32nd power is 4,294,967,296.

NASDAQ, sensibly, reserves the 4 rightmost digits for the fraction, so the largest stock price they can accommodate is $429,496.7294 per share — a value the Berkshire is fast approaching. NASDAQ is responding by rushing out a fix, but I think we all know how well rushed fixes go.

(If you’re thinking “wait, isn’t this kind of the same thing as the Y2K problem?”, well, you’re not entirely wrong. But given that Berkshire is SUPER weird in refusing to split, and that the next largest issue is two orders of magnitude away from the limit, I’m inclined to give the NASDAQ designers a pass here. Odds are, they’ve known this was coming for a while; my sense is that probably some of them wondered if Buffett would die first and be followed by someone less split-averse.)

This seems like news

This story, about how Pandora will no longer sell mined diamonds, is actually TWO stories by my lights.

First, obviously, that a major jewelry retailer is going all-in on man-made diamonds and abandoning natural ones entirely owing to their horrible, horrible history. That’s big.

But second, somehow Pandora has become the world’s largest jeweler. I always parsed them as a weird little tacky thing just above a kiosk. I even thought, at the time, that this SNL bit was almost punching down:

Apparently: No.