From Terence Corcoran:
Maybe you missed the news last week, which is that Canada under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has just regained its title as the most reputable nation in the world. According to the Reputation Institute’s annual report, Canada remains at the top of a 55-nation list for perceived trust, admiration and respect, based on a survey of 48,000 people around the world.
Easy to miss, that story, since few media picked it up. Instead, the Canadian media complex is in the grip of Harper Derangement Frenzy (HDF), which is an upgrade to hurricane status from Harper Derangement Syndrome, identified several years ago by Lorne Gunter as “an ideological hatred of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that is so acute its sufferers’ ability to reason logically is impaired.”
A table in the column shows:
Every person I know who has used Uber has been extremely pleased with it. The cars are clean, the drivers are polite and generally quite knowledgeable, and the smartphone app lets both driver and customer know what's what.
So why is there a problem with allowing Uber to compete with taxis and with limousine services? As most of you know, I am strongly in favour of limiting restrictions on competition in the taxicab industry, having played a role the local changes that allow limousines to compete more directly with licensed taxicabs.
The only problem I see with Uber is insurance. In Ontario, we have no-fault auto insurance. Furthermore, Uber charges for (and is believed to provide) liability insurance for their drivers, even if they aren't carrying a passenger, so long as the driver is logged onto Uber as "available". So customers are probably covered, as are third parties (but see below).
The problem comes with the drivers themselves. If they carry paying passengers, they need to carry "commercial", not "personal" auto insurance. To drive for Uber and to have only personal auto insurance is taking a personal gamble, as well as possibly imposing a risk on potential third parties; and it is quite possibly defrauding the insurance companies.
I asked my insurance agent for RSA, with whom we have our auto insurance, about this and here is what she replied:
At this time, a Personal Policy with RSA will NOT provide any coverage for UBER driving.
As you would now be “carrying passengers for hire”, you would need to get a commercial policy if that was something you were interested in.
Although UBER may provide some liability in a lawsuit situation, there are other factors (Accident benefits / damage to your vehicle etc) which would also have to be dealt with.
Part of the application does specifically ask about carrying passengers so we are required to disclose it to the insurance company.
... [W]ith this being new to London, the companies are just reacting to [it] now. This may be something that changes in the future; however at the moment it is not something they are willing to cover – and all coverage would be denied in the event of a claim. [emphasis added]
To be clear: no, I am not intending to drive for Uber (though I would consider it if personal auto insurance were sufficient).
What this means, then, as someone pointed out somewhere on Facebook, is that if you ride with Uber (in London, Ontario, as of now), you are likely signaling that you are willing to give business to someone who is likely lying to their insurance company.
And with that in mind, I probably will not be using Uber in the near future.
If you want to reduce the probability of divorce, marry in your late 20s.
But the important thing, for Wolfinger, is that "we do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people who marry in their thirties are now at greater risk of divorce than are people who wed in their late twenties. This is a new development." And it will take some further research to suss out what this means for the demographics of marriage going forward.
Here are the data, including confidence intervals!!!
On Saturday, I visited with friends at the Masonville Starbucks and then walked home along the Thames Valley Trail.* Along the way, I used my iPhone to take a few photos.
I have never seen double-layered thistles before, and I fell in love with them.
And of course I am enamoured of the Fibonacci sequences and formations in these flowers.
I also saw some beautiful finches/warblers but couldn't zoom in on them or crop the photos sufficiently well. I gotta take a real camera with me next time.
Near Harris Park, there were some Black-eyed Susans (which always remind me of "the Highwayman") and these wonderful purple flowers providing nectar for the bees.
Once again, though, I had the feeling that I love the patterns and colours of the inner flower. I really do need to take a better camera with me on these walks.
*Over two months ago I injured my knee during a performance of Neville's Island. I thought it had been something minor, but as time went on, it got worse. Fortunately though with rest and appropriate exercise, I am now nearly recovered [whew!!]. Last Monday I did a two-mile walk, and this one was about 4.5 miles. Aside from needing to rebuild my strength and stamina, all seems well.
Back in the days of rec.sport.baseball, Gary Huckabay advocated the use of cameras and computers to call balls and strikes for baseball games. He knew the technology could do it, but also knew it would take some time to be accepted.
Now it will be tried in an independent baseball league for a couple of games on an experimental basis. Yea!
According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Pacifics will use an automated computer system to call balls and strikes later this month in the first human umpire-less games in professional baseball history. The team plans to use the technology on July 28 and 29 against the Vallejo Admirals.
The system is called PitchFX, and utilizes a multitude of camera angles to calculate pitch speed and trajectory. All 30 MLB stadiums are already equipped with PitchFX, and it is used to evaluate umpires as well as for analytics purposes.
I must say that after watching the pitch tracker for the past several years and seeing how many incorrect calls are made, I welcome this development. May it please happen in my lifetime!
Eventually, I expect the sport will use computerized voices to call balls and strikes and not rely on someone to relay the computer results. I can also imagine that a similar scheme can be put in place to assess whether a batter holds up on checked swings. However,
As my umpire friend Jim Cressman says, though, who will sweep off home plate?
When this question first occurred to me, I assumed (following a mid-70s National Lampoon article about Canada) that the answer would be "tapioca". 8-)
And let's face it: the question assumes there IS such a distinctive thing as "Canadian cuisine" [what, poutine? what else?]
But after looking at the list of the most common ingredient in many cuisines, [via King],
Ms Eclectic and I agree that likely the answer is "butter".
But actually I think it's probably "water".
When there is little or no good competition, people providing a service tend to have less incentive to do a good, pleasant job. Or, as Scott Sumner says,
... government offices don't have to compete for customers as private companies do, so they don't care very much about customer relations. Of course some private monopolies suffer from the same problem.
Of course his statement is provocatively strong, but in general he is right. Petty bureaucrats can get all officious when dealing with us if their bosses don't much care, and their bosses will tend to care less if we customers have few, if any, good options.
Yes, some gubmnt employees provide great service. In fact we had a very pleasant experience last week at the passport office, renewing our passports.*
And with increasing competition from private couriers, we have noticed that the postal service is slowly improving the quality of its service, at least in areas where the competition matters.
Harold Demsetz frequently argued, the major source of lasting monopoly power is gubmnt. Whether the monopoly is gubmnt activity or gubmnt-created or gubmnt-protected monopoly, it is in these types of monopolies where people tend to have less incentive to provide good customer service.
And, after all, people respond to incentives.
Note: I said "tend". I know there are dedicated people who work hard to provide good service in gubmnt or other monopolies.
*Digression: We took a gamble and renewed our passports for ten years. When I laughed about that, the passport official said someone who is 100 years old had recently renewed their passport for ten years! Heck, I'm still <90.
Regular readers of EclectEcon know that I try to avoid swearing here and on Facebook. At home, around friends, and in the classroom my Edward Hyde side emerges, in a sense. In this list, I use all but "Gosh" and "Darn" with varying and sometimes great frequency.
Almost a billion tweets, from October of 2013 to November of 2014, were collected by Diansheng Guo at University of South Carolina, totaling nearly 9 billion words. Here’s how Grieve explained what happened once the data was collected:
For any word ... we measure its relative frequency in each county by diving the total number of occurrences of that word in that county by the total number of words in that county.
We take that raw map and smooth it using a hot spot analysis (a Getis-Ord Gi local spatial autocorrelation analysis).
Here is the map for "Gosh". There are seven different maps for seven curse words along with more details and explanations at the link.
I am really, really tempted to get one of these.
So it's a trumped up shopping holiday. So what if there are good sales and good prices? And even if you aren't a member of Amazon Prime, this might be a good time to try out their 30-day free trial.
This week, warnings of an impending “mini ice age,” set to hit in the 2030s, have been circulating in the media. ...
The ice age idea got rolling last week when researcher Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, presented some of her recent research into solar variations at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Wales. The presentation was based on a study ... which presented a technique for understanding variations in solar radiation and made some predictions about how this radiation will change in the near future. Most notably, the research predicts that between 2030 and 2040, solar activity should drop significantly, leading to a condition known as a “solar minimum.” ...
According to the research, solar activity at this time should resemble conditions last seen in the mid-1700s during a period known of low solar radiation known as the “Maunder Minimum.” The interesting thing about this period was that it coincided with a “little ice age” in Europe and North America — a time marked by unusually cold temperatures and bitter winters. Now that Zharkova and her colleagues are predicting another solar minimum coming up, media coverage has jumped on the idea that a modern “mini ice age” is in store.
Michael Mann, a leading proponent of concern about AGW (and whose work has been seriously criticized [see this] ), doesn't buy it, but his apparent only explanation is
As far as the solar variations go, “The effect is a drop in the bucket, a barely detectable blip, on the overall warming trajectory we can expect over the next several decades from greenhouse warming,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
The article points out that Zharkova refuses to go on the record scientifically as to whether her predicted mini-ice-age would have much of an impact on the earth's temperature. It does add, however, that
On the one hand, Zharkova maintains that her research was not intended to make assumptions about the effects of solar variation on climate — only to lay out predictions about the solar activity itself. “What will happen in the modern Maunder Minimum we do not know yet and can only speculate,” she says. On the other hand, she adds, her gut assumption is that temperatures will drop as they did 370 years ago.
Some years ago, while we were living in Clinton, Ontario, a group from Investigation Discovery came to Vanastra (a small village just south of Clinton) to film the story of Steven Truscott., a young teen who was unjustly convicted of the murder of a classmate, likely on the basis of the trumped-up testimony of a pathologist.
A number of my friends were in the show, including my son and two of my granddaughters. I played the murderer, but since no one is sure who that was, you can't see my face as I was driving the old white Chevy or dragging the victim's body into the woods where she was found.
Shakespeare without words? Gimme a break. As my Shake-o-phile grand says, "His language is perfect." or words to that effect.
In Act 5 of “Love’s Labor Lost,” one character scoffs at pedants: “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” The latest Shakespeare fashion, at least in the Washington area, is to invite people to a feast of language and serve nothing but grunts, grimaces and grins—with a few gyrations thrown in for dessert.
The Synetic Theater has harvested a bushel of Helen Hayes Awards (the local version of the Tony Awards) for its Silent Shakespeare shows in the past dozen years. The company (whose name blends “synthesis” and “kinetic”) is run by a husband-and-wife team who were raised in Soviet Georgia and pride themselves on making Shakespeare “very accessible.” Paata Tsikurishvili, described in a Synetic video as a “visionary director,” explains: “Why I do Shakespeare, like this with less text, is because we have that vocabulary to express without the words—like crying and laughing; I take it to the next level.”
And the conclusion is really spot on:
Still, Silent Shakespeare is akin to mental nouveau cuisine with more flourishes than calories. The fact that many Washingtonians consider Silent Shakespeare an improvement rather than an oxymoron reflects unkindly on the capital’s cultural pretensions. But perhaps we should not be surprised that the city that pioneered obfuscation is now exalting expunging English altogether.
The photo that accompanied the article:
Compliance failure is hard wired into the agreement, according to this account:
Joe Maddon is currently the manager of the Chicago Cubs. Previously, he managed the Tampa Bay Rays. Besides enjoying baseball, he and I have something else in common.
From an interview with Baseball Prospectus,
DL: You majored in economics in college. What role do economics play in the baseball world of Joe Maddon?
JM: Honestly, I was not a very good student. With economics, "ubiquitous" was probably my favorite term. I guess that the number-crunching is something I liked. I've always been into that. I've always like analyzing statistical information, even before it was fashionable. When I was back in the minor leagues, as a roving hitting instructor back in the mid- to late '80s, I probably had a more simplistic perspective, but nevertheless I saw the value in it. But my economics days at Lafayette College were probably a case of having to declare a major more than anything.
Like Joe Maddon, I was an economics major and I was not a very good student (as an undergrad). I liked number-crunching at an intuitive level then, too. But I did fail a math course and get Ds in two different economics courses. I don't know about him, but I was lucky I didn't fail out.
Nine years ago when I was in Copenhagen, I happened to be there during the Jazz Festival. There were live concerts and performances everywhere, along with no prohibitions on enjoying a beer in public places. I wrote then about how much I enjoyed, indeed was mesmerized by, a group performing a piece by Steve Reich.
I had no idea what was being performed, but I loved it. The atmosphere was relaxed and, I am reluctant to use this term, "mellow" at the outdoor venue, with people coming and going, drinking beer, eating ice cream, and enjoying themselves. People's heads were bobbing in unison to the rhythm; and then there would be a chaotic interlude to the head-bobbing as the music developed a different cadence.
For some reason I was reminded of the music of Steve Reich last February and wrote about it again then.
Over the past few days, I have been thinking about the music of Steve Reich some more. For some reason I had not come across his "Music for 18 Musicians" before, but I think that might have been the piece I enjoyed so much back in Copenhagen.
It lasts for a approximately an hour. It is a very slowly evolving piece with a pulsing, driving underlying rhythm that captivates me. Apparently it captivates others as well. Someone wrote about it:
I put it on as a signal that it was time for my guests to leave, but they insisted on staying to listen to it again.
There is a good post about this piece here. It has some excellent commentary. One snippet:
Groups of instruments expose hypnotic melodic patterns adding a new note every so often – the opposite of traditional practice of linear fragmentation and variation. Slowly evolving melodic figures are set over fixed cadences, with the resulting magical effect of varying that which is unchanging. This gradual development of each melodic pattern reconstitutes our sense of time so that we genuinely begin to value each new note; time really does seem to freeze during a performance. No wonder, then, that Reich, rather than Philip Glass, has won a reputation as “the thinking man’s minimalist” – in place of the interminable, meditative scales and arpeggios of his aesthetic colleague, he reinvigorates the emotional potential of tonality and the musical satisfaction of large-scale form within a trance-inducing and crystalline soundscape.
Here are some links to several different full-length performances of the piece on youtube. Download one and give it a listen. You, too, will likely be mesmerized.
I don't know anyone who uses CRT screens for their computers any more. I expect some do, but those of us who don't use CRT screens (i.e. those of us who use LCD or other flatscreen monitors) really have little need for screensavers.
Those old CRT monitors also used a lot of power and time to start up again after being turned off, so shutting the monitor down wasn’t the best idea, either. The solution was a simple program that kicked in after several minutes and ran some basic images across the screen to keep the phosphors from getting bored. Thus, the screensaver was born.
Yet many of us still use screensavers. I do. I love seeing a moving collage of photos taken at a huge family gathering a couple of years ago.
The only possible drawback is that screensavers use more electricity than a blank screen uses. But that is easily dealt with. On my laptop, I set the screensaver to show only briefly when I'm on battery power. Otherwise I have it going for quite some time if I'm not using the computer.
Market entrepreneur Smith succeeds only if and insofar as he persuades investor Jones and consumer Williams each to spend his or her own money on Smith’s business plan and products.
Political entrepreneur Politician Johnson succeeds only if and insofar as she persuades voter Jackson and voter Miller to spend other people’s money – namely, money belonging to taxpayers Smith and Jones – on Johnson’s political plan and programs.
Despite the perversity of this reality, the Smiths and Jones of the world are commonly derided as greedy and antisocial pillagers, the Jacksons and Millers of the world are lauded as deserving and noble citizens, and the Johnsons of the world are celebrated, cheered, applauded, hailed, and memorialized as generous and visionary public servants.….
Politics is a scam.