jlm-blog
~jlm

1-Jun-2020

Unfortunately not fiction

Filed under: news — jlm @ 17:34

From the corrupt politics dystopia we switched to the global epidemic dystopia and now the street mob dystopia. The switches seem to be happening faster, I might get whiplash from the next one. What’s that going to be, the robot uprising dystopia?

26-Mar-2020

No refuge in the numbers

Filed under: news — jlm @ 20:41

The State of California, like several other states, has applied an unprecedented “shelter in place” directive to its population to stem the spread of SARS-2. This is a huge cost on the psychological well-being of the citizenry, on their human rights of movement and association, and on the economy, in order to avoid incurring even greater costs in lives lost, reduction in health, and the resulting psychological and economic trauma. Now, after over a week of this, has there been any luck at reducing the spread of the disease? I have no real sense one way or the other. So I went and grabbed the data on the number of cases from March 11th onward from the state Department of Public Health and plotted the infection rate (ratio of new cases to prior cases) since then:

plot of California's COVID infection rate

(data is only up to yesterday because the Department publishes a day’s case facts the next day)

I have no idea what to make of this, so I still have no real sense one way or the other whether it is working. The 18th and 19th are weird outliers, but I double-checked the data for the 17th−20th, and if the graph is wrong then the state’s numbers are. I wish I could draw a conclusion from this, but I can’t.

22-Mar-2020

Why we need sick-time regulations

Filed under: news, politics — jlm @ 11:00

There’s a terrifying report from the NY Times and affiliates today: With the traditional retail shut-down triggering a big jump in online retail, there’s been a big jump in the workload at the businesses that get the deliveries to the consumers — and the pressure to meet at that workload is causing many employees to come into work despite being sick, even when they’re almost certainly suffering from COVID!

Absent the pandemic, our laissez-faire approach to sick-leave policies has resulted in a race-to-the-bottom and certainly contributed to the spread of traditional casually communicable diseases like the common cold and flu. With the pandemic, here we see that it’s actively undermining our efforts to fight the disease’s spread! Whether it’s the proper remit of government to prevent this race-to-the-bottom is a matter of political philosophy, and this right here is a demonstration of why it’s bad to not have those regulations. Without regulations, businesses won’t enact policies that reduce the spread of diseases, because that’s a social good but not a competitive improvement. Proper government recognizes that its duty to the society it governs includes ensuring that businesses don’t face competitive pressures to act in ways that hurt the greater society. Sick-time regulation is one such case: a uniform and regulated policy would protect society as a whole by reducing the spread of casually communicable diseases, while letting businesses still compete in the matters that are properly their remit like customer service, productivity, and product quality.

Our failure to have socially beneficial sick-time polities has already contributed to the epidemic and continues to do so. But now that we’re here, we need to do more than look back and regret our foolishness and lack of foresight. A responsible government would step in with emergency regulations and keep these employees home, provide unemployment funds while they’re recovering at home instead of getting paid hours at work, shield them from any retaliation for doing the Right Thing by staying at home, and release the pressure to have so many employees on the job by suspending (or at least relaxing) delivery guarantees. If stopping the spread of the virus is important enough to shutdown retail over, it’s important enough to slow shipments over! Is the US government going to take these obvious actions? Time will tell, but my level of trust is low and I believe it will not, and thereby destroy a decent fraction of whatever good the shelter-in-place policies would provide.

19-Mar-2020

No thank you, Captain Skid-for-Brains

Filed under: news, science — jlm @ 22:07

What is it with experts and quotes today?

From “How long will Americans be fighting the coronavirus?” by Christina Larson and Michelle R. Smith, AP News:

“The analogy of pumping car brakes on an icy road is what we should be thinking about,” [Michael] Levy said. “You push on the brakes to slow things down, then ease up – but if you skid, you have to pump the brakes again.”

This is clearly someone who has never recovered from a skid by their own actions, because the only way to do so is to regain traction, which means you must release the brakes. Though I should be less irritated than I am at this error, because anti-lock brakes have been required on cars for long enough that there are now people who have earned doctorates who were adolescents learning to drive only after the ABS mandate and dropping of manual brake management from drivers ed. Get off my lawn, Dr. Whippersnapper, there’s a shelter-in-place order in effect!

Thank you Captain Obvious

Filed under: econ, news, politics — jlm @ 17:14

From Jobless claims jump by 70,000 as virus starts to take hold (San Francisco Gate, by Martin Crutsinger via AP):

“The more aggressive coronavirus containment measures imposed in recent days involving the near total shutdown of the retail, leisure and travel sectors in some parts of the country are clearly starting to have a dramatic impact,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Ya think?

20-Nov-2017

Winning makes you Western because “Western” is the winners

Filed under: news — jlm @ 13:48

CNN spends some digital ink talking about a world-wide survey of countries’ reputations in this article here. It’s an interesting read, even though (or partly because?) it’s a short article.

But look at the final three sentences:

Canada and Japan tied for fourth place. The rest of the Top 10 is Italy at No. 7, Switzerland at No. 8, Australia at No. 9 and Sweden at No. 10. No non-Western countries managed to crack the Top 10.

“No non-Western countries”, eh? Australia is #9 on the list, and they’re in the eastern hemisphere. But Australia, while geographically closer to Asia than Europe, is culturally closer to Europe than Asia, so maybe that’s what they mean. But look at who’s #4 on the list: Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun is as east as Eastern gets. What they mean is that no developing nations are on the list, only those with advanced economies. But nobody wants to be part of an undeveloped economy, so of course the list is going to be exclusively advanced economies.

The “non-Western country” observation is either simply wrong (geographically or culturally “Western”) or meaningless (“Western” as a synonym for advanced economy). It’s not that Asia is undeveloped, it’s that undeveloped economies are undeveloped. The non-Western country quip is meaningless except to the extent that Western ≡ advanced is a racist presentation of the banal equivalence advanced ≡ advanced.

3-Dec-2015

Open Hardware flourishing in Shenzhen?

Filed under: news — jlm @ 14:03

NPR’s “Planet Money” is very often very interesting, but something on their Nov 27 broadcast about “hoverboard” design and manufacture caught my interest especially: at about 7:25, they talk about how Shenzhen’s small, agile factories don’t keep their designs as trade secrets. Instead, they make them freely available, so that their [potential] customers can easily see if the factory’s products will work with their design, or how it might be altered to work better, or for incorporation into their design from the get-go. Also, because their peer factories are also publishing their designs, a factory can design its products to incorporate or interoperate well with the products of those other factories. Also also, you can pull good design elements in from other factories’ designs, just as those other factories can pull in elements of your factory’s designs and make their products incorporate or interoperate well with your products! Interesting to hear the “bazaar” model of an open marketplace of free designs operating at such a large scale!

4-Mar-2012

More links, less commentary

Filed under: biking, news — jlm @ 20:12

I seem to be bereft of interesting prose to spout, so here’s a link dump instead.

File-sharing based Kopimi (as in, “copy me”) recognized as a religion in Sweden. Interview with the founder.

Witness some software management failure recorded in a bug log.

Growing up in postindustrial Wales.

How the Dutch got their bike paths — they fought hard for them.

African development’s killer app: Cell phones.

Enjoy, peeps.

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