Minimum Schminimum

August 24, 2007

The Globe and Mail has an article by Reginald Stackhouse making a case for indexing the minimum wage to help the “working poor”.

What we need is the same remedy used to maintain retirement incomes at the level of inflation. We index the Old Age Security Pension and the Canada Pension. Why not index the minimum wage, too? Take it out of the arena of political debate and partisan competition. Periodically adjust it to the cost of living so that the working poor aren’t made poorer by inflation.

When I suggested this in Parliament 20 years ago, I was greeted by the Milton Friedman kind of argument that a minimum wage does not belong to a free-market economy. But that is irrelevant. My point is that if we are going to have a minimum, it should be at least on a par with the cost of living in the face of irresistible inflation. Indexing is the way to do it.

The Milton Friedman argument is only irrelevant if you don’t care about the ultimate outcomes. Increasing the minimum wage, through indexing or other means, will increase unemployment for the “working poor” and decrease the group’s spending power. This economic fact is counter-intuitive but it is important to rely on more than intuition when making proposals that will impact the lives of others.

Reggie Stackhouse…. what a great basketball name though.

Say Uncle

August 23, 2007

The children of China’s one-child policy (introduced in 1979) are now having one-child of their own. A whole generation of children without aunts or uncles.

DPReview has a review of the Ricoh Caplio GX100 which is the Sea & Sea branded camera inside the announced DX-1G underwater system. There are no big surprises in the review for someone, like myself, considering the DX-1G. It takes 5.5 seconds between shots if you are shooting RAW but JPG is snappy. There is no Flash preset for the whitebalance which is a bit odd and will impact underwater macro shots taken with a strobe. Noise is high above at ISO 400 and above which is the price you pay for live LCD preview and tiny size compared to a digital SLR but it is a non-issue for strobe shots. Low-light autofocus is slow which means the Sea & Sea YS-110 Strobe with LED modelling light will be very popular with this camera. I replaced my old YS-120 strobe with a YS-110 so I should do a mini-review of the new strobe some time.

Like all underwater camera systems, flash/strobe performance is always a question. DPReview mentioned that the flash hotshoe is not live, that is, the hotshoe does not fire a regular attached flash. This means the communication between the Sea & Sea “flash-like strobe triggering accessory” and the camera occurs over the same type of connection the external viewfinder uses. The protocol must be something proprietary to Ricoh. Is this protocol pre-flash based? Will the default in Aperture mode be slow-sync and will there be a way to turn slow-sync on and off? I dunno. I hope it works flawlessly though :-)

Eco Nihilism

August 14, 2007

A New York Times Opinion piece named The 17 Percent Problem and the Perils of Domestication laments about man’s influence on the natural world.

In June, Science magazine published an article called “Domesticated Nature,” which noted that by 1995, “only 17% of the world’s land area had escaped direct influence by humans.” The article was accompanied by one map showing the enormous “human footprint” on Earth and another showing in a thicket of red lines the tangle of road networks and shipping lanes across the globe. That 17 percent figure is now certainly smaller, and that thicket of transport networks gets a little more tangled every day. The article takes as a working assumption what is obviously true: “There really is no such thing as nature untainted by people.”

Obviously true? Let’s try it with bees: “There really is no such thing as nature untainted by bees.” This sentence applied to bees really doesn’t make any sense because the word “untainted” is emotionally loaded in a “you’ve got the cooties” kind of way and it is really really weird to think of bees as separate from nature.

So why do we continue to think of humanity as separate from nature despite all the contrary evidence? It is an “Us vs. Them” mentality where Them is nature and Us is something very different and flawed beyond repair.


Apple announced two new keyboards this week. The Bluetooth mini-keyboard is beautiful but it has one major flaw, the CONTROL key is in the wrong place.


The Fn key is in the bottom left hand corner where the CONTROL key normally goes. My brain has been unconsciously conditioned to expect the CONTROL key in the bottom left-hand corner. It is one of the anchor positions that we depend on but don’t realize it until it changes. I think it was an oversight on Apple’s part to put the Fn key there but time will tell.

When Bridges Collapse

August 9, 2007

It is interesting to watch/read/hear the response to the Minneapolis 35W bridge collapse. Most of the talk has been about the crumbling infrastructure and lack of funds for maintenance. A built-in assumption is that, because the 35W bridge was old, that it collapsed because of corrosion/decay/neglect.

The security camera video shown on CNN starts when the collapse is underway and it does not show one critical section of the collapse but I have a tough time jumping to any conclusions. Maybe it is because structural collapse is not normally caught on video (Tacoma Narrows Bridge and WTC Twin Towers being exceptions) but man I didn’t expect to see the middle span go like that.

Are the calls for action a type of prescient Wisdom of the Crowds or just a symptom of our impatience?

I feel like we need a Getting Things Done system for news/events that impact public safety/health/security. We need a collective WaitingFor item for the analysis of the failure. Once the final analysis is complete a TakeAction item may be needed but until then the discussion about the best response seems a bit speculative.

When politicians hold press conferences in the days following a shooting, calling for extra gun control or other speculative measures, I wonder about their motivation and whether they have information that I missed. Did the police release information about the gun/shooter/victim that may help understand/prevent future shootings? Maybe its just a tickler, an early reminder that we are WaitingFor details and we may need to TakeAction.

I dunno.

Brown Eyes

August 8, 2007


Cone Head

August 6, 2007


The Australian military had plan to shoot overgrazing kangaroos but some people are hopping mad so they will truck them away instead.

News reports said some of the 3,200 eastern grey kangaroos would be trucked to a village more than an hour away from the capital after protests over plans to employ professional hunters to shoot them.

The Defence Department said in May the kangaroos were causing serious erosion due to over-grazing on two drought-ravaged military bases, including a firing range, and were endangering a species of local lizard and the threatened gold sun moth.

Good thing the military love their gold sun moth :-)

White and Pointy

August 3, 2007



August 2, 2007


Well it looks like Google has been partially successful in influencing the FCC rules for the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction.

The agency approved rules for an auction of broadcast spectrum that its chairman, Kevin J. Martin, said would promote new consumer services. The rules will let customers use any phone and software they want on networks using about one-third of the spectrum to be auctioned.

The F.C.C. did not approve a provision that would have required the winner of the auction to sell access to its network on a wholesale basis to other companies. Google favored the rule as a way to hasten competition and innovation in the cellphone industry, a market it is considering.

I wonder if the “open phones” idea would have taken off if Microsoft had proposed it.

Marc Andreessen’s quote of the week says brainstorming is a bad idea. David Sloan Wilson addresses the scientific claim that brainstorming is ineffective in his book Evolution for Everyone (Ch 26: How Many Inventors Does it Take to Make a Lightbulb).

Amazingly, the entire scientific literature on brainstorming might have reached a false conclusion about the advantages of thinking in groups by confining itself to mental tasks comparable to changing a lightbulb, as opposed to moving a piano.

In David Sloan Wilson’s research, brainstorming is effective when the mental task is challenging. Moving a piano, for instance, is best done by a group while a simple task like changing a lightbulb is best done by a single individual (or a group of lawyers if humor is your goal). Brainstorming, therefore, is a good idea for non-trivial mental tasks.