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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
And the eyes they were / a colour I can't remember / which says more / from verse to verse
— A.C. Newman, There are Maybe 10 or 12
November 27, 2009

Follow the Leader

Both Barak Obama and Stephen Harper announced they weren’t going to attend the Copenhagen environmental summit, demonstrating a shortsightedness that one would hope world leaders would not exhibit.

A couple of days ago Barak Obama announced that he would attend after all.

Today Stephen Harper announced he would attend after all.

It seems as if Canada is, these days, playing follow the leader to such an extent that we’re not even willing to play in the sandbox until our friends ask us too.

That’s not leadership.

Posted by skooter at 2:50 AM This entry is filed under America, Canada, Politics.
Tags: Barak Obama, Environmentalism, Stephen Harper

November 25, 2009

Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild Wild Women

Posted by skooter at 4:54 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Muppets

Sarah Palin Book Signing

The only problem with this is that if you’d done the same thing at a Barak Obama book signing, the results would have probably been identical. It’s not just the right wing that’s hung up on the politics of image.

The right wing is exceptionally good at the politics of fear though.

Posted by skooter at 3:39 PM This entry is filed under America.
Tags: Barak Obama, Sarah Palin

Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted by skooter at 3:31 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Muppets, Music, Queen

November 22, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Indie Rock Tour

Dan Mangan - The CBC Sessions (2009) from Neil Mangan on Vimeo.

Well worth watching, even if only to see Jian grooving along to a beautiful performance of Basket.

Posted by skooter at 10:16 PM This entry is filed under Music, Vancouver.
Tags: CBC, Dan Mangan, Music

November 18, 2009

Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie talks about Sidekicks and Data Loss

Amongst other things, Ozzie talks about the Sidekick crash. A good interview from an always interesting man.

Ray Ozzie’s view from the clouds

One of the fascinating things about the Sidekick recovery process was how wonderful it was that data is also on the devices, because when your confidence level drops in one copy of the data and you have another one, it’s really handy. So knowing to treat peer computing and centralized computing are both good, they’re both very, very good.

Posted by skooter at 12:32 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Cloud Computing, Microsoft, Ray Ozzie

November 14, 2009

When Insurance Companies Face No Risk

The latest issue or Harpers has an article called Too Big Too Burn: AIG Plays God in a Man-Made Firestorm on the rise of insurance companies operating private fire fighting companies for their own clients’ use. Leaving aside the fact that it seems offensive to view people in times of desperation purely in terms of profit and loss, the article offers up some interesting statistics on the American insurance industry.

In 1992, after category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and Louisiana, insurers paid out more than $23 billion in claims—$1.27 for every dollar of premium collected that year…In 2005 After Hurricane Katrina the first category 5 storm of the new climate era, they paid out more than $40 billion—but only 71.5 cents per dollar collected.

When regulators decline rate hikes in excess of 40% (that’s a single year hike) the insurance companies responded by dropping “tens of thousands of policies.”

A cynic might point out that insurance companies are supposed to defray localized risks across a broad policy base, and that the nature of the business would suggest that there will inevitably be years in which money is lost. Rate hikes of 40% do nothing to defray the rish, they simply punish localized policy holders for what are—ultimately—acts of god.

My favourite line was this:

Libeery Mutual’s Private Advantage Company Combo is the first policy to protect corporate executives from global-warming lawsuits.

Yes, even global warming is now just a problem to be solved by complex instruments of voodoo economics. Ridiculous.

Posted by skooter at 7:30 PM This entry is filed under Politics.
Tags: Articles, Environmentalism, Insurance

Young Galaxy at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

Having seen Young Galaxy in Vancouver about a month ago, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them again at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Great bands (including the opening act Paper Lions from Prince Edward Island), a mixing board bigger than anything I’ve seen in Vancouver outside a major venue, properly poured Guinness and a bartender with the best pompadour this side of Elvis (Presley, not Costello.)

There’s a reason they call this place legendary.

Posted by skooter at 1:51 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Concerts, Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Music, Toronto, Young Galaxy

November 7, 2009

Between Euphoria & Fear

Janice Gross Stein is more commonly a foreign affairs correspondent, but has an interesting article in the Literary Review of Canada titled Between Euphoria and Fear that looks at the financial meltdown and the role that emotion played in perpetuating it. Essentially, basic economic theory should have suggested that the market would “correct” itself as investors behaved rationally. This didn’t seem to happen, and behaviour was far from rational.

To complicate matters further, pioneering new research in neuroscience in the last 15 years by Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux, among others, demonstrates that emotion is primary and plays a dominant role in choice because it is automatic and fast. Damasio was able to observe closely patients who had suffered injury to those parts of the brain that process emotions, and, to his surprise, his patients were unable to make even simple rational choices even though their cognitive systems were fully intact. Rationality, he demonstrated in his clinical research, requires emotion.

The problematic behaviour happened, basically, when people lost money and feared losing more money. The money that was then withdrawn created a market contraction. Rationally, people should have taken the long view and left their money in there. There was a problem with this though:

Mainstream economics treats risk as judgements about variation over outcomes, judgements that are informed by probability theory. Psychologists see it differently. The propensity to take risk is in part determined by whether people have gained or lost in relation to some reference point.

People didn’t care if they had more money than they’d invested a few years ago: the face that they were still “up” didn’t matter—they were “down” relative to their mental reference point.

Posted by skooter at 8:38 PM This entry is filed under America, Politics.
Tags: Articles, Economics, Financial Services

November 3, 2009

Road Rage Conviction in California

A long running trial in California ends with a driver being convicted of assault for rapidly applying his brakes in front of a pair of cyclists. It sounds well deserved. Hopefully the sentence isn’t too light. The denial of bail seems to indicate that the court is taking things seriously.

Road-rage verdict: victims speak
Judge denies bail as the prosecutor says no cyclist would feel safe with Thompson on the road
By Patrick Brady, Published: Nov. 3, 2009

The courtroom gallery was filled to capacity Monday as a jury of seven women and five men announced it had convicted former emergency room doctor Christopher Thomas Thompson of assaulting a pair of cyclists last year by abruptly stopping his car in front of them.

Posted by skooter at 9:24 PM This entry is filed under Cycling.
Tags: California, Cycling, Road Rage

Positive Reviews for the Burrard Bridge Bike Lane

The Burrard Bridge Bike Lane trial has been a hit, apparently, to no one’s surprise but a few who seem to think that anything done to support the use of anything other than a car for transportation is bad.

Burrard bike lanes win public support: city survey
_Last Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009, CBC News#

The temporary bike lanes on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge could be here to stay after a city survey found bike traffic was up, accidents were down and supporters outnumbered opponents nearly two to one.

Personally it’s been wonderful, making crossing the Burrard Bridge a pleasure. I used to occasionally take the road instead of the narrow split sidewal bike lane: I’m no longer forced to make that choice.

The report to council is online as a PDF file. The survey sample is small, but it’s larger than the chorus of cranky individuals who speak out against such things.

So, it appears as if bike lanes are here to stay.

Posted by skooter at 1:17 PM This entry is filed under Cycling, Vancouver.
Tags: Bikes, Cycling, Vancouver