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Some thoughts on the Cost Disease

Saturday 18 February 2017, 06:40

The lovely and talented Scott Alexander has a posting on Cost Disease: the costs of some things, notably education and medical care especially in the USA, have increased in the last few generations to a really unfathomable extent. He gives detailed statistics, but it's typically about a factor of 10 after accounting for general inflation. Why has this happened? He gives some hypotheses, and in a followup posting shares some ideas contributed by readers, but it's not at all clear what's going on. And it seems like knowing might be valuable, because the fact of this phenomenon's occurrence (whatever the cause) is causing a great deal of misery for a whole lot of people, bearing on many other important issues.

I don't know either, but it made me think of some things.

Quick thoughts on the US election result

Wednesday 9 November 2016, 14:58

Well, I'm disappointed. And I'm more than a bit surprised, but not another whole bit more: I'm 1.89 bits surprised. That is the negative logarithm to base 2 of 0.27, which was the probability fivethirtyeight.com put on a Trump win, and the best estimate available to me of how likely it was to happen. Flip a coin twice and get heads both times, or draw a card from a 52-card poker deck and have it be a heart? Either of those is 2 bits worth of entropy (that is, of surprise), slightly more surprising than last night's main result. Not something that should shock anyone for the reason of unlikeliness, not from the point of view of the information we had 48 hours ago. Feel free to be shocked for other reasons.

Crowdfunding for LambdaConf

Friday 1 April 2016, 00:12

A "tech conference" called LambdaConf, after a blind reviewing process, accepted a technical presentation proposal from someone who had written about unpopular views on politics. Pressure groups demanded the conference exclude him; when the conference organizers decided not to do so, the pressure groups campaigned to have corporate sponsors withdraw support. Much to their discredit, most of the corporate sponsors did in fact do so. A "crowdfunding" campaign has been organized to replace the money those sponsors could have provided. I have donated, and I hope you will as well.

On academic freedom and fearing one's students

Friday 12 June 2015, 11:15

This was originally a Facebook comment, to one of my friends who had posted one of the original articles there, but a lot of other people in my circles are re-sharing the same articles, more general distribution of these comments is appropriate, and anyway Facebook is an untrustworthy platform. So, here's a repost. For necessary context, see the earlier articles from Edward Schlosser and Koritha Mitchell. Both of these articles have received a whole lot of circulation in the last few days, but I'm not sure they've received enough serious attention.

False negative

Monday 6 October 2014, 12:26

I. Fukurou

The Apollo moon landings were fake

Sunday 20 July 2014, 20:20

The Apollo moon landings were fake.

I don't mean that they did not occur - it was before I was born, but it seems clear that men did at one time walk on the Moon. There are too many independent confirmations of that for it to be in any reasonable doubt. However, the Apollo Moon landings occurred under false pretences. The story told about the factual events, both at the time and now, was and is a dishonest story, carefully constructed to further the goals of the US government and certain other powerful forces.

Rape is not sacred

Monday 20 August 2012, 07:42

Folks, I'm sick of hearing about Todd Akin. Yes, he said something stupid and ignorant. But religious-conservative politicians do stupid and ignorant things - things that actually directly hurt and kill people - every day. Just saying something, with the only direct real-life consequence being the end of his own career, is not in the same league as let's say passing a Federal budget. There is no comparison.

I've been warning you about people like him for years, and my comments have been generally ignored. Others have been warning you for even more years; some people with views similar to mine get links and re-tweets, but not many, and people like Akin continue getting elected and taken seriously. And when the Net finally does get angry, what makes the Net angry? Not the real-life policies that actually do directly harm and kill people. No, what makes the Net angry and fills my Twitter and Facebook feeds with venom from all quarters is an idiotic throw-away comment that didn't directly harm anybody but Akin himself.

I think Akin is getting special treatment, and his comment is getting publicity far beyond that given the real harms of religious-conservative politics, just because his comment was about rape. And rape is sacred to many of you. It's the one subject that will cause you to discard all sense of proportion and reality.

Rape is not sacred, and I want nothing to do with people who treat rape as sacred.

Open letter to Joyce Bateman

Saturday 21 April 2012, 12:24

The latest evidence regarding the Conservative Party's fraudulent activities in the last Canadian federal election hits close to home for me because I live, and voted, in Winnipeg South Centre, one of the ridings subject to a court challenge by the Council of Canadians. The affidavit of Annette Desgagne is quite damning; people are calling it a smoking gun. One small ray of hope is that it's pretty clear this was all coordinated centrally, and probably by a small conspiracy. Much as I dislike the Conservative Party as an entity, I think there are some decent people within it, and it's likely a whole lot of them didn't know about the fraud and are as shocked by it as the rest of us. Most of the checks and balances of Canadian democracy have been emasculated under Harper, but it still remains that we can try appealing to the decent people within the Conservative Party to weed their own garden. Below is what I'm mailing to Joyce Bateman, CPC Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre.

公安相のことは

Friday 17 February 2012, 14:48

昨日は、カナダにツイッターに面白い日でした。しかし日本語の新聞は、それくらい記事を書きないと思います。これで私は教えています。あまりよい日本語ありませんごめんなさい。

今ある政党は、カナダの国会の上に君臨します。保守党が絶対安定多数です。でもたくさんの人は、その政党が好きありません。

最近与党は、新しい法案の提案しました。警察権を上げてインタネットの盗聴を作って法案んです。対決法案ですね。ヴぃっク・テーヴスさん(Vic Toews)と言う政治家は、その法案のスポンサーをします。公安相です。月曜日に、国会に、テーヴスさんは「[critics] can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.」と言いました。もじ公安相たちを支持しなければ、児童ポルノを支持しているということになりますよ!(@_w_deeさんの翻訳の介助ありがとう)英語のことわざは、「That's when the shit hit the fan.」です。たくさんの人は怒気になりました。

SOPA/PIPA protest disappointments

Wednesday 18 January 2012, 13:40

As you probably know by now if you live under a rock and get all your news through the Net, several popular sites are protesting current US proposed Net censorship laws. I'm glad to see that happen, and I'm glad that a lot of people are paying attention, and I don't want to understate how glad I am of those things. But I'm also disappointed by a lot of what I'm seeing, too.

Gas prices and the Conservative tax on everything

Friday 13 May 2011, 07:04

I've been hearing a lot of grumbling about gasoline prices recently. People who ought to know better on my social-networking friends lists circulated that asinine one-day "boycott" message a little while back. My alarm clock wakes me with CBC Radio every morning, and today they were talking to someone from Consumer's Union who was hoping to pressure the Federal government to Do Something. I'm of the opinion that the Federal government has already Done way too Much in this matter, and they ought to butt out already.

One of Harper's talking points in the recent election was to accuse the Liberals of pressing for a "tax on everything" (a scary renaming of the carbon tax that anybody who cares about survival of the planet, including a clear majority of Canadians, actually supports). But when you fill up your car's gas tank and pay today's prices for it, you are paying the Conservative tax on everything, which they implemented without a vote and which never received proper discussion or coverage. Let's put the blame where it belongs.

Disclosure: I don't own a car, and I do own units of a real-return bond index fund, which makes more profit in nominal terms when the price of everything (including gasoline) goes up. I don't think that really means I benefit from higher prices, only that I lose less than some other people. I've written about inflation-indexed bonds before. I'd rather have prices stay low and my bonds not make so many dollars.

Top three ridings I'll be watching

Sunday 1 May 2011, 17:07

This is going to be a heck of an election. It already has been, in fact. I'm not going to do an astrological thing - and in fact I took down the one I posted for the 2004 election - because I care too much about the outcome to do it properly. I'm also probably not going to post a whole big thing about the issues and how I feel about them; by this point, anybody who could be swayed by my writings on that stuff already has been. But tomorrow night I'm going to attempt to sit back and watch the proceedings as entertainment, and for anyone planning to do the same, here are my top three picks for ridings to watch.

On expectations

Saturday 16 April 2011, 11:45

Planned Parenthood is an activist pro-abortion organization. No matter which side you're on yourself, you're stupid if you seriously expect that someone who strongly opposes abortion should support PP, and the government should fund PP, because PP spends less than 90% of its budget on abortion and does many other worthwhile things. That is not how human behaviour works. It's like saying someone who supports GLBT equality should support the Boy Scouts of America, and the government should fund BSA, because BSA spends less than 90% of its budget on discrimination and does many other worthwhile things. One showstopping issue can and routinely will override others; that is what "showstopping" means.

Both sides of the abortion debate agree that abortion is a matter of overriding importance, something that really matters. If abortion didn't really matter to Planned Parenthood, then PP could and presumably would forget its abortion advocacy and have a lot more support for its other activities. Since they don't do that, their opponents should be expected to similarly treat the issue as important. That is basic human behaviour, and anyone who can't form and act on reasonable expectations about human behaviour will certainly lose in any effort that involves human beings, regardless of the moral high ground they may think they stand on.

On the yen/loonie exchange rate

Tuesday 15 March 2011, 10:13

This chart, reproduced as fair dealing from Yahoo! Finance, shows the price of one Japanese yen in Canadian dollars for the last five days. See below for why I think this is an amazing chart.

Exchange rate chart

An index for all reasons

Sunday 27 June 2010, 16:52

There are probably as many reasons to save money as there are savers. One of mine is as follows: I don't want to be forced to change my lifestyle. In particular, after I'm retired and living on the savings I create today, I don't want to find myself in a situation where, because of changes in the world beyond my control that affect prices, the money I put aside to buy goods for myself during retirement is no longer enough to cover the kind of lifestyle I intended for myself, and so I'm forced to cut back. I want someone else, not me, to be accountable for cutting back to make sure I don't have to, and I'm willing to pay money up front in order to remove belt-tightening from the list of things I have to take responsibility for.

A modest proposal

Wednesday 6 January 2010, 21:24

I should be allowed to set up a hidden camera at the doorstep of the Dundas West subway station in Toronto, which is across the street from the local Catholic school, and take photos up the skirts of teenage girls (or anybody else wearing a skirt) as they enter and leave the building.