Middlesex County and the City Council of London, Ontario, have decided to proceed with rezoning plans that would involve tearing down the five-story Middlesex County Health building that is located at 50 King Street, just south of the heritage castle-like Middlesex County Courthouse building in the heart of London, and build a 28-story high-rise at that location. Here is an artist's rendition of their proposal.
That land is really valuable for this type of use. The units in the building would overlook the Fork of the Thames and have ready access to the parks along the Thames River and to all the downtown amenities -- theatres, Budweiser Centre, the market, and many nice restaurants.
And yet some people (not including me) have filed an objection with the Ontario Municipal Board [OMB] to the proposed zoning change that would allow this redevelopment of this plot of land (see this):
There were concerns voiced at the time that the original concept — a monolithic design — would block the view of the river for residents of the two Renaissance Towers. [EE: one and half of these are shown to the right in the above drawing]
Other concerns were that the tower, a design unseen in London, would overshadow the historic Middlesex County building, formerly the county’s courthouse. [not shown in the above drawing but immediately to the left of the proposed high-rise.]
But those are not the only objections (and let me add that I know of no one in the Renaissance Towers who raised the objection at the latest public hearing that the proposed tower would block their views. I don't know why the Freeps keeps mentioning this.).
The original plan was rejected by the former city council by a vote of 14-0. The new plan isn't all that different, no matter how the planners tried to dress it up, and yet the new council voted 14-0 to approve it. The consultation with neighbours was perfunctory at best, and there was no heritage assessment (as is ordinarily required) of the proposal.
As I wrote last year, the proposed high-rise would not only "overshadow the historic Middlesex County building", it would cast shadows over it much of the day. [see this earlier posting]. To address this issue, the latest proposal calls for the building to be a bit west of the original plan. But it will still cast shadows over the historic Middlesex Courthouse at least as much of the day. The city's planning committee and the full council brushed this fact aside.
Further, the proposed 8-story portion of the building (east of the tower) will also cast shadows over the green space between the building and the courthouse. The walkways and parkland between the current building and the historic courthouse are nice. With the proposed buildings, they will be smaller, and they will be in shadow much of the time; also, they will more likely than not become dark, dangerous places for people (see the walkways around the current courthouse and Bell Building).
Another point that has not been addressed adequately is that the proposed building will remove about 70 parking places and replace them with about 150 parking places. 80 or so additional parking places for who knows how many people working in the offices and/or living in the residential units? Surely there will be hundreds of residents, not to mention employees in the offices planned for the lower levels of the building. That is insane, and the reduced number of publicly available parking spades will greatly tax the available parking available in the downtown. Furthermore, this decreased number of publicly available parking spaces will substantially reduce access to the Fork of the Thames, in direct contradiction of the City Council's recently approved desire to increase access to and public use of the parkland there.
Yet another problem with this proposal is that it will greatly increase traffic on the narrow streets around the building, especially during rush hours in the mornings and evenings. As it is, the streets are often backed up a block or more in this area during rush hours. Extra office space and extra residential space, all with people expecting to gain entrance and egress to the building from a small side street, will spell zillions of Advil moments. It will also create even more problems for people trying to gain access to the parks along the river (again, so much to the city's "Back to the River" campaign). And it will play havoc with the various parking lots in the area that are designated for guest of the residents of the already existing residential buildings.
Finally, and this really frosts my cookies (and exemplifies the heavy-handed, unthinking processes of our city planning office and city council), a recently approved development only two and a half blocks away which would have done much more to help repopulate and rejuvenate the downtown has been canceled because some offices in the city (I'm not sure which) decided the developers of that plan would have to sacrifice loads of valuable space (but they weren't sure how much and wouldn't commit to how much!!) to form a hub for the city buses. This proposal would have provided considerably more residential and parking space and would be adjacent to a huge dying/dead mall that would provide tremendous retail space to serve the development. It is an ideal location for a massive development. ... and maybe one of it's residential towers could incorporate the fascinating and beautiful twist of the proposed building in the above photo.
If the City of London is serious about "Back to the River", here's what it should do:
Disclaimer: Let me add that where I live, I would be affected by the congestion during the construction of the tower/buildings shown in the picture. I would also likely be affected by the traffic and parking issues that I have raised. But it will have absolutely no impact on my view.
It's probably confirmation bias but I have always enjoyed Scott Sumner's blog posts. Here is one recent example , in which he re-emphasizes his mantra "Never reason from a price change." Instead, try to figure out what caused the price change. And in this blog post he also emphasizes, "never reason from an interest rate change," but instead ask what caused the interest rate change. Scott's salient paragraph,
The market monetarist view is that easy money leads to higher inflation, and easy money sometimes lowers interest rates and sometimes raises them. Any reductions in interest rates tend to occur in the short run, whereas higher interest rates tend to result in the long run. In addition, it's more useful to think in terms of causation as going from inflation to interest rates, rather than interest rates to inflation.
The way I used to address this issue when I taught money-macro was to use this true-false exam question as an illustration:
[T/F/Explain] An increase in the money supply causes interest rates to fall.
[Answer] It all depends (That's always a good economist's answer!).
Most students seemed to understand this material, at least for the exams. Whether it stayed with them is another question altogether.
First, let me say, I can't believe there have been 50 Superbowls, following the merger of the AFL and NFL.
Second, let me say that the spread sure has changed a lot over the past two weeks. Right after the conference championship games, the spread shown on Yahoo Sports opened at Carolina by 4. If I had made my pick then, I would have taken Carolina -4 for sure. [Other initials spreads were as low as -3.5; see below].
The Super Bowl 50 line is on the move and it's moving. After opening up as 4.5-point favorites, the Carolina Panthers are now [EE: as of Feb 4th, the date of this article] 5.5-point favorites to beat the Denver Broncos. ...
It shouldn't be a tremendous surprise: nearly 80 percent of the public money is currently on the Panthers when it comes to against-the-spread bets.
Most sportsbooks detailed a huge initial rush of money on the Broncos when the line opened with the Panthers as 5.5-point favorites, causing the number to head back down, as low as 4 points.
What followed was significant money on Carolina, with very little action on the Broncos.
"I can't remember a more one-sided betting Super Bowl," William Hill US's director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told ESPN.
As a result, books are moving the line higher and higher, although it stands to reason the Panthers might max out giving 6 points.
According to some earlier articles, the spread from some books went as high as Carolina by 6.5 points. But it looks as if the betting is settling down at Carolina by 5.5 points. From SB*Nation,
The Denver defense is amazingly good. Well, so is the Carolina defense (though mistakes by Arizona made them look even better in the conference championship game.
At the same time, Newton and Manning are both superb quarterbacks, albeit with quite different qualities and abilities. I've noticed that some pretty knowledgeable people are picking Denver plus the points (see this).
But I'm picking Carolina minus 5.5
That and steak and a veggie tray and some cider.
It shouldn't need repeating. The Economist has a good article about academic freedom in this week's issue.
The Chicago Statement on Academic Freedom as summarized in the article:
“It is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” it states. “Concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable.” The responsibility of a university, it concludes, is not only to promote “fearless freedom of debate”, but also to protect it. ...
Even the Chicago Statement has reservations. Expression that “invades substantial privacy” or “constitutes a genuine threat” can be punished. The university has the right to regulate the “time, place and manner of expression”, so that ordinary activities are not unduly disrupted—though this should never be used to undermine an “open discussion of ideas”. The statement is, in short, written not only to allow speech, but to facilitate protest. When it first appeared, this may have seemed a bit academic. Not any more.
I was lucky. I did my undergraduate studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in the 1960s. We had speakers from "Fair Play for Cuba", the ACLU, The American Nazi Party (George Lincoln Rockwell), and socialists (Norman Thomas) to name a few, not to mention the "sex seminars" that discussed, gasp!, pre-marital sex.
For the past several years, Amazon.ca has ranked Canadian cities according to their "romantic-ness". According to their criteria, these are the top twenty Canadian cities, in descending order:
But notice that I said, "According to their criteria...". Just what are the Amazon.ca criteria for being romantic?
Maybe it's just that the people in the higher-ranked cities aren't getting enough romance in their lives, and they are sublimating by buying these products from Amazon. Maybe those products are not complements to having a romantic life but are substitutes that people buy because they are missing romance in their lives.
It's interesting that Trono, Montreal, and Quebec City don't make the list, nor do any towns or cities in the Maritimes. Myriad explanations, other than romance, seem plausible.
Bryan Caplan has a very interesting and very provocative post at Econlog challenging the standard, typical medical classifications relating to mental illnesses in general and to ADHD in particular. I have come to respect Caplan's work, and so I never dismiss anything he writes without giving it careful consideration. His material in this post seems generally right to me. Two telling paragraphs about ADHD:
Overall, the most natural way to formalize ADHD in economic terms is as a high disutility of work combined with a strong taste for variety. Undoubtedly, a person who dislikes working will be more likely to fail to 'finish school work, chores or duties in the workplace' and be 'reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort'. [see chart below] Similarly, a person with a strong taste for variety will be 'easily distracted by extraneous stimuli' and fail to 'listen when spoken to directly', especially since the ignored voices demand attention out of proportion to their entertainment value. ...
As the DSM uses the term, a person who 'has difficulty' 'sustaining attention in tasks or play activities' could just as easily be described as 'disliking' sustaining attention. Similarly, while 'is often forgetful in daily activities' could be interpreted literally as impaired memory, in context it refers primarily to conveniently forgetting to do things you would rather avoid. No one accuses a boy diagnosed with ADHD of forgetting to play videogames.
Caplan re-presents a checklist to help professionals diagnose someone with ADHD. Here it is:
If this stuff had been around when I was young, I'd have been a drugged-out zombie. All nine of these applied to me.
When I was in Grade 2, the teacher wrote that I did good work when I did it, but that I rarely finished it. Also on behavioural items, I think I was given 13 minuses and only 3 pluses over one report-card period.
Also about that time, a woman who was visiting our home for dinner told my parents I should be put on drugs because I jiggled my legs so much.
So much of what is termed ADHD behaviour is better dealt with via behaviour training. Thank goodness my parents didn't put me on drugs. Instead, I had to learn to cope and adjust in some settings.
As one of my FB friends posted yesterday on a completely different (yet identical?) topic,
"You think too much because there's work that you don't want to do." - Andy Warhol's advice to Lou Reed.
Naive, retired teacher! I wasn't exactly typecast (close, though), and I am thrilled to have been offered the role of Tom in 1-900-Dee-Lite. I'll be working with several talented friends with whom I've worked before, along with a couple of newcomers to the theatre scene.
In the play, Dee (a widow) earns money selling sex talk through a 1-900 phone number. Tom develops an interest in Dee but thinks she sells cosmetics. The love and confusion are compounded by the relationship between Dee's son, Scott, and his long-time friend, Jennifer.
We begin rehearsals soon. Performances will be May 17-21 at The Arts Project in London.
In case you hadn't guessed, it's a comedy.
According to this post at the Washington Post, people who smoked pot regularly for at least five years had some (slight?) short-term memory problems in middle age, compared with those who didn't. But the posting also notes some caveats concerning the study:
One important caveat is that a study like this can't determine causality. It could be the case that heavy pot use makes your short-term memory bad, or it could be that people who operate at a lower level of cognitive function are more inclined to use marijuana heavily.
It's also worth noting that the other cognitive abilities researchers tested -- focus and processing speed -- did not seem to be significantly impacted by heavy marijuana use.
The association between short-term memory declines -- potentially permanent ones -- and heavy pot use is very real, according to this study, and shouldn't be discounted. On the other hand, it's also quite surprising that you can smoke weed literally every single day for five years, and not have it impact your problem-solving abilities or your ability to focus at all. [emphasis added] These findings also need to be understood in relation to what we know about the severe cognitive effects of persistent, heavy alcohol use, which include irreversible brain damage.
I would add another caveat: The presumption in the article is that the heavy marijuana users smoked it. What if, instead, people ingested it? There would be less damage to the lungs and less direct effect from shortages of oxygen to the brain.
Now, if only recreational use of marijuana were completely legalized, ....
There is a famous statue/fountain in Brussels of a little boy urinating; it is called Manneken Pis.
I often wonder if the condo management where I live would be willing to put a replica of the statue in our lobby. I'd be willing to contribute more than my pro-rated share if they would.
I was reminded of this statue/fountain when I saw this photo (the Canadian version of Manneken Pis?) on Facebook:
There is a famous statue/fountain in Brussels of a little boy peeing, called Manneken Pis.
I often wonder if the condo management where I live would be willing to put a replica of the statue in our lobby. I'd be willing to contribute more than my pro-rated share if they would.
I was reminded of this statue/fountain when I saw this photo (the Canadian version of Manneken Pis?) on Facebook:
This morning my online statement from Rogers Bank (a Mastercard offering 1.75% cashback, which I can apply to pay my Rogers bill) says:
Due Date: 01/25/2016
Minimum Due: $10.00
Past Due Amount: $0.00
I wrote them to ask how I could have a balance due five days before today. Their canned response was that the "Due Date" is listed as the previous due date.
Huh?? I have no past due amount, but I have a minimum amount due 5 days ago?
Time to change the algorithm, Rogers.
Jack sent me the following message yesterday:
Bernie Sanders' Longevity Stats Issues
He will be 75 if he assumes the Presidency.
Based on life table info for the USA http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_21.pdf
He has a 17% chance of dying in his first term, and a 24% chance of dying before the end of a second term.
His chances for major pathology short of death is of course much higher but not addressed by life tables..
I find it unacceptable that political correctness would trump discussion of these real issues.
In the summer of 2012, I gave a public lecture at The University of Regina. In that lecture I criticized higher education because most people don't remember much of what they studied as undergraduates. As an alternative, I emphasized signaling theories of education. I also emphasized the importance of learning-by-doing and the importance of learning from one's own mistakes.
Below is a link to the lecture on YouTube. Unfortunately, the technician forgot to turn the microphone on until the 26-minute mark. So you will miss the introductory remarks by Hafiz Akhand, who was the economics department chair out there at the time. You will also miss my own introduction in which I chronicle all the evidence I had from my own life about everything I may have learned but then quickly forgot. Here is a snippet from the notes I had prepared for that talk:
Old exam story. Saw an intermediate theory exam I’d taken as an undergrad. “Did I know that then? I don’t remember having studied or learned that.”
Disclaimer and personal history.
The fact that I didn’t learn or retain much as an undergrad would surprise none of my undergraduate professors. Ds in two econ courses, Failed a math course, barely passed and barely graduated. Majored in bridge and the identity crisis, and if there’d been an exam in bridge, I’d probably have failed that.
Re-took all the math. Even after only three years, remembered very little.
Okay, okay, I remembered a few things. Dy/dx when y = xn
Virtually no Russian. No Henry James. No Plato, etc. No chem-phys. A bit of Hemmingway. One specific paragraph from Tropic of Cancer that I won’t recite for you now.
Not much econ, really. One item that I remembered and that stood out was the result of a phone call to my prof. Technology change. Used it in gradskool.
Micro theory? Bad sense of analytic geometry by prof. Also methodology (and Machiavelli).
Money and banking? A lot of IS-LM and a prof who looked out the window and cancelled classes.
As I said, I was a bad student, but I think I was fairly typical. How many of you remember very much from the undergrad courses you took (aside from, but maybe even including, fields in which you have continued to work?)
Another example from a different realm: It may be old age, but when I look back at some of the things I wrote the blog 7-9 years ago, I think, “Really? I don’t remember that.” The point I’m making is that memory deteriorates, even with continued refreshing. In Econ speak, if memory is a capital good, like a machine, it deteriorates over time, and (speaking as a senior citizen) it requires continued gross investment to keep it working.
So suppose we do remember very little and use practically none of what we may have learned. What does that imply about higher ed?
Before I try to answer that,
Teaching experiences and thresholds for law and biz.: Experiences at UWO: 70 for bizskool, 80 for lawskool numbers have changed but the idea is still the same.
Couldn’t let them through unless they had demonstrated….. what? That they had learned enough?
Well that fits in nicely with the “human K theory of ed”
But does it follow if we don’t remember any/much of what we are taught? And what if what we DO remember has nothing to do with our future productivity?
What I seem to be moving toward is a challenge of the “human capital theory” of education, which says we get education, at least in part, so we will be more productive in the future.
Those are just the notes for the first 26 minutes. If you would like to see the entire set of notes, I'll be happy to send them to you. Just write me or post a comment requesting them.
And here is the link to the YouTube video [it's about 1 hour and 41 minutes long. I think the last 35-40 minutes are questions-and-answers.
Friends will recognize two things (aside from my general lack of gift of glib):
Finally, let me say that I was really pleased with this lecture. I'm glad I was finally able to salvage this much of it.
We had more snow than expected overnight, so I hustled out to the condo lawn to do this snow stomp art this morning:
I like some of the patterns, and I may try to work on it some more this afternoon.
Previous examples of my snow stomp art:
45 Years ago today I visited London, Ontario, on a recruiting trip to The University of Western Ontario. I think I had probably been through here once as a child, but this trip was essentially my introduction to the city and to the university.
I flew into town the evening of January 24th, 1971, spent the day of the 25th meeting with future colleagues, and left town on the 26th.
Those were different days for the economics department at UWO. It was known as a revolving door, hiring ten people a year, and firing (actually, not renewing) 8 or 9 each year. The department was growing in size and stature and was serious in how it approached the hiring-firing decisions. Several of my future colleagues groused about the uncertainty and what seemed like inappropriate or unequally applied standards (to them), but they also all agreed UWO would be a good place to have been.
I had always hoped to go to a small liberal arts college to teach. I didn't want to write anything more than what was required for my dissertation. (What a change I went through. See this). But UWO looked like an exciting place to be, and my future colleagues convinced me it was worth coming here for a few years.
The day of interviews was gloriously warm, for late January. The sun was shining. We walked around campus in our sport coats and basked in the sun. People joked about how the snow-sculpture contest was going to have to be canceled.
Lunch at the faculty club, meetings with more future colleagues, dinner with a former gradskool classmate. An exciting day. But nothing like what was to come...
The Blizzard of January, 1971
The morning of the 26th, I got up early and went down to the lobby to catch a limo/bus to the airport. It had started snowing, and the snow looked as if it was pretty heavy, but the streets to the airport were okay, and I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Those were the days with no security checks at the airports. Those of us who were due to fly out stood by the window, looking at the runway, a bit worried about the intensifying snowfall, and speculating about whether we would make it out.
Soon, breaking through the clouds, we could barely make out the Air Canada plane that was due to arrive (and which would be our return flight to Toronto).
We saw the plane approach the runway, and then pull up.
But then we saw it come back for another attempt at landing.
It pulled up again. Another groan.
It made a third attempt but again pulled up. The pilot didn't feel safe landing because he couldn't see the runway!
In those days, with fares as high as they were (in real dollars), airlines took on many more obligations than they do nowadays. We all queued up at the ticket desk, and the Air Canada ticket agents rebooked our flights out of Toronto and then put us all in taxicabs to the Toronto airport. I was put on an American Airlines flight to Chicago and had plenty of time to make it.
The trip to Toronto was interesting. By coincidence, I was in a cab with Levis Kochin, an economist who went on to have a very successful career at The University of Washington.
We arrived in Toronto in plenty of time. I checked in at the American ticket counter, and we boarded the plane while the sun was still shining.
Then the snow hit with a vengeance. American canceled the flight and told us to disembark and reschedule.
I think I must have joined 5-6 different queues during the next 24 hours, changing flights, getting vouchers for a hotel and meals, catching a cab to some hotel, rebooking flights again and again. At least in those days the airlines put us up when bad weather interrupted our flights.
I managed to get out by noon the next day, but it sure was a challenging welcome for a recruiting trip.
I was reminded of this recruiting trip by the blizzard that hit the US middle-east this weekend.
The blizzard that hit London that year was pretty serious (though not as serious as the blizzards of 1977-78). According to one report,
1971 A 5 day long blizzard in London, Ontario dumps 62cm snow and kills 3. It was the worst blizzard in decades
And here is a column from newspaper in a nearby town describing that storm.
We may complain about weather forecasting, but it is one heckuva lot better now than it was 45 years ago!
I have railed relentlessly in the past about "Storm Porn" and about how forecasters and mediots so often focus on worst-case scenarios --- forecasters because they don't want to be held responsible if things turn out to be worse than forecast [someone called it CYA forecasting]; mediots because drama sells and pumps up ratings. [see this, this, and this]
For the storm this weekend that hit the U.S. middle east, forecasters got it wrong on the low side, though. From the NYTimes, this is the map of how much snow was being forecast on Friday afternoon.
And this is how much actually fell over Friday and Saturday:
That storm was MUCH worse than anticipated. And now these places have to figure out how to remove so much snow and then where to put it all!
I went 2 - 2 last weekend, which is a whole lot better than 0 - 4 the previous weekend.
The spread on Sunday's games hasn't budged all week (not yet, anyway) according to Yahoo Sports.
For what it's worth, my granddaughter's partner agrees with these picks.
[Note: this post was written Friday afternoon. I may update it if there are any substantive changes that I hear about before game times]
It would seem unlikely with today's technology that sailors could convince a mapmaker to put an island on the map that didn't exist; it would seem even more unlikely that mapmakers would remove an island that actually existed from a map.
Both have happened, though. And in rare instances, these errors have continued to plague cartographers:
Regular readers of Eclectecon know that I have championed academic freedom for decades. They also know that beginning with very early posts, I vehemently opposed any attempts to ostracize or boycott Israeli scholars. I went so far as to obtain academic affiliation (albeit nominal) with Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa, just to make the point that anyone who wanted to boycott scholars from Israeli universities would have to include me in the boycott.
On January 16, 2016, the American Association of Universities re-issued the following statement, opposing any boycotts of Israeli universities or Israeli scholars [h/t Canadian Academics for Peace [CAP] in the Middle East]. Even if you disagree with what Israel does in the west bank, this is the right position.
The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such a boycott. Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general.
Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint. It is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom.
Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts.
The CAP notification reads:
As many of you know, the Association of American Universities (AAU) represents 60 U.S. and two Canadian public and private research universities, including McGill University and the University of Toronto. On January 14, 2016, AAU’s Board of Directors re-released their 2013 statement in opposition to academic boycotts of Israel.