I am an old man. And I am generally a mild-mannered, contented, happy, grateful old man. But there are some things in restaurants that really turn me into a Grumpy Old Man.
I want to print up cards to distribute to restaurant servers:
We are generous tippers.
We usually tip between 20-25% of the bill, including taxes.
then your tip will be reduced accordingly.
No foolin', and this is good news: the earth's biomass of plants has been growing, and noticeably so. From the G&M [via JR]:
And the conclusion is especiallyimportant:
The return of the trees teaches us a lesson. To reduce our destructive carbon output, the solution is not to reduce economic activity; rather, it’s to combine a booming urban economy with smart policies that make growth and ecology work in harmony.
The details in the link are interesting and worth a read.
Most of the OPEC countries seem to have budgeted with the expectation that oil prices would be up over $70US/bbl or higher. If the price of crude oil remains where it is, down under $50/bbl, these countries will have massive budgetary deficits. And so, btw, will Alberta (and Canada)
Furthermore, those of us in the rest of Canada, hoping for continued redistribution from Alberta via "equalization" payments will likely be disappointed and find our own provincial budgets facing greater shortfalls so long as oil prices remain low.
I have been thinking about posting about this for some time, but have been reluctant. I may lose some FB friends over this, but here goes:
For those who don't know, I was born and raised in the USA.
When the US changed its pledge of allegiance to the flag in 1954 to add the prepositional phrase "under God", as a very young student I was confused and I think more than a bit disappointed. I saw no reason to add that phrase. I was, at the time, being raised in a solid Christian family, but it was in the Congregational church, which had a somewhat liberal (?) view of theology. I had no idea what I believed or didn't believe theologically, but believe me I revealed these doubts very rarely.
I saw then, and I see now, absolutely no reason for that phrase ("Under God") to have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance. I had a somewhat negative reaction when it was added, even at the tender age I was (grade school?) at the time. My feeling then, as I recall, somewhat vaguely, was "Why add that? It doesn't matter, and (believe it or not, I think I had this thought) I thought we had separation of church and state in the United States.
And only recently did I realize the US had replaced "E pluribus unum" on its coins. Good grief. "E pluribus unum" is a wonderful statement about the history of the USA. The replacement "In God we trust" seems so different. It denies the history of the US (albeit indirectly) and borders on turning the US into a theocracy (heaven forbid! [incongruity intended]).
What prompted this post? Earlier today I read yet another Facebook posting about the pledge of allegiance to the US flag (which strikes me as idolatry that Moses would have discouraged). Here it is:
My reaction? Yea Pepsi! If this is correct, I may have to switch from Coke Zero to whatever Pepsi sells.
In response to the news that the IAEA is going to trust Iran to do its own monitoring of its nuclear activities, JR (my favourite drug dealer) wrote,
So the U.S. government has an army of bureaucrats called the I.R.S. to audit Americans, but decides to trust the IAEA who are trusting the Iranians.Leading from behind becomes trust outsourcing which will lead to ever bigger euphemisms, which is all the agreement with Iran is.Expect more of the same.
Consistent with what I wrote last week about Iran, The West, and The Bomb.
Discovering that some 16-ounce glass mugs we had recently purchased were not quite as big as we would like, Ms Eclectic and I were delighted to discover these 17-ounce glass mugs on Amazon.
It turns out they aren't really much, if any, bigger than the 16-ounce mugs we already had.
Q. How could 17-ounces and 16-ounces be approximately the same thing?
A. If the 17 ounces are imperial fluid ounces, and the 16-ounces are US fluid ounces.
Roughly, 17 imperial fluid ounces equal 16.334 US fluid ounces.
No foolin'. They are different. See this from Wikipaedia.
An imperial fluid ounce is ... approximately 28.4 ml.
A US fluid ounce is ... approximately 29.6 ml. ...
1 imperial ounce =~ 0.960759940 US fluid ounces
In fact I once knew this difference, after winning an argument over 40 years ago about the comparative sizes of US vs Imperial gallons. I just didn't expect the difference to appear here, and I guess I should have.
From now on, I'll try to stick to millilitres.
According to this article, the universe as we know it is dying [h/t Jack]. Stars are burning out and energy is being dispersed.
JR (my favourite drug dealer) added (with less whimsy than it might initially seem),
[Our] universe is expanding, communicating with other universes ([via] black holes), and who knows, it might even procreate by fission or budding or by exchanging universal fluids with another universe one day: this sounds like living more than dying.What would Jonathan Livingston Seagull do?
First, traditionally "organic" meant chemical compounds with carbon in them. All living things, plants and animals, have carbon in them, and so all plant and animal food is "organic" in that sense.
So what about health? The main issue tends to focus on the ‘evils’ of pesticide residues. The problem here is that although pesticides can harm in large doses, there is no evidence that they harm at the minute quantities left on foods. As Dick Tavern points out in his book,
In fact every mouthful of food contains some poison, as does every sip of water. Carcinogenic’ substances are routinely consumed by all of us in the form of natural chemicals made by plants to repel predators, but at amounts so low they do not harm us. … There are some dioxons in every breath of air we take...
If there is little basis in fact for the claims made by the organic movement then it looks like the word organic is just one more advertising word used to push expensive, unnecessary products on us. Furthermore, and more damning, by focusing on organic production, our society pays less attention to farming methods and technology advances that really could improve health, protect wildlife and ensure a consistent quality and quantity of food supply. Rather than securing our health, the illogical worship of the word ‘organic’ could be damaging us all.
I predict that Justin Trudeau will be the next Prime Minister of Canada. Whether he and the Liberals will form a majority or minority gubmnt, though, is up for grabs. I have a bet in this regard with my friend and colleague Salim Mansur.
I also predict the Progressive Conservatives will be lucky to win 50 seats in the October election. I agree with much of what Stephen Harper says, but at the same time I don't think he has been very persuasive or convincing. In all his pronouncements and election-year hand-outs, he sounds more like a desperate Paul Martin (who was a losing Liberal leader) than a confident Stephen Harper.
I've come to these predictions because I'm impressed with the way Mulcair (leader of the New Democratic Party) has been handling himself and with his continued growth in the polls (see this), and I see a large number of people who are impressed with the views and leadership potential of Justin Trudeau (leader of the Liberal Party).
Right now the NDP seem to be leading in the polls, but I doubt that lead will translated in to a majority gubmnt. The major question I have about my prediction is whether the NDP or the Liberals will form the next gubmnt, especially if neither party wins a strong plurality of the seats.
Either way, look for more disastrous gubmnt intervention in the economy, distorting incentives and inhibiting economic growth.
You read or hear that recently China devalued its currency, but just what did they devalue: was it the yuan or was it the renminbi?
The answer is yes..... or both.
The yuan is the primary denomination of China's currency, which is officially called the renminbi. As this site says,
Renminbi — abbreviated RMB — is the formal term most often used by Chinese officialdom to refer to the currency. ... Literally, it means “People’s Currency.” But it’s a too stuffy for everyday use. “No one says RMB,” Cheng Li, a senior fellow at Brookings told MarketBeat.
It seems... there’s not a really good equivalent to renminbi in American English, maybe something like “legal U.S. tender.” Yuan is renminbi, just like the dollar is legal U.S. tender — but so are dimes, nickels and quarters.
The yuan is the actual unit. It’s pretty much the equivalent to “dollar.” It’s more likely to be used in everyday interactions. Further down the slang spectrum is “kuai,” which is sort of like saying “a buck,” here in the states.
My guess is that Iran will have working nuclear weapons and missiles capable of "delivering" them within the next five or fewer years. (somehow using the verb "deliver" with launching a nuclear weapon cries for the use of quotation marks in my mind.)
My guess, also, is that the US and the West will do nothing more to impede this process, other than issue very strong and very meaningless proclamations and rhetoric.
I also am guessing that Israel would love to stop this but will be pressured by the West not to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
As a result, I expect two things from Israel:
What if bombers in the air and a missile shield don't deter Iran?
My major hope is that the threat of mutual annihilation will deter the outbreak of a nuclear war in the middle east. I'm not entirely optimistic, though. Sometimes information is imperfect, sometimes errors in reasoning are made, and sometimes determination and beliefs affect decisions in unbelievable ways.
About 25 years ago, I wrote a column "In Praise of Fairweather Fans". Unfortunately, I can no longer find it; otherwise I would just link to it.
With the way the Trono Blue Jays are playing these days, Blue Jay fans are coming out of the woodwork. Like many fans, I love watching their games when they win. And when they are losing, I start checking to see what else is on tv or start spending more time on the internet or (gasp!) reading a book.
We are Jays fans, but we are certainly anything but die-hard fans. We watch more, and we buy more memorabilia for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchild when the Jays are winning.
Actually, I don't have all that much respect for die-hard fans. I see no reason to support mediocrity or worse. I think all fans should be fairweather fans. [Dare I say, unlike Trono Maple Laugh Leaf fans who seem to keep going to Leaf games no matter what!].
Furthermore, die-hard fans owe a huge vote of thanks to the bandwagon jumpers. We are the ones who provide the big incentive for teams to get better; we are the ones who provide the big incentive for teams to win. Without us, the teams would have markedly diminished incentive to improve, to win.
I see very little value in being loyal to a team. If they don't produce, there is no good reason to support them. I feel the same way about nearly all producers of goods and services: if they don't produce high quality goods and services at reasonable prices, I'm less interested in patronizing them. If I were a loyal fan or loyal customer, they don't have to pay attention to me.
With these thoughts in mind, I was thrilled to see this sign outside one of our favourite restaurants, The Blu Duby, yesterday:
I love their honesty and I love their implied understanding of the basic economics tenet, "People respond to incentives."
When I was an undergraduate nearly 97 years ago, I had a professor [Ada M. Harrison] who opined that we didn't really need all those different brands of toothpaste or bar soap. I questioned her assertion, suggesting that consumers like choice and value different flavours, smells, textures, and packaging. She essentially poo-pooed this thought. She was a brilliant professor, probably the best professor I had in economics as an undergraduate. And yet she had this notion that variety and consumer choice is somehow somewhat wasteful.
She got her PhD from Harvard/Radcliffe, though, so I guess it's all understandable.
The elitist centralist interventionists of this world tend to downplay the value consumers attach to choice and variety.
E.g. Bernie Sanders, as is emphasized in this meme that has circulated on Facebook [via Leon Drolet and Tom Palmer]:
The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.
Four months ago I had reached my goal weight of 160lbs [see this] and promptly began celebrating. I continued to celebrate for four months, making great use of the hashtag #carbsbedamned on Facebook.
By this past weekend, after our fun anniversary celebration watching the Jays at Rogers Centre and "lunching" up the CN Tower, I had gained over ten pounds in four months. I had begun eating more desserts, more popcorn, more potatoes, more restaurant nachos, more pizza, and more bread --- tonnes more carbs overall.
Well, it's time to face reality and cut down on the carbs again. More cheese and pepperettes as snacks, and less popcorn. More veggies and fewer potatoes. Fewer nachos 8-(. More pasta specials, "without the pasta." Less ice cream. More burgers without the bun.
No more pizza for awhile (well.... not very often anyway), and again no Dairy Queen Blizzards until I get back down to my goal.
With renewed determination, I need to resist the bread basket in restaurants. And for awhile at least, no more Tim Hortons Nutella donuts 8-( .
And, of course, definitely more scotch, less wine, and less cider. [scotch has zero carbs!]
Sent by Ms Eclectic's cousin:
I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 50 years later.
I don’t have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance (pensions).
I have my own pad.
I don’t have a curfew.
I have a driver’s licence and my own car.
I have ID that gets me into bars and the Beer Store.
The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.
And I don’t have acne.
Life is great.
As regular readers of EclectEcon know, I sometimes "nose" deer-warning signs by putting a 2" diameter circle of red reflector tape on the nose of the deer on the sign. E.g.,
Most people I know seem to get a kick out of seeing the signs after the signs have been "nosed". Because of this positive feedback, I willingly take the time and risk the possible penalties for nosing the signs.
There is a section of Highway 7, though, between Stratford and St.Mary's, Ontario, where someone keeps removing the noses from the deer-warning signs.
Removing the noses is not easy work. The adhesive is tough 3M adhesive, made for multi-year all-weather use.
Why would anyone go to such lengths to take away the joy my progeny and I are so willing to share with other travelers? We have nosed deer signs elsewhere, and the noses have stayed in place for years, much to the enjoyment of people who see them.
And so, once again, yesterday I made the journey and the effort to re-nose some of the deer signs along highway 7. And I will likely do more on the weekend.
But meanwhile, what kind of curmudgeon does it take to remove (and/or order the removal of) those noses. Petty para-bureaucrats with no love of life and living?
Joyless farghin' iceholes, if you ask me.
"Haters gonna hate" was the phrase that leapt to mind.
From Bjorn Lomborg's page on Facebook:
The United Arab Emirates just cut its fossil fuel subsidies significantly following the lead of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, who have also managed to cut their subsidies.
That means less pollution, lower CO2-emissions and not least more money for more important areas such as health and education.
In its most recent report, the International Energy Agency estimates that the world spends $548 billion a year subsidizing fossil fuels. That’s $548 billion that could have been spent much better.
For the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, an expert panel including several Nobel Laureate economists found that phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels is one of the smartest things the world should focus on over the next 15 years.
The economists estimate that every dollar spent (you still need to help the most vulnerable to energy access) will create benefits for society and the environment of more than $15. The billions of dollars that governments save from phasing out fossil fuel subsidies could be spent on providing better health, education and nutrition, which could benefit hundreds of millions of people.
Plummeting oil prices is a window of opportunity to reduce the subsidies. Other countries with heavy subsidies should also grasp at this opportunity.
More on Dubai's subsidy cuts here:
My op-ed in The Globe and Mail on the topic:
The Copenhagen Consensus Center's latest research on energy:
He made these comments on Facebook, linking to this article in The Economist. He has an excellent way of identifying the problems of opportunity costs and spin-off effects.
Cut the fossil-fuel subsidies and it reduces massive distortions and inefficiencies in the economy.
An added benefit is that cutting fossil-fuel subsidies will lead to less use of fossil fuels [the reduced subsidy to sellers shifts the supply curve to the left, leading to an increase in the equilibrium price and a reduction in the quantity demanded]. And this reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels will lead to reduced CO2 emissions and (assuming there is a relationship) reduced global warming.