Every person I know who has used Uber has been extremely pleased with it. The cars are clean, the drivers are polite and generally quite knowledgeable, and the smartphone app lets both driver and customer know what's what.
So why is there a problem with allowing Uber to compete with taxis and with limousine services? As most of you know, I am strongly in favour of limiting restrictions on competition in the taxicab industry, having played a role the local changes that allow limousines to compete more directly with licensed taxicabs.
The only problem I see with Uber is insurance. In Ontario, we have no-fault auto insurance. Furthermore, Uber charges for (and is believed to provide) liability insurance for their drivers, even if they aren't carrying a passenger, so long as the driver is logged onto Uber as "available". So customers are probably covered, as are third parties (but see below).
The problem comes with the drivers themselves. If they carry paying passengers, they need to carry "commercial", not "personal" auto insurance. To drive for Uber and to have only personal auto insurance is taking a personal gamble, as well as possibly imposing a risk on potential third parties; and it is quite possibly defrauding the insurance companies.
I asked my insurance agent for RSA, with whom we have our auto insurance, about this and here is what she replied:
At this time, a Personal Policy with RSA will NOT provide any coverage for UBER driving.
As you would now be “carrying passengers for hire”, you would need to get a commercial policy if that was something you were interested in.
Although UBER may provide some liability in a lawsuit situation, there are other factors (Accident benefits / damage to your vehicle etc) which would also have to be dealt with.
Part of the application does specifically ask about carrying passengers so we are required to disclose it to the insurance company.
... [W]ith this being new to London, the companies are just reacting to [it] now. This may be something that changes in the future; however at the moment it is not something they are willing to cover – and all coverage would be denied in the event of a claim. [emphasis added]
To be clear: no, I am not intending to drive for Uber (though I would consider it if personal auto insurance were sufficient).
What this means, then, as someone pointed out somewhere on Facebook, is that if you ride with Uber (in London, Ontario, as of now), you are likely signaling that you are willing to give business to someone who is likely lying to their insurance company.
And with that in mind, I probably will not be using Uber in the near future.
Regular readers of EclectEcon know that I try to avoid swearing here and on Facebook. At home, around friends, and in the classroom my Edward Hyde side emerges, in a sense. In this list, I use all but "Gosh" and "Darn" with varying and sometimes great frequency.
Almost a billion tweets, from October of 2013 to November of 2014, were collected by Diansheng Guo at University of South Carolina, totaling nearly 9 billion words. Here’s how Grieve explained what happened once the data was collected:
For any word ... we measure its relative frequency in each county by diving the total number of occurrences of that word in that county by the total number of words in that county.
We take that raw map and smooth it using a hot spot analysis (a Getis-Ord Gi local spatial autocorrelation analysis).
Here is the map for "Gosh". There are seven different maps for seven curse words along with more details and explanations at the link.
I am really, really tempted to get one of these.
Yesterday we went to the Sparta House Tea Room for afternoon tea.
Sparta is a truly quaint little village about 45 minutes south of London, Ontario. It is filled with historic buildings and historic markers describing all of the locations. The history alone makes the village worth a visit. Visiting the Sparta House Tea Room will add to the pleasure.
Disclosure: The Sparta House Tea Room is owned and operated by Ken Roberts, an energetic and ingenious friend I met and worked with while rehearsing for the April-May production of Neville's Island at the Princess Avenue Theatre in St. Thomas. Ken devised many of the gadgets and gizmos that we used on stage during that production. He also played an important role in designing and building the amazing set for our production of that play.
The Tea Room is a restored building that was once an inn, nearly two centuries ago. Despite the high-ish temperatures outside, the tea room was cool and pleasant inside.
There must be several hundred teapots on display around the spacious tea room. They are grouped by themes and (this must take a lot of work!) all seemed to be dust-free. We felt very at ease and very comfortable there.
We started with a glass of wine each. House red for Ms. Eclectic, house white for me. They were fine -- served in small-ish glasses and filled to the top, which I know would offend some wine snobs, but it was just fine with us [and $6/glass is like a gift, compared with most city prices].
When the server brought our wine, we let her know what tea we wanted and, after she asked, let her know that we would be happy to have our food brought at the same time. As usual, I was too hungry; it might have been a good idea to have the food brought later in separate presentations. However, having it all presented together at once certainly was spectacular and definitely added to our enjoyment.
For someone with my experience and eclectic tastes, the tea list is disappointingly short. I pretty much had a choice between Earl Grey and English Blend. There were others, too, though -- maybe as many as ten or twelve. Ms. Eclectic had lemon tea.
One amazing thing about Sparta House is the huge amount of food they provide, especially given the comparatively low price [only $18.95/person; contrast that with maybe $80 - $100 per person in Mayfair]. Here is a photo of the spread they brought us (Unfortunately, I forgot to take the photo until after we had already eaten six of the mini quiches).
That is one heckuva spread! The sandwich platter on the right contained
We completely decimated the sandwich platter. Then we moved on to the two-tiered dessert and scone presentation. It included
We were joyously and happily stuffed when we quit (without finishing all the desserts!). We were very happy with our time at the Sparta House Tea Room.
Both Ms. Eclectic and I thought the overall experience was better than afternoon tea at either The Boathouse in Guelph or Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina (see below for my rankings and links to other reviews).
The sandwiches were not super fancy -- not like those in the top-rated places (see below), but they appropriately had the crusts removed and were quite tasty.
The desserts were, for the most part, excellent.
One nice effect is that since they brought out so much food at the beginning, we had no reason to be disappointed that they didn't offer additional sandwiches or scones (extra sandwiches and scones are typically offered in Mayfair and at the St. Regis). We could see from the outset that there was more than enough food for the two of us.
And, bless them, although they do call this "high tea", they also make clear on their website that it is also called a proper afternoon tea. For the distinction, see this.
A side plus: we managed to nose two more deer signs on this expedition.
Here are some suggestions for what I'd like to see to make it closer to a proper afternoon tea:
Clearly these suggestions would likely add to the costs, and I'm not sure most potential customers would be willing to pay more to cover these additional costs.
Most important, though, we stuffed ourselves and had a wonderful time. For my friends in Southwestern Ontario: it is worth the drive to Sparta for afternoon tea at the Sparta House Tea Room. Call ahead to make a reservation if you want to go there for afternoon tea, but they also offer a number of other traditional British menu selections.
The Sparta House Tea Room is a fairly popular place. While we were there, at least 20 other people arrived. The others customers seemed to want either cream tea or other food from the menu. But the afternoon tea was what we went there for, and we didn't regret it.
Afternoon tea for two, wine, taxes, tip: $66 Cdn.
- - - - - - - -
My previous reviews, ranked in order of preference:
These three were superb. Highly recommended:
Those in this large middle group ranged from very good to just okay. I would consider returning to them, but those in the upper portion of the list were significantly better than those in the lower portion of this section:
These next two were unacceptable:
* * * *
The chronology of when I visited each place probably affected my ratings, so here's a chronological list:
- The Four Seasons, London, England
- The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath, England
- The Pump Room, Bath, England (superb, but not really afternoon tea)
- Claridge's, London, England
- The Boathouse, Guelph, Canada
- The St. Regis Hotel, Houston, Texas
- The Queen's Hotel, Portsmouth, England
- The Dorchester, London, England
- Brown's, London, England
- Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Canada
- The Windsor Arms, Toronto, Canada
- The Ritz, London, England
- Scolfe's Tea Room, Boreham Street, England (again, not really afternoon tea)
- The Lanesborough, London, England
- The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, England
- The Saskatchewan Hotel, Regina, Saskatchewan
- The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, British Columbia
- Sparta House Tea Room, Sparta, Ontario
I have never used wifi on an airplane. I can imagine that I might want to use it sometime in the future, but it is expensive and not all that easy to use. This paragraph probably captures the reality very nicely:
In-flight WiFi is basically the worst. To get online at all, you usually have to run the gauntlet of a complicated transaction page, typing in your credit card number or performing some kind of log-in. Then you have to fork over three or four coffees' worth of money just so that you can get speeds that rival your parents' dial-up Internet.
Neville's Island by Tim Firth (who also wrote Calendar Girls) continues tonight at The Princess Avenue Theatre in St. Thomas. Tonight's show is pretty much sold out, but there are still tickets available for Friday and Saturday (8pm) and Sunday (2pm). After these shows, it's done, so don't put it off.
It's a comedy with tonnes of darkness and sarcasm, filled with intensity. It will likely be worth the drive to St. Thomas to see it.
You can get tickets for Neville's Island via Bellsbookbin 519 878 4452 or by Paypal on Elgin Theatre Guild's website.
After we had a wonderful preview show to a packed house last night, the official gala opening of Neville's Island is tonight at the Princess Theatre, St. Thomas, Ontario.
Neville's Island is set on Rampsholme Island in the Lakes District in the northwest of England, not far from the Yorkshire Dales. Here is a photo of Rampsholme Island.
The play continues with performances
- 8pm tonight and tomorrow night
- 2pm Sunday
- 8pm next Friday and Saturday (the Thursday performance is sold out)
- 2pm Mothers' Day
When Ms Eclectic and I traveled to Saskatchewan a number of years ago, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and the lovely openness of the province. Most of the areas we drove through had rolling hills, gorgeous valleys, and big sky awesomeness.
One weekend while I was teaching out there, I rented a car and drove to the SW region of the province and hiked in the coulees. Photos are here and here. The hikes there reminded me of the openness I had come to love in the foothills near Plateau Mountain in Alberta, in the Three Peaks district of the Yorkshire Dales, and along the Seven Sisters and South Downs in SE England.
The other day Ms Eclectic's cousin sent us this video about Saskatchewan. I'm not a fan of C&W music, and the video doesn't really emphasize the rolling hills and coulees the way I would, but I love the video anyway.
I just bought some Atlantic salmon, a product of Chile:
I thought, "Huh?" Chile is on the Pacific Ocean side of South America. But then I checked, and indeed down near Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Chile does appear to reach over to the Atlantic Ocean.
But that is likely irrelevant when it comes to Atlantic salmon. These salmon filets are almost surely from salmon farms in Chile. From Wikipaedia,
Aquaculture is a major economical activity in Chile. Among the diverse aquacultures practised in Chile Atlantic salmon aquaculture is the overwhelmingly largest sector. Until 2007 Chile experienced over 15 years a huge growth in its salmon aquaculture becoming the second largest salmon and trout producer after Norway. By 2006 Chile contributed with 38% of the worlds salmon volume just behind Norway that produced 39% of it. In 2006 salmon from Chilean aquacultures was the third largest export product in terms value, representing 3,9 of Chilean exports...
The "problem" of people reclining their seats on airplanes has given rise to this wonderful piece by Virginia Postrel.
In it, she explains the Coase Theorem, the importance of the assumptions underlying the theorem, and how to deal with situations when the assumptions are not satisfied (which is what makes both the Coase Theorem and her article so good).
A lengthy excerpt:
Airline seats offer a perfect illustration of Ronald Coase’s famous analysis in his 1960 article, “The Problem of Social Cost.” Coase’s crucial insight was that the way we tend to think about unwanted spillovers misses half the story. “The question is commonly thought of as one in which A inflicts harm on B and what has to be decided is: how should we restrain A? But this is wrong,” he wrote. “We are dealing with a problem of a reciprocal nature. To avoid the harm to B would inflict harm on A. The real question that has to be decided is: should A be allowed to harm B or should B be allowed to harm A?”
The traditional sort of thinking leads people on both sides of the airline-seat debate to get self-righteous, arguing that legroom and the ability to work is more important than comfortably reclining, or vice versa. Each camp finds the other rude. Each camp wants to improve its situation by inflicting harm on the other. It’s a “problem of a reciprocal nature.”
Essentially, the recliner says, "there wouldn't be a problem if you weren't behind me or if you didn't care about my reclining." And the tray user says, "there wouldn't be a problem if you didn't recline."
But, as Josh Barro has observed, the airlines have clearly defined the property rights. Passenger A (the recliner) has the right to harm Passenger B (the unfortunate soul behind him). Citing a common simplification of Coase’s work, Barro claimed that “it doesn’t matter very much who is initially given a property right; so long as you clearly define it and transaction costs are low, people will trade the right so that it ends up in the hands of whoever values it most.” So, he argued, “If my reclining bothers you, you can pay me to stop.”
This solution, however, is highly unrealistic. It waves away the central theme running throughout Coase’s work: the problem of transaction costs. Making and enforcing contracts, Coase emphasized, isn’t free. And when it comes to airline seats, it’s a lot more costly than Barro admits.
In theory, I could have offered the guy in front of me money to sit up, but even assuming that my fractured Italian had been up to conducting the negotiations and that he wouldn’t have gotten nasty in response to my overtures, how would I have enforced the deal? It’s not a simple problem, and certainly not a cost-free one. Suggesting that as long as property rights are well-defined, you can simply make a deal misunderstands what Coase was all about. He was obsessed with transaction costs. They explain why we have institutions (including firms), not just individual bargains.
Let's face it: many, if not most, of us would find it extremely uncomfortable/bothersome/annoying/unpleasant to be bargaining with a stranger about the exchange of the right to lower or not to lower a seat on the plane. These psychological costs mean that otherwise value-maximizing transactions rarely occur. I cannot imagine offering $20 to the person in front of me if they won't recline. Nor can I imagine offering notto recline if they compensate me by $20. [or fifty dollars or whatever deal we might strike]. Negotiation and transaction costs are important, and hence the initial assignment of property rights (or legal entitlements in general) is also important.
Postrel notes that the airlines have the property rights and assigns them with the sale of tickets. She offers one solution that airlines might try, but commentors have offered others as well. Likely there is some scheme that could lead to more value for passengers (and hence for the airlines).
It is as if she read Coase, Demsetz, and Calabresi and folded them all into one nice exposition.
My own version of the Coase Theorem:
- If property rights (or more generally legal entitlements) are clearly defined and easily enforced, and
- If transaction and negotiation costs are low,
- Then resources will move to their most highly valued use regardless of the initial assignment of the legal entitlements.
The theorem itself is trivial and not much different from Adam Smith's "invisible hand". It becomes rich, however, in the consideration of its assumptions. And that is where Postrel's piece shines. It doesn't just look at Coase; it looks at the assumptions.
I will likely have some extra luggage when going to Regina next week to give my seminar on "An Options Market for Human Organs", so I went to the WestJet website to see what the charges might be.
Here is a portion of the explanation of the fees at their site:
If you are paying a fee at the airport, we will accept Canadian dollars or the equivalent amount of the local currency. Much as we'd like to, we can't accept payment in the form of songs, yardwork or feats of strength. [emphasis added]
Some interesting, digressive notes:
One of my very favourite lines from Catch-22 is Yossarian's statement (paraphrased),
They have the right to do whatever they cannot be prevented from doing.
I was reminded of that line by this story from the CBC [via Ms Eclectic] which outlines how law-enforcement officials in the US take cash from people's cars.
Across America, law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public’s cash as they can; “hand over fist,” to use the words of one police trainer.
It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.
Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.
What he’s really looking for, though, is money.
And if you were foolish (or intimidated) enough to have consented to the search, and you’re carrying any significant amount of cash, you are now likely to lose it.
One bit of advice in the article is not to carry much cash with you, which makes sense to me.
- * - * -
Digression: about ten years ago when I was taking a minibus from London, Ontario, to the Detroit airport, a US immigration official asked "How much money are you bringing with you?"
I replied "Fourteen dollars."
He reacted with faked shock that I thought I could get by on so little cash, insinuating I might become a homeless vagrant.
I somewhat sarcastically replied that I was going to the airport, but I knew they had ATMs all over the US, and I had no wish to carry much cash with me, especially through Detroit.
I have no idea why they didn't pull me aside for being sarcastic. Whew.
Update: Raffi drew this article to my attention:
A Nebraska judge ordered cops to return $1 million to a California stripper after the cash was confiscated during a traffic stop.
Update #2: The actual quote from Catch-22 is from Chapter 39:
“Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”
For decades, I have advocated for reduced entry regulations* in the taxi/limousine industry. Over the past year or so, though, it has begun to look as if competition and innovation using smart-phone apps would do what local regulators refused to do.
But of course the industry incumbents have fought back, challenging Uber, Lyft, et al. (private car services) both legally and politically. From the Washington Post (via Sean),
"The taxi industry has donated $3,500 to state legislators for every dollar that Uber, Lyft and their smaller competitor Sidecar have given . . . This massive discrepancy in political giving may also explain why, since the start of 2014, at least 12 states and the District of Columbia have introduced new regulations aimed to limit these popular ride-sharing applications."
It's much cheaper and easier to compete for anti-competitive regulations through lobbying than for customers through efficiency and innovation.
Interestingly, 35 years ago Washington DC was considered a low regulation taxi market with few entry restrictions and with zone pricing.
*Please note I'm referring to entry regulations here. See this: Regulation by Municipal Licensing (co-authored with J. Bossons and S. Makuch). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984.
I have less objection to ways of assuring vehicle and driver quality, possibly via huge liability insurance policies advertised by the umbrella firms, which would then have an incentive to vet the drivers and cars.
Taxi drivers across the world went on strike last week to protest the growth of Uber, a car-ride-share service based on smartphone apps. The result? Customers, already frustrated with problems in the taxi industry became even more upset with the licensed taxis, and many of them switched to Uber. It strikes me as unusual, to say the least, that a business providing customer service would shut itself down to protest the inroads into their business by upstart innovators.
It was as if they were saying,
We're angry about the increased competition, so we are going to force you to try using the services of our competitors just to see how much they can improve the product we have been providing under the protection of entry regulation and licensing.
Uber has been a game changer...[A]t the end of the day, the story is rather simple and similar everywhere. The number of taxiS allowed to operate has been limited over time. Black cars were forbidden to pick up passengers on the street. Now technology makes that available, but also allows for simple citizens to attempt to provide a similar service, if they want to (UberPop). In the world of GoogleMaps and GPS, you don't need to paint your car white (as in Milan) or black (as in London) to signal that you'd be happy to transport people if they're to be charged. ...
Is Uber the taxi of the future?
We don't know, but certainly the company is pretty smart in managing the protest. Instead of building bridges with taxi drivers, Uber used the strike as a marketing device, offering big discounts to clients and attracting new ones. So theWashington Post reports that "Uber's British ridership went up 850 percent yesterday thanks to black cab protests that left Londoners snarled in traffic".
Look for increased sabotage, violence, and many more legal challenges.
Addendum: Interestingly, there is no mention of Uber in the Wikipaedia entry for "Taxicabs of the United Kingdom"; at least there was no mention as of last weekend.
Google often has fun with its various maps. I recall some directions that suggested swimming to Japan or jetskiing to China. But check this out [via MA]:
Travelling from the Brecon Beacons to Snowdon in Wales would take 21 minutes by dragon.
Riding Nessie between Fort Augustus and Urquhart Castle, which sit on Loch Ness in Inverness, Scotland, would take 28 minutes - four minutes faster than taking the bus.
Punting between Magdalene College and Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge takes 45 minutes, versus 18 minutes on the UNI4 bus.
While Magdalen College to Wolfson College on a punt in Oxford, weaving around the River Cherwell, takes 1 hour 32 minutes.
And it takes 1 hour 16 minutes to travel along the M4 between Windsor Castle, and Buckingham Palace.
Dragon travel is shown on this map:
With fossil fuel prices continuing to rise and be uncertain, heavy users of fossil fuels have a strong incentive to look for alternatives or to look for energy-efficient ways to reduce their uses of fossil fuels. Here is one interesting example [via JR]:
Container Ships to Use Kites to Save Fuel
Minnesota based Cargill has just signed an agreement with Skysails that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping business by using a giant kite. That’s right…a kite. Skysails, based in Hamburg, has developed a patented system which uses a kite to propel large shipping vessels across the sea. The wind-harnessing propulsion system, In theory, could end up reducing fuel consumption by an impressive 35%.
Here’s how it works: A monstrous 3,444 square foot kite is attached, via rope, to a control pod that electronically manipulates the kite to maximize potential wind benefits. The kite itself flies anywhere from 300 to 1300 feet in the air, whipping around in a figure 8 formation. Since the system is controlled electronically, it requires little attention from the crew. The computer system makes all the necessary adjustments to maximize available wind and relates telemetry back to a monitor located on the ship’s bridge.
What intrigues me about this example is that these container ships will not be using solar panels or windmillls to generate electricity. They are using the wind power directly. Furthermore, they will be instituting the plan in response to market forces, not gubmnt subsidies.
I find that when I'm on a plane or train, my noice-cancelling headphones are a wonder. Even if I don't listen to any music or podcasts, the noise canceling dramatically reduces my discomfort and maybe even reduces stress levels.
Here is another reason to wear them [via MA]. They will likely make the food taste better.
[S]eparate research revealed the sort of noise we are subjected to inside aircraft cabin affects taste buds, reducing our sense of saltiness and sweetness - and increasing crunchiness.
To test the theory, 48 diners were blindfolded and fed sweet foods such as biscuits or salty ones such as crisps, while listening to silence or noise through headphones at Unilever's laboratories and the University of Manchester.
Each volunteer rated the foods for flavour and said how much they liked them.
Background noise led to the foods being rated less salty or sweet. They were also perceived as more crunchy.
I'm not at all sure I believe this. And I'll grant that carrying over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones is just another thing to worry about on an airplane. But often the bother is worth the effort.
When people are paid more to do unpleasant jobs, economists call that wage premium a "compensating differential". Hazard pay, combat zone pay, or higher pay for other types of higher-risk jobs are all good examples of compensating differentials. Here is another [via JR]:
China’s smog problem is a well-known one. That recent story that the government was showing the sun rise on massive video screens because citizens couldn’t see it through the sooty skies may have been fake, but this one’s true. Panasonic pays workers who get transferred to China a monthly bonus for having to work in the polluted Chinese air.
Panasonic considers China to be a “hardship posting,” and that certainly seems like a fair classification. China’s PM 2.5 (particulates up to 2.5 micrometers in size) levels have gone over 400 micrograms per cubic meter on occasion. That’s more than sixteen times the World Health Organization’s established “safe” limits.
Other companies offer hardship allowances, too, but Panasonic is the first to publicly admit that they’re specifically paying transferees extra because of China’s environmental mess.
There are lots of places I'd rather be sent for work than Beijing, for sure. But then the nice places, the cushy postings, can offer lower compensation because of their plusses.
It is interesting to read how people from other countries perceive the United States and its culture(s). It gives us insight into ourselves, into the US, and into the cultures of the visitors.
Here are two examples [just to be clear, everything below other than my brief comments in brackets is from the two bulletted and linked items]:
With the help of Google Translate (and an ability to interpret completely random sentence structure), an American can find out what kind of advice the Japanese give to their own countrymen on how to handle the peculiarities of American culture. Here are some things tolook out for if you are visiting America from Japan. THERE IS A THING CALLED “DINNER PLATES.” AND WHAT GOES ON THEM IS A MIGHTY DISAPPOINTMENT.
2. BEWARE ROUGH AREAS WHERE THE CLOTHES DEMAND ATTENTION
3. BUT YOU’LL BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED BY AMERICAN TRAFFIC PATTERNS.
4. NOBODY IS IMPRESSED BY HOW MUCH YOU CAN DRINK. IN FACT, SHAME ON YOU.
5. THEY HAVE FREE TIME ALL WEEK LONG!
6. KNOWING HOW TO USE SARCASM IS A MUST TO COMMUNICATE WITH AN AMERICAN.
7. THEY TEND TO HORSE LAUGH, EVEN THE WOMEN. IT’S HOW THEY SHOW THEY’RE HONEST.
8. YOU WON’T BE GETTING YOUR GROCERIES ANYTIME SOON, SO CHECKOUT LINES ARE A GREAT PLACE TO MAKE FRIENDS.
9. THEIR VENDING MACHINES ARE RIDICULOUSLY LIMITED AND DISHONEST.
10. BUT DARN IT ALL, THEY’RE SO WEIRDLY OPTIMISTIC YOU JUST CAN’T STAY IRRITATED AT THEM.
1. ON GIVING GIFTS TO AMERICANS
2. ON TALKING TO AMERICAN WOMEN
3. ON SOCIALIZING WITH AMERICANS
4. ON AMERICAN OPTIMISM
We're on our way to Houston, where our younger son (Adam Smith Palmer) and his family live. We're looking forward to seeing them again. And we are really going to appreciate the warm(er) weather. It's about +5F going up to +8F with windchills below zero F here. There it is +46 going up to +54F with forecasts for pleasant +66F this weekend.
Blogging and social media actively may slack off a bit while I'm away.
I can't recall exactly why I wandered across the Wikipaedia entry for Coober Pedy, but I did. Here are the relevant parts for what I want to add:
Coober Pedy is a town in northern South Australia, 846 kilometres north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway. According to the 2011 census, its population was 1,695 ...] The town is sometimes referred to as the "opal capital of the world" because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called "dugouts", which are built due to the scorching daytime heat. ...
Opal was found in Coober Pedy on 1 February 1915; since then the town has been supplying most of the world's gem-quality opal. Coober Pedy today relies as much on tourism as the opal mining industry to provide the community with employment and sustainability. Coober Pedy has over 70 opal fields and is the largest opal mining area in the world.
Not that I don't completely believe that undergound/cave/cliffside homes are cooler. But if so, why are there so many in Coober Pedy? My impression is that there are many, many more such dwellings in Coober Pedy than there elsewhere.
A mining engineer in Australia explained to me that the reason is people are not allowed to dig, willy nilly for opals there. But if they dig for their homes/churches/long-drop toilet pits, etc., they are allowed to keep (or sell) all the opals they find. Much of the underground construction has just been opal mining by a different name. It probably would have been much more efficient to allow open pit mining.
Ok, the photos have been enhanced. And, ok, you could also include the library (or any other place in Detroit for that matter?). And, sure, someone seems confused about whether Ontario and Western Quebec are different.
But wouldn't it be fun or at least interesting to visit most of these places?
These real life ruins offer an eerie glimpse into a world without humans. Their dark walls inspire a sense of wonder like I've never felt before.
There is a lot of interesting commentary there, too.
Last summer I wrote a short blog post about borrowing things like umbrellas or sweaters from the Lost & Found. I lamented that due to our socialization we feel reluctant to do this but instead we inventory these things for our own personal use.
I was not suggesting that people should borrow things from the Lost & Found, especially not given what appear to be the extant morality systems under which most of us operate. Doing so would at the very least seem bad form to most people.
And I certainly was not recommending that people just take things from the Lost & Found. But apparently at Heathrow Airport, nine employees decided that some of the items in the Lost & Found were sufficiently valuable or attractive that they should just take the items rather than let the loot go to auction for charity or [horrors!] be retrieved by the original owners [ht MA].
Nine members of staff at Heathrow Airport have been arrested on suspicion of stealing items from lost property, police have confirmed.
The suspects, six men and three women, are accused of being involved in 43 separate thefts, between May and September this year.
Apparently all nine of the suspects made bail the next day, but I have not been able to learn what has happened in any of the cases.
This news item leads me to think of a couple of things
Imagine: you lose an unlocked smartphone. I don't know about you, but even if I knew I wouldn't get it back, I would much rather it was sold at auction with the proceeds going to charity than that some airport employee take it.
By now most of you have seen the WestJet Christmas Miracle video. It involved marvelous planning and was a great promotion on their part. If you haven't seen it, go here and read about it and watch it either at that link or in the youtube video below. It looks as if the folks at WestJet had a ball planning and carrying out the surprise.
After you have watched the video once or twice, then watch the video about why and how they did it (it's a lot of PR fluff, but has some things of interest).
But then be sure to watch what are called the bloopers. They aren't really bloopers; they're more like cutting-room snips. But they add to the joy and understanding of the entire event. Check out how they dealt with the woman who wanted a ring for Christmas! Too bad that scene didn't make final the cut for the main video.
Does anyone know: what did WestJet do about the people who said they wanted a new car for Christmas?
I grew up in Muskegon, Michigan. The beaches along the coast of western Michigan have nearly always been phenomenal -- clean (most of the time), fine sand, and not very crowded even on the hottest days. Only rarely in my travels have I encountered so many long stretches of clean, wonderful beaches as there are all along Michigan's west coast.
Swimming at the lake, running and jumping in the sand and dunes, picnicking, hiking, everything. We always loved it.
And this year, The Lonely Planet has named Michigan's West Coast as its #1 tourist destination (why Grand Rapids is included is beyond me. It's inland quite a ways and not all that special).
This designation probably could not have happened 60 years ago. Many of the cities along the west coast were factory towns with loads of pollution and weird smells. But the slow demise of Michigans' auto industry, along with continued efforts to clean up the environment, has meant that getting to the wonderful beaches, rivers, and lakes along the coast is no longer such an unpleasant trip.
As you know from this, I was in Regina, Saskatchewan last week and weekend for the Grey Cup, the championship game of CFL (Canadian Football League). I play trumpet in the Roughrider Pep Band and was there in that capacity. Here are some thoughts:
This is priceless. Click on the link to see all the photos.
Ducati dealer MotoCorsa recreated a typical “girl on bike” photo shoot with some of the guys from the shop doing the same poses. While promoting the Ducati 1199 Panigale bike, they decided to have a hilarious ad campaign run alongside their regular one. The second campaign features men trying their best to imitate female models by striking some alluring poses and strutting their stuff in front of the candy-red motorcycle.
Here are just two examples: