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:: Tuesday, August 31 2004 ::

Have you all seen the new iMac? It's soooo coool! Too bad it has to have a power cord (I'm sure they've been thinking that for years now - I wonder how much money Apple has invested in fuel cell technology just so they can make their machines sleeker?)
:: David (17:49 in Michigan, 23:49 in Paris) - Comment

Think someone is going to detect gravitational waves before 2010? You could put your money where your mouth is with a visit to Ladbrokes.
:: David (17:46 in Michigan, 23:46 in Paris) - Comment

There is a fun essay on wine drinking in the New Yorker.

The real question is not whether wine snobs and wine writers are big phonies but whether they are any bigger phonies than, say, book reviewers or art critics. For with those things, too, context effects are overwhelming. All description is impressionistic, and all impressions are interpretive. Colors and shapes don’t emerge from pictures in neat, particulate packages to strike the eye, either, any more than plots and themes come direct to the mind from the pages of books. Everything is framed by something.
Given the seriousness with which some people approach their wine (myself occasionally included), this article, which lets a little steam out of the whole business without being demeaning, is a worthwhile read.
:: David (17:38 in Michigan, 23:38 in Paris) - Comment

More delays on the new apartment - we may not get to move in until October. I'm sooooooo glad we're leaving town for a while! We've lined up a mover for Saturday morning, and we'll put all the stuff in a storage place until such time as we have somewhere to put it all. *sigh* I hope Egypt is really, really good, to make life happy and warm and good.
:: David (16:10 in Michigan, 22:10 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Monday, August 30 2004 ::

Culture Lesson: In France, one must have a blood test to get a loan on a house.

At first blush, I was horrified - what kind of police state was I living in? But once it was explained to me, it suddenly made perfect sense. Let me see what you think:

In France, one does not 'mortgage' a house. I.e., when you buy a house, it is yours. It does not belong to a bank or lending company until the last payment is made, it is yours from day one. This is in contrast to, for example, the practice in the U.S., where missing even one payment theoretically allows the bank to take your house. In France, your house, because it really is yours, cannot be taken from you.

But what does happen is that you owe someone, specifically the bank, a whole pile of money, for which they have nothing to show except a piece of paper on which you have stated "I owe you a whole lot of money". Enter the insurance.

Because the bank has a huge amount riding on your ability to pay off the debt you have with them, they require you to take out insurance on that debt. Thus, if you are killed or incapacitated, they still get their money. But the insurer then has to decide how risky it is to insure you. One of the ways they check? Blood test. All the usuals, in fact - apparently someone looking for a small business loan had to have a full medical workup, and my friend said that her husband, who is slightly older than she, pays more per month on his part of the insurance than she does.

So the blood test goes from being a completely bizarre scary police state type thing, to being something you can understand, and even in some ways appreciate. Does the system work better? I don't know. But I know that a system that doesn't allow people to be thrown out of their homes must have something good going for it.
:: David (13:35 in Michigan, 19:35 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

A genuine act of kindness has made our lives absolutely better, and I just have to share - one of the women at work, a woman our own age, realized that she was going on holiday just after we get back from ours (to Egypt - have I mentioned we leave Sunday for Egypt?) So she offered us her apartment, not only for the time she is gone, but from the time we get back - she has some relatives in town, and can stay with them for the first day, and rather than have us shift about all over Paris, she's going to stay with them until she leaves, and just install us in her apartment from day one. Absolutely marvellous. So all is well and right with the world, and we can leave knowing we have somewhere to be when we come back. Later in the week we'll hear back from the ladies concerning their various and sundry adventures in moving out, and hopefully on Saturday we can install our stuff in the apartment, in anticipation of them moving out. This is all sorta starting to maybe come together. Woo! And all because my co-worker is wonderful.
:: David (13:21 in Michigan, 19:21 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, August 29 2004 ::

A while back, a few weeks, maybe more, I found a site through AvantGo called AlterNet, which is a publication which produces news stories (or opinion pieces) which are fairly far to the left. Certainly more so than the current mainstream parties in the US, for example. I read it most days on the train, on my way to work. They do some good stuff, some stories way outside the box. So I've added a link for them on the left - they're worth a look.
:: David (19:43 in Michigan, 01:43 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, August 28 2004 ::

Would you let this man drive a car if you were a French civil servant?

:: David (17:02 in Michigan, 23:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[6]

We swung by the Jewish community centre I mentioned a couple days back - it was, in fact, just down the street from the place we almost moved into. Crazy wacky stuff. I feel sorry for the people who did move in, to have that as their 'welcome to the neighbourhood' present. A little further down the street, another fire was being put out today, but I don't think they were related. The street was closed, and the bus was sitting at the far end (all the people had abandoned the driver, who was patiently waiting for the firemen (pompiers) to finish their task.
:: David (15:30 in Michigan, 21:30 in Paris) - Comment

Packing, packing, packing... where in the world did all of this old junk mail come from? Or these ticket stubs from Zurich and Paris? Or all these little boxes that expensive electronics come in (oh - wait - I know how we managed to collect those)... Thank goodness we've managed to collect enough boxes to put all this junk into. And we keep finding things, like an inflatable headrest for planes. It's crazy. But I think at the very least we will be moved out of this place before next weekend.
:: David (06:03 in Michigan, 12:03 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, August 27 2004 ::

I've just realized how close we are to the day we have to have a place to live. It's a week from Sunday that we depart for Egypt, apartment or no. All of our stuff will be in boxes on that day, sitting in a corner of (I expect) this apartment, waiting for us to return and move them all to our spiffy new home, wherever that may end up being. I really have to get on the ball and get cracking with the cleaning and dismantling and somesuch. I swear, if I could I would just leave everything here and move someplace where finding something as simple as an apartment isn't so bloody difficult. The meeting we have on Monday is to put down some amazingly insane amount of money (I want to say around $6000) to hold an apartment with a rent one tenth that. It's simply unreal. And to top it all off, we'll probably be in a hotel because the apartment won't be empty.

And, just to add insult to injury, it looks as though we may be homeless in Zurich as well. we originally booked the flight so we would have an overnight stop in Zurich, and could visit Sasha's brother. But it sounds like that may not work, leaving us to get a hotel there, too. Amazing.
:: David (13:19 in Michigan, 19:19 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

Here's a random piece of information for you - the minimum wage in the UK, since October of 2003, is $8.73 (4.85 pounds) per hour. Why do I know this? Because apparently there will be negotiations this fall to raise it further - to somewhere between $9.00 and $9.36 per hour. Of course, the talk has already started that all the employers will move their entire operation to China. We shall see.
:: David (07:34 in Michigan, 13:34 in Paris) - Comment

I made a document explaining why we are having so much trouble moving house. It includes a diagram, due to the complexity of the whole thing....
:: David (02:36 in Michigan, 08:36 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Wednesday, August 25 2004 ::

Some pseudo-photos of the Paris liberation celebration
:: David (17:30 in Michigan, 23:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

We went downtown after work today to see the huge parade of WWII vehicles and celebration of the liberation of France. It was truly amazing - they had all sorts of vehicles, including a Sherman tank, and thousands of people in WWII garb. It was down on the Seine, so you were looking over the river and the Tour Eiffel and all these crazy old vehicles, with people who were really in character. It was crazy.

Later this evening there will be dancing down at the Bastille. They were reporting on it on France 2 this evening, and I have made a discovery: hearing someone French say the phrase "Boogie-Woogie" is something everyone should aspire to before they die.
:: David (14:38 in Michigan, 20:38 in Paris) - Comment

You may have heard about the arson attack on a Jewish community center in Paris. Apparently it was on Rue Popincourt, which is where we were looking at an apartment. Crazy! We've probably walked very near the place a million times.
:: David (14:20 in Michigan, 20:20 in Paris) - Comment

CNN is covering the press conference concerning the prisoner abuse investigation. Looks like there isn't going to be too big a shake up. Too bad.
:: David (13:55 in Michigan, 19:55 in Paris) - Comment

So, as you may or may not know, John Kerry appeared on the Daily Show last night. As John Stewart would say, "Whaaaa?" But there it was. There don't appear to be any good stories about it, because it sounds like it was more or less a fluff interview. On the other hand, a few revealing points did come out:

"You'd be amazed at the number of people who want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room. It's the most bizarre part of this entire thing."
I went looking for a transcript of the whole thing, but it looks like noone has posted one yet. I'll, of course, be trawling the file-share networks for a video of the interview.
:: David (03:40 in Michigan, 09:40 in Paris) - Comment

"25 Août 44 - Paris libéré". So says Metro today, with a picture of the party that took place at the Place de la République back in 1944. All day today there will be ceremonies, 'tying up traffic' as the paper notes. A big dance down at the Bastille, lots of old (I assume military) vehicles driving all over the city, etc. And more stuff tomorrow. If it weren't so early I would head down the street to watch the ceremony at the Eiffel tower, which takes place in about 30 minutes. Fun stuff.
:: David (03:19 in Michigan, 09:19 in Paris) - Comment

Apparently Radio Cyprus had to close its doors because it had a massive flea infestation. According to the report on the BBC, there are a lot of wild cats living near the studio, and the fleas have just gotten to be too much. They were also saying the station's mascot, a poodle, will have to go.

This story raised another issue in my mind - Greece has lots of stray cats (I mean lots and lots) or at least did the last time I was there. I wonder if they've 'cleaned them up' for the Olympics. There were rumours they were willing to 'clean up' the poor people, but I don't know where cats rate - higher or lower....
:: David (01:30 in Michigan, 07:30 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, August 24 2004 ::

One in ten voters, according to some age-old research, have a political belief system which is internally consistent. Twice that number have no system whatsoever. And the rest? We don't like to think about it. An article in the New Yorker gives you something to think about when you expound on the wonders of 'democracy'.
:: David (17:01 in Michigan, 23:01 in Paris) - Comment

The Washington post has an amusing article about economists, taking two of them for a drive around New York.

Indeed there's a good reason economics is called the dismal science: No one is really sure of anything. Most of the statistical measurements of the economy were devised in an earlier, simpler era, pre-globalization, when you really could get a pretty good sense of the country by looking at, say, durable goods orders.

Statistics can be deceptive. They don't measure what really counts, the quality of life. The economy can be going full throttle, for example, even as many workers become increasingly concerned about rising health care costs, crumbling schools, the tensions and frictions of modern life. The economy doesn't move as a single unit. There are leading indicators and lagging indicators. Corporate profits boomed last year while wages remained nearly flat. In any conversation about the economy one must stipulate whose economy you're talking about. The longshoreman's? The trial lawyer's? The recent college graduate's? The chief executive officer's?

It's just a random, bizarre article. But amusing to me....
:: David (16:54 in Michigan, 22:54 in Paris) - Comment

The Guardian reports today that they are remaking the file "Oh God!", with Ellen DeGeneres in the lead role.

I want you to think about that a little while before I throw in my two cents....

OK - my two cents - WHAT?! Remaking this film is one of the very worst ideas I've ever heard. The original had a comic genius (George Burns) and a very genuine guy (John Denver - I kid you not), and was lighthearted and fun. A remake, now? My only ray of hope is that apparently the original producer, Jerry Weintraub, is involved with this one as well. But "hip and modern" is not in line with the spirit of the film, I think.
:: David (08:48 in Michigan, 14:48 in Paris) - Comment

I hate it when I forget to sync my Palm before I leave in the morning! Riding a train for 45 minutes with nothing to read is torture. Ah well - I'll consider it a lesson learned, and hopefully next time I'll check. It's a good thing there was nothing particularly interesting this morning. Well, there was a report in the Guardian that people were selling fake Dalis in Finland:

Finnish police said yesterday they were investigating a large-scale art fraud in which dozens of high-quality photocopies of works by artists such as Salvador Dalí were passed off as originals and sold for up to €10,000 (£6,700) each.
which made me wonder a little bit about the buyers involved. And of course there's the Bush campaign saying that smear tactics are bad, and Kerry has a respectable war record. The timing is perfect, since the attacks were losing traction. Now Bush can claim the moral high ground. How amusing. And speaking of amusing, Reuters quotes a Vietnamese woman, Nguyen Lu Dung, as saying

"Young people of my generation have little knowledge of the American war, so what Kerry did during a battle in Vietnam is not important for us"

"On the other hand, what Bush did in Iraq mattered a lot, and he was wrong. For that he shouldn't win this election,"

The story reports that all the discourse about the Vietnam war going on right now in the US merely bemuses the Vietnamese, almost half of whom were born after the war.

Other than that, looks like a quiet day, as Oslo continues searching for artwork, the UK bemoans another Olympic medal not won, and France is apparently so bereft of news they are reporting on the continuing German protests over benefit reform - the so-called "Hartz IV" reforms.
:: David (03:45 in Michigan, 09:45 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Monday, August 23 2004 ::

Posted the photos from Rouen. Now if only I can get around to Rennes (preferably before heading to Egypt!)
:: David (18:13 in Michigan, 00:13 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[3]

Well, it appears some of my personal information may have been released tothe public at large through a web server mis-configuration. According to thestory Google search exposes anti-Bush subscribers, MoveOn.org left the barn door open:

A Web page misconfiguration left dozens of the liberal political group's subscriber pages easily searchable through simple Google queries. Each page included a subscriber's name, email address and the mailing lists to which he or she is subscribed.
Which is fine and dandy - nothing was exposed that particularly bothers me, asthis blog shows my political alliances a great deal more clearly than my association with MoveOn.org ever could. What bothered me, actually, was thefact that the story suggested in some way that google could be used to hack:
The information leak is the latest version of "Google hacking," using the search engine's advanced features to find data leaked by Web sites.
There is only one group to be held responsible for the leak, and that is MoveOn.org.The idea that when you stupidly publish something, people shouldn't find it, isone of those idiotic ideas that leads to prosecution of teens on trumped up chargeswhen a mega-corporation gets caught with its fly down. Google finds things thatpeople publish. If you don't want people to see something, don't put it on yourwebsite. Simple.
:: David (13:59 in Michigan, 19:59 in Paris) - Comment

So, here's an interesting idea - according to the BBC, the national governmentof Ireland is set to be dispersed throughout the country, to various towns ofall sizes, in an attempt to spread the wealth that comes from having agovernment agency in town. The story notes that much of the growth of the pastdecade has been centred on Dublin, and the Irish government is hoping withthis move to 'share the joy', as it were. Of course, my first reaction wasto think that it would make the government more inefficient because peoplecouldn't meet with one another. But the fact of the matter is, these daysit's all about phone calls and e-mail, not face-to-face meetings.
:: David (13:58 in Michigan, 19:58 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Sunday, August 22 2004 ::

Aw, man! If only we were on holiday in Norway, we could have watched armed robbers steal Munch's 'The Scream' from the museum, in broad daylight. But we were in boring old Paris, where nothing ever happens.
:: David (09:17 in Michigan, 15:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, August 21 2004 ::

Long day! We made it back from Rennes Rouen, and I managed to get a single photograph posted, so you can see that there's a big church in Rennes Rouen. I know this will come as a complete surprise, big churches being so uncommon in France, and really Europe in general suffers from a severe lack of large churches, but for whatever reason, Rennes Rouen has one. More than one, in fact. And a chocolatier who makes a chocolate called 'the tears of Joan of Arc'. They have a photo out front, showing the pope trying one of the chocolates. So not only do they have a big church, they have a photo of the pope! I know - it's so unlike other French towns. But it actually was quite a fun city, and we had what can only be described as a very full day. And now I will sleep, and allow my legs to complete the job of falling off which they started at about mid-day.
:: David (17:14 in Michigan, 23:14 in Paris) - Comment

Mornings. I hate mornings. 6AM is far too early for any rational human being to drag themselves from the cozy warmth of their bed.
:: David (23:59 in Michigan, 05:59 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, August 20 2004 ::

Well, we watched "King Arthur" this evening. That was a bad movie. Wow.

We're off to Rouen tomorrow, to look at churches and old buildings and other somesuch things. Hopefully we'll take pictures, and maybe someday I'll post them all on the internet. We'll see.
:: David (17:51 in Michigan, 23:51 in Paris) - Comment

Is offroad 4x4 use causing massive environmental damage?I read about it first in the Guardian, and while I found it interesting, I figured it was one of those environmental pieces the Guardian runs, which, while interesting and disturbing, were not being taken very seriously by other media outlets. Then I saw the same story in the Times, and decided that maybe people were taking this issue more seriously than I had expected.
:: David (04:19 in Michigan, 10:19 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, August 19 2004 ::

Did you know that Steven Seagal had released a CD? Did you need to know? Probably not. What scares me is the assertion that it is popular in France. There exists the possibility I have already heard it, and not known.... (Courtesy Lileks)
:: David (16:45 in Michigan, 22:45 in Paris) - Comment

Just to follow on my comments about benefits (like health care) making a salary seem larger than it is, the New York Times today has an article which asserts that the rising cost of health benefits is a factor in the current job slump.
:: David (13:24 in Michigan, 19:24 in Paris) - Comment

The New Yorker magazine has an interesting book review cum history lesson on the first world war, which gives a summary of an excellent essay on the first world war: what modern historians are saying about the causes and effects of WWI. Definitely not what you learned in elementary school.
:: David (13:12 in Michigan, 19:12 in Paris) - Comment

There's a tremendously interesting article on the BBC's website about Sao Paulo, Brazil. It talks about how none of the city's problems get solved because mayorship of the city is viewed as a springboard to bigger and better things, rather than an end in and of itself. It also asks the question as to whether Democracy has done Brazil any good. It's a really good article, with lots of random details about a place you might not know much about.
:: David (13:09 in Michigan, 19:09 in Paris) - Comment

Would you let your insurance company track your every movement if it meant lower rates? Norwich Union an insurance company in Britain, thinks you will. The BBC also has an article explaining all the details.
:: David (13:04 in Michigan, 19:04 in Paris) - Comment

The Air Force Times quotes Robert Gard, a retired U.S. lieutenant-general as stating that the Bush administration's missile defense project is "too costly, has never been tested and may not even work."

“As of now, no major component of this system has been tested in its deployable configuration,” he said. “Operational testing of the integrated system is far into the future. The last intercept test was conducted in December 2002. It failed.”

:: David (12:52 in Michigan, 18:52 in Paris) - Comment

An article in the New York Times reports that a national guardsman has filed suit to have the Bush administration's 'back-door draft' declared illegal:

A member of the California Army National Guard filed suit in federal court [in San Francisco] Tuesday challenging the Bush administration's so-called stop-loss policy, asserting that his pending deployment to Iraq "bears no relation to the threat of terrorism against the United States."
The suit has been filed under the name of John Doe. Why?
Michael S. Sorgen, a lawyer for the plaintiff, described him as "very loyal, patriotic and brave." But, Mr. Sorgen said, he wants to remain anonymous because "there might be some people who see this wrongly as an unpatriotic act."
Isn't it funny what people describe as patriotic and what they see as unpatriotic? Why does it take some people decades to work out which is which?
:: David (12:52 in Michigan, 18:52 in Paris) - Comment

According to the New York Times, Bush is once again promoting his missile defence system:

"We say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world, 'You fire, we're going to shoot it down,' " Mr. Bush told Boeing employees in Ridley Park, Pa., south of Philadelphia.

"I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don't understand the threats of the 21st century," he said. "They're living in the past. We're living in the future. We're going to do what's necessary to protect this country."

I've been thinking about this, and I've decided that I don't mind the missile defense system. Oh, don't get me wrong - this is more like a vote for Kerry than any sort of hawkish side of me coming to light - the thing is, if we're going to spend zillions of dollars on macho war toys, at least a missile defense system isn't designed to kill anyone. It doesn't, in fact, do anything, because it doesn't work. But that's OK - the US is always pouring money into useless projects. Now, of course, I would prefer to see more social spending and less war toy spending, but at least it's not a new 'super-kill' rifle or new 'tactical nuke' the money is being wasted on.
:: David (12:52 in Michigan, 18:52 in Paris) - Comment

The Wall Street Journal (Europe) has an article today titled "World’s Airlines Struggle To Cope With Oil Prices" which is another doom-and-gloom article about the airline industry.

The global airline industry, already hobbled financially, is struggling to cope with the surge in oil prices. Following a spate of shocks. to the industry, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., the SARS epidemic and the war in Iraq, the prospect of crude oil hitting $50 (€40.50) a barrel spells doom for some carriers and intense pain for all.

"It’s going to be a disasterforthe industry," said Anthony Concil, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s global trade group.

What this announcement is, of course, is a transparent attempt by the IATA to protect its members by eliciting support from the government. It takes the opportunity to point out how much worse things are in the US, starting above with the references to September 11th and following on with notes about how Asian and European carriers are in better shape because "their currencies are strong against the dollar, making fuel - which is priced in dollars - a bit cheaper. And they have had more success with fuel surcharges, in part because competition is less fierce than in the U.S." As you can clearly see, those foreign owned government supported airlines are clearly not playing on a level playing field, and thus the US government should step in and support the US airline industry. In case you missed any of that, the article says it again, and this time takes a swipe at unions too:
For now, carriers are focused on survival. U.S. carriers are in especially dire straits, as they were hit hardest by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, have what is the most crowded and competitive market, and face some of the world’s most powerful airline labor unions. They also have been unable to make fuel-linked fare increases stick. Thanks to the recent boom in budget carriers and massive discounting by all airlines to get people flying again after Sept. 11, travelers have grown accustomed to lower fares. Afraid of losing market share, traditional carriers are shy about following rivals’ price increases.
Two references to September 11th in a single paragraph!

The article does eventually get around to pointing out that bad business practices have been a substantial reason for the difficulties in the industry, pointing out that "cash-rich and profitable Southwest Airlines has paid to lock in 80% of its fuel needs through 2005 at the equivalent of just $24 or $25 a barrel" through the use of futures. In contrast, Delta sold all of its hedges earlier this year for cash, and is now caught by the rising prices.

One nice thing about the rising prices is that they should force the industry to upgrade to more fuel efficient planes. According to the article, Continental Airlines cut fuel use by 25% over the past five years by upgrading its fleet.
:: David (12:50 in Michigan, 18:50 in Paris) - Comment

Apparently Kerry and Bush are trading attacks on who could do the best job as commander-in-chief. What I want to know is at what point did a country which was strongly divided on whether the war in Iraq was the right thing to do decide that it wanted two strongly hawkish candidates? If the election is a referendum on the so-called 'war on terror', why are we only being given the option of voting 'yes' or 'yes'?
:: David (07:02 in Michigan, 13:02 in Paris) - Comment

The BBC has an article today titled Teleportation goes long distance which talks about quantum teleportation. I thought it might be good to round up some articles on the subject, and I found several. The best, fairly straightforward one is joot.com which takes you through the whole process, and reviews the stuff you learned in school along the way. For those of you who took some advanced classes, the wikipedia has an excellent article, full of scary mathematical symbols.
:: David (03:40 in Michigan, 09:40 in Paris) - Comment

I think the building across the way was on fire this morning. I took a photo, which I will post at some point. I ran around the house like a madman trying to find what was burning, then looked out the window and went 'oh'. Nice way to get the ol' juices flowing first thing in the morning!
:: David (02:00 in Michigan, 08:00 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Wednesday, August 18 2004 ::

I think this is too much fun: Dog Toy or Marital Aid?. (Courtesy of Bad Faggot)
:: David (16:54 in Michigan, 22:54 in Paris) - Comment

Yahoo shopping popped up an ad at me to go back-to-school shopping. The items they listed?

  • MP3 Players
  • Books
  • Cell Phones
  • Music
  • Calculators
  • Shoes
  • Cameras
  • More...
Hm. You know, when I was younger, clothes, calculators, shoes, and maybe books (notepads, at least) were in that list. I'm a little fuzzy on the rest.
:: David (14:31 in Michigan, 20:31 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[1]

A friend of mine sent me a question today, concerning the idea of flatter wage structures (it was in relation to Japan, but the question was more general). He wondered, were the wage structures more flat, what would be the effect on who chose which jobs?

I thought I might address this, in part because it's a facet of what I do at my day job - we look at 'work incentives' and what makes people choose whether to be unemployed or employed, and we also look at tax structures, which can easily make a society with a high wage differential (before taxes) quite egalitarian (after taxes). Denmark springs quite strongly to mind, as do the other Nordic countries.

It's important to note that 'egalitarian' does not mean equal - the spread in Japan is roughly fifteen to one, depending on the source. That means the lowest paid employee earns, for example, $20,000 per year. Then a CEO can earn $300,000. Even, for example, a six to one spread would allow salaries of $120,000 per year. And 6-1 does not exist in nature.

So, just for example, with our theoretical 6-1 economy, we could have people who earn $20K, $30K, 40K, etc. Even in our highly unequal 'real world', these are real pay differences. And there are 11 steps between the lowest and highest paid. So it is easy to see that even in an unnaturally egalitarian society, one could offer financial incentives to take certain jobs.

It is also important to note that in my example, the lowest pay was moderately high. This need not be so. Placing value on a position leads to the position having a higher salary. Even the most equal of societies could still pay their teachers peanuts.

However, one interesting element of most egalitarian societies is that, because people cannot, for example, fund a private hospital out of their personal millions, often there are more social services. Thus, even lower paid jobs can seem to pay more, and can be more viable.
:: David (13:40 in Michigan, 19:40 in Paris) - Make a Comment

:: Tuesday, August 17 2004 ::

For those following the Ann Arbor Outdoor Couch Ban Saga, someone in that lovely city blogged a full accounting of the first reading at the city council (which was evidently aborted, although I didn't get why). Most amusing element of the whole thing? One of the city council members posted a comment on his blog, correcting some of the details. Sadly or happily, as you like, it is an Albion alum - someone I went to university with....
:: David (14:11 in Michigan, 20:11 in Paris) - Make a Comment - View Comments[3]

Speaking of giving benefits to help workers through 'transitions'(read: unemployment), Canada's Globe and Mail weighed in today with a piece which wants to know where all the good jobs have gone in Canada:

"Flexibility" is a deliberately inoffensive misnomer. The true goal is to enhance the freedom and power of employers to manage their work force at will and ruthlessly minimize labour costs.
It includes some basic policy suggestions - a 'living' minimum wage and unemployment benefits for groups that were cut off during the push to get everyone off unemployment by making them ineligible, rather than by finding them a job.
:: David (13:59 in Michigan, 19:59 in Paris) - Make a Comment

If you are a US voter, and you read one thing I post this month, The bad or the terrible? by George Monbiot should be the thing you read. It asks a disturbingly simple question about the elections in the US - if not now, when? When are we going to be given a candidate by the Democrats who actually represents the person we want to vote for? Nader represents the left because nobody else is. Saying we shouldn't vote for him simply because he can't win, or he might lead to a worse outcome, avoids the question of why we aren't being offered a good outcome from this election.
:: David (13:49 in Michigan, 19:49 in Paris) - Make a Comment

There's an article in today's Wall Street Journal Europe which demonstrates just how completely the two sides, if we can call them that, in the globalization debate are debating different issues. The article, titled "Despite Inflation Woes, Globalizatiods Pulling Prices Down", is by Louise Story, and discusses a paperdone by Peter Schott, Andrew Bernardand J. Bradford Jensen titled "Facing the Dragon: Prospects for U.S. Manufacturers in the Coming Decade". According to the story, their research indicates that by 2011, "prices on many products, including leather goods, bedroom furniture and expensive jewelry, will fall as their production moves from high-wage industrialized countries to low-wage countries in Asia and Africa."

If you read the story, this sounds like revolutionary news - as if paying people less to produce the same good would result in higher prices. In fact, the story is terrible. Don't read it.

The research itself looks more sound, and I will point out one of the conclusions it draws, which the Wall Street Journal chose to overlook

Competition from low-wage countries induces a long-run reallocation of U.S. economic activity away from low-wage, low-skill industries and towards high-wage, high-skill industries. Over time, our country benefits from more efficient production, a wider variety of products, lower prices, and an improved standard of living. However, our forecast highlights that these net gains will not be shared equally by all workers. Though some displaced workers will be absorbed relatively quickly by expanding industries, others may face prolonged bouts of unemployment or rehiring at lower wages.
The authors point out that this is a concern that public policy needs to address, stating
Going forward, we need to focus on workers rather than jobs (and industries), on alleviating employee anxiety by facilitating and supporting employee transitions rather than supporting employer inefficiency. These policies merit much more serious scrutiny if we are to maintain our commitment to free trade and all the benefits that this commitment creates.
Sadly, their conclusion is overlooked by the report in the Wall Street Journal, as are similar conclusions drawn by many other economists and public policy analysts. Like most research, people are amazingly deft at ignoring the bits they don't like - such as when you tell them that it would be better to 'support employee transitions'.
:: David (13:45 in Michigan, 19:45 in Paris) - Make a Comment

So here's one for those of you looking to escape your life: move to an airport terminal. Apparently other people have, and done it for years!
:: David (13:39 in Michigan, 19:39 in Paris) - Make a Comment

Has anybody out there seen the new Vin Diesel movie? How was it? The people on IMDB don't seem to approve too much.
:: David (13:20 in Michigan, 19:20 in Paris) - Make a Comment

:: Monday, August 16 2004 ::

I love to imagine that only in Paris could somebody drive by in a car with the radio blaring "I'm your lady" by Celine Dion!
:: David (17:24 in Michigan, 23:24 in Paris) - Make a Comment

So we met with the agent for the house this evening, and everything went quite nicely. There was one part, whenSasha was trying to explain our complicated financial arrangements, and the woman finally exclaimed 'that's your business - I only need to know about your French bank accounts.' Except, she didn't say business, she said salad. And until you've heard the phrase 'that's your salad' used in complete seriousness, I am of the opinion you haven't lived. Anyway, the place looks do-able, and I don't see any major stumbling blocks, so we should be up and away to Chatou (that's the name of the village) early next month. Then off to Egypt for a week, while our stuff resides in the nether place between apartments, and then back and into a permanent residence with trees, and a river, and a forest. Nice. Of course, there are still things that can go awry - we may be asked to put down a six month deposit (4000 euros, or $5000) which would suck, but I think we can swing it with some serious cash transfers from the states (we both have US bank accounts where dollars live and dream of higher interest). So we're at least one step closer.... I will be so happy when all this is over!
:: David (15:36 in Michigan, 21:36 in Paris) - Make a Comment

The Guardian today has an article on the idea of threat now that the cold war is over, and the idea that in many circles, some sort of enemy is absolutely necessary, the better if they aren't well defined, but are scary:

And that's the nature of this soup of amorphous, conjectural anxiety. Who exactly are we fretting about? "Individuals and groups, whether British nationals or not," reckons Mr Blunkett. What do they want? Sweeping political change in the Middle East, say some; nothing less than global dominion, claim others. And the means of dealing with them? According to a recent speech given to a Police Federation conference, it's all a matter of "policing the unknown". Pardon?
What's interesting, as this article points out, is that the UK has lived with terrorism for ages, in the form of the IRA (and others). The trick, of course, is that "they were mere terrorists; our new adversaries are super terrorists."
:: David (03:28 in Michigan, 09:28 in Paris) - Make a Comment

:: Sunday, August 15 2004 ::

Well, Jason got on the blog and promptly found bugs with the comment system, so it's back to the drawing board for a bit....
:: David (17:07 in Michigan, 23:07 in Paris) - Make a Comment

OK - French wine - how about this article in Libération (French) which talks about how French wine sales in Korea have increased 40% in the last year. Whether or not there are ulterior motives for drinking the stuff, is another question:

The Korean press revealed last year that Leonardo da Vinci was a lover of red wines. Since that time, the Koreans are persuaded that the absorption of tannins makes one brilliant.
This is the first good news I've seen for the French wine industry in a while. But I've felt for a while now the coverage of the 'crisis' was in part due to the fact that people wanted to see the all-powerful French wine industry fail. Which is not to say there is no problem. Merely that it is not so all-encompassing as some sources would lead you to believe.
:: David (13:47 in Michigan, 19:47 in Paris) - Make a Comment

Oh - another item on the housing price issue in Europe (and then I move on to my next topic, French Wine) - the average house price in the UK in the first quarter of 1997 was a touch under £56,000. Today that number is £149,742.
:: David (13:35 in Michigan, 19:35 in Paris) - Make a Comment

I can't remember if I linked to this or not: Kerry fails iraq test. It's the Toronto Star's response to Kerry's 'I like the war/I hate the war' stance.
:: David (13:31 in Michigan, 19:31 in Paris) - Make a Comment

Sasha paid for the baguette in 2 cent pieces! 40 of them!
:: David (12:21 in Michigan, 18:21 in Paris) - Make a Comment

A story which gets a lot of press in many markets but which maynot have reached the attention of everyoneoutside of Europe, is the skyrocketing price of housing in many major cities. The problem is so acute in the UK that almost any problemcovered in the press eventually comes back to it, in one wayor another. For example, public safety and education in Londonare both under threat because the workers in the respectiveprofessions can no longer afford to live where they work. The numbers are quite dire, really, as the Economist shows in this article on housing prices. I threw together a chart showing the growth of housing prices in the UK and Ireland, from national statistics bureaus. It shows how serious the situation in the UK really is:

I have also heard talk, from someone in Madrid and several people in Paris, that the situation is equally bad, which backs up the data with a little anecdotal evidence. Of course, if you already own a house, things might not be as bad (unless you are assessed taxes on the value). But overall, the price of housing is quite an occupation over here.
:: David (12:15 in Michigan, 18:15 in Paris) - Make a Comment

I'm going to miss this place when we move - Gambetta is really a fun, lively place to live. If we were going to stay, there's an amazing house for sale overlooking the square. But alas, we cannot stay. Such is life....
:: David (11:15 in Michigan, 17:15 in Paris) - Make a Comment

Well, I think the comments are more or less working. If it crashes, it erases the whole blog, and there still seem to be some oddities (the numebers don't always increment when they should, and things like that). But by and large, it's working. The script is 8K, which is twice as large as the blog program, but it's much more complex than the original blog program, so there you go. Fun. If you get major errors, mail me and let me know. If you manage to erase the blog, don't worry - I halfway expect at least one major error. I'll be keeping backups just in case....
:: David (09:33 in Michigan, 15:33 in Paris) - Make a Comment

:: Saturday, August 14 2004 ::

israel wonders why the so many in the international press have nothing good to say about them. Maybe they should stop holding reporters hostage at gunpoint....
:: David (14:36 in Michigan, 20:36 in Paris)

I know you've all seen this, but just in case, here's a link to JibJab's this land is your land parody.
:: David (07:18 in Michigan, 13:18 in Paris)

So I went back to August 2003 to see if I had documented my 'power outage road trip' with Misty, or any of the other adventures of having no power, and discovered that (not unsurprisingly) I hadn't blogged anything during that time. Perhaps I will do that this evening.
:: David (07:06 in Michigan, 13:06 in Paris)

Hey - one year ago we were all wondering what happened to the power in the Eastern United States?!
:: David (06:53 in Michigan, 12:53 in Paris)

:: Friday, August 13 2004 ::

That is one big damned torch! I was afraid he was going to be incinerated in the lighting....
:: David (16:55 in Michigan, 22:55 in Paris)

Is anyone out there watching the olympic opening ceremonies? I think we've been at it for like 4 hours now. It certainly goes a while. The glowing tummy was odd. The costumes as the athletes entered were awesome. Bjork was... Bjork. The runners in the sky, the hologram (?) of the DNA, the mountain with the olive tree that came together from parts... there have been some very good moments - not a bad ceremony, although more than once we've been a bit on the 'what the heck' side of things. And now the torch is about to be lit. Will Google update their homepage to show a lit torch? The monumental questions in life....
:: David (16:51 in Michigan, 22:51 in Paris)

So, some of you have wondered, aloud, exactly what it is I do. I can finally show you. This week's economist has an article titled "It's those people, all over again". About halfway down the page is a graph headed "Cushioning the blow". The data to make that graph is ours. The publication cited is ours. In fact, my supervisor spoke with this person to send the data. I bought the issue on my way home, read halfway through the magazine and stopped, amused and stunned, when I realized who was being cited for that graph. Tee hee. It's very exciting, really, to have a hand in this sort of thing.
:: David (13:17 in Michigan, 19:17 in Paris)

:: Thursday, August 12 2004 ::

There's a book review in the Washington Post of a book which discusses textbook bias. It's something I've been aware of for a long time, due to living in Asia, and I'm glad to see it getting some press:

On a few issues, the texts of our neighbors and of European countries (at least those that are cited by Lindaman and Ward) directly contradict the received wisdom in U.S. schoolbooks. The purpose of the Monroe Doctrine, they agree, was to assert U.S. economic hegemony in the Americas; Truman's purpose in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to frighten the Soviets and prevent them from entering the war against Japan; later the United States overplayed fears of Soviet expansionism. In contrast to American schoolbooks, these texts stress the U.S. pursuit of its economic interests during the Cold War, but then they are in general far franker about economic interests and political power than American texts. Notably, too, European schoolbooks give extensive coverage to 20th-century Middle Eastern conflicts, while American histories hardly mention them.
The review states that the book, How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History by Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward, is not perfect, but is an interesting read. What I find amusing is how clearly the bias of the author of the newpaper article comes through, while discussing bias. Very fun.
:: David (17:41 in Michigan, 23:41 in Paris)

To bring you down from that heady place you must all be after the Washington Times, a little news from the Guardian - about legal torture:

Appeal court judges yesterday defied human rights campaigners by ruling that British courts could use evidence extracted under torture, as long as British agents were not complicit in the abuse.
I think there is very little one can say about a ruling like this....
:: David (15:19 in Michigan, 21:19 in Paris)

Sasha has suggested, and I have concurred, that I may have been 'shocked and awed' by the Washington Times. Tee hee!
:: David (14:39 in Michigan, 20:39 in Paris)

Why didn't someone tell me there were so many ignorant people who buy newspapers? Why didn't anybody tell me there was a newspaper made for ignorant people?! Take a look at the Washington Times Op-Ed section for a taste of some serious un- or mis-education! I was originally directed there by a story on working hours in Europe (yes, another one). It was so completely lacking in common sense I had to know what sort of paper printed that sort of rubbish. My favorite bit? Read on:

As a result [of lower productivity], living standards are much lower in Europe than most Americans imagine. This fact is highlighted in a new study by the Swedish think tank Timbro. For example, it notes the average poor family here has 25 percent more living space than the average European. Looking at all American households, we have about twice as much space: 1,875 square feet here vs. 976.5 square feet in Europe. Average Europeans only live about as well as those in the poorest American state, Mississippi.
There you have it - the size of your house is obviously the best measure of how well you live. How do these people not trip and fall on their untied shoelaces each day? I swear readers of this trash must be rushed to the hospital on a regular basis due to sticking their fingers in light sockets! Read the whole article for more fun like the above, and do visit the op-ed section for a 'Fair and Balanced' view of the Kerry campaign.
:: David (14:38 in Michigan, 20:38 in Paris)

There's an editorial in the Toronto Star titled " Kerry fails Iraq test" which talks about Kerry's re-endorsement of the Iraq war.

Rising to Bush's bait, Kerry said he would have cast the same Yes vote in Congress that he did on Oct. 11, 2002, to authorize the president to launch a pre-emptive war that began March 19, 2003, even if Kerry had known that Saddam Hussein had no ties with Al Qaeda terrorists, no weapons of mass destruction and posed no real threat to the world.

"I believe it's the right authority for a president to have," Kerry now says. Only he would have used that power more "effectively."

As the editorial notes, "No wonder Kerry is struggling to pull ahead in a race with a president who has not delivered promised jobs and who is seen as a friend of the rich and powerful."
:: David (01:38 in Michigan, 07:38 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, August 11 2004 ::

You know, I've just realized how to hack the form, almost as soon as I put it up. I may have to build some secure code around the thing, to make sure noone does what I just thought of....
:: David (17:40 in Michigan, 23:40 in Paris)

Well, now I've created a form to create accounts if you want to make comments on my blog, should they ever become available. The form can be found here, and feel free to use it, because unlike the comments test page this one actually works, and will give you a username and password should I ever actually make comments work. Try to break it if you know how - I'd like to see how much damage can be done using a plain text file.
:: David (17:38 in Michigan, 23:38 in Paris)

Well, service pack 2 seems to work just fine. I downloaded it using BitTorrent, and had it in no time flat. My computer is still working, and eMule seems to be working just fine. Best of all, Mozilla and ThunderBird seem to be working, so I can surf and do mail. We'll see what breaks as we go....
:: David (15:42 in Michigan, 21:42 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, August 10 2004 ::

The blog is averaging better than 30 hits per day for the month of August. Interesting. Of course, I wonder if half of them are me, playing around with different settings and such....
:: David (18:23 in Michigan, 00:23 in Paris)

There's an interesting article on terrorism in this month's Policy Review. It's titled The Terrorism to Come and it talks about the history and future of terrorism, all from a very conservative standpoint. And yet at the same time it asks good questions - ones everyone should be able to answer, although I hope they will answer in different ways than the author, Walter Laqueur. It begins by posing a conundrum:

Terrorism has become over a number of years the topic of ceaseless comment, debate, controversy, and search for roots and motives, and it figures on top of the national and international agenda. It is also at present one of the most highly emotionally charged topics of public debate, though quite why this should be the case is not entirely clear, because the overwhelming majority of participants do not sympathize with terrorism.
Which most people would agree with, even if it might not in their heart of hearts be true. But to what degree do we need to be pushed before measures that are unthinkable become thinkable? Thankfully this same author, in the same article, answers that question in spades:

When the late Syrian President Hafez Assad faced an insurgency (and an attempted assassination) on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama in 1980, his soldiers massacred some 20,000 inhabitants. This put an end to all ideas of terrorism and guerrilla warfare.

Such behavior on the part of democratic governments would be denounced as barbaric, a relapse into the practices of long-gone pre-civilized days. But if governments accept the principle of asymmetric warfare they will be severely, possibly fatally, handicapped. They cannot accept that terrorists are protected by the Geneva Conventions, which would mean, among other things, that they should be paid a salary while in captivity.


The problem will not arise if the terrorist group is small and not very dangerous. In this case normal legal procedures will be sufficient to deal with the problem (but even this is not quite certain once weapons of mass destruction become more readily accessible). Nor will the issue of shedding legal restraint arise if the issues at stake are of marginal importance, if in other words no core interests of the governments involved are concerned. If, on the other hand, the very survival of a society is at stake, it is most unlikely that governments will be impeded in their defense by laws and norms belonging to a bygone (and more humane) age.

To review, terrorism is bad, but state sponsored terrorism is good. The mind boggles. But this is the thinking that is happening in the halls of power - take a hard line against terrorism, and maybe a few eggs get broken along the way. Delusional fools. And how long before absolute power corrupts absolutely?
:: David (17:44 in Michigan, 23:44 in Paris) - Comment Test Link

By the way - I've figured out the fist part of how to make comments work. I'm hoping this weekend to solve the rest of the mystery. But we'll see how the week goes - my boss is back and wanting to get started on our new paper, and that could be tricky....
:: David (15:52 in Michigan, 21:52 in Paris)

Anybody else out there watching Stargate Atlantis?
:: David (15:50 in Michigan, 21:50 in Paris)

There's a comment piece in the Guardian which covers my opinions on urban sprawl in the US quite nicely.It's titled Beware the monster mall's curse, and it talks about what strip malls and suburbanization aredoing to the United States:

Almost everywhere you go in America these days,the cities are struggling for life. They have their astonishing glories,to be sure. The Guardian's architecture critic, Jonathan Glancey, is dead right,for instance, about the new Nasher sculpture gallery in Dallas, a cool astonishment of architectural wizardry.But once the galleries and skyscrapers and refurbished warehouses are put to one side,what have you got in downtown Dallas on a hot Saturday morning?Sweet nothing. It feels like the scene of a chemical attack.This is where Neiman Marcus opened its first department store -a flagship that somehow survives - yet it can only be kept going assoft-hearted obeisance to corporate history. Ten-thirty in the morning and nobody's home.

You could, for that matter, equally be in downtown Atlanta, downtown Los Angeles (if you can find it)or much of downtown Buffalo. Downtowns are mostly down and out.Some cities make gallant attempts at resuscitation.[...]But still, most of the time in most places, America's cities tick over minus a heart.Their centres are where people used to live before the migration to the suburbs.

It's one view of the future, with gated communities and gutted cities. I can't shake the feeling that it is as American as apple pie, even as it spreads to places like Ireland. Hopefully some of the other movements, for public transport and green belts, will slow it down before everywhere looks like suburban Detroit....
:: David (12:55 in Michigan, 18:55 in Paris)

In The Heterogeneous Effect of Selectionin Secondary Schools: Understanding the Changing Role of Ability, byFernando Galindo-Rueda and Anna Vignoles, the authors examine whetherstudent tracking, in the form of the British selective grammar school system,explains their findings that during the 1970s and 1980s, cognitive ability became less important than family background in determining educational outcomes.

Many commentators have arguedthat the shift to mixed ability schooling in England and Wales, the ‘comprehensiveexperiment’, failed, whereas others suggest it did not go far enough. Mixed abilityschooling, the former claim, has reduced educational achievement, particularly of themost able. If this is true, how do we explain the remarkable expansion of educationalachievement since the 1960s in England and Wales? Have the standards achieved falleneven while the average years spent in education rises? Evidence from our previous paper(Galindo-Rueda and Vignoles (forthcoming)) indicated that, over time, early ability hasstarted to play a lesser role in determining how well someone does at school, whilstfamily background appears to have become more important. In other words, theexpansion of the education system appears to have disproportionately benefited less able(but wealthier) students.
Of course, this dilemma has no real solution, but this paper seems to add an interesting dimension to the debate.
:: David (12:51 in Michigan, 18:51 in Paris)

The BBC had this fun story today:

A pet cat created a scare on a Belgian airliner after escaping from acage, forcing the crew to turn back to Brussels 20 minutes into its journey.


Nobody... could tell what an agitated cat what might do in the circumstances, scrabbling around amid the sensitive equipment in the cockpit of the Avro RJ.

"It took a long time to catch it," he noted, describing the offending beast - said by Brussels newspaper La Derniere Heure to be a tom by the name of Gin - as "very aggressive".


One possible reason for the creature's sudden fit of fury may have been an unconfirmed report that itwas "kicked by somebody in business class" on its way through the cabin, he added.

The BBC cited the originalarticle (in French), which appeared in La Derniere Heure. It's worth visitingjust to see their bizarre artwork....
:: David (12:43 in Michigan, 18:43 in Paris)

Does anyone know anything more about Largo Winch? We found him on a sugar packet....
:: David (02:15 in Michigan, 08:15 in Paris)

Well, we finished the first season of 'The L Word' last night. Overall it's a pretty good series, although a little heavy for our tastes. I don't know when the next season starts, but if you've got some spare time you might want to take a look - it's kind of fun.
:: David (02:00 in Michigan, 08:00 in Paris)

:: Monday, August 9 2004 ::

I just heard from a reader named Adrian in Dublin, who encouraged me to enable comments (as several others of you have done). As I noted in my response, the major investment on my part is to write a program which allows comments (although my dictatorial views on editorial control may also play a part). But, since so many people have stated they would like to see something which allows comments, I will see what I can do. No promises!
:: David (13:02 in Michigan, 19:02 in Paris)

The insurance people came back to us today. Looks like we should have gotten a better insurance policy. Apparently ours only covers 50% of the cost of someone breaking in. So, we're out some €250. But that's better than €400. And, according to the letter the money is already in the bank. Which is about as fast as I have ever seen anything happen here. So there you go.
:: David (12:58 in Michigan, 18:58 in Paris)

We got a call from our landlord today suggesting that we would need to be out the first weekend in September, which means the move will have to happen quick, quick, quick! We're organizing with the various and assorted parties to get everything put together, and hopefully it will all work out. I hope never to move again in Paris, because it is all madness and chaos.
:: David (12:56 in Michigan, 18:56 in Paris)

There's an article today in IT World Canada titled "Virus writers are winning". It's interesting because although the person being interviewed cites mysterious gangs of hackers, writing viruses to collect email addresses and credit card info that they can then sell on, I think it's as much a question of open source versus closed source. The hackers have the upper hand because they work together - one person finds an exploit, someone else improves on it, etc. Very often it's as much about the amusement factor - kids with lots of talent and time, poking holes in things. Now, the fact of the matter is that there are a lot more people with a vested interest in making things work better than there are people who want to make things worse, and I think if both sides had open access to all the information, there would be no contest, and we would find that most holes would be fixed fairly quickly. The trouble, of course, is that noone is sitting still, even when the product is a good one - developers keep changing things, even the core things like the operating system, and every change opens new holes. I'm not saying we should stop developing, but it would be nice to have certain things, that aren't changing that often, really solidly built.
:: David (03:53 in Michigan, 09:53 in Paris)

59 years since Nagasaki.
:: David (01:55 in Michigan, 07:55 in Paris)

:: Sunday, August 8 2004 ::

Time to break out your German dictionaries again. This time to burn them - assuming you bought them after the spelling reform of the 1990's. Apparently, the German media is giving up on spelling reform, and going back to the old way of spelling. Arts and Letters Daily pointed me to this story on the BBC, which discusses the growing controversy.
:: David (17:24 in Michigan, 23:24 in Paris)

Some things are easily described. Like the thing that sits on the dashboard of your car where the head isn't quite connected to the body and so moves independantly, so that it bobbles around as you drive, and has earned the affectionate name 'bobble-head'. They call them a 'oui-oui' in France, because they just nod yes all the time. So that's easy. But difficult to describe is how odd lots of them together look. For that, you need a picture.

:: David (16:52 in Michigan, 22:52 in Paris)

Well, we made it back from Rennes. It was... quite a holiday. Let's just say that public transport didn't quite make it to our hotel, and the bed at the hotel made noises like it was going to collapse when you sat on it, and you get the idea. But Mont St. Michel was incredible, and there were lots of other little moments that made it memorable. Fun. And now another week starts....
:: David (16:49 in Michigan, 22:49 in Paris)

:: Friday, August 6 2004 ::

I suppose I should note someplace on here about oil prices and the whole Yukos thing going on in Russia. Apparently capital outflows will quadruple this year, to more than 8 billion dollars, and that will hurt Russia's currency. In addition, people are now saying that Russian debt will not be upgraded to 'investment quality', which means higher interest rates to attract capital. And all of this is having a dire effect on the oil markets which are now at record price levels. There is talk that growth will be affected.

Does it matter? Certainly to people in Russia it matters - another crash like the last one could be catastrophic. And with people already talking about how unemployed nuclear scientists are a danger to world stability, other countries might take notice. In the US and Europe, one expects higher gas prices and lower profit margins. The airline industry probably can't take too much more of this, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. So yeah, it matters. But at the same time, it's internal Russian politics, and I don't think the West is going to do too much about that.
:: David (04:50 in Michigan, 10:50 in Paris)

In "The stakes are too high to sit this out", Bruce Springsteen comments on why he has chosen to become involved in the 2004 presidential elections.

It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honestyabout ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God's eyes.It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government hasstrayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward.
Springsteen also notes that he does not feel that Kerry/Edwards is the best of all possible worlds,but that they are most certainly headed in a better direction than the alternative.
:: David (03:06 in Michigan, 09:06 in Paris)

:: Thursday, August 5 2004 ::

In the fatal step, Oliver Burkeman tells the story of a senseless killing at an entrance to the London Underground.
:: David (03:21 in Michigan, 09:21 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, August 4 2004 ::

This is kind of fun - I went looking for the price of a meal (in today's prices) that cost one shilling in 1900. Turns out it's around three pounds (five dollars, plus or minus). Doing the research took me to Economic History Services, which allows you to figure these things out. So the next time you're reading an old book and think 'how much was that?', you can answer your own question!
:: David (17:01 in Michigan, 23:01 in Paris)

Something which caught my attention this evening - Muslim Wake Up! is a series of stories, posted every day or so, about current events and somesuch, of interest to muslims and non-muslims alike. There's an obvious anti-Bush stance, but I'm not really sure of their leanings otherwise.
:: David (13:28 in Michigan, 19:28 in Paris)

Jason asked me where the house hunt was. The correct answer is: I don't know. We've got a place we think we'll move to, if the stars and the planets align correctly. If they don't, we're screwed, and we're going to end up living in a box on the street. So I'm not thinking about it. We'll think about it when we have more information.
:: David (13:02 in Michigan, 19:02 in Paris)

I like the idea of selling falafel to drunk clubbers. If you can eat a kebab after a night of heavy drinking, why not falafel?
:: David (03:09 in Michigan, 09:09 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, August 3 2004 ::

"Britain's curry houses are suffering a staffing crisis as immigration officials tighten up on issuing work visas", reports the BBC.
:: David (14:13 in Michigan, 20:13 in Paris)

It isn't very often that I read a paper from top to bottom, but I read Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Policy in Europe, by Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson all the way through. It's interesting stuff, and if you have an interest in the topic, I suggest taking a look. The abstract says (in part):

Governments and international agencies have grappled with the twin problems of providing adequate humanitarian assistance in the Third World and avoiding floods of unwanted asylum seekers arriving on the doorsteps of the First World. This is an issue that is long on rhetoric, as newspaper reports testify, but surprisingly short on economic analysis.
Although there are a couple of bits that meander into mathematics, by and large this paper is fairly straightforward, and worth a look.
:: David (13:30 in Michigan, 19:30 in Paris)

Tee hee - there's an article today in the European Voice titled"Maternity leave gives birth to economic benefits, says OECD"which quotes my division head quite extensively. Sadly, youhave to register to read the article, although you can go to BugMeNot to get a user/pass combo.
:: David (13:27 in Michigan, 19:27 in Paris)

As a side note to the last post, when I wrote the sentence"The political overtones of a story likethis were not missed, either by the IHTor by the politicians", does anyone know if that's 'either/or' or 'neither/nor'?I think it's either/or, because otherwise you make a double-negative, but I'm just not sure....
:: David (13:19 in Michigan, 19:19 in Paris)

There's an article in the IHT today titled"Layoff rate in US hits highest point since ’80s"which states "In the latest survey of how frequentlyworkers are permanently dismissedfrom their jobs, the layoff rate reached8.7 percent of all adult jobholders, orll.4 million men and women age 20 orolder. That is nearly equal to the 9 percent rate for the 1981-83 period, whichincluded the steepest contraction in theU.S. economy since the Depression."

The political overtones of a story likethis were not missed, either by the IHTor by the politicians:

A Bush administration spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, when asked for comment,responded with a statement that focused on the surge in job creation in recentmonths and made no mention of the worker displacement report.Jason Furman, an economist for the campaign of President George W. Bush’s Democraticopponent John Kerry, said the survey showed that jobs in America were increasinglyinsecure.
And, to add fuel to the fire, when people find new jobs, the pay is not as good:"In the latest survey, 56.9 percent of those who said they had been re-employed also saidthey were earning less in their new jobs than in their old ones."
:: David (13:19 in Michigan, 19:19 in Paris)

There is a fairly interesting paper I received information on today,titled Approval of Equal Rights and Gender Differences in Well-Being.It's written by Rafael Lalive and Alois Stutzer, and it discussessome very interesting ideas about 'equal pay for equal work' andsalary discrimination between men and women. One of the thingsit points out (citing several studies) is that "women ask for lessthan men, or do not ask at all in pay negotiations". As the papernotes, "A straightforward prediction of women making lower initialoffers in salary negotiations andnegotiating less often is that they earn lessthan men for equal work." The paper then goes on to look atlife satisfaction, and finds that "employed womenare less (not more) satisfied with life in liberalcommunities where the gender wage gap is smaller." Asthe paper notes in its conclusion

It is well known that women earn less than men. However, women are not less satisfied withtheir jobs or with their lives than men. This paper argues that the extent to which women andmen believe that a woman’s appropriate salary is equal to a man’s salary may be important inunderstanding this puzzle.
Although the paper uses Switzerland for its data source, I find mythoughts turn to Ann Arbor whenever someone uses the phrase'liberal communities'. The idea that being aware there is aproblem makes one less satisfied with life is one that hasbeen around for a while. But it somehow remains startlingwhen the repercussions are brought to your attention.
:: David (13:17 in Michigan, 19:17 in Paris)

Just a little reminder that if you've complained about gas prices in the US recently, other people have it worse - here's a list of gas prices around the world (well, North America and Europe) for June, 2004.
:: David (13:13 in Michigan, 19:13 in Paris)

Lots of stories about the French wine industry lately. The BBC has an overview story, although one which is not very sympathetic to the industry.
:: David (03:54 in Michigan, 09:54 in Paris)

I'm sure you've all heard about this, but just in case:

Shark victim 'saved by TV lesson'
An 11-year-old boy has told how he fought off a shark with techniques he learned from the Discovery Channel.
So now you know all that 'Shark Week' stuff is actually useful. You can read the full story at the BBC.
:: David (01:32 in Michigan, 07:32 in Paris)

:: Monday, August 2 2004 ::

Hot. Yuck.
:: David (13:44 in Michigan, 19:44 in Paris)

What is the US coming to? The BBC directed me to a story in the Miami Herald which describes how two people were thrown off an American Airlines flight because one of them was wearing a 'lewd' t-shirt.
:: David (01:46 in Michigan, 07:46 in Paris)

:: Sunday, August 1 2004 ::

Mother Jones has an interesting book review on a book by a couple of journalists from the Economist, which states that the right will control America for the foreseeable future. Take a look - it has a solid point.
:: David (18:56 in Michigan, 00:56 in Paris)

Usually the BBC isn't terribly cheeky when they do a story, but this one, on why the French are so slim, slipped the restraint just a bit:

American researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently spent some time researching why the French remain so much slimmer than Americans. After intensive study, they came to a remarkable conclusion.

It was because the French ate less. So maybe that's the secret after all....

That said, on the other hand, it is about time people started realizing that a little bit of personal responsibility goes a long, long way....
:: David (18:34 in Michigan, 00:34 in Paris)

The BBC has a cute little story about a group that has put memory cards for digital cameras through a series of rather destructive tests to determine their ability to survive life's little disasters. Surprisingly (for me, at least), the memory cards fared very well.
:: David (18:05 in Michigan, 00:05 in Paris)

Well, we've booked tickets to Rennes, in western France, for next weekend. Hopefully we'll start having free time again, now that we (probably) have a place to live. Now all we need to do is get everyone out of there before we need to move in! Anyway, Rennes, as I noted, is in the west (Brittany), and I've put up a map in case you want to know exactly where it is. We're hoping to take one day to go up to Mont St. Michel, where's there's a huge cathedral. Why we are doing this to ourselves in high summer is anyone's guess. But if we like the place enough, my co-worker lives in Rennes and we can get the grand tour in the fall or something. If we like it enough to come back, that is. I suppose if we don't, I won't tell my co-worker we visited. Better for everybody that way!
:: David (17:43 in Michigan, 23:43 in Paris)

The first TOAD reunion in a very long time that I wasn't able to make. Sad. Thank goodness Ryan has the good sense to be getting married in the fall, so I can see everyone there!
:: David (03:10 in Michigan, 09:10 in Paris)

Well, after some serious last minute negotiations, the BBC is reporting that the world trade talks have reached an agreement. I'm fairly unconvinced that anything of consequence will have been done, but I'll say more once I've read the agreement.
:: David (03:09 in Michigan, 09:09 in Paris)

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