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February 28, 2016

Prof. Jeff Jarvis

Prof. Jeff Jarvis is the world's leading hyperglocal thinkfluencer and Journalism 3.0 advocate. He is cofounder of the Mogadishu:Reinvent unconference and CEO of Mogadishu Capital Partners LLC. He is not Jeff Jarvis.

But even the byline is a fake -- the author's real name is Rurik Bradbury, according to a 2012 piece in Slate. There is a real Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the City University of New York who writes about media and technology for Buzz Machine. Bradbury told Slate in 2012 why he adopted Jarvis's moniker:

"I chose Jarvis because he epitomizes a certain type of 'thinkfluencer,' " Bradbury told me, "someone with an online influence massively greater than the thoughtfulness of his positions. It's all style and rhetorical flourishes which don't stand up to scrutiny--but do grab attention." But it's not personal. "It's more of a general parody: a composite of Jarvis, Seth Godin, the media 'freetards' who insist paywalls, etc., are bad by definition."

February 26, 2016

Metrolinx to Toronto YYZ

On many measures, the Toronto YYZ $456-million Union Pearson Express (UPX) is a success. It has excellent on-time performance, generates good customer feedback and offers a welcome antidote to traffic. The black spot is ridership, which is lagging well below expected levels.

The fares - set deliberately high enough to avoid crowding on the train, according to a senior figure in transit planning - appear to be doing that job too well.

The train was the brainchild of David Collenette, federal transportation minister from 1997 to 2003. His original concept was for the private sector to build and run the service for a profit, with no subsidy from taxpayers. For this to be possible, however, the train would need a steep fare.

In late 2003, two years after issuing a request for proposals, Transport Canada chose a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin to finance, build and operate the line. The train was to start running by the end of last decade and cost $20 each way.

But the project was more difficult than SNC expected. For one, some residents along the route, particularly in Weston, objected to having local streets shut down at level crossings and demanded changes, such as tunnels and more stops.

For another, SNC couldn't find the financing it needed.

"Its lenders did not feel that they had sufficient protection from 'no market' risk (that is, from a situation where, despite all reasonable efforts to attract riders, the service does not generate enough revenues to be a viable business)," Ontario's Auditor-General wrote in a 2012 report. "The group proposed that the province assume the lenders' risk by purchasing [air-rail link] assets if the 'no market' scenario arose. The province rejected this proposal, so the group walked away from the project."

The train is running at less than 10 per cent capacity and may not hit its first-year ridership target this summer. The goal of day-to-day operations being paid out of the fare-box seems far off.

"You're never going to break even if people aren't using the service," Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation since 2014, acknowledged in an interview.

"To have that aspiration, I think, is a good thing, because I think the people of Ontario would support the idea that we would try to develop transit services that would break even, and perhaps do better than break even at some point. But when your ridership numbers are chronically as low as the UP Express numbers have been over these last eight months, something's got to give."

Metrolinx has repeatedly said the train needs time to build ridership. But with political pressure coming down from Mr. Del Duca and Premier Kathleen Wynne, change is coming. There will be more promotions - including free rides this weekend - and efforts to make the train easier for passengers to find.

It should also become more affordable. The one-way fare is $27.50, though there are various discounts and it costs $19 with a Presto card. Monthly tallies since the launch show roughly half the passengers have paid the full fare and one-fifth to one-quarter used Presto. In the first eight months, an average of 2.25 per cent of passengers were airport workers taking advantage of their discount. Over all, the average fare paid has been $22.50.

Fares are expected to drop as the train becomes some sort of hybrid between airport service and commuter option.

February 25, 2016

H-1B ?

Demand for the 65,000 H-1Bs available annually so outstrips supply that, last year, the window to file for them opened on April 1st ... and slammed shut only five days, and 172,500 applications, later.

So how were the lucky winners selected? By the quality of the employers? By the quality of the individuals? Of course not. By lottery. I kid you not.

Maybe this would be reasonable if all H-1B jobs were roughly equivalent. The problem is, as I've written before, they're anything but. Let's compare, say, Facebook and Google with those well-known body shops Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions. Click on the links in the previous sentence to see their H-1B stats for last year. See anything that jumps out at you?

That's right. Facebook and Google brought in 900 and 2,800 H-1B employees, respectively, with salaries of $140,000 and $127,000. Cognizant? 3,300 at $72,000. Tata? A whopping 16,435 for a (relatively) paltry $70,000 - literally less than half what Facebook paid.

-- TechCrunch 1, 2, 3.

February 24, 2016

Bush 45 on hold

From the beginning, there was a dreamy, philosophical air to his effort. As he mulled his decision to enter the race, he focused on his interior thought processes, speaking of the need to be able to "campaign joyfully". By the end, he seemed to be observing himself from a remove. "I feel like I'm in some sort of play," Bush said in his penultimate town hall on Friday. "We're all part of a narrative."

February 23, 2016

The varied sounds of English

The Chaos" by Gerard Nolst Trenité, 1922:

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.

Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.

Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,

Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.

Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.

Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.

Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.

Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.

Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.

Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,

Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.

My advice is to give up!!!

-- "The Chaos" by Gerard Nolst Trenité, 1922.

February 22, 2016

Age begins at one

Korea is one of the few countries that counts a newborn as being age 1 from birth. The tradition originates from China and was widely used in Asia.

From birth, a Korean starts as a 1-year-old and grows older by a year each year as the calendar changes. A 20-year-old, therefore would be 21 years old in Korean age, even if they have had a birthday that year. It's also the reason a newborn baby who came into the world just two short months ago could already be recognized as 2 years old.

Korea's civil law has been counting age based on one's birthdate since 1962. But Korean age is still widely used socially as the preceding measure in comparing each other's ages. Age remains one of key factors defining hierarchy and relations both personally and professionally in Korea.

Some say the Korean age calculation dates to agrarian society where seasonal changes and the length of a year were prioritized. Some also say it is based on an idea that the nine months spent inside a mother's womb is counted.

But as confusion persists in mixing and using two versions of one's age, most other East Asian countries have decided to abolish the dated aging system. Japan, for instance, enacted relevant laws in 1902 to officially use the universal age count, as did China in the late 1970s. North Korea is also said to be using age based on the date of birth.

February 21, 2016

Alex Pareene on the glory of Trump

Alex Pareene (Salon/Gawker) has it as, "Trump represents the total rejection of the tenets of movement conservatism by Republican voters, who, it turns out, have actually just been voting for nationalism and xenophobia this whole".

Trump's glamour provokes reactions like,

Trump was in the casino business. The casino business consists of creating slot machines for downscale people with little impulse control and no grasp of basic numeracy to give away their earnings to rich corporations in exchange for the fleeting dream of unearned wealth. It is a business based almost entirely on massive debt and government corruption, that feeds on human weakness, and that ought to be recession-proof in the hands of a minimially competent manager. Trump borrowed prodgiously, expanded unwisely, and failed hugely, taking Atlantic City down with him. He then revived his fortunes by playing a successful businessman on reality TV and licensing his name out to merchandisers of cheap Chinese goods, fake universities, and "luxury" properties attracting insecure nouveau-riche around the globe. No person in America better exemplifies all the worst aspects of America than Donald Trump.

February 20, 2016

Fintech insurgents are moving

Fintech insurgents are moving and growing quickly, they must overcome big challenges of their own before reshaping the industry. They are still relatively small and niche players in the sprawling retail banking business. They are not deposit-taking institutions, where consumer savings are insured by the government.

They also lack the legal and regulatory apparatus that traditional banks have built over many decades. Already, some of the new services are facing regulatory scrutiny. In November, Apple, Google, Amazon, PayPal and Intuit formed a Washington-based advocacy group, Financial Innovation Now, to promote policies to "foster greater innovation in financial services."

February 19, 2016

Delegate math vs Cruz 16 or Hillary 08

Leading proportional states but trailing in winner-take-all states does not add up to victory.

delegate allocation matrix puts Cruz's campaign at a serious disadvantage. For example, if Cruz wins the primary in his home state of Texas by one vote, he'll probably win a handful more delegates than his nearest competitor. By contrast, if Marco Rubio or Trump win Florida by one vote, either would win a whopping 99 more delegates than his nearest competitor

-- David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, via 538.

February 18, 2016

Twitter meltdown ?

Popehat author, Ken White, has been skeptical that Twitter's censorship of certain conservative figures is actually coming from a place of malice. In response to Yiannopoulos getting de-verified, he wrote:

Big companies, even when run by ideologues, tend to make decisions like big companies, not like individuals. The decision-making looks less cinematic and more cynical. The focus tends to be on branding, but mostly on money-making, avoidance of unpleasantness, reduction of cost, and ease of use. Twitter's line employees are almost certainly disproportionately liberal, and by assigning command-and-control of individual account decisions to them, the impact is probably that evaluations of abuse complaints will have a liberal bias. Similarly, if you make a corporate decision to police harassment (or at least pretend to), and the people doing the policing have a bias, then the results will have a bias. But that's not the same as a deliberate decision to take sides; it's a cost-driven, practicality-driven decision.

See also: 1. Joi Ito: a healthy system probably involves a vibrant Open Web along with for-profit companies and that this balance was important, but how we are leaning away from the Open Web right now.

2. Dave Winer: there's the other problem with ceding a whole content type to a single company. Since you're counting on them not just to store your writing, but also build flow for it, the inclination is to praise them, to withhold criticism. To try to guess what they like, and parrot it. If Medium becomes much stronger, this will be what SEO becomes. We saw that happen before on Twitter, when they gave huge flow to people they liked, and not to people they don't. Now they're being more open about it. Why not? It didn't appear to cost them anything the last time around.

February 14, 2016

One person, one vote ?

Evenwel-v. Abbott, or one voter, one vote ? A question of law.

the inaccuracy and variability of the potential alternative data sources for redistricting will likely receive less attention in Evenwel than familiar constitutional arguments concerning the proper interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. But these seemingly technical and logistical issues should foreclose the constitutional debate. Current data on citizenship or on registered voters is simply too inaccurate or contested to be used in redistricting.

Recommended Citation: Nathaniel Persily, Symposium: Evenwel v. Abbott and the Constitution's big data problem, SCOTUSblog (Aug. 3, 2015, 12:01 AM),

February 1, 2016

Rise and Fall of American Growth, Robert J. Gordon

Robert J. Gordon, a distinguished macro­economist and economic historian at Northwestern, has been arguing for a long time against the techno-optimism that saturates our culture, with its constant assertion that we're in the midst of revolutionary change. Starting at the height of the dot-com frenzy, he has repeatedly called for perspective: Developments in information and communication technology, he has insisted, just don't measure up to past achievements.

Specifically, he has argued that the I.T. revolution is less important than any one of the five Great Inventions that powered economic growth from 1870 to 1970: electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine and modern communication.

In "The Rise and Fall of American Growth," Gordon doubles down on that theme, declaring that the kind of rapid economic growth we still consider our due, and expect to continue forever, was in fact a one-time-only event.

First, genuinely major innovations normally bring about big changes in business practices, in what workplaces look like and how they function. And there were some changes along those lines between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s -- but not much since, which is evidence for Gordon's claim that the main impact of the I.T. revolution has already happened.

Second, one of the major arguments of techno-optimists is that official measures of economic growth understate the real extent of progress, because they don't fully account for the benefits of truly new goods.

Is he right? My answer is a definite maybe. But whether or not you end up agreeing with Gordon's thesis, this is a book well worth reading -- a magisterial combination of deep technological history, vivid portraits of daily life over the past six generations and careful economic analysis. Non-economists may find some of the charts and tables heavy going, but Gordon never loses sight of the real people and real lives behind those charts. This book will challenge your views about the future; it will definitely transform how you see the past.