Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 15th, 2012

Computerized management of municipal parking

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Goal: at least one empty space in each block. Tool: flexible pricing. Net revenue impact: interesting question.

Here’s the story. I found it quite interesting.

The maddening quest for street parking is not just a tribulation for drivers, but a trial for cities. As much as a third of the traffic in some areas has been attributed to drivers circling as they hunt for spaces. The wearying tradition takes a toll in lost time, polluted air and, when drivers despair, double-parked cars that clog traffic even more.

But San Francisco is trying to shorten the hunt with an ambitious experiment that aims to make sure that there is always at least one empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand, raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and lowers it on its emptiest blocks. While the new prices are still being phased in — the most expensive spots have risen to $4.50 an hour, but could reach $6 — preliminary data suggests that the change may be having a positive effect in some areas.

Change can already be seen on a stretch of Drumm Street downtown near the Embarcadero and the popular restaurants at the Ferry Building. Last summer it was nearly impossible to find spots there. But after the city gradually raised the price of parking to $4.50 an hour from $3.50, high-tech sensors embedded in the street showed that spots were available a little more often — leaving a welcome space the other day for the silver Toyota Corolla driven by Victor Chew, a salesman for a commercial dishwasher company who frequently parks in the area.

“There are more spots available now,” said Mr. Chew, 48. “Now I don’t have to walk half a mile.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Military on the edge of breakdown

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Fascinating post in James Fallows’s blog that is a must-read. Begins:

A reader with a military background writes in response to my claim that “chickenhawks” are overrepresented, and U.S. military leaders underrepresented, among those clamoring for a strike on Iran:

An issue that I do not see being discussed nearly enough if at all in all the talk of further war in the Middle East is that the American military is probably very near the edge of breakdown, both in terms of material and in terms of leadership. My sense is that the senior leadership is well aware of these issues, but reluctant to spell it out in public.

One can look back at the aftermath of almost any war and see the degree to which the force needs to reconstitute before it is really able to execute more operations other than in a dire emergency.  We have now been burning through people and equipment for ten years and exhaustion is setting in. Back in the day (Viet Nam era), as a planner for the Air Force we would think in terms of as much as a three to one ratio for serious force reconstitution. Given the present wars that could mean up to 30 years to put everything back in place–I don’t think the equation will necessarily work out that way, but it will take a good bit of time.

By reconstitution I mean not only . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 2:22 pm

First Fitbit merit badge

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Today I climbed 10 flights of stairs (well, 2 flights over and over) and achieved a (pre-set) goal, thus putting a little merit badge on my Fitbit.com home page.

Pretty cute, actually. And good only for the day, but of course once you’ve done it, you know it can be done and that it’s (relatively) easy: just as with out-of-class accomplishments, getting an accomplishment predisposes you to getting more: now I want the steps badge, but that’s 10K steps per day—which, as I understand it, is more a marketing ploy by pedometer manufacturers than solid scientific findings—those generally state the required walk in terms of duration rather than steps: 30 min daily at a moderate pace, for example. That would probably be as easy to program as a step counter, but we’re bound to this (time-consuming) 10K figure. End of rant.

I can definitely see wanting to better, if only by a little, the previous day’s performance (particularly when it’s still easily done). I found the “Historical” tab on the dashboard, so I can see what I did yesterday and where I stand today: useful in avoiding overexertion.

Watching Assassination Games (on Watch Instantly), a Jean-Claude van Damme film, expertly done, so far, with intriguing plot. Shot in eastern Europe (Romania is the claim), it does allow for a smaller budget to have a much bigger impact, and so far the money seems wisely spent. Update: Rather more explicit violence than needed (or desired).

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Movies

Food note and Forks Over Knives

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I’m just starting to watch Forks Over Knives, which turns out to be quite interesting and illuminating. It’s fascinating how one researcher found a food trigger that enabled him to turn cancer on and off as he wanted by a simple change in diet. [The take-home for me from that is this: the body responds immediately to changes in diet. That means if you switch to eating healthful foods and a plant-based diet, your body will begin to respond immediately to the changes in your diet. That means: Do it now, and see what happens over a week, a month, ... - LG] Well worth watching.

It turns out that we know a lot about food and its effects on our bodies and health, and that little of the information is new: it’s been known for years. So why all of a sudden are we getting word out about the degree to which red meat degrades your health? Or, perhaps, how is it that this time the beef industry was not able to kill the findings? They’ve always been able to control the message before, even to convincing people that it would be dangerous to public health to test cows in the food chain for mad-cow disease. (One producer wanted to test each animal slaughtered—for the Japanese market, which more or less insists on that—and since the test is cheap (about $8/animal, as I recall) and is easily done, the producer wanted to test. The beef industry was terrified and somehow convinced the USDA to disallow the test because of the danger to public health if all animals were tested. I kid you not.)

So now the word on food is getting out, all over the place. What’s causing that? Could it be Michelle Obama’s campaign on eating healthful food that is pushing this? The impact of campaigns by president’s wives has in fact been quite strong: before Lady Bird Johnson’s “Beautify America” campaign, the landscape and urban scene was indeed ugly and littered, and that has changed a lot in that a new social norm was established. Maybe that’s what’s going on here, with respect to food: a new social norm.

At any rate, I highly recommend the movie, which is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 1:12 pm

GOP’s war on women—and a cool parallel example

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First some comments via video:

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And then an interesting parallel: In TPM2012 Pema Levy reports on a bill in the Ohio Senate:

On Tuesday, Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) will introduce a bill aimed at cracking down on prescription drugs like Viagra that treat erectile dysfunction. Turner’s legislation would make men jump through certain hoops — such as psychological screenings — before they could obtain the meds. The bill follows FDA recommendations to determine the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction — but that’s certainly not the only reason Turner is putting the measure forward.

“All across the country, including in Ohio, I thought since men are certainly paying great attention to women’s health that we should definitely return the favor,” Turner told TPM. Her bill is one of several pieces of legislation offered over the past several weeks by women lawmakers eager to prove a point about the raging contraception debate.

Their bills seek to regulate men’s sexual health, from Viagra to vasectomies, just as Republican-led state governments and Congress have zeroed in on access to abortion and family planning care.

Turner’s bill mimics language found in Ohio’s so-called Heartbeat Bill, which passed the Ohio state House and is now pending in the Senate. The bill would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Turner’s bill, she says, offers men a taste of their own medicine — it would require physicians to inform patients in writing of the risks involved in taking erectile dysfunction drugs and requires men to sign a document acknowledging the risks, just like the anti-abortion bill does.

“I care about the health of men as well, and I thought it only fair that we illustrate that and make sure that a man is fully informed of the risks involved in taking these drugs and also the alternatives such as natural remedies or also celibacy,” Turner said.

Women legislators in other states have been making similar efforts.

Over a month ago, when the Virginia Senate was debating a bill to require women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound, state Sen. Janet Howell introduced an amendment to the bill that would have required men to get a rectal exam and cardiac stress tests before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. Her amendment failed 21-19 while the ultrasound bill ultimately passed. But Howell believes she made her point. “This is more of a message type of an amendment,” Howell told the Huffington Post, “so I was pleased to get 19 votes.”

Turner said the bills and amendments targeted at men represent “a universal mindset across this country among women, especially those of us who are policymakers, to really point out the hypocrisy in terms of women’s equal access to health care.”

Highlighting hypocrisy is precisely what Georgia state Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-Jonesboro) had in mind when she proposed a bill in February to limit men’s access to vasectomies. Her legislation, which would only allow vasectomies for men who would die or suffer serious health consequences without one, was introduced in response to HB 594, a bill being considered in the Georgia state House to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” Neal said in a video message.

Last week, nine women lawmakers in the Missouri Legislature proposed a similar vasectomy bill in response to a symbolic vote taken by the state House objecting to the Obama administration’s contraception coverage mandate. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: And from today’s NY Times an article by Jonathan Weisman on GOP opposition to the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which only recently enjoyed bipartisan support until the GOP went in its current direction:

With emotions still raw from the fight over President Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives.

The fight over the law, which would expand financing for and broaden the reach of domestic violence programs, will be joined Thursday when Senate Democratic women plan to march to the Senate floor to demand quick action on its extension. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has suggested he will push for a vote by the end of March.

Democrats, confident they have the political upper hand with women, insist that Republican opposition falls into a larger picture of insensitivity toward women that has progressed from abortion fights to contraception to preventive health care coverage — and now to domestic violence.

“I am furious,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. “We’re mad, and we’re tired of it.”

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.

Republicans say the measure, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:17 am

Jimmie Lunceford: Tain’t What You Do

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A truly great swing band. And check out the snapshots of the dancers.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:10 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Shaving a single hair

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Here you see a diamond-edged blade slicing several layers off a length of human hair. If anyone sees one of these in double-edged standard razor format, let me know posthaste.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:03 am

Ideology vs. Reality

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As we’ve repeatedly seen, in general it’s no contest: People will ignore blatant and obvious facts in order to keep their ideological framework intact. Example (non-political, from Wikipedia): “In 1912 the meteorologist Alfred Wegener amply described what he called continental drift, expanded in his 1915 book The Origin of Continents and Oceans[26].” That began the battle over his theory. He died while still fighting stubborn and determined opposition, though the theory is now considered true and indeed even obvious.

In the social sphere, ideology holds an even stronger sway. For example, StopTheDrugWar.org has a recent note by Philip Smith:

Treating intractable heroin addicts with a pharmaceutical version of their drug is more cost-effective than providing them with methadone, a common opioid substitute, a study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests.

The study analyzed data from the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI ), a 2005-2008 study that compared the use of diacetylmorphine (heroin) and methadone in street addicts. In the NAOMI study, researchers selected 250 subjects in Vancouver and Montreal who had been strung out for at least five years and had twice previously failed on methadone maintenance. Participants were randomly chosen to take either heroin or methadone.

Researchers in this study examined the cost-effectiveness of the two approaches in one-year, five-year, 10-year increments, as well over the lifetimes of the users. The study found that those using methadone generated an average lifetime social cost of $1.14 million, while those using heroin had a cost of $1.1 million, a difference of about $40,000 per user. An estimated 60,000 to 90,000 Canadians are addicted to heroin or other opioids.

“If you are on treatment, you’re basically well-behaved,” principal investigator Aslam Anis, a health economist at the University of British Columbia told the Canadian Press Monday. “When you’re not taking treatment, for instance when you relapse, you’re doing all kinds of bad things, criminal activity, getting into jail. The cost benefit is through an indirect effect,” said Anis, through fewer robberies and other crimes, which have an adverse impact on victims and drive up criminal justice system costs.

“People who take (medical) heroin are retained on the treatment for longer periods of time and they have shorter periods of time when they relapse,” Anis said. “And when you add it all up, you find that you’ve actually saved money.”

“Methadone can be a very effective medication for some people, but it doesn’t work for everybody with heroin addiction,” said coauthor Dr. Martin Schechter, an epidemiologist at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. “And there is a subset of folks who go in and out of treatment and ultimately end up back using street heroin. They would be unlikely to be attracted into yet another methadone program,” he said.

“But giving them injections of medically prescribed heroin in a clinic setting staffed by doctors, nurses and counselors gets them back into the health-care system. It also cuts the risk of infection with hepatitis C and HIV from needle-sharing. So diacetylmorphine is a medically prescribed heroin that we show in the study was more likely to keep people in treatment. And we know that keeping people in treatment is a very important predictor of success.”

No matter what this or any other study finds, the Conservative Canadian government is opposed to harm reduction measures, such as safe injection sites and heroin maintenance therapies. Still, said Schecter, the government needs to face reality. . .

Continue reading. Notice the interesting tidbit that the government actually opposes harm reduction: the government is actually on record on the side of increased harm, rather than lessened harm. That’s what ideology will do to you.

UPDATE: I should, in fairness, point out that only sporadically is the government on the side of more harm (as when the US government wanted to spray paraquat on marijuana plants in hopes that those smoking the marijuana later would die painfully—an initiative finally stopped over strong protests from the Drug Warriors). Generally speaking, while the government opposes harm reduction, it doesn’t necessarily want to increase the harm potential. It believes that, miraculously, the amount of harm it’s now doing is just the right amount.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 10:01 am

Excellent history and study of US marijuana policy

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Ignorance about marijuana is widespread and indeed even encouraged (by such organizations as D.A.R.E. and the DEA, both prime sources of misinformation). Phillip Smith, of the excellent site StopTheDrugWar.org (well worth checking out), has a fine review of a book that can remove much ignorance:

The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States, by Richard J. Bonnie and Charles H. Whitebread II (1999, Lindesmith Center Press, 368 pp.)

I don’t customarily review books that aren’t hot off the presses, and The Marijuana Conviction is even older than that 1999 publication date above, considerably so. In fact, it was originally published by the University of Virginia Press in 1974, back when Richard Nixon was still president. But we got our hands on a bunch of copies of it that we intend to share with our supporters, so I thought I would take a look.

I’m glad I did. Although I consider myself fairly well-read on the topic of marijuana law reform, I came away with a refreshed appreciation for the tumultuous social currents and historical happenstance that forged pot prohibition in the first place, the role of race and class, the opinion-shaping power of early media and political opportunists, and the bureaucratic maneuvering that enabled Harry Anslinger to shepherd the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act into law, enacting for the first time a federal ban on marijuana.

This is a foundational text for serious scholarship about the making of marijuana policy in America. Bonnie and Whitebread were University of Virginia law professors, and Bonnie had just finished a stint as Assistant Director of the Shafer Commission, which had been appointed by Nixon to examine the nation’s drug policies (and was ignored by him when he didn’t like what it had to say). The Marijuana Conviction first took form as an appendix to the commission report in 1972, and Bonnie and Whitbread spent the next year or so expanding and revising it into its published form.

We’re talking primary documents here. Departmental memoranda from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, congressional testimony, state legislative hearings, and the like. It may sound dry, but it will be deeply fascinating and thought-provoking for serious marijuana policy wonks and even just pot history buffs.

And it’s not all dusty documents. There is detailed social and cultural history, and there are extensive references to the lurid and outlandish press coverage of murderous marijuana maniacs and the campaign that percolated up from the states to criminalize the demon weed.

For that was the original charge against marijuana: It will enslave you, it will drive you to commit horrible crimes, and it will drive you insane. Bonnie and Whitebread devote much space to describing how such a view of marijuana emerged, and they tie it squarely to attitudes toward racial outsiders — first the Chinese and the opium laws, then the Mexicans and blacks with the marijuana laws.

It doesn’t paint a very appealing picture of American political decision-makers, whether it’s lawmakers in Montana laughing as they voted to outlaw marijuana after testimony that consisted of a joking anecdote about how after Mexicans smoked it, they thought they were the Emperor of Mexico and wanted to assassinate their political enemies, or bureaucrats in Washington — and not just Anslinger — who deliberately covered up or suppressed information that didn’t fit the emerging “marijuana menace” consensus.

It does, however, provide fascinating insight on the back-and-forth, both between Washington and the states and among the competing bureaucratic and political interests in Washington as that consensus concretized in harsh state and federal laws against marijuana.

But reading The Marijuana Conviction now, nearly four decades after the fact, leaves one feeling appalled and frustrated, too. Because not only do Bonnie and Whitebread describe the prohibitionist marijuana consensus — that pot is addictive, criminogenic, and psychosis-inducing — of the 1920s and 1930s, they also describe its disintegration in the 1960s. Of course, that consensus only crumbled when marijuana use spread to middle- and upper-class white youth, provoking not only the concern of well-placed parents, but also the interest of scientists and researchers who were just unable to find all of those pot-addled, blood-stained psychos.

But crumble it did. Almost a half century ago, the supposed scientific and medical basis for marijuana prohibition was exposed for the sham it was. At the time, Bonnie and Whitebread were too cautious, too professorial, to call for immediate “regulation” instead of prohibition. But as a first step, they demanded, at an absolute minimum, decriminalization.

In the decade in which they wrote, the reform impetus flourished, and 11 states actually did decriminalize. But since then, progress stalled, then came to a screeching halt during the Reaganoid dark ages of “Just Say No” and “This is your brain on drugs.” It is only in about the last 15 years that the marijuana reform movement has begun moving forward again, now with ever increasing momentum.

But even with all that’s gone on since the groundbreaking passage of Proposition 215 in California in 1996, marijuana is still illegal. The number of states that have even decriminalized is still in the teens, and while Bonnie and Whitebread waxed indignant about 250,000 people being arrested for pot each year, that number is now north of 800,000.

The Marijuana Conviction can’t tell us how we can get out of this mess, although a close reading should yield some insights, but it certainly and artfully shows how we got into it. This is a must-have for any serious student of marijuana’s bookshelf.

Following the review was an interesting comment from Redford Givens, Webmaster for the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy:

I have posted thousands of pages of newspaper items, magazine articles and books relating to marijuana prohibition without encountering a single word of truthful support for the policy. Never in any of the propaganda offered by the ban marijuana crowd have I found a shred of valid evidence. Anslinger lied and so has every other opponent of cannabis. A few scientists like Gabriel Nahas have created fraudulent studies, but none have found an honest reason to punish marijuana use.

The lying began with Harry Anslinger who claimed that “[Smoking] one [marijuana] cigarette might develop a homicidal mania,  probably to kill his brother.” and continues with absurd claims about brain damage and moral decay.

Anyone who believes that marijuana should be illegal should never hold public office because they are either brain dead stupid or badly corrupted.

The drug crusaders lie all the livelong day, but hopefully, the public is ready to deep six their nonsense once and for all time.

It is a national disgrace that many politicians endorse marijuana prohibition which destroys hundreds of thousands of people without cause every year.

Marijuana prohibition is a sham from A to Z and must be ended.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 9:45 am

Goldman Sachs

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Lynn Parramore has a good article in AlterNet on Goldman Sachs, giving a little recent historical perspective. Recommended.

Goldman Sachs is having a bad PR moment. Very bad. And you can bet that the investment banking giant is right now tapping its vast resources to counter the tide. The frenzy centers on an entry and an exit.

Entering: Jeffrey Verschleiser, former Bear Stearns executive and emblem of Wall Street excess and corruption, who will join Goldman as global head of mortgage trading.

Exiting: Greg Smith, executive director of Goldman Sachs’ U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who has resigned in protest of the company’s culture of toxic greed and published his reasons in a New York Times op ed.

This tale of coming and going, and the public reaction, speaks volumes of the power of Goldman Sachs and the public rage over its ethical lapses.

Which will speak louder? The answer will serve as a barometer to how far America has come in challenging a destructive financial system.

The Devil’s Work

Back in 2009, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi launched the key media indictment of the mega bank’s excesses, famously dubbing the firm a “blood-sucking vampire squid.” Taibbi unsparingly detailed the vast economic and political power of Goldman and its history of destructive market manipulation that helped devastate the world economy in the 2008 financial crisis.

Taibbi’s story involved the some of the most influential men in recent U.S. history, including Hank Paulson, Robert Rubin, and other members of a privileged fraternity of Goldman-affiliated players whom he called out as political puppeteers working on behalf of a corrupt financial industry. It was a tale of greed triumphing over democracy. Goldman Sachs was the predator, and we the people, our money sucked away in a “giant pump-and-dump scam,” were the broke and bewildered prey.

Taibbi was vilified by many members of the press for his audacity, and it wasn’t just the conservative press that pounced. Tim Fernholtz accused Taibbi of lying and called the piece a “conspiracy theorist’s dream” in the liberal American Prospect.

A few voices came to Taibbi’s defense, including economist Rob Johnson, who published his reaction on a blog I edited at that time. Johnson pointed out that Taibbi’s article would “surely be discounted by some as hysterical or exaggerated, particularly by those whose senses are deadened by the business press or CNBC-style babble.” But Johnson felt that Taibbi’s outrage was more than justified:

“He is screaming in a way that a healthy press would do in a hysterical time. Goldman Sachs’ uncontested success blurring the boundaries between market and state is symbolic of a tremendous malfunction in finance, politics and civil society.”

The Goldman apologists might dismiss Taibbi as hysterical. But it was a little harder to wave away the condemnation that appeared in the New York Times this week from a man who had worked at the firm for 12 years before quitting because he could no longer tolerate what he described as a culture as “toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 9:30 am

Posted in Business, Government

The 40-hour work week: Will we lose it?

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The 40-hour work week was the achievement of years of union activity. Employers, of course, always want free labor (improves profit margins quite a bit) and so push to kill the 40-hour work week. One tactic is to put people on “salary” (flat-rate pay, regardless of hours worked), and then demand 60-70 hours a week of work, with no pay at all for the extra 20-30 hours. Great bargain for the employer.

Of course, employers for decades have been trying to kill unions—for pretty much this sort of reason: unions give benefits (and power) to workers, and employers do not like workers to have any power whatsoever: makes them troublesome. (Thus the enduring appeal of slavery, still in operation in, e.g., Florida, where enslaved farm workers are even now endemic. Still, it’s not like in the old days, when slaves could simply be murdered out of hand if they grew troublesome, like wanting “rights” or some such.)

At any rate, the 40-hour work week seems to be on the endangered list. Sara Robinson reports at AlterNet:

If you’re lucky enough to have a job right now, you’re probably doing everything possible to hold onto it. If the boss asks you to work 50 hours, you work 55. If she asks for 60, you give up weeknights and Saturdays, and work 65.

Odds are that you’ve been doing this for months, if not years, probably at the expense of your family life, your exercise routine, your diet, your stress levels, and your sanity. You’re burned out, tired, achy, and utterly forgotten by your spouse, kids and dog. But you push on anyway, because everybody knows that working crazy hours is what it takes to prove that you’re “passionate” and “productive” and “a team player” — the kind of person who might just have a chance to survive the next round of layoffs.

This is what work looks like now. It’s been this way for so long that most American workers don’t realize that for most of the 20th century, the broad consensus among American business leaders was that working people more than 40 hours a week was stupid, wasteful, dangerous, and expensive — and the most telling sign of dangerously incompetent management to boot.

It’s a heresy now (good luck convincing your boss of what I’m about to say), but every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul. And it may sound weird, but it’s true: the single easiest, fastest thing your company can do to boost its output and profits — starting right now, today — is to get everybody off the 55-hour-a-week treadmill, and back onto a 40-hour footing.

Yes, this flies in the face of everything modern management thinks it knows about work. So we need to understand more. How did we get to the 40-hour week in the first place? How did we lose it? And are there compelling bottom-line business reasons that we should bring it back?

The Making of the 40-Hour Week

The most essential thing to know about the 40-hour work-week is that, while it was the unions that pushed it, business leaders ultimately went along with it because their own data convinced them this was a solid, hard-nosed business decision.

Unions started fighting for the short week in both the UK and US in the early 19th century. By the latter part of the century, it was becoming the norm in an increasing number of industries. And a weird thing happened: over and over — across many business sectors in many countries — business owners discovered that when they gave into the union and cut the hours, their businesses became significantly more productive and profitable. As Tom Walker of the Work Less Institute puts it in his Prosperity Covenant: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 9:25 am

Amazon.com: The dark side emerges

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UPDATE: Even more interesting: counterargument from Barry Eisler:

Scott Turow, President of the Big Publishers Club (aka the Authors Guild) just blogged about the Department of Justice lawsuit against legacy publishing’s agency pricing model. I talked about how unfair agency pricing was to Amazon and to authors two years ago. I think I was pretty prescient about the future of ebooks, and of publishing, even if my numbers weren’t nearly as optimistic as they could have been.

So now President Turow has written a call to arms, warning writers of the dangers of Amazon and the DoJ. I asked my buddy, bestselling novelist Barry Eisler, if he wanted to join me in commenting on the piece. Barry’s got a good bullshit detector and from time to time we’ve had fun dissecting and exposing obfuscation like Scott’s (see our thoughts on Hachette’s “We are Still Relevant” memo).

Scott’s original words are in italics; my and Barry’s reaction follow in plain text.

Here we go…

Continue reading.

Original post beginning:

Very interesting interview with Scott Turow, writer and current president of the Author’s Guild, on the direction (and tactics) of Amazon.com.

Late last week, the Justice Department warned Apple and five of the nation’s largest publishers that it was planning to sue them for price fixing. At issue is the agency model, a method of wholesaling e-books in which the publisher sets the retail price and the retailer takes a 30 percent cut. Most print and many e-books are sold under the traditional wholesale model, in which publishers sell books at a discounted price, and the retailer can resell them for whatever price it likes.

The unnamed player in this drama is Amazon, which had been selling e-books at a loss until two years ago, when the iPad came along and publishers used the emergence of the new device to pressure the online megaretailer into adopting the agency model, too. If Amazon wanted to sell e-books from the Big Six (as the six largest book publishers are called), it could no longer sell those titles for $9.99.

Publishers actually make less money with the agency model, so why have they insisted on it? The change was designed to limit the growing dominance of Amazon over American book retailing. On Monday, Scott Turow — the bestselling author of “Presumed Innocent” and other legal thrillers, and the president of the Authors Guild — posted a letter to members on the Guild’s web site. In it, he pronounced the Justice Department’s actions bad news for authors, “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture,” and (contrary to first impression) ominous for book consumers. I called him up to find out more.

What are some of the Guild’s problems with Amazon? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 9:16 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Spicy fried rice with eggs and greens

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If this isn’t grub, I don’t know what is. Plus it looks quite tasty. (I’ve ordered the soy sauce he mentions.) Ingredients:

Spicy Fried Rice with Eggs and Greens
Serves three

1.5 cups brown rice
Oil, for sauteing (I used olive oil this time)
3-4 stalks green (immature) garlic; or 1-2 cloves of regular garlic
1 red hot chile pepper
1 knuckle-sized nub of ginger, peeled
1 bunch of collards and/or kale (I used a combo)
3 eggs
Soy sauce (my absolute favorite brand is Ohsawa Nama Shoyu)
Salad greens, to serve over

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 8:48 am

Shaving on the Ides of March

with 2 comments

As it turned out, a very pleasant and smooth shave. After MR GLO, the Wee Scot worked up a superb lather from Otoko Organics—I am increasingly impressed by this shaving soap—and the iKon S3S with the optional bamboo handle did a superb job in three passes. For me, at any rate, the iKon S3S head is noticeably and significantly better than the Pils head used yesterday.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 March 2012 at 8:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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