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Showing posts from October, 2008

Ontario considering cellphone driving ban

Ontario is consider a ban on "electronic communication devices" for anyone driving a vehicle. As much as I appreciate the convenience of being able to make a quick call to a friend, numerous studies have shown that the risk of driving while talking on a cellphone is close to that of drinking and driving.

Car accidents are the #1 non-medical cause of death in developed nations, so it only makes sense to try to make driving safer. Based on the statistics, and what I've seen on the road, I'd have to support a ban like this.

Reported various places, including a detailed article in the Globe and Mail.

Will the real jhanley please stand up?

I signed up for Google's Gmail service in the early beta and was very happy to receive the nice, easy to remember jhanley alias. This has turned out to be a bit of a mixed blessing.

As Gmail has become more popular, I've started receiving frequent emails for John Hanley, Jessica Hanley, Jane Hanley, Joe Hanley, and many more. And for the most part, these people are entering the wrong email address themselves!

I've received funeral condolences, "pen pal" letters, very personal family information, personal financial information, login information for test scores, scads of logins for commercial sites. You name it, I've seen it.

I try my best to contact someone to let them know they have the wrong address, but sometimes there's no return address. In that case, the best I can do is cancel the account/subscription and hope they'll get a clue.

Please -- everyone -- take some time to learn what your email address is and try to enter it correctly! Otherwise, …

Canada: A failure of democracy

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The election is over. Here are the results:

$300 million was spent to bring us “democracy”, but nobody is happy with the results. Because of our antiquated electoral system:

The Bloc received 20 more seats than they deserved
The NDP received 18 less seats than they deserved
The Conservatives received 28 more seats than they deserved
The Greens received no seats at all -- 21 less than they deserved
People had to resort to strategic voting instead of voting for what they actually believed in
More people didn’t vote at all than the combined sum of Liberal and Conservative votes

If the Left had united, as the Right did in 2003, they would have formed a majority government. Unless reformed, our electoral system will eventually devolve into something even worse -- a dysfunctional two-party system like the United States.

Before the next federal election, we need to adopt a proportional, progressive system, like most modern nations already have.

Want to find out more? Check out http://www.fairvote.…

Gas Price Conspiracies

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Now that gas prices are on the decline again, everyone has forgotten about them and moved on to the new crisis du jour.

However, we are in an election, and politicians love to fan the flames of the whole gas price conspiracy fire, alleging price fixing/gouging and the like.

I'm no fan of the big energy companies, but I've always known that retail gasoline prices were strongly correlated with crude oil prices. The constant rantings about gas prices over the summer made me curious about the nature of the correlation.

I plotted the last 10 years of gas vs. crude oil. (real dollars, both adjusted to an index of 100 in 1997, Weekly data from here, Oil is blue, Gas is red)

The prices are highly correlated, but the gas price fluctuations are actually "smoother" than the oil prices. You can see in the late 90s gas failed to fall as quickly as oil, and over the past year, how gas has not risen as quickly as oil.

The general trend, however, is strong correlation. As I can tell, t…

What is ROWE?

I read a nice little example of ROWE*-based thinking in a recent blog posting. (link to the full article below)
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Pre-ROWE

Manager: “We’ve been working on this strategy for awhile, and I really want you to crack the nut this year.”

Employee: “Got it. I’ll do my best.” ["I have no idea what you're asking for, but if I show up every day, stay late, and come to you next year with something that I think you might like, I should be okay."]

Post-ROWE

Manager: “We’ve been working on this strategy for awhile, and I really want you to crack the nut this year.”

Employee: “Let’s define ‘the nut’. How will we know if I’ve cracked it? How will it be measured? What’s ‘meets expectations’ and ‘exceeds expectations’ on cracking the nut?” ["If I can get clear on how to exceed expectations on cracking this nut, I can figure out the activities that will get me there and also plan how I'll volunteer at my child's school, coach her basketball team, and take a vacation to Miami.…

Efficiency through simplicity

Tim Ferris recently posted about a Dutch ROWE office implementation. It was a good read, but I was more interested by the bit at the end about his own home office and techniques for simplifying life.
"I limit misbehavior by limiting options. Notice that I have no shelves. This discourages accumulating papers and encourages both elimination and immediate digital note-taking." ... "Don’t want to eat too much chocolate? Don’t put it in your house."
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"Constraints — a precursor to simplicity — aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, they’re often better than increasing options."
This reminded me of some simple "tweaks" I use in my own life to achieve optimal results. For instance, there are certain types of junk food that I just can't resist if they're in my cupboard, but at the grocery store, I have the discipline to simply not buy them. I buy healthy food instead. Then, when I'm at home looking for a snack, I end up eating cottage chee…