Richard Nelson

Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

What I’ve been working on …

In Uncategorized on 2015 March 29 Sunday at 16:50:44

ctfastrak routeThis project has occupied me for almost two years, full time in Hartford for much of that. It opens tomorrow, and my in-box is groaning under the load of last-minute glitches the ITS contractor is having to address.

I believe it will be a technical and to some degree an operational success, tho’ I am concerned about the almost-half-billion-dollar cost, i.e., whether the same funds might have been invested differently in transit. But it should be good to commuters into Hartford from elsewhere in the metro.

The emphasis on customer Wi-Fi is interesting. I remain unconvinced that this is a choice factor for transit users. We tend to dissuade our other clients; so another opportunity to be proved wrong.

Women cycling in Afghanistan

In Uncategorized on 2015 March 26 Thursday at 10:00:00

women cycling afgI’m not at all sure what to think about this article (the video is even more interesting). To be fully candid, the heterogenous mix of equipment, the very poor technique and fit of a couple of the cyclists, made me wonder if this wasn’t cobbled together as a kind of man-bites-dog story for BBC viewers.

But. Anyone who bikes, on any kind of bike, whatever the fit, in a Third World country—especially a country whose official name seems to begin with “war-torn”—has my respect. It puts so much into perspective the, er, whining of our local cycling advocates.

Add to that what I understand to be the social obstacles to women’s sport and my respect grows.

Late to Eve Adams’ party

In Uncategorized on 2015 March 25 Wednesday at 10:00:00

Liberal leader Trudeau and MP Adams take part in a news conference in OttawaFurther (now slightly aged) links about the Eve Adams thing, but still no explanation that makes sense. Truthfully this more than anything else brings me to question the judgement of Trudeau, or those that advise him:

How much is a life worth?

In political economy on 2015 March 24 Tuesday at 06:00:00

suicide barriersAlways a tough question. Public finances, tho’ elastic in the medium term and infinite in the long are very finite in the short. Whenever we ask the government to spend money to save lives we can ask if the money might be spent better.

This is all about platform edge doors, which, according to the Toronto Transit Commision, “could save 10 to 15 lives a year”.

The trouble is: they’re expensive. The TTC estimates $1,165 million to erect them on both subway lines—yes, that’s over a billion dollars, a lot of money even these days. If I assume a 20-year amortization, including maintenance—which is absurdly low—that’s $58 million a year; if the doors save an average of 12½ lives a year, that’s a bit under $5 million per life saved. Remember that all the numbers are low, not high.

I’m not an American but …

In politics on 2015 March 23 Monday at 06:00:00

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m not an American but I love America, like a really close friend. In fact, the views Wilkinson imputes to Obama in this (in my view excellent) piece could be mine. You can love a friend without being blind to their flaws.

And surely being aware of your country’s flaws but still loving her, and seeking to improve her, is a sign of greater, not lesser patriotism. Well, that’s my view, anyway.

(These rules could be applied to multiple subjects: I could write a book on the things Toronto could do to be “better”, but I still think the overseas view, that Toronto is one of the world’s best cities, is objectively accurate.)

This week’s random links

In random links on 2015 March 22 Sunday at 16:47:21

la-na-frienship-nine-convictions-vacated-20150-001I’m always a bit uncomfortable with a story where Enlightened White Folks Right a Wrong against Black Folks, but I’ll admit this story (little covered?) cheered me up.

I have a fascination with “countries”, i.e., so this article about unrecognized states—not really “ghost countries”—turned my crank.

Literally awesome pictures of my country.

I’ve never been to Kansas City, except to drive to Topeka, but Subtropolis looks like a cool place, literally as well as figuratively.

As much as North Americans love their sports (and U.S. college students and Canadian hockey fans occasionally riot about them), the political dimension of Egyptian football fans reminds me of the Roman political-sport factions any reader of Gibbon will be familiar with, and mystified by.

Finally, your weekly load of irony: the “real” Marlboro Man.

The whole point to “lone wolves” is that they’re not in a pack

In Uncategorized on 2015 March 15 Sunday at 14:01:07

“Lone actors tend to create their own ideologies that combine personal frustrations and grievances, with wider political, social, or religious issues”—thus write the anonymous briefers to an executive at Canada’s security agency. The Toronto Star’s report is here.

I’m glad to see “experts” that share my (long ago) conclusion that the “ideology” that rampagers spout—whether Marc Lépine, Elliot Rodger, Jared Lee Loughner, or Michael Zehaf-Bibeau—has very little, if anything, to do with what they do; it’s just a peg on which to hang their amorphously murderous rage. We give them too much respect when we take their spoutings seriously; Lépine’s crimes spawned hand-wringing op-eds and a high-profile campaign, which, to be honest, I supported for some considerable time.

I suspect that we take them seriously when they speak to hot buttons in the Zeitgeist (e.g., Lépine, Rodger, Zehaf-Bibeau, standing for misogyny, misogyny again [tho’ he killed more men than women], and Islamism). We ignore them, recognizing their well wrought ideology as nonsense, when no hot button is pressed (e.g., Ted Kaczynski).

The report also notes that Islamism isn’t even the main hook of mass shootings (in Canada, and perhaps elsewhere).

Are you an icon?

In Uncategorized on 2015 March 15 Sunday at 12:04:26

I’m pretty sure I’m not. Fulford explores icon-ness here. Hm—does that make him an iconoclast?