Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Books read in September 2014


1. Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb
2. North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea by Andrei Lankov
3. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden


1. Promises in Death
2. Kindred in Death
3. Missing in Death

Friday, September 26, 2014

Would it really be a bad thing if income tax disincentivized people from working more?

A piece of conventional wisdom I've been hearing ever since I was a child that higher marginal income tax rates for higher tax brackets are a problem because people would be disincentivized to work more and earn more money.

I question that notion because of the way tax brackets work (the higher tax rate is applied to the next dollar earned, not to the income as a whole, so your net salary never decreases when your gross salary increases) but today in the shower it occurred to me: if it was in fact a disincentive to working more, would that actually be a problem?

Suppose you're working a 40-hour workweek, but you feel like you'd earn enough working 30 hours and the extra 10 just aren't worth your while.  So you scale back to 30.

You know what that's called? Work-life balance!  Good for you!

But what if everyone did it?

If everyone scaled back their 40-hour work week to 30 hours because it just wasn't worth it to them to work any longer, then only 75% as much work would get done.  If there was demand for more work to be done, employers would have to hire more people.

Know what that's called? Job creation! Good for you!

I strongly doubt that higher income tax rates in higher tax brackets would have this kind of impact to any significant extent, because most people live a lifestyle that is commensurate with their income and aren't in a position to just go "Meh, I have enough, there's no point in earning any more."

But if they did, I don't think it would be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why was Rob Ford able to kill Transit City unilaterally?

On his first day as mayor, Rob Ford came into work early and killed Transit City.

With all the other things that happened since then, I've forgotten how this happened and why it was possible.  I was under the impression that it needed to be voted on by Council, and googling around the idea I see lots of people saying that he shouldn't have been able to do it unilaterally and it should have been voted on by Council.

But he did it and, at the very least, set transit back a year until Council was able to reinstate it a year later.  Why was he able to do that?  Why did it take Council a year fix it?

I feel like I should understand this before I vote for the next mayor. Will the next mayor be able to do similar things unilaterally?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Typing is slow in Gmail

For the last couple of weeks, when I try to type a reply in Gmail, typing is really slow.  The letters are appearing at about half the speed at which I type, and every once in a while there's a "hiccup" so some of the letter I type don't appear.  I haven't changed anything about my browser (Firefox), and I've been using Gmail in this browser forever.

Googling around the idea, I see different people having the same problem with different browsers, which suggests it might be Gmail.

A workaround is to click on the "In new window" icon, which is a little arrow at the top right, next to the printer icon, above the "reply"  icon and the date".  Amateurish screenshot:

Nevertheless, this is less convenient, so I hope Gmail fixes this slow typing problem so we can once again reply on the same page.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless

My favourite mascara is Rimmel Lash Accelerator.  I needed a new tube recently, and when I looked in the store I was surprised to discover that, in addition to regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator, there was also a new mascara called Rimmel Lash Accelerator Endless.  Based on the information on the packaging, I couldn't tell the difference between the two. However, the Endless was on sale at a significant discount, so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, it's not as good as the regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator.  It's about on par with that pink and green Maybelline mascara - perfectly serviceable, but not exceptional. 

If Rimmel Lash Accelerator works well for you and the pink and green Maybelline doesn't, I recommend sticking with the regular Rimmel Lash Accelerator and not going for the Endless.  (Although I have no idea if this approach would work in the reverse.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Things They Should Study: does street harassment by construction workers correlate with their working conditions?

From a blog post by Scott Adams that's otherwise irrelevant to what I'm writing about here:
For starters, I don't know any men who make creepy sexual remarks about women in public. Clearly such men exist. But if we are being objective, those men generally exist in the lower rungs of society's power ladder. It isn't the corporate lawyer doing the wolf whistles. It is usually the under-educated laborer who doesn't have an indoor job, or any job. The female victims in this scenario are, more often than not, among the more attractive humans on earth. Those are the ones that are (usually) attracting the most attention. And in our world, attractiveness is power.

In modern society, power comes from three sources: education, money, and attractiveness. People who have all three are at the top of the power pyramid. People who have any two of the three are next, and the people who have only one are the next level down. The unfortunate people who have no money, attractiveness, or education are at the bottom. So when a construction worker hassles an attractive woman on the street, it is often a case of a less powerful person bothering a more powerful person. You lose that nuance when you represent the situation as a men-versus-women problem. The reality is that the bad behavior is (mostly) limited to a small group of relatively powerless men. I would guess that less than 1% of men would be in that obnoxious category.

I don't know if I agree with his premise or not, but that's not relevant because this is simply a research idea.

I know enough people who have been street harassed by construction workers to know that this is a common thing.

But it has never happened to me and I have never actually seen it happen.  Construction workers most often disregard me, and, weirdly, when they do interact with me, they treat me like a lady. 

One thing I've noticed as I've watched my condo being built is that it's an extremely complex project - more complex than I thought was possible before I started observing a construction project up close.  There are a lot of task dependencies, there are a lot of safety measures, there are a lot of things that need to be done that don't directly produce the building.

For example, there's a guy who builds things out of wood.  He's there, every day, building stuff out of wood (safety railings, frames for pouring concrete, other things I can't recognize).  But the condo isn't made of wood.  All the things he builds are temporary and are taken apart eventually. 

There are these rubber safety caps on those pointy metal bars that sometimes go through concrete. Someone has to put those on, and take them off again when they're about to cover the ends of the pointy metal bars with more concrete.  And someone has to figure out how many safety caps they'll need and order them.

They repair the sidewalk in front of the construction site whenever they damage it (and they're awesomely diligent about snow clearance in the winter too!). They move the portapotty around the site depending on where they're working. They have trucks with cement and trucks with supplies and a crane and a concrete pump. When they're pouring concrete, they have to time their work around how much cement is in the cement trucks they have on-site and which parts of the site are still drying and the weather (the internet tells me the crane operator has to come down right away if there's a risk of lightning) and local noise by-laws and I'm sure other factors I'm completely unaware of.  And all of this has to happen in a very small, restricted area with existing highrise buildings directly next to the edge of the property.

In short, it's a far more complex and difficult than I would have expected - and, perhaps, far more complex and difficult than working on a smaller building, or a building in a less built-up area, or just putting on a roof or something rather than making a whole building.  I wonder if perhaps this means it requires more training, or is better compensated, or otherwise is seen as more prestigious?

The vast majority of the construction workers I encounter are either in my own neighbourhood working on similar highrise projects that are infilling the existing highrise neighbourhood, or are commuting on the subway. And if they're commuting on the subway, that means they're probably working near the subway, which means that their projects are either high-density projects similar to those in my neighbourhood, or they're working for homeowners or businesses who are wealthy enough to own low-density property on expensive transit-accessible land.  Which might also be well-compensated and/or more prestigious.

So if my theory about high-density projects being more difficult/well-compensated/prestigious is correct, and if Scott Adams's theory about street harassment being perpetrated by people who are lacking money/prestige/power is correct, the lack of street harassment from construction workers in my corner of the world would be explained by the fact that the construction being done in my area is more difficult and expensive.

That's a lot of ifs and a lot of theories, but nevertheless it would be an interesting thing to study.  Even if my theory is completely wrong, it may turn up some other interesting patterns.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The mystery of RN #61683 CA #23638

I recently tried a different style of Jockey underwear (updated my comparison post accordingly), and when I looked at the tag to see the style number I saw it said "CA #23638".  That number seemed familiar, so I checked my other underwear (in the other style) and it had the same number.  Okay, I figured it must be the other number on the tag that designates the style.  RN #61683 But when I looked at the other underwear, it also had the number.  These are the only numbers on the tags, and they're exactly the same on two different styles of panties made in three different countries!

So I went a-googling, and discovered people listing RN #61683 CA #23638 as the style number for all manner of Jockey products, from boxer briefs to t-shirts!

So what do these numbers mean?  Why bother printing them on the label if they apparently mean the same thing as "Jockey"?  And why isn't there a style number?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Levelling up my Twitter achievements

Eric Idle retweeted me! Screenshot:

The original link can be found here, but it's not as obvious from a direct link to the tweet itself that Eric Idle retweeted it.