Category Archives: Culture

Charging for Charging

This seems utterly reasonable.

Tired of clients plugging their devices for hours, cafe owner Galina Pokorny now charges €1 ($1.06; £0.85) for those who take too long charging.

“Tourists – always electricity, electricity, electricity. Sorry but who is going to pay me for it?” she said.

A recharge during a 15-minute coffee is still fine. More than that will add to the bill.

The fee applies also to laptops and tablets and it is multiplied by the number of devices being recharged.

Syrian Refugee Becomes Truly American

Yup.

A Syrian man who fled the war-torn city of Aleppo in 2014 after suffering torture and imprisonment is suing President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials over an executive order issued by Trump last month that still effectively bars the man’s wife and daughter from joining him in the U.S., where he was granted asylum.

The man filed the lawsuit anonymously, to protect the identities of his wife and daughter, who still live in hiding in Aleppo. It was filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge William Conley.

The lawsuit doesn’t state where the man lives, only that he’s a resident of the Western District of Wisconsin.

MPS Principal Arrested for Intimidating Witness

Wow.

The criminal complaint alleges the Washington High School principal tried to silence the victim in a sexual assault because she was dating the man police said committed the assault.

Washington High School Principal Valencia Carthen, 42, is facing a felony charge and word of her arrest is spreading through the school.

“Everybody was on Facebook posting her mugshot and stuff,” Washington High School student Cherish Smith said.

The charges stem from a case last September in which Jason Cunningham is charged with sexual assault and strangulation/suffocation.

Carthen is accused of trying to intimidate the victim in that case, allegedly to get the woman to leave town.

Court documents show “Carthen told (the victim) that she knew where (the victim’s) family was in Mississippi.” And that the victim knew Carthen was an MPS principal, “which caused (the victim) to fear for her children’s safety as MPS students.”

Droid Room Service

This seems like a great application for automation.

The M Social Singapore hotel is introducing a droid that can deliver room service to guests. It navigates using 3D cameras and can negotiate lifts and manoeuvre around people wandering down the corridors. The M Social is far from the first establishment to employ such robots. The machine, called Relay (pictured), which is made by Savioke, a Californian firm, already does shifts at some Aloft and Residence Inn hotels.

Tom Breedon, the general manager of the Residence Inn at Los Angeles airport, says using the robot for deliveries increases revenue per available room, a key industry measure, by at least 0.5%. This is partly because a robot is cheaper than a human (the Relays are leased for $2,000 a month; they cannot be bought). But it is also because guests are so taken by the novelty of being served by a robot that they order more room service.

Note the price point.

At $2k/month, that’s the equivalent of about $11.5/hour (assuming 2080 work year). And the robot comes without the headaches of recruiting, calling in sick, bad behavior, law suits, benefits, etc. Also, the robot can work almost 24 hours a day, so it is really providing the equivalent of 4.2 FTEs.

On the flip side of that equation, the company that makes the droid is based in San Jose, California, and is likely paying engineers, software developers, technicians, etc. well into six-figure salaries to create these devices.

Creative destruction is not a bad thing. It is essential to economic and human progress.

Islamic Terrorists Shift to Piracy

This truly is a global conflict against a hateful ideology.

Manila (AFP) – The Philippines is seeking US and Chinese help to guard a major sea lane as Islamic militants shift attacks to international shipping, officials said Wednesday.

Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven, coast guard officials said.

The deep-water channel, used by 13,000 vessels each year, offers the fastest route between Australia and the manufacturing powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, they added.

In the past year Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, raising regional alarm.

Indonesia has warned the region could become the “next Somalia” and the International Maritime Bureau says waters off the southern Philippines are becoming increasingly dangerous.

Morris’ Observations

I’m reading a biography of Lafayette by Harlow Unger and this comment from Gouverneur Morris to George Washington regarding the elites in France on the eve of the French Revolution reminded me of much of the ruling class in D.C. these days…

An hundred Anecdotes and an hundred thousand Examples are required to shew the extreme Rottenness of every Member… There is one fatal principle which pervades all Ranks. It is a perfect Indifference to the Violation of Engagements. Inconsistency is so mingled in the Blood, Marrow and every Essence of this People that when a Man of High Rank and Importance laughs today at what he seriously asserted Yesterday, it is considered as the natural Order of Things.

North Dakota Eco-Warriors Leave Environmental Disaster

Every time we see these leftists protest, they leave a mess. Think Occupy movement, Womens’ March, BLM protests, on and on…

Clean-up crews are racing to clear acres of debris at the largest Dakota Access protest camp before the spring thaw turns the snowy, trash-covered plains into an environmental disaster area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that the camp, located on federal land, would be closed Feb. 22 in order to “prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in this area” at the mouth of the Cannonball River in North Dakota.

“Without proper remediation, debris, trash, and untreated waste will wash into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe,” the Corps said in its statement.

Those involved in the clean-up effort, led by the Standing Rock Sioux, say it could take weeks for private sanitation companies and volunteers to clear the expanse of abandoned tents, teepees, sleeping bags, blankets, canned food, supplies and just plain garbage littering the Oceti Sakowin camp.

Hat tip Jay Weber.

Bosses Getting Personal with Millennials

Interesting take.

A 2015 study of millennials from consulting firm Deloitte, showed that more than half of the participants surveyed felt that knowing more about their CEO’s experiences in managing work and life would have a positive impact on their feelings about their workplace.

The results show the need for executives to share more personal stories and communicate beyond just company strategy, especially for companies hoping to recruit and retain top, young talent, says Matthew Kohut, co-author of Compelling People, which looks at the qualities that make people influential.

“Warmth is the real distinguisher between who we trust and are loyal to,” says Chris Malone, managing partner at Fidelum Partners, a consulting firm that specialises in tracking customer loyalty. “But it doesn’t show up in transaction records.”

Anti-Trump Folks Creating Own Future

Interesting take.

But lately I get the feeling that Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons. No one wants to be a confirmed moron. And certainly not after announcing their Trump opinions in public and demonstrating in the streets. It would be a total embarrassment for the anti-Trumpers to learn that Trump is just trying to do a good job for America. It’s a threat to their egos. A big one.

And this gets me to my point. When millions of Americans want the same thing, and they want it badly, the odds of it happening go way up. You can call it the power of positive thinking. It is also the principle behind affirmations. When humans focus on a desired future, events start to conspire to make it happen.

I’m not talking about any new-age magic. I’m talking about ordinary people doing ordinary things to turn Trump into an actual Hitler. For example, if protesters start getting violent, you could expect forceful reactions eventually. And that makes Trump look more like Hitler. I can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent. In other words, they can wish it into reality even though it is the very thing they are protesting.

In the 3rd dimension of persuasion, the protesters need to be proven right, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. So you might see the protesters inadvertently create the police state they fear.

Waging Intellectual Battle While Unarmed

There has been a notable decline in the quality of debate. I just assumed it was me getting older and less patient with stupidity.

Much attention has been given to the non-college-educated voters who rallied to Trump. Insufficient attention is given to the role of the college miseducated. They, too, are complicit in our current condition because they emerged from their expensive “college experiences” neither disposed nor able to conduct civil, informed arguments. They are thus disarmed when confronted by political people who consider evidence, data, and reasoning to be mere conveniences and optional.

More Rapes Alleged at Baylor

Yikes.

A former Baylor University student who says she was raped by two football players filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the school that alleges there were dozens more assaults of women involving other players.

The lawsuit by the student, who is listed in the documents only as “Elizabeth Doe,” alleges at least 52 rapes by more than 30 football players over a four-year period.

It also alleges a “culture of sexual violence” and describes her 2013 attack by two players. It doesn’t detail the other alleged attacks, but says some were recorded by the players, who shared them with friends.

Fifty-two assaults would dramatically increase the 17 reports of sexual and physical attacks involving 19 players since 2011 previously acknowledged by Baylor officials.

The school faces at least five lawsuits from women who allege they were attacked and that the school failed to protect them or ignored their complaints.

The nation’s largest Baptist university has been gripped by the on-going scandal that led to the firing of football coach Art Briles and the departure of school President Ken Starr in 2016

Apollo 1 – 50 Years Later

RIP

“Fire, I smell fire,” the first indication from the capsule that something was wrong. It is unclear whether the voice is Chaffee or White. “Fire in the cockpit.”

Within seconds the fire had broken from its point of origin, stretching in a wall of flames along the left side of the module. The flames rose vertically and spread across the cabin ceiling, scattering beads of molten nylon from straps and fastenings onto the crew.

The next communication is indistinct, the only words that can be made out with any certainty are “bad fire.” The transmission ends with a cry of pain.

Fifteen seconds after the first report of fire, TV cameras on the pad show flames filling the command module.

“Then you hear the pad people try to rescue the crew,” says Ehrenfried. “Then it starts to sink in, this is really bad and we didn’t know how bad until we heard on the communications loop: ‘We’ve lost them’.”

Union Membership Down in Wisconsin

It’s good to see people freely making choices about the organizations they join.

In 2016, the percentage of public and private workers who were members of unions was 8.1 percent, or 219,000 union members. That’s down by 136,000 members, or 38.3 percent, since 2010 levels, the year before passage of Act 10, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Learning to Adult

Good idea!

Welcome to the Adulting School, which holds a series of in-person workshops dedicated to “teaching skills for personal and financial success.” It’s hoping to fill-in the life-skills gap for recent university graduates, says co-director Rachel Weinstein. Online courses will begin next month. The school, based in Portland, Maine in the US, opened in July 2016. Its motto: “Come here instead of calling your parents.”

Weinstein, a psychotherapist turned workshop facilitator, partnered with Katie Brunelle, a former teacher, and Rachel Flehinger, an improvisational comedian, to launch the programme. The trio aim to gather the kind of knowledge that many young people don’t realise they need to know until they are on their own (and, even some uncertain thirtysomethings attend the workshops), Weinstein says.

Topics run the gamut. Simple life hacks such managing to save on a starting salary to figuring out how to better track your time are lessons that need to be learned by those who are new to so-called “adulting”. But the courses also cover more complex topics such as dealing with a family member’s death and navigating tricky relationships. About 200 people have attended Adulting School programmes so far. Happy hour workshops are currently free, while some events cost $30 per student.

Walker’s Welfare Reform Proposals

There is a LOT to like in these proposals.

Wisconsin Works for Everyone, which will be included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal this coming February, seeks to extend work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children who are receiving FoodShare, as well as to able-bodied adults receiving housing assistance. Just like Governor Thompson’s reforms, these initial changes would take place on a pilot basis.

[…]

Governor Walker’s full proposal will increase investment in job and skills training for the unemployed and underemployed, reduce barriers to work and increased earnings, and expand programs that incentivize employment. Where flexibility is needed, it will also aggressively seek federal waivers under a new incoming administration to encourage work and enhance self-sufficiency, including to pilot work requirements for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving housing vouchers.

As part of the proposal, job training programs will be significantly expanded for the unemployed or underemployed receiving FoodShare, the incarcerated and ex-offenders, and low-income noncustodial parents involved in the child support system.

Additionally, barriers to work will be addressed through reforms that reduce occupational licensing and eliminate the benefits cliff in child care subsidies, which can leave families financially worse off if they take a raise or work more hours. Barriers to work would also be eliminated for those enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP), by removing the premium cliff as people transition into earning more income.

Wisconsin Works for Everyone will also expand programs that incentivize and reward employment by establishing an earned-income tax credit groups who often struggle to connect with work, including young adults aging out of foster care, as well as those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability program at age 18.

There are many details to work out, but the thrust of the proposals are clear. Walker wants to revamp our welfare programs to incent work, enable folks to get into the workforce, and smooth out the transition from welfare to work so that people don’t get hammered for improving their lives. I know the phrase is loaded, but this breathes “compassionate conservatism.”

It’s good to see Walker turning his considerable energy and talent back to Wisconsin after the distraction of the presidential campaign. There is so much more he can do for this state.

Forced Participation

This picture from one of the marches made me chuckle. Clearly, this guy’s wife, or husband, made him participate.

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Liberals March

Let’s be clear… what is happening today is not a “women’s” march. The cement unifying these people is not their sex, but their ideology.

“They can protest, it’s their right, but don’t call it the ‘Women’s March,’ ” said Ellie Todd, 23, who drove to the inauguration with two friends from Spartanburg, South Carolina. “That makes it sounds like it’s a big unified thing, when really they’re picking very divisive issues and protesting against Trump – who by the way is now our president – instead of for something that would bring us all together. It’s not all women.”

Organizers have insisted that the march isn’t an anti-Trump protest but rather a rallying cry for women’s issues and a range of liberal causes that could be threatened by the Trump administration. The event’s policy platform covers issues such as racial profiling, climate change, abortion and LGBTQ rights. The official website lists 177 partners including Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and Voto Latino.

Considering our library and its debt

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

A little spat over debt between the West Bend library and the city of West Bend, of which the library is a part, has been resolved, but it begs us to confront some broader questions.

At issue was an old debt. Thanks in part to generous donations from individuals, the West Bend library undertook a major expansion project at the turn of the millennium. But as is always the case with projects of this sort, the taxpayers were not left completely off the hook. Part of the project was financed through debt that Washington County and the city of West Bend agreed to pay back.

For almost two decades, Washington County has been paying roughly $100,000 to the city of West Bend and the city put in about $150,000 to pay off the debt.

The process was a bit convoluted. Since the library is an entity of the city and the city managed the debt, the process was set up so that the county would pay the city; then the city would allocate the funds to the library; then the library board would authorize the same funds to be sent back to the city for the service of the debt. As some point, someone at the city decided that such a process was convoluted and the city just bypassed allocating the money to the library.

The squabble over it arose last year when the Library Board decided that its prerogative was being violated because it should authorize payment to the city. In trying to unravel all of this, it was found that there was very little documentation to back up any of these agreements — including the term for paying off the debt. Since the process was all part of the internal workings of the city and the Common Council decided all of this in closed session over 15 years ago, nobody perceived a need for rigorous documentation.

Since nobody could tell any different, the library and the city agreed last week that they would consider the debt fully repaid in two years, at which time the money the county and the city allocate to the library every year for this purpose would be banked for capital projects.

This invites the question, what might those capital projects be? Would it be a wise expenditure of tax dollars to expand or renovate of the library?

And in the digital age, do the taxpayers really need to spend money on a traditional library at all? In the past, libraries served a critical function to diffuse knowledge into a community. Books were expensive and most homes rarely contained more than a Bible and a handful of other books. We relied on libraries to provide a window to the past and to the wider world.

The internet has changed almost everything in our society and libraries are not immune.

Now people can access billions of books, magazines, newspapers, pictures, films, recordings, and other media in hundreds of different languages within seconds. The internet did not just open the window. The internet has torn it off its hinges and kicked down the wall to provide a panoramic view.

As a lifelong bibliophile, I love libraries. I love bookstores too. Despite also being a technophile, I vastly prefer browsing a dusty row of books or paging through the dog-eared pages of a good book to the glow of a screen.

But I can get the same knowledge from a tablet and it is difficult for me to justify the taxpayers paying for preference of reading format.

The taxpayers currently spend about $1.4 million per year on the library and the Library Board expects some major capital needs within a few years. To put that in perspective, it would only cost about $1.34 million per year to provide each of the roughly 13,500 households in West Bend with a subscription to Amazon Prime with access to far more information than the library could ever hold. While that probably is not the best alternative, there are certainly many alternatives to the traditional library model that would cost far less.

The mission of the West Bend library is, “to be a lifelong learning resource by providing quality services, resources, and learning opportunities through a variety of formats to meet informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the community.”

With the world changing around us, it is prudent to consider if there are other means by which the library can accomplish its mission.

Millennials Earning 20% Less than Boomers At Same Stage in Life

And then there’s this

With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.

The analysis being released Friday gives concrete details about a troubling generational divide that helps to explain much of the anxiety that defined the 2016 election. Millennials have half the net worth of boomers. Their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher.

[…]

Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

[…]

Yet compared to white baby boomers, some white millennials appear stuck in a pattern of downward mobility. This group has seen their median income tumble more than 21 percent to $47,688.

Median income for black millennials has fallen just 1.4 percent to $27,892. Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than their boomer predecessors to $30,436.

The analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity. Research last year by economists led by Stanford University’s Raj Chetty found that people born in 1950 had a 79 percent chance of making more money than their parents. That figure steadily slipped over the past several decades, such that those born in 1980 had just a 50 percent chance of out-earning their parents.

This decline has occurred even though younger Americans are increasingly college-educated. The proportion of 25 to 29 year-olds with a college degree has risen to 35.6 percent in 2015 from 23.2 percent in 1990, a report this month by the Brookings Institution noted.

Millennials’ Cash Planning

Interesting.

Millennials were the most financially prepared to handle monetary headwinds with 47% of those aged 18-29 saying they could dip into savings to cover an unplanned expense, a substantial increase from 33% in 2014.