Archive for March, 2011

UBB – How Should Cost and Price be Linked?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Michael Geist is concerned because internet service providers do not match price of service at all levels to its actual cost.

But when a commodity is in short supply, selling at the cost price will lead to shortages. (In the internet billing situation, users downloading tons of movies will degrade the quality of my own less demanding service)

What the ISPs are doing is aggressively penalizing heavy use in order to keep the total demand within the capacity of the system (or perhaps just to make a lot of extra money). It should be noted that despite the rhetoric this is NOT “Usage Based Billing”. It is a differential pricing scheme set to penalize both high and low usage rates.

Perhaps a fairer idea is to have true Usage Based Billing with the uniform unit price matching what the cost of  supply would be if supply were extended to meet all demand (and then get on with actually providing that extended service).

Anti-Nuclear Inflation

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I was disappointed to see Geoff Olson’s citation  of a totally bogus figure for the number of deaths due to Chernobyl in his anti-nuclear panic piece in the Vancouver Courier on Friday.

The particular figure, which he quoted fourth hand (from another journalist’s report of a translation of a collection from various other sources), is a hundred times higher than the World Health Organization estimate. This is so far from anything remotely plausible that one suspects it may even be a misprint.

In fact the New York Academy of Sciences explicitly denies editorial endorsement of the book in question (which consists of translations from a wide variety of Eastern European sources), saying “The expressed views of the authors, or by advocacy groups or individuals with specific opinions about the Annals Chernobyl volume, are their own.”  It may have been legitimate for the NYAS to bring these materials to the attention of the Western scientific audience for consideration and assessment, but for Olson to report their most extreme assertions as fact was totally irresponsible.

And They have the guns!

Friday, March 25th, 2011

From Discover Magazine:

Moral Realism

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Sean Carroll has taken issue with Richard Carrier over the latter’s position on Moral Realism.

On reading Carrier  I think that his real point is (or should be) that realism and relativism are not in conflict. Moral values, like the economic value of diamonds, may be relative but are real nonetheless. The existence of absolute moral values on the other hand is not supported by anything in his argument.

Carrier is probably correct in asserting  the existence of such things as “moral facts” that are “true independent of your opinion or culture” in the sense that our moral sense probably does include principles that are the same in all human cultures, and that we may sometimes be mistaken in our judgement of what action will subsequently give us the greatest moral satisfaction. But he provides nothing to support the idea that such principles are mutually consistent or that their “value” has any meaning outside the context of human culture.

I would add that Carrier shares with Sam Harris the blunder of referring to things like “the consequences you would want most”(assuming blah blah blah) without understanding that there is probably no single real variable which measures our level of “total satisfaction” at even a single instant (let alone integrated over time).

New Atheism=The Tea Party?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I do not self-identify as an “atheist” let alone a “new” one and certainly not a wildebeest (with which I only identify in the context of computer software). But having read a bit of what is written by some of those that do, and although I do find some of it excessive, I find the claim by Jacques Berlinerblau that they all “disparage all religious people, describe them all as imbeciles and creeps, mock every text and thinker they have ever produced” to be a grossly offensive lie. Such nonsense contributes nothing of value or integrity to the public discussion.

Don’t Stop Darlington

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Here is my (slightly edited) version of the Greenpeace Letter.

Dear Premier McGuinty:

I’m writing to support your plan to maintain the nuclear option by continuing with the development of new  reactors at Darlington and to encourage you not to be swayed by ill-informed fear mongering.

Like so many others, I am saddened by the tragedy taking place in Japan, but I am also awed by the fact that 40 year old reactors have withstood the worst natural disaster imaginable without contributing significantly to the resulting loss of life. The experience at Fukushima, I believe, will provide lessons that should enable even safer designs and protocols to be applied in the future and so should encourage you to continue with your plans for new reactors.

For this reason, I oppose the calls by Greenpeace and others to stop all approvals of new reactors.

The environmental assessment hearings set to begin next week will provide an opportunity to address the capability of the proposed designs to resist the impacts of a major geophysical catastrophe and I encourage you to proceed with those hearings in order that we can have an informed public evaluation the cost and risks of building new reactors.

Most importantly, we must seriously look at continuing our use of the nuclear option as the most viable high baseline source of non-combustion-based energy.

Sincerely,

Alan Cooper

The Sine Qua Non

Friday, March 18th, 2011

. . .for inclusion in an interfaith convention is to have a representative to whom one delegates moral authority, be (s)he priest, rabbi, imam, or “secular chaplain”. But that excludes all who reject such immoral authorities whether they be true atheists or true christians (or Jesus himself for that matter).

Looking a Gift Horse

Friday, March 18th, 2011

(via Michael Geist) Some have objected to restrictive license terms on our nation’s new “Open Data Portal” which would stop someone from using the data “in any way which, in the opinion of Canada, may bring disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Canada.” Treasury Board Secretary Stockwell Day responded to the concern by indicating that was not the intent and that the out-of-date language would be addressed. In the light of our nation’s new name, the language will be corrected to preclude any use which  “in the opinion of Harper, may bring disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Harper.”

no analytics, :-)   ;   no conversation, :-(

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

The blog blog analytics issue means little to me as I am here mainly to clarify my own thoughts rather than to find an audience, but D’Arcy Norman’s comment that “distributed blog conversation has basically vanished” disappoints me (especially in the light of what people are trying to do in distributed learning exercises like cck11 and ds106).  Twitter and Facebook may be useful for becoming aware of new conversations but, so far as I can see, they do not provide either the opportunity for really extended comments nor the control necessary to keep track of them.