End Plastic Waste

To end plastic waste simply make fossil fuel plastic more expensive than recycling plastic. QED

No more plastic bag bans, no more plastic garbage everywhere, reduce or eliminate plastic in our food chain, improve impoverished nations, etc. There are a lot of advantages.

Total cost to consumers on a soda bottle is a quarter of a cent to half a cent.

Full TED talk here “A radical plan to end plastic waste”:

Add your name to the #NOPLASTICWASTE petition:

A Poorly Understood Challenge of Building Rural Internet in First World Countries

Passive Infrastructure Tower

We all want more internet in more places. A logical person would assume that the stage is set to make this happen. Well, it’s not. As an internet builder myself, I can say yes, funding is an issue but that a bigger issue is there is no market to help build the internet. What do I mean?

I’ll use an analogy because it simplifies things and takes the industry specific terminology off the table. We want to build a house. We have nails but where do we find the wood? There is no equivalent of a home hardware store to go to. Instead what we have are wood piles placed all over the country sitting unused. How do we find the wood piles? Who owns them? What kind of lumber is it specifically? (2×4? 2×6? Length? etc.)

Most first world governments do supply funding but it is typically for building more of these hidden wood piles.

What exactly are these “wood piles”? They are “passive infrastructure” needed to build the internet. Things like towers and cables (like fiber). And this infrastructure is shareable; meaning they are more like a 40-story office tower than a single-family home. The nails are active infrastructure like radio and cable transceivers which are readily available. But where do you install these things if you don’t have any passive infrastructure to install them on? That is the challenge of rural internet builders.

There is TONS of empty infrastructure across the nation but it is hard to find, figure out who owns it and then to strike a deal in which to share it. Canada has a partial database of passive infrastructure for towers called “Spectrum Direct” but adding information about the towers is an afterthought. That is, it’s intended use is to track wireless (spectrum) licenses and only collects data on where the radio is as an afterthought. This doesn’t track any unlicensed wireless or “free” wireless (which would you use?). Which means it doesn’t have data on towers for 10s of thousands of towers. Further, the database doesn’t validate the passive infrastructure information and does not indicate ownership. 

Sure, we could drive around aimlessly in rural Canada but not all infrastructure is located along roads. And even if you do find something, often times the infrastructure is physically unmarked with ownership information.

I’ve located a partial commercial database, but again, it doesn’t capture everything and plus, it costs money. Consumers and businesses do not want to spend a lot of money on internet, so there isn’t a lot of money to pay for extras like this when building rural internet.

USA has a bit better database but it only tracks towers above 100’, nothing about smaller infrastructure, private infrastructure or accessing cable. So I’ve come to the conclusion that the situation is similar in most first world countries (with 2nd and 3rd just having bigger problems to solve).  

What we need is a marketplace for passive infrastructure and policy to make sure everyone registers. Like a “rentfaster” site for building the internet.

Some sort of sharing policy that would apply to private passive infrastructure would also be nice but I’d settle for a marketplace. Beggars can’t be choosers.

NPR “The Indicator”: How Temperature Affects Workplace Productivity

Men like it cold, women like it hot – it’s a zero sum game. At 80F (27C) women get a 10% productivity boost while men lose 3%. Men prefer high 60s (20/21C).

The ideal temperature for 50% male/female office? 75F (24C)

AHHH!!! SAVE US ALL! (men) In a 75F office, men will be dressing in tank tops and mini skirts.

“The Battle For The Office Thermostat” https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=730438603&fbclid=IwAR0072qm0VvmXNQdssnH1X2V_HVB_0OhGDjE4UkrJFGdqiS35wNSXvkoMx4

The Gender Pay Gap Explained

Education and Experience explained only 8% of the gender pay gap according to the “Progress on the Gender Pay Gap 2019” study. Occupational differences, e.g. the career that was chosen, explains 56%. Not “who you know” or specifically targeting women. “I think what’s important to recognize there is that women and men don’t randomly sort into occupations, partly because of influences early on: what kind of jobs get taught to people as being a male job or a female job. And some jobs, frankly, just aren’t friendly to family lifestyles.”

The kind of jobs with a large part-time pay gap are generally in areas where it’s harder to divide up hours and be flexible. Any job where relationships need to be maintained with clients are especially bad; e.g. careers in sales, lawyer, banker, etc. There are jobs that pay a part-time premium and these tend to be jobs where it’s easy for people to swap shifts or work as a team. E.g. Nursing, waiters/waitresses

“When an occupation pays less money per hour to its part-time workers than to its full-time ones, it’s known as the part-time penalty. That penalty tends to be higher when occupations have less flexible hours. Here’s the catch: the jobs that tend to be more flexible — and ones that many women and mothers gravitate towards — pay less.”

So how can the gap be reduced? “…[E]ither men would also have to increasingly choose those flexible occupations or the rigid, inflexible occupations would have to become less rigid and inflexible so that women and mothers could join them, perhaps by, you know, embracing more of a team approach at work.”

Sources:

“Where The Gender Pay Gap Is Widest”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/29/718389455/where-the-gender-pay-gap-is-widest

“Progress On The Gender Pay Gap 2019” study

https://www.glassdoor.com/research/studies/gender-pay-gap-2019/

Source: “Jobs Friday: The Part-Time Penalty”

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/720122267/jobs-friday-the-part-time-penalty

How to write Productive Emails

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/rawpixel-4283981/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2398562">rawpixel</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2398562">Pixabay</a>

Considering how much office workers use email it’s appalling how bad we are at it. Luckily there is a resolution and it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to review the productivity tips and start writing emails effectively.

Starting by writing an appropriate subject line will immediately improve the productivity of all your recipients. Keep it to 3-4 words and make sure it describes the content in a unique way. More here: http://www.asianefficiency.com/email-management/productive-email-subject-lines/

For the email body, as long as it’s appropriate to your subject, keep it to between 50-125 words, use a 3rd grade reading level and do not include more than 3 questions.

Always consider the intended audience and adjust TO:/CC: lines. Consider if “reply-all” is appropriate and if changing audiences, consider if the subject needs to be modified in order to take the conversation in a new direction (thus avoiding the “grouped conversations” stack).

If your email is attempting to “hook” your audience – e.g. to get information, sell/market something or get an invoice paid, consider sending it in early in the morning or during lunch rather than mid-morning and afternoons. More here: https://blog.boomerangapp.com/2016/02/7-tips-for-getting-more-responses-to-your-emails-with-data/

Thinking that instant messages and shared calendars are going to be the answer to productivity challenges? I encourage the reader to reconsider: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/08/21/640596144/why-people-cant-get-work-done-at-work

How To Measure Happiness

Happiness is elusive but it helps focus an individual with their life design if they consider what metrics contribute to happiness. These metrics might be in error, but at least they are something. The 6 measures, as explained by NPR’s “The Indicator” podcast, are:

These measures have been found to be highly correlated with people’s overall happiness. Of these measures social support and GDP per capita are the most important. But at some point, GDP per capita stops mattering; the Easterlin paradox. “It’s the idea that wealth adds to people’s happiness only up to a point. And at some point, for some reason, getting richer stops making you happier.” There are many working theories and here are some of the more prominent ones:

  • GDP per capita (a rough idea of how wealthy people are in a particular country),
  • healthy life expectancy,
  • how much people trust the government and businesses in their country (is corruption a problem in the government? In businesses?),
  • social support (do you have somebody to count on in times of trouble?),
  • generosity (has a person been generous in the last 30 days to others) and
  • freedom (did you feel a sense of freedom to make your key life decisions?).
  1. (India #141, China #94) Social support has declined even though GDP per capita is rising. Stuff like moving into cities, decline of the extended family.
  2. (USA #19) “People overestimate the happiness they’re going to get from more income or a bigger house. And they underestimate the happiness they would get from more time with the family and less time spent commuting. So, they end up finding themselves in circumstances where they’ve chosen to go for too high an income, too much consumption, not enough time to spend with family and friends. And they end up being anxious, harried, stressed.”
  3. It could just be that the measurements are wrong.

Regardless, the researcher shares that he’s changed his behaviour as a result of this research and recommends “…[T]o start conversations with strangers, to smile at people in the streets, to assume the best rather than the worst about them is a win-win situation. And so, I do it more than I used to. And that’s improved my happiness. And I hope it’s improved somebody else’s, as well. …”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/08/711132741/how-to-measure-happiness

https://worldhappiness.report/

Canada is #9, Finland #1. Excel file with the data is here (“Chapter 2 – online data ‘Figure2.6’ worksheet):

https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/Chapter2OnlineData.xls

Canada is just 6% behind Finland and USA is 12.72% behind (5.6% behind Canada). South Sudan, #156, is 272% behind Finland. Surprisingly Australia is at #11 with all it’s sunshine and most goods being locally sourced.

Easterlin Paradox:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easterlin_paradox

Plastic single use bags – the economics

Planet Money explains in “Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

“…sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned…So about 30% of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags…. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year. paper bags are actually worse for the environment. … They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel, and heavy machinery. … the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions. That said, these bans do reduce non-biodegradable litter.”

Organic cotton tote bags need to be used 20,000 times before its use is better than a plastic grocery bag. “…the best reusable ones are made from polyester or plastics like polypropylene. . Those still have to be used dozens and dozens of times to be greener than plastic grocery bags, which have the smallest carbon footprint for a single use.”

“As for bag policies, Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking. … The best policy, Taylor says, imposes a fee on both paper and plastic bags and encourages reuse.”

15Apr2019 update: Another economics podcast on plastic packaging (Cellophane). It presents the data and decisions that have made the modern plastic world and illustrates nicely the counter-intuitive conclusions that come up all the time in plastic packaging.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz2w3

“Bandwidth” and “Speed” – not the same thing

It’s terribly confusing that these terms are used interchangeably. Unfortunately, they don’t have much to do with each other. Bandwidth is the number of “lanes” available to your computer. It is typically measured in Megabits/second of Mbps or Gigabits/second or Gbps. Do the number of lanes affect the speed of your car? Typically no, unless it’s rush hour.

What matters is how fast you can drive right? That’s “latency” in the internet/networking world. It is dependent on a lot of different factors, including but not limited to, the speed of your computer, the speed of your network card, the speed/how busy your local modem/router is, the speed/how busy your local internet provider’s infrastructure is and then all these factors on the other end of the connection as well. The “bottleneck” in the equation defines your latency at that particular time to whatever particular service.

So how do your measure your internet connection? Well, take those “bandwidth” sites with a grain of salt – they are best for measuring the bandwidth received to match up with the internet plan your paying for. The best measurement test I’ve found to determine “quality of experience” is the Cisco Webex Network test: https://mediatest.webex.com.

It measures a bunch of different things for a video call, which is the most demanding application for most people. If you get all green, then you’re in good shape. It means you could run all applications from that location without issues (as long as the opposite party doesn’t have a bad connection of course).

Check out my own article on how to improve “speeds”: https://textor.ca/2015/03/forget-a-bandwidth-upgrade-try-these-4-things-to-make-the-home-internet-experience-better/

Others have written on this subject – try here for another spin on this subject: https://accucode.com/bandwidth-vs-speed-which-is-more-important-2/

“Canadians paid more than $1.2 billion in wireless data overage fees last year”

https://business.financialpost.com/telecom/canadians-paid-more-than-1-2-billion-in-wireless-data-overage-fees-last-year

What can you do about it? Android users can install a no-root firewall called “NetGuard”. I’m not sure if Apple users can do anything. I did a quick search and nothing came up.

If you’re not too technical, use my NetGuard import file (link below) to auto-configure the app for you. I had to troubleshoot some google system apps to make it run seamlessly. The app works basically by stopping anything from using your data plan unless you say so. You can set apps up to not use data unless you are actually using them as well (screen is on and actively interacting with it). It’s pretty slick. We use about 200MB a month just by using this app. We still get maps/GPS, email, etc. Things we try to avoid doing while on data is using a web browser and video. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch videos. We just indicate that the video is downloaded for offline viewing only while on Wifi (you can do this with Netflix and Plex).

NetGuard link: https://www.netguard.me/
Link to import file: netguard_20181128 – Download to a desktop/laptop and unzip this file with password “1234” (due to wordpress security it doesn’t allow .xml files so using password zip to get around this). Then transfer this file to your phone (e.g. maybe by emailing or certainly via USB transfer).