Podcast Review: The Economist’s Guide To Drinking While Pregnant

For some reason health advice is black and white but the research it’s based on is anything but. Example: You’re not allowed to drink while pregnant. Turns out that most of the studies this is based on, most of the participants were on cocaine. Of the people not on crack, they were heavy drinkers – 5-6 beverages per day, every day. Turns out, it’s hard to tell if there is any effect for someone who occasionally drinks (less than 1 a day). But doctors are pre-disposed to be more cautious since they can get sued if they take a liberal approach.  This podcast speaks to Economist Emily Oster and how she used economics to approach her own pregnancy and pregnancy related health research.


Review of TED talk “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clay Christensen

Clay explains that why companies & individuals fail is that we are predisposed to focus on activities that provide an immediate/tangible evidence of achievement. In this way activities that do not pay off for years or decades in the future are neglected. That is, there is no investment for the long term.

Clay suggests that instead of being measured by an aggregate measure (e.g. big pools of money), at our death, we will be measured on our impact on others. Choosing the right measure is important. Our actions are influenced by the measure we choose.

For a corporation, I interpret this as companies that invest enable sustained, positive long term growth. Their investors and employees experience symptoms of safe & nurturing environments (e.g. dividend growth for their personal financial situation, positive workplace where innovation is rewarded).

This is in contrast to the high pressure cooker “meet today’s targets to bolster today’s stock price” environment. Symptoms of this situation are constant stress and a feeling that you’ve missed an opportunity to contribute meaningfully.


BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident offers a learning opportunity for the Industry

Oil & Gas faces cultural difficulties. This article is from a key executive from the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident (the Macondo blow-out) in which he explains the problem and offers solution insights. A few key takeaways: 1. Leadership. 2. Tie consequences directly to the decision maker.

For updated Link entitled “6 years from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill: What we’ve learned, and what we shouldn’t misunderstand” click here.

Original Link:


Commentary of Where We are in History

We are coming into a unique generation, where problems will now be solved by leadership and governance, not by technology. Why? Most of the technology to do what we want to do now exists. This leaves our leaders in somewhat of a pressure cooker; a great leadership sifting whose beginning may be marked by the Occupy Wall Street Movement. (a completely unorganized and ineffective attempt to re-align corporate directors with shareholder interests – their heart was in the right place)

Carbon Taxes and Commentary on The One-Page Plan To Fix Global Warming

We humans hate changing which is why we need incentives. That’s what economics is. NPR Planet Money’s “The One-Page Plan To Fix Global Warming” podcast explains in simple terms what a carbon tax would look like; click here.

Taxes, when done right, are economically neutral with some people winning and some people losing but the real power is to shift the economy (collective human behaviour) in the right direction.

Me personally, I agree with the economists. I’m not commenting on the science of global warming. Rather, I think of it as a garbage problem. If you can’t pump the gas into your home, then likely it’s unsafe and we don’t want it. Therefore, it’s garbage. Taxes enable us in making the right decisions about how to handle our garbage. The CFC and trans fat situations proves humanity can do this. The alternative is to have a “tragedy of the commons”.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action. …. [E]nsuring that the users of [a] resource pay for all of the consequences of its use, can provide an alternate solution between privatization and regulation. ” (wikipedia)

One big benefit often not discussed is that a carbon tax favors local production. That is, items that are produced abroad cost more carbon to transport. This has an “on shoring effect” for jobs.

H.S. Dent goes even further.  Exert from his Survive & Prosper newsletter, “The Most Destructive Force on Earth: DENIAL” June 9, 2014

“…I have come to realize that the massive pollution that has enabled our exponential rise in standards of living is the greatest long-term threat to our economy and progress… not rising debt.

Pollution damages the most fundamental capital resources that all life depends on: water, soil and air.

Yet again, denial is keeping those with the power to do something about the situation blind to the danger. …

The solution is simple: Natural resources shouldn’t be considered free anymore. They shouldn’t be seen as inexhaustible. Instead, they should be seen and valued as the financial asset they are. They should have a price on them, just like financial capital or labor.

A carbon tax is a good place to start. But it mustn’t be arbitrary. It must take into account the pollution and clean-up costs, so allowing consumers and businesses in the free-market system to make better decisions for now and the future. Other taxes could be cut to offset this new tax.

We’ve been over-borrowing since the early 1970s. We’ve been over-polluting since the late 1700s.

Debt is the crisis of this decade.

Pollution is the crisis of this century!

If we don’t deal with pollution and rapidly rising CO2 levels we could literally choke ourselves into extinction.

It’s time our politicians and economists break free of their denial… and start to implement policies that are good for the economy and the planet.”

(26Jan2019 update) Bill Gates summarizes the main contributors to greenhouse gases (hint: not typically what people think of). R&D and incentives are needed to help generate business cases that both reduce emissions and make financial sense. That’s where taxes come in.


And see if you can beat my 3/5 score on the climate change quiz:


A Passion for Quality

I confess, I really like stuff that works. I don’t appreciate bugs and workarounds. Computers and software are particularly bad offenders. That’s why if I can’t control component quality myself (I build my own desktop computers), I’d rather trust vertically integrated products (e.g. Microsoft Surface, Google Nexus, Apple products). Vertical integration in its purest form is where the supply chain of a company is owned by that company. From a consumer perspective that means a greater focus on quality for all components of a service. In the computer world the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model describes all the components required to function optimally for services to work well. My passion for quality also happens to be why I have found my career focus on telecom (layer 1) and telecom engineering (layer 0), especially in a rural environment. If telecom does not work, not much else does.


Clean Water and Change Management

Years of trying to deliver clean water to the developing world teaches us (again) how hard it is for humans to change. It can be as extreme as dying rather than changing. Seem incredulous? Try the podcast.  “The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.” – Mahatma Gandhi


Administrative medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA

Medical errors (administrative errors) are the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA, trailing only to heart disease and cancer. My own experience confirms this. My cancer diagnosis was handled badly leading to a two year insurance battle. During a 26 hour hospital emergency visit I recall catching at least 3 administrative errors. I choose my doctor now based on their administrative staff.

Podcast: The Last Mile

An NPR Planet Money podcast on the last mile – I’m excited because this is essentially what I do; I’m a rural last mile Telecommunications Consultant. There is definitely no easy answer to the challenge of the last mile in North America but one thing we enjoy now vs a decade ago is that technology is not the problem. This is a leadership/governance issue. Copper is over, single mode fiber is the cable that should be installed now. But what must be overcome is culture and there needs to be an incentive to do it. PS. Rural vs urban are different but I want to keep this post short 🙂