A kinder, gentler message.

Our corporate legal counsel reads my blog, and did once take me aside and comment on one of my posts, suggesting that it could be taken in a couple of ways, both of them bad. He was very polite about it, but I saw his point.

So when he tells me something now I always ask if I can blog this. Today he was telling me about his vacation in France, He was noticing that whenever he saw any kind of sign it was phrased positively, as opposed to a North American tendency to say the same thing in a negative way. For example, where we might say:

Keep off the grass.

the French would say:

Please respect the grass.

Or where we might say:

No smoking.

the French would use the phrase:

Please respect the environment.

It’s a reflection of a much more refined cultural nuance in Europe, and he just noticed that it was so very different from home.

Seat belt versus air bag.

Steven Levitt compares the two at the Freakonomics Blog:

We found that wearing a seat belt reduced the chance of death by 60-70 percent across all crashes. We estimated that air bags reduce the death rate by 15 percent in frontal crashes, but don’t help in partial frontal, side, or rear crashes. (The benefits we found for adults in seat belts were higher than most previous research, and the results on air bags were lower than in most earlier research. But there is nobody who knows the data who would prefer an airbag to a seat belt if it was an either/or choice.)

The bottom line is that to save a life with a seat belt costs $30,000; to save a life with an air bag costs $1.8 mm by our estimates. This makes seat belts an incredibly effective safety innovation. While in comparison, air bags look bad, indeed in the scheme of things $1.8 mm to save a life is pretty good by regulatory standards.

I managed to survive all of these years with my seat belt alone, including one particularly nasty crash. I haven’t yet experienced an airbag.

More common sense from Elisa.

Elisa Camahort on offshoring:

This was always my argument when discussing offshoring. Look, if it’s all about the bottom line then justify to me the multi-million dollar salaries and other benefits that execs get. Maybe some folks don’t remember, but we didn’t always live in a time where execs made such huge percentages more than the regular working folks at their company.

Breaking the rules.

Nine women will be ordained as Roman Catholic priests later this month in international waters:

In an effort to break through the stained-glass ceiling of the Catholic Church, two Central Coast women will be among a group of nine being “ordained” later this month in the international waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Dana Reynolds, 58, of Carmel, and Victoria Rue, 58, of Watsonville will be challenging the church’s refusal to ordain women as priests or deacons. The Canon Laws of the Roman Catholic Church pointedly refer to all priests and potential priests as men or young men.

“I don’t see it as defiance,” said Reynolds. “I see it as making a statement. As the other half of the human race, as women, we should be a part of this.”

[...]

Rue, who teaches comparative religions and women’s studies at San Jose State University, said she is “what they call a ‘cradle Catholic,’” born into the religion. She remembers “handing out Necco wafers to the kids on our block,” pretending to be a priest when she was in second or third grade.

I’m a lapsed Catholic but even I know that the church isn’t about to change centuries of rules and traditions for a few people who disagree. And if Ms. Rue is a ‘cradle catholic’ then she should know this.

It’s always funny to hear about people who claim to believe in something, and in the next breath say how they plan to change it. The Catholic Church has always been an all or nothing proposition; either you are Catholic an you follow the laws of the religion or you find a new religion.

Publicly available.

As the New York Times notes, the Internet Archive is being sued for copyright infringement. Yet all they seem to have done is to save a copy of publicly available information; the logical equivalent of sales brochures. They do of course make those brochures available to internet users, but they were already available once before.

The plaintiffs in this case, Healthcare Advocates, are trying to win another lawsuit wherein access to the earlier web pages would be detrimental. But many companies have been ordered to produce email in court cases, which is a far less public medium.

Wouldn’t a library which had saved years of brochures for research purposes be guilty of the same thing?

Once the information has been made publicly available, isn’t it always publicly available?

Media bias.

This is why I no longer read The Globe and Mail. Here’s the headline: Majority want Harper replaced, poll shows.

When we read the story we see this first paragraph:

Stephen Harper moved yesterday to revive his political fortunes in the electoral heartland of Ontario even as a new poll shows that 59 per cent of Canadians want him replaced, including more than one-third of his own supporters.

But in the bottom of the second paragraph we see this:

But the survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail/CTV by the Strategic Counsel, also finds that popularity difficulties plague Prime Minister Paul Martin, with 52 per cent of voters saying he should be replaced.

I guess they just couldn’t squeeze in Majority want Harper and Martin replaced, poll shows. Or maybe that just wasn’t the point they were trying to make.

Sharing should be “off” by default.

Why is it that banks and other financial institutions’ privacy policies say that they may share your information unless you opt out?

Shouldn’t the default be that they won’t share any of your personal information unless you specifically give them permission?

Of course that wouldn’t be very convenient for the banks, but why is that your problem? Especially when they are using that information primarily for marketing purposes.

Common sense.

Elisa Camahort brings a little common sense to a recent blogosphere discussion on people switching from Windows to Mac:

See, Steve probably made the decision [to switch] the same way most people considering a computer purchase do. He probably read reports; talked to friends; relied on personal experience, compared specs and application support. If he wanted to know what Microsoft evangel-blogger Robert Scoble thought about his own company’s products, well he certainly could read about it ad infinitum. What would a phone call get him besides a sales pitch? But more than that, I sincerely doubt Scoble can spare the time to talk to every random person considering a switch, so perhaps, just perhaps, Microsoft should, rather, look to improve either a) their product or b) their marketing. [I mean, Microsoft does have the marketing team who thought comparing loyal customers to dinosaurs was a good idea…you know, shame them into paying for an upgrade!]

I could include the entire post – it’s that good – but you should just go there and read it.