Monday, August 03, 2015

Ride-sharing Uber Cambridge!

The city government of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has decided not to crack down on Uber and other ride-sharing programs. Showing their grasp of economics and human psychology, the city's taxi drivers therefore went on strike this morning at 4 a.m. They will refuse to pick up passengers today and may even stage a "rolling rally" to disrupt traffic.

Right! That should stop people from using their smartphones to hail a Uber driver!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Heroes for zeros

The new big thing in education is the MOOC (massive open online course), which I have been exploring this year, with mixed results. The notion of "discussing" a subject with a thousand or three thousand other students is absurd. But I've made a great discovery: when a course ends, it may be (and perhaps always is) archived! Everything stays in place, except the obligation to read and reply to hundreds of mostly witless comments. (Sample: in a course on reading Dubliners, by James Joyce, there was much ado about a story in which the main character goes into a cafeteria for a meal of peas and ginger beer. Green and gold, get it? -- Joyce is sneering at the Irish flag!)

Anyhow, I'm now engaged in Gregory Nagy's wonderful (and rigorous) The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, which finished a while ago but presumably will be offered again. (It's also available through Harvard Extension for college credit.)

My daughter finds this hilarious. It seems that when she was a student, Mr Nagy's course was famous as "Heroes for Zeros" — i.e. tailored for the hockey team. Well, either the professor has beefed it up since she graduated, or Harvard has a most remarkable set of student athletes. (There is, of course, a third possibility, which I will not discuss here.) Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ride-sharing Uber alles!

I confess I've never hailed an Uber ride. For one thing, I don't go often to cities, and for another I am reluctant to pay $80 a month for a web-enabled phone. But I am delighted to see that the mayor of New York has backpedaled on his attempt to stifle Uber in New York City. It's also pleasing to note that Jeb Bush, when he visited a Silicone Valley startup recently, chose Uber rather than the now-customary convoy of black SUVs with police escort. (To be sure, I suspect that it was a 20-something aide who actually hailed the ride.) Similarly, Scott Walker in his first quarterly report has spent a bit more than $3,000 on taxis, of which a bit more than $2,000 went to Uber rides. Long live the gig economy! I've been self-employed since 1968, and really, it's the only way to go.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The high cost of running for president ...

No, not the monetary cost. The cost to one's personal dignity, as in the photo/selfie below:

The site is a Harley Davidson dealership. I had a hard time identifying the candidate, which perhaps does not speak well for Scott Walker's candidacy -- he's the man in the middle. But what amuses me is the expression of the Walker supporter on the right! What's he thinking? -- "I hope my kids don't see this?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Penetrating analysis ....

The New York Times this morning has a penetrating analysis of our deal with Iran. (It has also, perhaps as a result, toned down its earlier celebratory headline.)

Will be "long out of office" by the time it comes back to bite us? Well, somehow I don't think that that fact has escaped Mr Obama's notice!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Where we stand ...

So the Pope's a socialist, Castro is our new best friend, and Atticus Finch turns out to be a racist. Who would have guessed?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The litigious Wright Brothers

I've just finished reading David McCullough's latest hagiography, this one dealing with The Wright Brothers. I enjoyed it, of course--that's Mr McCullough's specialty. And I'd quite forgotten, if indeed I ever knew, that Orville Wright not only long outlived his older and more dominant brother, but long enough to see their invention leap the Atlantic Ocean, lay waste to Warsaw and Hiroshima, and even begin to soar aloft on a stream of hot air. The author doesn't much dwell on these later years, preferring to spend his time on the day-to-day minutiae of the brothers' lives, and indeed that of their sister Katharine, treating us to all their letters home, and from home to them. (Sometimes, I confess, to the point where my eyelids drooped.) Alas, Mr McCullough stops the detail where it gets interesting, when Wilbur and Orville began to sue their competitors and effectively stopped American aviation development dead in its tracks. As a result, when American pilots went to war in 1917, they had to fly British and French warplanes. Only then did US government pressure American airframe manufacturers to pool their patents, so progress could begin again. It was as if Steve Jobs had patented the smartphone, or if the first man to kindle a flame in his cave had claimed the exclusive right to build all future cookfires.