Should house prices be a consistent multiple of income?

No.  Despite the fevered warnings of some commentators, this RBA graph does not portend a housing crash:

Continue reading Should house prices be a consistent multiple of income?

Car Future Part II – Robot Cars.

This is Part Two of the series. Part One is here.

ABS, because the car can brake better than we can.
Electronic stability control, because the car can manage corners better than we can,
Adaptive cruise control, because sometimes we take our eyes off the car in front.
GPS. Because we get lost.
Lane departure warning system. Because we’re playing with the radio.
Automatic parking from Toyota. Because we really don’t want to hit that Merc with our car.

Autonomous Robot car

So if you thought electric windows were the bleeding edge of autonomy, think again.

An Italian team is sending two cars on a mission. From Parma to Shanghai.  With no drivers for 13,000 km. They’ll arrive in time for the Shanghai World Expo, theme: Better City, Better Life.   Continue reading Car Future Part II – Robot Cars.

Car Future Part I

Welcome to a multipart series on the future of personal transport.

the car of the future

Cars are like cool girlfriends. Go out, live fast, have fun. But something tells me we don’t have a future together. It’s not you… It’s me… Continue reading Car Future Part I

Whoop! Whoop! Go Cadel, but can you work on your salute?

Cadel Evans wins the Fleche Wallonne in the World Champion’s jersey! (Head to minute 9 for the finish).

I am very happy that he is continuing the transition from whiner to attacker! And even sometimes WINNER!

But, can he improve his victory salute? Continue reading Whoop! Whoop! Go Cadel, but can you work on your salute?

Large numbers, meta-cognition and predictable mistakes

People don’t think accurately about problems. We take shortcuts across the logical landscape. We use rules of thumb, culture, tradition and old wives tales. We guess and intuit and estimate.

Most of the time, these shortctus get us to where we’re going. Sometimes we miss a bit to the left, sometimes we miss a bit to the right. But it works out.

However, there are some patterns of thought that we keep getting wrong. Some logical shortcuts lead us off in the same wrong direction every time. Like a forward who always kicks the ball off to the left.

This is where meta-cognition comes in. It’s like a coach. It says, Buddy, you always miss to the left. Why not just aim a bit more right? Buddy starts aiming right, and he kicks a lot more goals.

Meta-cognition is thinking about thinking. It asks us to put the goggles on, and examine all the rules, biases and heuristics we use in decision-making. If we find our decision making failing in a random way, oh well. But if we find our decision-making failing in a systematic, predictable way, EUREKA! We have something we can do something about.

Continue reading Large numbers, meta-cognition and predictable mistakes

From the fat but indefatigable New York Times: Weight-loss.

They say you can’t be too rich, or too thin. (That’s why I started this blog.)

Research into exercise and weight loss intrigues me. I was happy today to find that the fat but indefatigable New York Times has a great summary of the most recent research, confirming what everyone already knows, which is that exercise makes you hungry!

We’ve written about this before: Exercise won’t make you any less fat. Continue reading From the fat but indefatigable New York Times: Weight-loss.

Traffic lights: Hate

At the intersection of ubiquity and stupidity, lies my nemesis.  The traffic light.

Let’s look at three traffic scenarios.

1.  Light traffic.

I am stuck at the traffic light for no discernible reason.  No cars are coming.   The red light has me pinned down like a gleeful high school bully.

2. Medium traffic.

Cars go in one direction for a minute.  Cars go in the other direction for a minute.  Sounds fair!  But because of the way traffic builds up gradually, and moves off only gradually, we get lines of stopped cars in both directions.

This is the traffic wave effect, expressed in beautiful, scientific detail here.

3. Heavy traffic.

People aren’t moving anyway.  The light cycle shuffles through irrelevant sequences like a failing comedian.   Noone’s laughing. Continue reading Traffic lights: Hate

Career Day at Greenleaf Elementary – A Short Anecdote

Greenleaf Elementary is a small primary school in East Oakland. A friend of mine is working there as a part of the Teach For America program (TFA). TFA is pretty cool, here’s what they do:

We recruit outstanding recent college graduates from all backgrounds and career interests to commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. We provide the training and ongoing support necessary to ensure their success as teachers in low-income communities.

They needed some extra people to represent at the career day and thefatcontroller got the call up just as the scraping sound emanated from the bottom of the barrel. Nevertheless, TTTE always likes to provide value and thus I offered not one, but a choice of two careers – bike mechanic or water policy wonk – to discuss with the kids. It turned out their choice was easy, and so last Thursday I fronted up with a bicycle and a few spare parts for show and tell. Continue reading Career Day at Greenleaf Elementary – A Short Anecdote

What is Net Neutrality?

Folks interested in the operation of the inter-wobble are probably aware of the concept of NET NEUTRALITY.

For the rest of us, here is the gist: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the capacity to restrict their subscribers’ access to specific content and websites. For example might load at the normal speed, but is made as slow as a wet week.

Advocates of Net Neutrality want such activities to be illegal.

Continue reading What is Net Neutrality?

Population policy

I’ve been haunting the forums and threads on transit and urban policy for some time now. And I’ve noticed a change. Back in the day, the response to any proposal for more housing, or train lines, or new suburbs was:

Let’s not build it, who wants another million people?!?

It’s a classic case of mistaken identity between our old friends, that nebulous duo, cause and effect. In fact, the need to support another million people is almost a fait accompli.

But the naysayers are getting smarter and have reinvigorated their attack. Today, in response to proposals for more roads, more trains, more urban density and more tax, the naysayers exclaim “we must establish a population policy!”.

Obviously, they don’t specify a level of government that should do this, nor a target level, nor a means. But this is progress nonetheless.

And our illustrious, lustrous egg-head of a Prime Minister must have been haunting those forums too, because suddenly the Australian Government has a Minister for Population, Tony Burke. In addition to keeping an eye on Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, he now has to manage into existence a population policy, with a reporting deadline in 12 months time.

This is a good thing. IN THEORY. In reality, actually doing something about population growth is extremely difficult and may not be worth the effort. Here’s a few reasons why:

Continue reading Population policy