The Earth, and its wealth, at night

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If it were night everywhere at the same time, this is what the Earth would look like (click to enlarge). But that strange statement doesn’t explain the importance of this view. What this image shows us is a representation of global wealth. As Vox puts it:

What you see is that in rich countries, light is largely a proxy for population density. Observe the thick cluster of the US Northeastern Megalopolis and the even bigger cluster in northwestern Europe. In poorer regions, however, the map represents not just population density but also the actual availability of electrical lighting. Huge swathes of Africa are barely illuminated at night, and densely populated India looks rather dim.

But of course, if it were night everywhere, that would mean the sun would be gone and we’d all be dead. Money can’t fix that.

Football vs. football: What do people really want to watch?

Every year, the Super Bowl comes around and the mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

Then every four years, the World Cup comes around and mavens in the sports media tell us that it’s the biggest sporting event in the world.

So which one is it? (Via Beutlerink):

World-Cup-viewersBut (the NFL fans whine) you’re comparing something that happens every four years to something that happens every year.

Really, are you going to make me do the math?

Multiply the Super Bowl number by four, and you’re still short by the entire population of North America, where the only people who care about the Super Bowl live.  And when you think about it, lots of people in the world don’t have televisions. So the World Cup is a community event where villages gather in front of a lone TV to see what’s going on.

And unlike the Super Bowl, they’re not tuning in just to watch the commercials.

I was in Belgium during the 2006 World Cup, and the city put a huge monitor in the middle of the street near the Bourse (the stock exchange building) downtown and closed off the area to automobile traffic. We roamed the streets with an Italian flag and joined all the Italians after Italy beat France in the final. That year in Paris, they put a big screen on the Eiffel Tower which allowed everyone to see Zidane’s headbutt heard around the world.

In 2010, we were in a restaurant/pub in London watching Spain beat the Netherlands in the final, although the highlight of that tournament was when the U.S. tied England because goalie Robert Green let this get by him. We were watching that match with a bunch of Brits who were ragging us on how badly American asses were going to be kicked. Let’s just say, the Americans were the ones gloating at the end.

Check out this photo gallery at the Washington Post to see how people are watching the World Cup around the globe. This is not how we watch the Super Bow.

The ‘R’ word

We have a professional football team in Washington, D.C., that’s drawing a lot of anger because of its name.

How much anger?

Watch this:

That ad was scheduled to run during the NBA Finals last night, but given the buildup, the California-based Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation could have saved its money, because the ad already had two million hits on YouTube.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad like this before. A group saying that a team name that has been used for decades is racist. But we’ve seen this change in attitude over the years. In case you don’t know it, look up the name of the St. John’s University basketball team before it became the Red Storm.

One thing that is intriguing, though, is that the tribe is OK with the use of the word “Indian.” Here’s what I mean:

And it’s a confusing term. Whenever I the the news and there’s a reference to an Indian, I have to work out in my mind … well, does that mean someone from Southwest Asia or the native population of North America?

And Louis is right. The name is a mistake. The Europeans were looking for a western trade route to India, spent an ungodly amount of time on the water, realized they’d screwed up and when they spotted land, they said, “Oh, yeah. Right. We’ve found India.”

Here’s what Christopher Columbus wrote in a journal about to his first voyage to America in 1492 (via Britannica)

…and I saw the Moorish king come out of the gates of the city and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses…and Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians…took thought to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said parts of India, to see those princes and peoples and lands…and the manner which should be used to bring about their conversion to our holy faith, and ordained that I should not go by land to the eastward, by which way it was the custom to go, but by way of the west, by which down to this day we do not know certainly that anyone has passed; therefore, having driven out all the Jews from your realms and lordships in the same month of January, Your Highnesses commanded me that, with a sufficient fleet, I should go to the said parts of India, and for this accorded me great rewards and ennobled me so that from that time henceforth I might style myself “Don” and be high admiral of the Ocean Sea and viceroy and perpetual Governor of the islands and continent which I should discover…and that my eldest son should succeed to the same position, and so on from generation to generation forever.

Yep. He’s looking for India. Along with insulting Muslims and Jews. So when he finally gets to America and figures, we’ll maybe this isn’t India, I guess the first thing on his mind isn’t to go back to Spain and tell the king and queen: … Look, your highnesses. About that voyage you funded to get to India? Well, I ended up God knows where. …

Guess he just went back and said: … Yeah … Sure … India … Nice place!!!

And get this! According to the Library of Congress, a map of the new world with the name America didn’t appear until 1507. Columbus died in 1506. Could he have been calling the place India up until he died?

Of course, none of this has anything to do with football.

The pros and cons of working remotely

Dave Coplin, the chief envisioning officer at Microsoft (yeah, I don’t believe that title either), talks here about flexible working, which translates to not working in the office. He says it benefits workers. They don’t have to go into an oppressive office, they can do their jobs wherever the technology takes them, and they will be able to contribute more economically to their respective communities by spending their dollars where they live.

So why does that last part raise red flags for me?

Yes, with the today’s technology, we’re on call 24 hours a day. Coplin says in the “Star Trek” part of the illustration that people complain about getting e-mails from work on their days off, and dismisses the complaint by saying it’s the employee’s fault for looking at work e-mail on his or her day off. Okay, I don’t think the chief envisioning officer would necessarily be called at home on his day off if a server goes down, or if some huge business deal materializes, but there are plenty of other workers (and I’ve been one of them) who end up on the hot seat if the boss can’t get them in the event of an emergency.

But even that doesn’t really bother me that much.

My question is: Who exactly benefits if a corporation decides that the new work model will be “flexible work?” I mean, if it’s a corporate decision, doesn’t that tell you the company is doing what it’s decided is best for the company, not necessarily what’s best for the worker?

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but anyone who’s worked for a company that has an IT department knows that when your computer crashes, the IT people who used to be on the next floor aren’t there anymore. You have to call someone off site. And anyone who’s gotten a call from a telemarketer or calls a company for tech support knows that the accent on the other end of the phone isn’t always from the American Southwest but from Southwest Asia.

The day an American conglomerate decides that flexible work or remote work or working from home, or whatever you want to call it, is the official policy, somewhere in the company strategy, there’s going to be a proposal to move jobs offshore, because, as our chief envisioning officer says:

For the average knowledge worker, you don’t have to be in a specific location, a specific point in time, to access specific services. You have all the tools that you need … in your pocket or in your bag, and you can work from anywhere.

Anywhere means “ANYWHERE.” You don’t have to be in a specific city, or state, or region. You can be anywhere on the planet.

And if your saying you’re safe because you work for an American conglomerate, you probably should kiss your job goodbye. Because there is no such thing as an American conglomerate. Conglomerates are global. Microsoft has offices all over the world. So it could one day look at worker salaries at a global level, figure that it could pay a chief envisioning officer in India a modest salary by U.S. standards, which would be a fortune by South Asian standards, and get the same quality of work at a lower price. This video, in a way, proves how easy it is to work from anywhere in the world. Microsoft is on the West Coast. Coplin’s accent is found on the European west coast. And the illustration of the commute. That’s not Washington state. That’s the London Underground.

Your tax returns can be done in South America. (Because I worked abroad, some of my tax returns are still being done in Europe.) Your newspaper editing can be done in any part of the world that has a strong English speaking population. (A lot of news organizations have editing operations that aren’t in the cities, the states or the countries their subscribers are in.) The animation of a movie can be done in Japan or Korea (Next time you to a science fiction blockbuster, look at the names in the end credits of the people who worked on the CGI.).

Job competition is a global matter now. Blue collar manufacturing jobs that used to build the American middle class are now in the developing word. The jobs that Dave Coplin talks about are white collar jobs. Those are now just barely sustaining the American middle class, but they can just as well be done where labor is cheap.

I’m not saying that bad from a global perspective. Higher paying jobs throughout the world will bring a lot of countries out of poverty. Look at the economic growth in China and India. That means more people worldwide have more money to buy more stuff. But that also means that those jobs don’t have to be on our shores.

The only jobs that are safe for now are service-sector jobs, where people have to deal face to face with people. But, as I noted a couple of posts back, those jobs are going to be done by robots.

Oh, and for the record, I’m one of those people who can work from anywhere, and I wouldn’t mind having a flexible work setup. My family lives in one city and I work in another, hundreds of miles away. I can do my job from home in either city.

But, just on a gut level, I really need to be in the same room with the people I’m working with. But I’m from a generation that didn’t have chief envisioning officers.

Finding your way around Geoguessr

geoguessrThe XKCD.com illustration at the right isn’t what I have a hard time with on Geoguessr.

I can pretty much figure out where I am within a couple of meters as long as the road signs are in Roman letter.

But I seem to spend a good percentage of my time stuck somewhere in Russia and China bombarded with signs that I can’t translate.

Here’s what I do. I land. I do a 360 degree turn. I look for clues: street address, road markers, phone numbers on trucks and buses, business signs.

Eventually, I’ll find something that’s helpful. Then, do a little Internet cross checking, pull up Google maps, figure out how close you can get to the place in the photo using the street view and mark your location on Geoguessr. I can do this almost everywhere in the world.

Except for Russia and China.

Really. I can find my way around a tiny remote island without a problem. The Marshall Islands, the Canary Islands. Anything that has streets off the African coast. Every country seems to include Roman letters in their signage. Even Japan uses various forms of spelling: characters, its own alphabet and Roman letters. It takes a while longer to figure out where you are, but eventually, you can hit the mark.

And, I guess knowing any Romance language will help. If you can read signs in French, you can figure out signs in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. But it’s not essential. I don’t know any Nordic language, but I still can mark where I am.

At least with the Greeks, the letters are close enough that you can work out in your head what the corresponding Roman letter is.

But the Russians and the Chinese rarely provide those clues. Maybe twice, when I’ve found my way to a Russian highway, I see a sign with Roman letters, and then, even when it’s an odd spelling, I’ll figure it out. But that’s rare.

Minutes before I saw the above cartoon, I was on a roll. I zipped through a town in Iowa, a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco and not far from Stockholm, and got more than 6,000 points on each.

Then I hit Russia. Twice. Game over.

Here the link: http://geoguessr.com/. Give it a shot and see where you end up.

 

I want you, so you’re fired

According to the Iowa Supreme Court, you can be fired by your boss, without cause, if he wants to have sex with you but doesn’t tell you. It isn’t considered sexual harassment. It’s family values. (From AP via TPM):

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote. …

Nelson, 32, worked for Knight for 10 years, and he considered her a stellar worker. But in the final months of her employment, he complained that her tight clothing was distracting, once telling her that if his pants were bulging that was a sign her clothes were too revealing, according to the opinion.

He also once allegedly remarked about her infrequent sex life by saying, “that’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.”

Knight fired Nelson and gave her one month’s severance. He later told Nelson’s husband that he worried he was getting too personally attached and feared he would eventually try to start an affair with her.

Nelson was stunned because she viewed the 53-year-old Knight as a father figure and had never been interested in starting a relationship, Fiedler said. …

Knight’s attorney, Stuart Cochrane, said the court got it right. The decision clarified that bosses can make decisions showing favoritism to a family member without committing discrimination; in this case, by allowing Knight to honor his wife’s wishes to fire Nelson, he said.

Knight is a very religious and moral individual, and he sincerely believed that firing Nelson would be best for all parties, he said.

Let’s ignore the fact that in tough economic times, firing a person because you have an ape’s brain and can’t control yourself is not “best for all parties.” And let’s ignore the fact that the 10 judges of the court that gave this ruling were all male in a conservative state.

This guy’s excuse for firing is what you get from people who believe that women are raped because the way they dress is “asking for it.”

There are countries run by religious fanatics where women are punished for giving a man a glass of water, because they’re “asking for it.” A number of women have been gang raped in India in recent weeks because they were on different buses at night and were “asking for it.” A political party in America believes that a woman can’t get pregnant if she is involved in “a legitimate rape” because her body “can shut that thing down,” meaning if it’s not “legitimate,” she’s asking for it.

I was getting upset about the firing, and wondering how people reach these extremely insane steps of logic, but I wasn’t going to post on it. Then I saw this teaser on the bottom of a different story that said this:

Put Some Clothes On That Girl! 9 Young Celebs Who Dress Way Too Hot

As the American Taliban leads us closer to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” everybody get ready for nuns’ habits as the new fashion trend.

Failed states

Foreign Policy magazine put up a fascinating listing last month ranking failed states, or nations on the brink of collapse. There are a number of stories on why states are failing (Somalia clocks in at No. 1) and details on the nations in decline.

Here’s a chart based on data from fundforpeace.org on the states in critical condition and practically destined to fail compared with the United States (click to enlarge):

The scary part of this is that the U.S. isn’t even the most stable nation in the world. We come in at No. 159. According to the Foreign Policy ranking, the most stable nation on the planet is Finland. Its rank is 177.

The entire Foreign Policy package is worth reading. But be prepared. There are many graphic details on how bad things really are. Some people really do live in Hell.