QR Codes 101
QR (Quick Response) Codes are two dimensional bar codes that were created in Japan by Denso Wave corp. QR codes hold data that can be quickly read and decoded by QR code reading applications.
The fine folks at Clockwork Active Media Systems explain what they are and how they’re being used. There are multiple QR code reading apps in the iTunes store. QR app [iTunes link] is one such app and it is free. I’ve seen one QR code in the wild (on a movie poster) but of course my phone battery was dead. If you’ve ever used Northwest Airlines’ E-Boarding Pass, that’s a QR code that you scan at the security gate.
How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road
“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.
Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.
They also cite ridership studies in Portland and New York City showing that more protected bike paths (completely set apart from car traffic) have much higher proportions of women and that women will more often go out of their way to take a safer path to their destination.
Minneapolis doctor gives artists a health care option
This is seriously a great story. I love this guy.
A big problem with the health care system according to Doctor Sam is that the costs, though enormous, are not clearly defined or understood. And, they’re negotiated by three different entities, the insurance industry, doctors and patients, each with different interests and motives. Health care the Doctor Sam way largely removes insurance companies from the equation.
Doctor Sam’s patients are from communities who are often out priced by the health care system — transgender people, the self-employed and artists. Folks with ongoing health concerns can become members of the practice for just $60 a month, and pay $36 per visit. Compare that to workers with comprehensive insurance who pay on average $400 to $600 a month.
Doctor Sam’s patients can also opt to forego membership and pay $100 per visit.
I think this — perhaps aside from the appeal of an art gallery/doctor’s office to artists — is the most important part.
Doctor Sam handles routine visits and simple lab tests at his office. For patients with more complicated issues, he’s painstakingly set up a network of like-minded physicians, specialists and even alternative medicine practitioners to refer to.
Father Of The ‘Public Option’ Defends His Big Idea
In case you weren’t sure what exactly the public option is, this is the best explanation you’re going to get. The whole show’s less than 18 minutes.
From NPR’s Planet Money podcast, which I highly recommend. I’m not really into economics, but this show is fascinating. They translate the country’s and the world’s financial news into laymen’s terms. It publishes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Detroit Blog – A special Time Inc. project.
This is a piece of Assignment Detroit, also a special Time Inc. project. Also, follow on Twitter at @TheDetroitHouse. I’m hoping there will be more to the tweets than just dumping the blog’s RSS feed.
We Can’t Cut Spending
Looking at last year’s budget, only 38% was classified as discretionary; that is, under Congress’s control through the appropriations process. All the rest was mandatory: entitlements and interest on the debt. Within the discretionary category, 54% went to national defense….
Domestic discretionary spending amounted to $485 billion last year. With a deficit last year of $459 billion, we would have had to abolish virtually every single domestic program to have achieved budget balance. That means every penny spent on housing, education, agriculture, highway construction and maintenance, border patrols, air traffic control, the FBI, and every other thing one can think of outside of national defense, Social Security and Medicare.
This means that it is impossible to get control of spending without cutting entitlement programs….
Last year, we spent $456 billion on Medicare, and it is the fastest growing major government program. How likely is it that the people protesting Obama’s Medicare cuts will stand with Republicans if they propose cutting that program even more to balance the budget? They will switch sides in an instant. The elderly will fight anyone who tries to cut their benefits even as they hypocritically demand fiscal responsibility and rant about the national debt. The elderly are the reason why we have a national debt.
Follow that with statistics about the increasing proportion of elderly folks in our population and how they vote in larger proportions. Add in commentary on political in-fighting.
I had no idea that only 38% of the national budget is discretionary spending. I knew we spent a lot on the military but in that context, it’s even more mind-blowing. It’s also even more mind-blowing in this context that the interest on the national debt is so high. These are numbers that I can’t even comprehend.
My friendly neighborhood citizen journalism outfit, The Uptake, posted a message from Austan Goolsbee of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers on August 20, the day the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 (aka the Credit Card Bill of Rights) took effect.
Today, I got a message from Discover Card about changes to my account. My Discover Card is my primary credit card.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES
- Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) increases for paying late or exceeding your credit limit. We will no longer increase your APRs on your existing credit card balances if you pay late or exceed your credit limit. Your APRs on new transactions may increase to a Default Rate only if you fail to make a payment when due. However, if we increase your APRs for new transactions to a Default Rate, we may, as described below, periodically review your Account to determine if your APRs should be reduced….
- Grace Period. Your grace period for new purchases is changing, which may help reduce your finance charges….
- Overlimit Fee. We will no longer charge an Overlimit Fee….
- Pay-by-Phone Fee. We will no longer charge a Pay-by-Phone Fee….
- Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Transaction Fees. If you make a balance transfer or take a cash advance, the maximum transaction fees will be increasing to 5% of the amount of each new balance transfer or cash advance, as applicable, with a minimum of $10….
- How Payments are Applied. Payments made in excess of the Minimum Payment Due will now generally be applied to high APR balances first. This may help you pay off your high APR balances sooner….
- Minimum Monthly Payment. The Minimum Payment Due calculation is changing, which may result in a higher required monthly payment. Making a higher monthly payment will help you pay down your balances faster….
- Payment Processing Time. Mailed payments received at our processing facility will be credited to your Account on the same day if received by 5PM local time, instead of the current 1PM cut-off time….
YOUR RIGHT TO REJECT CHANGES
You have the right to reject some of the above changes in accordance with the instructions described below…. If you reject these changes, we will close your Account, but you will have the option to pay down your balance over time, in accordance with the then-current terms of your Cardmember Agreement.
So, you know, it worked! Selfishly, I wish it had been in place five years ago (bygones), but better late than never. This will help millions of other people struggling to manage their debt. When you’re in dire straits like that, every single dollar makes a difference.
I’m sure there will be some unforeseen consequences down the line or the credit card issuers will come up with some other ways to gouge you. I’m also utterly pleased that I am no longer in the position of having to worry about whether I’m close to my limit or will be able to pay off my balance every month. But it’s good to know that if I ever find myself in that position again there will be less insult to the injury.
P.S. I’m still salty that my Lynx-themed Discover Card was deactivated now that Discover is no longer a WNBA sponsor.
Big Food vs Big Insurance
TO listen to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday night, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.
No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study [pdf] released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.
That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.
Michael Pollan pretty clearly explains the disconnects, ironies, and possible changes to our eating habits that a health care reform bill might bring. Hint: it’s still about the money.
(via @pfhyper and @The_Wedge)
Health care reform: A simple explanation
Nice, succinct description of the eight components of the plan, the three major criticisms, and three of the major remaining unknowns. Note that this was published Aug 13, 2009.