Single Speed Seattle http://singlespeedseattle.com Bikes, Business & Barratry Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:13:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Takes One to Know One http://singlespeedseattle.com/takes-one-to-know-one/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/takes-one-to-know-one/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:13:28 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1172 read more]]> This excellent piece by Carl Alviani, titled “Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things,” tackles the cognitive dissonance at work when people spew vitriol at the occasional scofflaw cyclist (or worse, tar all cyclists with that brush) while blithely accepting the carnage and lawlessness committed all around them by drivers.

As Alviani notes, the vast majority of people don’t ride bicycles, particularly in urban settings, leading to:

The social psychology term for this bias is “fundamental attribution error”: the tendency to attribute the actions of others to their inherent nature rather than their situation, and the less we sympathize with their situation, the greater the bias. A 2002 study from the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory found that it plays a starring role in our perceptions of traffic behavior, with drivers far more likely to see a cyclist’s infraction as stemming from ineptitude or recklessness than an identical one committed by another driver. 

This lack of sympathy for cyclists is also related to the failure of drivers to understand why someone on a bicycle might do something – even if that “something” is breaking the law.  A driver might understand and sympathize with another driver who cuts off a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but is aghast at the cyclist who rolls through a red light.

It also probably explains why I always feel safer riding on Capitol Hill. You see, it’s not only the relatively lower traffic speeds, but also the fact that so many of the drivers are bike-sympathetic riders who just happen to be driving at the moment.

Thanks, hipsters!

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No Surprise in Hobby Lobby http://singlespeedseattle.com/no-surprise-in-hobby-lobby/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/no-surprise-in-hobby-lobby/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:32:05 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1166 read more]]> As this blog is at least partly about the law, here’s my brief take on today’s Hobby Lobby case: although it seems strange and petty to me that it’s 2014 and we’re still having debates about contraception, it’s an unsurprising decision.

Why unsurprising?  Two reasons:  First,  if the government admits that some groups (e.g., non-profit corporations) have rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it also admits that for-profit business owners have such rights, it’s pretty hard to make a cogent argument why for-profit corporations shouldn’t also have such rights.

Secondly, whether the RFRA precludes a particular form of regulation often comes down – as it did here – to a question of the “least restrictive means.”  As in “is this regulation set up in a way to achieve the government’s goal while interfering as minimally as possible with religious rights?”  And again, it’s really hard for the government to win this point when it has already granted exceptions to the contraceptive mandate for religious non-profits.  

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Congress enacted a law – in response to a Supreme Court decision that many felt was unduly dismissive of religious concerns - that offers sweeping protection for religious rights. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the government is going to be held to task in showing that it is complying with that law.  And on these facts, in this case, the government had a steeply uphill climb to make.

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Cantor’s Loss Shows Why We Don’t Need Campaign Finance Regulation http://singlespeedseattle.com/cantors-loss-shows-why-we-dont-need-campaign-finance-regulation/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/cantors-loss-shows-why-we-dont-need-campaign-finance-regulation/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 04:53:37 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1161 read more]]> Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, just suffered a humiliating loss in the Virginia primary. Overnight, he goes from being one of the most powerful people in Washington to just another K Street insider.

I don’t feel sorry for him, and even will indulge in a little Schadenfreude at the idea of a politician being humbled – even if the guy who beat him has even more reprehensible politics than the soul-less Cantor.

But his loss helps bring into focus one of the key points I’ve been trying to make to those apoplectic about the Supreme Court’s perceived loosening of campaign finance regulation in the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions: money just isn’t as important as it used to be when it comes to campaigns.

But first, I need to point out a couple of key points that many of those in favor of campaign finance regulation gloss over:

  1. Political speech of all stripes is at the core of the First Amendment; and
  2. The government carries a very high burden to show that regulation of speech that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment is both necessary and narrowly focused at a particular harm.

This is why quid pro quo, direct campaign contributions are an easy case, and why broad restrictions of the sort at play in Citizens United and McCutcheon were doomed to fail.  It’s hard to regulate speech – you’ve got to have a very real harm and a very targeted, effective means of addressing that harm.  And this is how it should be; it’s no place for “feel good” legislation.

But for those frustrated that the First Amendment prohibits the sort of government speech control they’d like to see, the Cantor result should be seen as a panacea.  Perhaps they don’t need to wail about the injustice of it all, propose ridiculous constitutional amendments, and engage in spin (“Corporations Aren’t People! “Money isn’t Speech!”) worthy of the most hackneyed campaign. For Cantor’s loss – which follows the poor ROI of campaign spending in the 2012 and 2014 national campaigns – demonstrates that it’s getting harder for money to “buy” elections.  For grass roots groups, it’s never been cheaper and easier to organize and get the word out.  If you’ve got a message that resonates, social media provides the sort of publishing platform that only the most plutocratic of plutocrats could afford a generation ago.

In Virginia tonight, a challenger with less than a quarter million in campaign funds knocked off the second-highest ranking member of the House, an incumbent with millions of dollars at his disposal.  This should be seen as very good news to those who want the “corrupting power of money” out of the process – even as it provides further evidence that attempting to regulate campaign speech may be as unnecessary as it is unconstitutional.

 

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Cycling Columbus http://singlespeedseattle.com/cycling-columbus/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/cycling-columbus/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 04:53:51 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1156 read more]]> My travel schedule has been nutty of late, so even fewer posts than usual. But here’s one: about my trip last week to Columbus, Ohio, a city I visited for the first time.

I was impressed with Columbus.  What I’d pictured as a rust belt city was in fact a thriving town that seems to be rapidly reinventing itself.  The “Short North” neighborhood between downtown and Ohio State University campus is a rapidly-gentrifying area full of bars and restaurants, most of which look like they’ve just opened in the last five years (not unlike Market Street in Ballard, in that respect).  There’s all sorts of construction along the river, with a newly built esplanade along the downtown bank.  And to top it off, Columbus has some of my favorite transportation options: Uber, Car2Go, and a bike share system – “COGo,” which I used to see all that I could around town.  

I’ve lauded bike share here before, and I try to use it whenever I come across a new system.  Because of the vagaries of getting between Seattle and Columbus, I had more time than I usually do when traveling on business this time.  Instead of using the bike share to make a single trip or two to meet people, I was able to use it for an afternoon to play tourist.  And it’s the best way, hands-down, to see a town.  It helps, too, that Columbus is very flat, and has wide, empty sidewalks (the streets are highly suboptimal for riding, I learned). It may be a different story when the weather gets oppressive, but on a 62 degree day it was darn near ideal.

The flatness also encourages a lot of single-speed and fixed gear riding; I saw these bikes everywhere.

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Purple single speed in the Short North, near one of the arches from which Columbus draws its “Arch City” nickname.

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Seattle Bike Share Nears http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-nears/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-nears/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 23:18:21 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1151 read more]]> With Seattle (finally) getting a bike share system later this year, the Puget Sound Bike Share program has put together an interactive site showing proposed bike share station locations.  You can vote up the stations you like, and propose other locations.

I expect the system will be fairly limited at first, but could expand rapidly if bike share proves popular.  The problem, of course, is Seattle’s helmet law, which our City Counsel hasn’t seen fit to eliminate (preferring to spend time on priorities like protecting the taxicab monopoly and running experiments on the continued viability of Seattle small businesses).  As a result, every station is going to need these god-forsaken “helmet vending machines,” which will add further friction to anyone’s decision to take a spin on one of the yet-to-be-named system bikes.

Of course, I will plunk down my annual membership to support the system.  Having used bike share in other cities, I love the idea of having this option here.  But I’m not optimistic about the success of the system as long it has to labor under nanny-state restrictions. 

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Negotiating for Dummies (Ph.D Version) http://singlespeedseattle.com/negotiating-for-dummies-ph-d-version/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/negotiating-for-dummies-ph-d-version/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:41:00 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1143 read more]]> This Slate story, about a candidate for a philosophy professorship who had her job offer rescinded, attempts to make the point that academic institutions are cavalierly running roughshod over job candidates. Or as the article’s lead-in states, to gain entry to the academy, “it’s not ‘lean in’ so much as ‘bend over.’”

It’s very likely the case that institutions wield disproportionate power over candidates; tenure-track jobs in philosophy departments have always been a buyer’s market.

But so what? The interesting thing about this story isn’t Nazareth College’s decision to rescind the offer as it is the ignorance of a highly-educated professional to understand how negotiations work.  Here are a few lessons other job-seeking academics can take from this sorry tale:

It’s All a Negotiation

The eponymous “W” made her first mistake in thinking negotiation is some separate part of the job seeking process. Apparently she told the school, upon getting the offer, that she was going into “negotiation mode.” Say what? The whole process of seeking a job is one big negotiation. Sure, the brass tacks come at the end. But it’s a package of relationship-building and dialogue. You can’t think that you can abruptly shift that all aside at the end.  Any list of asks communicates something about you to the other side.  In sensitive or emotional negotiations, the wrong asks – or asks at the wrong time – can blow the whole deal.

Did W have any understanding of this dynamic?  Nope:

“This is how I thought negotiating worked, how I learned to do it, and, for that matter, how I think it should work: You ask about a number of perks and maybe get some of them. I was expecting to get very few of the perks I asked about, if anything … I just thought there was no harm in asking.”

There are plenty of times where “there is no harm in asking.”  And there are plenty of things that you can ask for that won’t cause any harm.  But ask for big things, at the wrong time, and you may well bring the negotiation to a screeching halt.

Preparation

You can’t really get a sense for where the sensitivities lie unless you’ve taken the time to figure out and account for what’s important to your counterparty.  And here W’s fatal error is obvious.

Nazareth College is a small liberal arts school.  It is, as W’s rejection letter noted, “teaching and student focused.”  Yet 4 out of 5 of W’s asks were for things that would reduce her time in the classroom: special maternity leave, a guaranteed sabbatical, a delayed start date, and a reduced maximum course load for her first few years.  This set of asks sends a powerfully negative message about W’s commitment to teaching and student life.

What’s more, two of these asks also raise additional problems.  Asking in advance for a semester off for maternity leave comes off as naive and entitled (as institutions have existing policies for maternity leave).  And I suspect that asking to delay the start date for a year came off as “retrading” – the bringing up of an issue at the 11th hour that the other party thought settled.  Retrading has been death to many a negotiation, and experienced negotiators know to avoid it at all costs.  There had likely been discussions about the need to fill the role, the timing, etc.  If this was the first time the school had heard that W wanted to delay her start, that would be offputting indeed.

Know Your Leverage

Besides knowing what’s important to the other party, you’ve got to know how much negotiating leverage you’ve got. Leverage determines how much you can ask for, and how hard you can press for those things.  What a superstar, experienced professor can ask for is worlds apart from what a first-timer like W can expect.  About the only leverage a first-timer has is inertia – the fact that the candidate selection process is long and time-intensive, and the school may be reluctant to re-open it.  But this is a thin reed to rely on in a job search.  There may be another candidate who is a close second.  Or your selection may have been a narrow one, with factions of the department opposing it.  Objectivity about your attractiveness as a candidate is key; having friendly, collegial meetings and a job offer is not the same as being heavily in demand.

Don’t Overreach

Understanding the sensitivities of the other side and knowing your leverage will give you a good sense of what you can acceptably ask for.  Even the superstar professor can overreach and fatally offend the sensibilities of the institution; it’s just that such an individual has far more negotiating room than a newly-minted professor will.  It’s here that W got it so wrong – you can’t just assume that “there’s no harm in asking” for your wish list of perks.  With the prize so close to being in hand, she stumbled over this most basic of negotiating principles by badly overreaching.

So does this mean, as the Slate article suggests, that candidates for first-time academic positions are completely powerless and can’t negotiate?  Of course not; it just means they need to recognize the relative leverage of the parties and calibrate their negotiating strategy accordingly.

It’s almost never a good idea to “shoot for the moon” in any negotiation.  But it’s a particularly bad strategy when you’re in a low-leverage position.

h/t: Simple Justice

(Image: The Academy of Fine Arts (1578), from the J. Paul Getty Museum)

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The Minimum Wage Experiment http://singlespeedseattle.com/the-minimum-wage-experiment/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/the-minimum-wage-experiment/#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2014 04:27:25 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1134 read more]]> It’s March 15, so we’ve had the March for a $15/hour Minimum Wage thing going on in Seattle today.

The discussion in the city seems to be divided between those who want to enact a $15/hour minimum RIGHT NOW and those who want to roll it in a little slower, or perhaps with some carveouts allowing for tips and benefits to count toward the minimum. There hasn’t been much discussion at all about NOT increasing the minimum wage – or even acknowledging that while it would be nice if entry level jobs paid more, the potential for all sorts of unforeseen consequences is very real when you suddenly raise the minimum wage by 60%.

The problem I have with the $15 Now campaign is that it doesn’t acknowledge this possibility. And maybe that’s to be expected from an activist movement; they’ve got to stake out an extreme, easy-to-understand position. But it worries me a lot.

I’ve been working since I was 14. My first few jobs paid minimum wage – $3.35 an hour. I was probably worth that as a teenage dishwasher or busboy, but just barely.

Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage I made in the early ’80′s would be $7.87/hour in today’s dollars. That’s a little over half of what the $15 Now people say the minimum wage should be. And if someone had paid the 15 year-old me $6.39 an hour (that’s the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $15 in 1983), I would have thanked my lucky stars.

But the thing is, no one would have paid me that much. I wasn’t worth it – not remotely. And I have no reason to believe that today’s teenagers and first-time job holders are worth it either.

By “worth” I don’t mean to imply some normative moral judgment. It’s simply the reality that businesses are going to hire based on their needs, and they’re going to pay salaries based on market demand and contribution to the business. And if the government increases the minimum wage sharply upward, they’re going to need to extract that much more value out of those minimum wage jobs.

What does this look like? Many of the $15 Now people naively claim that it will simply mean less profits for the companies, or marginally higher prices. But that viewpoint fails to account for the reality that many businesses that hire a lot of minimum wage workers a) face relentless price competition and b) are highly protective of their margins. Those employers are far likelier to substitute some of that labor with automation, and significantly raise their hiring standards. The real-world impact of this will be a lot fewer jobs for teenagers and those with little-to-no experience.

And that’s a problem. The best thing for me about working restaurant jobs as a teenager wasn’t the money it made me, but the experience I gained. And not just the experience that enabled me to land better jobs later. The experience of working at tasks, and in conditions, that taught me surer than any other lesson that I needed to continue my education so I could do something else.

I worry that the drive to raise the minimum wage will end up making it a lot harder for a whole segment of people to get their foot in the labor market door in the first place, and have that chance to start moving forward.

* all calculations via the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator

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More Photos For Bloggers http://singlespeedseattle.com/more-photo-for-bloggers/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/more-photo-for-bloggers/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 18:19:31 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1130 read more]]> I posted over at sociallyawkwardlaw.com on Getty Images’ making available some 35 million photos for non-commercial use (via embed code).  Another viable option for blog photos, in addition to the Getty Museum images made available last year.

 

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Dropbox – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished http://singlespeedseattle.com/dropbox-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/dropbox-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 15:51:57 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1126 read more]]> As someone who pays more attention than most to website terms of use (TOU), I’m amused by the kerfuffle over the Dropbox announcement this week that it is adding an arbitration provision to its TOU.

Reading the comments on the Dropbox blog, you would think this was the most devious, anti-consumer thing the company could have done.  But while these arguments have facial appeal (“THEY’RE CUTTING OFF MY CHANCE TO BE HEARD IN COURT!!”), they don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation.

Consider: the vast majority of consumer Dropbox users don’t pay Dropbox ANYTHING.  They’re using a free service.  And the rest of them aren’t paying much; maybe a few hundred dollars a year, at most.

Why is this important?  Because it means that most consumers will have little-to-no damages in any suit against Dropbox.  Like, little enough that it wouldn’t justify paying the filing fee in small claims court (typically $100-$200), let alone dealing with the time and expense of a full-blown case.

Dropbox is offering a free, expedited means of getting such claims resolved.  While many argue that the arbitrators will be biased toward Dropbox as the company is paying the bills, in my (20+ years) experience this is not a real concern.  Or at most it’s an edge case, a minimal risk compared to the crap shoot you’ll get in small claims court.  But more importantly, it’s a very minor concern compared to the fact that the Dropbox arbitration procedure removes the cost and friction that would leave most small, legitimate claims stillborn.

And another point on that friction:  Dropbox allows users to bring the arbitration in whatever county the user lives or works.  The typical website TOU – which you almost never hear objections about – will contain a forum selection clause requiring that all claims against the company be brought wherever the company is headquartered.  Such provisions are routinely upheld (and make a world of sense from the company perspective).

Dropbox COULD have said, “fine – you got a claim?  You can have your day in court.  In San Francisco.”  Instead, they’ve set up a process that makes it far easier for the vast majority of consumers to have claims addressed.

Yet predictably, they’re getting abused for it.

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Reasons I Didn’t Ride, 2013 Edition http://singlespeedseattle.com/2013-riding-stats/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/2013-riding-stats/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 00:52:39 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1121 read more]]> I tried Strava in 2013, but the novelty of it wore off – and it’s no substitute for tracking data in excel (probably safer, too, as I’m no longer competing against my top time for the “12th Avenue Bump” when riding home).

In any event, here’s how 2013 shaped up:

  • Days Ridden: 176.  That’s actually slightly better than last year, but still well below my goal of 200 days ridden.
  • Business Travel: 36.  The biggest category cutting into my bike commutes – the 50,000 or so miles I flew this year had to exact a toll somewhere.
  • Family: 17.  Not so bad, considering kids starting high school, football games, family events out, etc.
  • Vacation: 13.  Wow, I can’t believe I only took 13 days of vacation.  Sad.
  • Social: 4.  Or should we call that “anti-social?”  Although in my defense I was much better this year about riding my bike to happy hour and other get-togethers.

I missed one day due to a poorly-scheduled dental appointment, and one day to weather (an inch of snow during the morning commute earlier this month).  All in all, a good year.  I’m convinced the stress-busting benefits of riding (particularly the single-speed uphill ride at the end of each day) is what’s keeping me from missing any rides – or days of work – due to illness.

Here’s looking at 200 days ridden in 2014!

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