McHugh Bluff Stairs for Fitness. Tory Calgary, AB MLA Dave Rodney is the first to propose legislation through the vehicle of a bill (2008-05-11) offering a maximum of $1500 tax relief to those who purchase a limited number of eligible fitness-related services. Would a tax credit only push a few people to step away from their screens and go outdoors, the can-but-will-not?

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Purchasing a club, team or gym membership does not make the buyer physically fit. The same degree of fitness can be achieved on Calgary’s biking, walking and hiking paths and trails. People get fit by choosing to use stairs indoors or outdoors like those at McHugh Bluff. Others keep in shape through paid or unpaid work related activities. How do we monetize their contributions towards relieving Alberta’s ailing medical system? Do we have statistics on the demographics of health-care users specifically as related to income and fitness? Do we have evidence-based research that lack of physical fitness on the part of individual’s is a key component in weakening Alberta’s medical system? Who is driving this bill? Are community members concerned with individual well-being who are not linked to the sports industry (organizations and businesses who monetize fitness) actively engaged in promoting this bill? How will this bill facilitate fitness improvement as part of quality of life issues for city’s most vulnerable populations? Is there any evidence-based research that the the most vulnerable groups, the biggest consumers of public medical system resources, would benefit in any way from a tax-incentive? What percentage of the municipal population who have access to a disposable income required to access pay-per-use fitness activities would find themselves in the tax bracket where this would benefit them? What is the real saving? What are the real costs of this proposed tax-incentive, spread across the broad spectrum of the municipal community, to encourage those few people who have the buying power but not the will, to puchase fitness-related services? Once they have purchased them is their any monitoring device that they would use them? Is there evidence-based research to ensure that those best served by tax deductible fitness-related purchases (those who have disposable income) really require a tax-incentive? If the largest demographic group using health services is a specific income or age group, why not examine ways of reaching that group first by improving universal access to fitness-related courses or memberships by financially assisting those who would-but-cannot because of a price hurdle, then focus on the vague possibility that a tax-incentive might get some people away from their screens and outdoors, the can-but-will-not?


HDI (Human Development Index)

The HDI is comprised of three equally weighted sub-indices: a life expectancy index (based on life expectancy at birth), an education index (based on adult literacy, school enrollment and university enrollment), and a GDP index (based on GDP per capita in US dollars at purchasing power parity) (Leigh and Wolfers 2005).

The authors compare how subjective states such as happiness, satisfaction, with life which depend on qualia (folk psychology) can be used as datasets to decide the ranking of countries in terms of Human Development not just Economic Development. Different studies use different datasets. Eg, World Values Survey (Leigh and Wolfers 2005).

The GDP as economic measure was considered by some to be inadequate. Amartya Sen developed alternative indicators for measuring human development called the “capabilities approach” and the Human Development Index (HDI) . His work was honoured with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1998. In his speech he noted that social choice relating social judgments and group decisions to the views and interests of the individuals who make up the society or the complex, heterogenous group we speak of when we say “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Selected Bibliography

Leigh, Andrew, Wolfers, Justin. 2005. Critique of Blanchflower and Oswald (2005) “Happiness and the Human Development Index: Australia Is Not a Paradox,” The Australian Economic Review, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 176–84.

Sen, Amartya. 1998. “The Possibility of Social Choice: Nobel Prize Lecture to the memory of Alfred Nobel.” The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences.  December 8, 1998. 

The authors compare how subjective states such as happiness, satisfaction, with life which depend on qualia (folk psychology) can be used as datasets to decide the ranking of countries in terms of Human Development not just Economic Development. Different studies use different datasets. Eg, World Values Survey

Chester (2007) illustrates how the Google-sold media ad Green Tea Partay on Google-owned YouTube (viewed 3M times) featuring a pseudo-hiphop-for-the-conspicuous-consumer cleverly conceals an ad for Smirkoff Vodka.

A single tab (window) in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 presented as a single ‘page’ on a computer screen resembles the classic print-version newspaper more than the classic web page from the 1990s. With Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 blogs (and even your very personal Gmail) and ad-enhanced content there is a cacophony of voices, a postmodern irony to the conflicting messages in advertisements, news, opinions, reviews, classified ads displayed within one frame. We became used to the classical (but now largely outdated) unique web pages in one frame, window or tag that presented information from an author from a specific standpoint with virtually no peripheral advertising. As powerful search engines like Google using complex algorithms to connect information seekers to information providers combine with a brilliant ad-service, the boundaries between page-frame-window author and paid-publicity have become so blurred that the argument in the content of the page can conflict with the products and services sold on the page. In one blog, for example, articles, reports, studies, entertainment, infotainment, advertisements, news, opinions, reviews and classified ads all appear to have resonance, when in reality their messages diverge completely. The confusion is even greater when the content-author is not clearly identified.

We can no longer say that “the media is the message” because the rhizomic media network of Web 2.0 sends mixed, often conflicting messages.

Unfortunately, in the one area where conflicting ads are absent — academic journals — the exclusive, proprietorial nature of most of these require registration or pay-per-use. They are not easily accessible and are relegated to the realm of the deep Web or Internet (once called the Invisible Web).

The solution will probably not come from more policing of Google-like service providers. In an ideal world readers might be compelled to become increasingly sophisticated in distinguishing sources and might engage in more robust critical thinking. In a dystopic highly materialistic world-view we are only one click away from buying more of what we don’t need.

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Related entries on Speechless

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Synset, Semantic Web, CBC and Alberta Oil.” September 28.

Filed in Blogosphere, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Learning from users, New generation social marketing, SEO, Web 2.0, collaborative, energy, ethnoclassification, ethnoclassification: faceted tagging, findability, folksonomy, folksonomy:faceted tagging, search engine optimization, semantic web, social bookmarking, tagging

Academically speaking, semantic search ought to be a system which understands both the user’s query and the Web text using cognitive algorithms similar to that of the human brain, then brings results that are dead on target (right context) at first glance (not requiring to open the Web page for further investigation.)

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