Saturday, October 30, 2010

oh data...

Quick question to begin with: Provincial healthcare costs per capita; More is better, or less is better?

I'll give you a few seconds to think about it.




Well, of course there's no easy answer to that, but it would seem that the answer depends on where you're from.

An article in the free 24H paper yesterday proudly claims Québec champion des économies en santé (Quebec champion of healthcare savings). Quoting numbers from the latest study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the article highlights the fact that Quebec was the canadian province who spent the least per capita in healthcare, which is a sign of effective cost control.

Malgré les critiques qui lui sont régulièrement adressées, le système de santé québécois serait l’un des plus performants au pays en matière de contrôle des dépenses. (In spite of regular criticisms, the healthcare system in Quebec is one of the best-perfoming ones in the country in terms of expenditure control.)

That sounds pretty good right? With all the fuss about healthcare costs skyrocketing, it's good news that the govt can keep the spending low, right?

Well, apparently not.

The other side of the medal is brought to you by the Metro newspaper (the other newsprint distributed for free in the metro), who taps into the Canadian Press feed, and ran the following story: Dépenses pour la santé: le Québec en fin de liste (Healthcare spendings: Quebec at the bottom of the list). According to the Canadian Press, Quebec lags behind the other provinces in terms of healthcare expenditures.

Which is obviously a bad thing. Cuz if you're lagging behind, well, you've got some catching up to do. And who do you have to catch up with? Well, Alberta of course! Who spends $6266 per capita.

According to the CP article, Quebec lags behind, and it's a bad thing, because it's bad to spend less money than everyone else on health care. It's bad, because...

Well, I don't know why. Why is it bad, again? Do tell me, O CP article.

In case you haven't figured out by now, the CP article does not tell us why low expenditures is bad. And I'm not too impressed with their reporting.

Sure, one can interpret data one way or the other, but saying Quebec was "lagging behind" just stuck me as the typical Quebec bashing that so many Qcers complain about. It implies something negative about Quebec, yet doesn't offer anything to back it up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Reviews: Blink by Gladwell, and Predictably Irrational by Ariely

At least one good consequence of my harrowing journey through the bookstore was that I got to enjoy two books i've been meaning to read for a while.

(BTW, I actually had to go back to the bookstore for an even more harrowing journey, looking for a book for a friend of mine. Went through 3 bookstores downtown before I found something half-decent. But that's another story altogether, and not a particularly interesting at that. )

I eagerly started reading Predictably Irrational, as I knew it to be full of all kinds of interesting info.

Well, long story short, it was pretty disappointing.

See, Dan Ariely, the author, has some bits up on his website, and the bits are pretty interesting. The downside, of course, is that these bits are probably the only interesting parts of the book.

The first chapter was pretty good, and offered an unconventional look into people's behavior. There were some great insights into how we're being subconsciously manipulated by marketing and stuff that's not even related to marketing.

The book is pretty good until chapter 3, after which it gets really boring.

You know, when you're writing essays for school, the teacher always said Put the weak stuff in the middle? Well, it's the case here. Great start, dismal middle, and I didn't even finish the book yet, i was so bored.

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, on the other hand, is a great book, and I loved every word of it. He's got some excerpts up on his site.

Gladwell's writing is a delightful mix of storytelling and journalism, and invites you along a journey through our subconscious minds.

I like this book because it's unpretentious. It tells a story without trying to artificially impose some kind of point. There's some charm to that. At the end of the journey, you feel like you know so much more, and you also feel like you have all the freedom to be able to do something with what you know. At the same time, if you decide to not do anything, that's perfectly fine too.
Evey once in a while, I imagine what my ideal job would be.

For a while, I've been volunteering for Librivox and have recorded a number of books. Then I was made MC, and was helping others record books.

LibriVox is awesome, and all kinds of fun. I was thinking it would be great if I could get paid to do something like that. That would be the best job ever!

Well, strange how things work out sometimes.

A few months ago, Hugh asked me to join his new project: iambik.

Iambik is an audiobook publishing platform that allows readers and publishers to collaborate and produce audiobooks at low cost, while allowing everyone to share in the sales revenues.

I'm responsible for book management, and the job is very similar to LibriVox admin. I's a great work and learning experience, and perfect for getting my mind out of the law stuff i'd been doing for the past 3 years.

Iambik has launched just last week, with a great selection of literary fiction.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

So I was exploring the possibility of getting one of those e-readers, despite being historically quite against them. Not me, I said. I'm quite fond of my dead-tree books. There's something you have with paper books that you'll never quite have with electronic devices.

Also, e-readers, they're plain evil. I mean, seriously, when I buy a book, I wanna buy a book, not a limited license to store and display the book on a mobile device for an unspecified amount of time. Also, don't spy on me, thank you.

I'll probably be ordering a kindle some time next week, and get started on testing out case designs.