Norway will shut off FM radio in 2017

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio.

As Radio.no notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

Frequency modulation, or FM, radio was patented in 1933 and has been recording and sharing the human story for nearly a century. But its days are clearly waning. According to a 2012 Pew Study, while over 90% of Americans still listen to AM/FM radio at least weekly, more people are choosing to forgo analog radio for Internet-only services each year. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before many countries follow Norway’s example, although I’m not so sure I’m ready to part with my 80’s-era Grundig. Thing still sounds like a dream.

It’s Monday Morning

The weekend that was:  On Sunday everyone wanted to do something so I told them to get into the car, we drove to Costco and then I told them that we were going to Moose Jaw.  Instead I drove north to Prince Albert (and no one got it until the turn off just outside of Prince Albert).  We refuelled there and then went to Waskesiu before heading to the Grey Owl’s Cabin trailhead.

Grey Owl's Cabin

It was eerily free of wild life but then a ruffled grouse wandered across my path and managed to stay deep enough in the shadows that I couldn’t get a good photo.  As soon as it was just about to wander into site, Wendy and Mark came down the trail noisy enough that people in Prince Albert complained.  The grouse was gone.

On the way back home we noticed a large herd of elk chilling out on the Waskesiu Golf Course.  Their first round of the year?

Elk in Waskesiu

We then were stared down by some whitetail deer at the park entrance.  It was a great day.

The only bad thing was that we bought a bag of stale Cheezies at the Shell gas station in Prince Albert.  Disgusting

On my to-do list this week:  Off to Winnipeg on Tuesday.  If you see me at 5:00 a.m. in the Saskatoon Airport and I don’t say hi, it’s because I am still asleep.

Book I’m in the midst of: Hidden Cities by Moses Gates

How I’m feeling about this week: Can’t wait for the nicer weather so we can get the hike to Grey Owl’s completed.

How much does your commute cost (or save) taxpayers

Commuting costs

“Although these costs are easy to overlook, that doesn’t make them any less real,” says George Poulos, a transportation engineer and planner who analyzed the data behind the Cost of Commute Calculator. “Sometimes we pay them upfront, other times indirectly. But, at the end of the day, we still pay them, so we should consider them in our calculus when making big decisions.”

Here is another chart that takes into your costs.  Transit is less popular because it costs you more.

Infographic 1 scenario map v04

Your Dog Does Actually Love You

Not just posting this to make you feel better.  Your dog really does love you.

Is doggie love real? While it may seem obvious to you that your dog loves you, there’s been very little scientific data that dogs feel the equivalent of love for their owners. Some have argued that humans, who crave love and social bonds, see what they want to see when they ascribe “love” to their dogs, while the dogs are simply playing a game to manipulate you for food and care.

Now, from a team of neuroscientists in Japan, comes compelling evidence, released today in the journal Science, that dogs really do love their owners.

In two different experiments, the team, led by Takefumi Kikusui of Azabu University, measured levels of a hormone called oxytocin in response to dogs and owners gazing into each others’ eyes.

Scientists have previously shown that touching between dogs and people increases oxytocin levels in both humans and their pets, but this new research expands on these findings and extends it to include wolves that were hand-raised by humans.

The experiments focused on eye gaze. In the first experiment, dogs and their owners were assigned to interact for 30 minutes. Those dog-owner pairs that engaged in the most in eye contact showed the highest increases in urinary oxytocin levels in both partners. Touching also raised oxytocin levels.

When the experiment was repeated with wolf-owner pairs, the wolves rarely eye-gazed, and there was no correlation “with the oxytocin change ratio in either owners or wolves.”

Introducing the Worst Airline in America

A business professor examines how bad the worst (and most profitable) airline in America really is.

Criticism of his company’s predacious practices doesn’t faze Baldanza. “Predatory means selling at below your cost,” the Spirit CEO told a skeptical questioner in a Reddit AMA talk last July. This is not only a novel definition, it is one that Spirit doesn’t risk illustrating. In October of last year, analysts at Morgan Stanley declared the carrier the “Most Profitable Airline in the World.” It is also among the fastest growing. Spirit launched 24 new nonstop routes in 2014 and plans another 26 for this year.

Success breeds admirers. In December, Delta announced that it was introducing five categories of service, including its answer to Spirit’s Bare Fare: Basic Economy. In addition to its precarious grammar, Basic Economy does not allow passengers to pick their seats, change their itineraries, or fly standby. The move is merely the most recent evidence that Spirit has become a trendsetter—arguably, the trendsetter—in the American airlines industry. But what trend is it exactly? Baldanza has repeatedly affirmed that Spirit is refining the art of offering affordable airfare, an effort which he qualifies as nothing less than an essentially democratic endeavor. He has a point, insofar that we live in a world where social mobility and simple mobility increasingly go hand-in-hand. Yet other low-cost carriers have long provided models of budget air travel without engendering nearly the angst of Spirit. Two of them, Jet Blue and Southwest, were even ranked number one and number two, respectively, in the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index survey of U.S. airlines.

No, rather than being a trailblazer in economy pricing, Spirit’s real significance is that it has come to embody one of the two guiding principles of customer service that, in capitalism, have always been contending centers of moral gravity. The first principle, embodied by Braniff, is: The Customer is Always Right. This approach assumes that commercial success depends on building strong bonds of customer loyalty. The second principle is: Caveat Emptor, or more familiarly, Buyer Beware. It assumes that, when it comes to turning a profit, preying on the ignorance and necessity of customers is not simply acceptable for private enterprise, it’s standard operating procedure.

It is a commercial truism that nothing succeeds like success, but might makes right is its cultural corollary. In the airlines industry, the success of Spirit has helped to legitimize practices that treat passengers, in the words of one consumer watchdog, like “meat in a seat.” When a carrier assumes the moral status of its customers to be different from an ATM only in respect to daily limits, monetizing the mistakes of first-time flyers can be a lucrative business. And for those passengers who return to Spirit a second, or even a third time, to say nothing of 13, they do so with a fatal sense of capitalism’s capacity to justify cruel choices, as well as with a growing cynicism of dealing with a company that regards common decency as a convenience fee. 

The contempt is mutual. A significant flight delay prevented a customer named James and his wife from attending a concert in Atlanta, the sole purpose of their trip. James emailed several of Spirit’s top executives to air his complaint. Baldanza made the mistake of hitting reply all, which is how the exchange became public: “We owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned,” Baldanza wrote in response. “Let him tell the world how bad we are,” Baldanza offered. “He’s never flown before with us anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

Shamelessness has certain advantages. A more succinct expression of Spirit’s credo is truly hard to imagine.

I have flown great airlines and have flown horrible ones I kind of defend Spirit Air.  It exists to get you from a to b as cheaply as possible.  For some people at some points in their life, that matters a lot. You may not like it but in the end, you chose to fly the cheapest airline in North America.  You get what you pay for.

A blog about urbanism, technology, & culture.