Elverum

Today was the final Norwegian gymnastics cup, in Elverum. Gjovik’s under 11, was represented by Lidia. And, over 11 was represented by Emilia and Emilie. Emilie is 14, and she is already in group 1. She did pretty well, scoring high and securing second place overall, which, given that all other clubs had in excess of 10 girls in their teams, is pretty awesome. Lidia and Emilia did well, although the reduced training hours do show in their performances. It went well, even though some minor imperfections made their scores lower that it could have been, they both were pretty pleased with their performances. Emilia shortened some of the routines, because she has not practised enough. It was the first cup this season for the girls, but the last in the series. We will see next year.

Gymnastics is an interesting sport, in which the confidence and self-awareness are as important as the skills themselves. If you select elements in your routine that you cannot fulfil, you will score suboptimally. But, if you pick too easy elements then you will score below your abilities. Judging what should be tried, is the key. You should select elements that are at your very limit. And this is hard. Running a marathon is similar – if you overestimate your capabilities, and run too fast early, you finish with a worse time compared to running slower. But, if you run too conservatively from the start, you will not achieve your true potential. You have to run just with the speed that aligns with your limit.

 


Who can constitute a passenger?

The children argument

This is an appendix to what I’ve written before about Dunedin ride share scheme. A friend provided me with a sketch of an arguments about why children might be excluded from the scheme. The argument goes like that:

“children do not own cars and do not drive cars and they do not contribute to the traffic, therefore they should be removed from the carpool scheme as their participation does not INCREASE the number of unused vehicles in the city.”

The argument is actually a special case of a more general argument:

“any person who does not own a car does not contribute to the traffic, therefore they can be removed from the carpool scheme as their participation in no way INCREASES the number of unused cars in the city.”

I think this argument is irrational and will actually lead to more people owning more cars. Let me explain why.

Let us imagine that there are two students’ flats on the outskirts of the city. In the flat A there are 4 girls, each of which is a driver and owns her own car. In the flat B, there are also four girls, but only one owns a car and she has a driving license. The other three do not own cars and may not have driving licenses. As before, we have a single parking spot left and all 8 girls decided to come to town. We have the following situations:

  1. All girls from flat A came in their own cars. Cars on the road and trying to park: 4. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if 1 car can park: 1 person. Unhappiness if the car cannot park: 4 people (3 are always unhappy: only 1 car can park – limited resource). Number of cars left unused: 0.
  2. All girls from flat A came in a single car, leaving 3 cars by their flat. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if they can park: 4 people. Unhappiness if they cannot park: 4 people. Number of cars left unused: 3.
  3. The driver from flat B came in her car, and all the 3 flatmates took a bus. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 1. Happiness if the car can park: 1 person. Unhappiness if the car cannot park: 4 people (3 are always unhappy, taking the bus regardless). Number of cars left unused: 0.
  4. All girls from flat B came in a single car. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if they can park: 4 people. Unhappiness if they cannot park: 4 people. Number of cars left unused: 0.

Remember, there is only 1 empty space left, so we have to decide who gets the preferential treatment. Who is entitled to use it, so that we maximise the happiness and the use of the limited resource (our one single parking space). Let us put any moral considerations aside and look exclusively into practicality of the scheme (in other words let us be free to discriminate).

In cases 1 and 3, if the driver is entitled to park, the overall happiness value would be 1, which is pretty poor. If we compare it to cases 2 and 4, where the happiness value is 4, we have a clear winner. Ride share works. Clearly, we should give preference to 2 and/or 4 by implementing carpool scheme and discourage single-occupant vehicle usage. A simple ride share scheme would eliminated any incentive for cases 1 and 3 to occur. Done. Easy.

Benefits of maximising unused cars

Now let us take a closer look into cases 2 and 4. These cases are almost exactly the same, but, in the case 2 we have 3 unused cars parked by the flat. So we could be tempted to claim that we could achieved MORE by giving preference to girls from flat A, because we have INCREASED the total number of unused vehicles in the city in this case. This claim is correct: in the case of flat A we have an increased number of unused cars in the city.

We have 2 possible ride share options to decide:

  • [A] We DO NOT give preference to Flat A. There is NO preference of WHO constitutes a Passenger.
  • [B] We DO give preference to Flat A. The preference is for DRIVERS who OWN their cars. Rationale: increased number of unused cars in the city.

The example above shows the paradox. Let us see what will happen, if we were not to give preference to flat A (option A above)? The following assertions would be true:

  1. Girls from flat A have a strong incentive to sell their unused vehicles and share a single car for their commuting. If they cannot park or travel in special lanes why bother owning so many cars? Better to sell some of them and share a smaller number of cars for commuting and travel.
  2. Girls from flat B would have strong incentive NOT TO PURCHASE vehicles for themselves. They would continue to share the single vehicle that they currently own in their flat.

Conversely, what will happen, if we were to give preference to flat A (option B above)? It would be correct to assume that:

  1. Girls from flat A have now a strong incentive NOT to sell their cars. They need to OWN cars and NOT USE THEM to be able to participate in the scheme.
  2. Girls from flat B have a strong incentive TO PURCHASE their own cars, and become drivers, so that they can start participating in the scheme.

The effect of option A and B above is quite the opposite to what it supposedly intend to do. It sends a message about benefits of car ownership and being a driver.  Besides, the argument of maximising the number of unused vehicles is irrational and has nothing to do with a carpool scheme as such. Why should it matter how many cars are not being used? The goal is to have LESS cars on the roads, less cars parked by the properties, and less cars parked in the city. The goal is to have LESS cars. Period. Not to have MORE unused cars. Option B does not work. It provides incentive to increase the total number of cars.

Children revisited

So where does it leave the  children? Flat B example is equivalent to the household with a single mother and 3 children. Same as flat B a “mom with kids” do not “leave” any unused car behind. So even if the argument was correct and there was a benefit of maximising the number of unused cars and restricting the scheme to drivers and car owners only, a flat with single mom and 3 kids would be indistinguishable to a flat with 4 adults out of which only 1 owns a car. Therefore, the Rule [1](a) restricting the age of the scheme participants is NOT justified by the argument itself, and it is illogical to claim that “children do not contribute to the traffic….”. Most passengers in the ride share scheme do not contribute to the traffic – this is what the scheme is.

Summary

Option A, even though does not directly reduces the number of unused vehicles, overall reduces the incentive for car ownership. And this is what I think what carpooling is all about. The only long term and rational choice is to chose option A, where car owners and drivers are not in any way treated preferentially. “Second passengers are considered any living person. Additional passengers may be adults, children or infants.”

If either of the parents can share their car with the children and take part in the scheme, the scheme would provide a strong incentive to encourage a single vehicle per household. If we take that out we encourage families to own multiple vehicles per household.

Everywhere else in the world the authorities made the rational choice of making “any living person” to constitute a passenger. Not only does it make perfect sense in the context of equality and human rights, but it makes sense in the context of what carpool scheme is all about too. Not in Dunedin.


Dunedin’s ride-share

The big questions.

What constitutes inequality? What constitutes age discrimination? Legally and morally? Is immoral behaviour always illegal? What is needed for institutional irrationality to occur? Who personally takes moral responsibility for institutional decisions? Is it possible for a local governance representatives to make a debatable or morally wrong decision and turn it into bylaw (or law)? If that happens, what are the mechanisms for the system to correct itself? How transparent the system is? If a debatable decision is made, is it OK to give in and follow the rules, even though they might be morally wrong? Should people continue “to do their job”? Or should they actively oppose the wrongdoing by refusing to follow the rules? What at the end of the day defines what’s moral, and what’s not? How did Nazism happened? When should Civil Disobedience be justified, or encouraged?

I would like to hear YOUR opinion thoughts and examples.

A simple case: a limited public resource.

Let us imagine that in your city the traffic and parking situation got out of hand. There is more road users than road or parking space. In other words, there is more people that would like to use a public resource than the amount of the resource itself. Due to the fact that the resource is limited, some people will simply not be able to use the resource (will not be able to park their car or example, or will queue in long delays caused by traffic jams).

One of the ways to deal with the situation is so called ride-share or carpooling scheme. This is how it works: imagine that there is only a one single empty space left for parking in front of a large shopping centre; there are four cars, that arrived EXACTLY at the same time, and are now negotiating/deciding who should park in the last empty space:

  1. a car with a single driver,
  2. a car with a driver and 1 passenger,
  3. a car with a driver and 3 passengers,
  4. a minibus, with 8 people.

Which car would you give preferential treatment to? The dillema is, only ONE of these cars can park, and all the other people will have to return home and take a bus instead (because there is no more parking space left). So, what scheme would work best in the scenario? What scheme would maximise the happiness, and also, the VALUE out of the resource itself?

According to utilitarian morality, the moral preference should be given to a car with more people, as this simply creates more happiness: “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”. By giving preference to the option (4) we would make 8 people happier, and 7 unhappy. If we give preference to option (1) we would end up with 14 unhappy people, and only 1 happy. With option (4) more people get the VALUE out of the limited resource. So, if we follow that principle, the ordering of our preferential treatment could be: 4, 3, 2, and 1. Option (4) utitlises the resource better than (3), (3) does it better than (2), and (2) does it twice as good as (1).

And this is EXACTLY how ride-share/carpooling schemes work. The schemes provide preference to vehicles with more people, so that the greatest number of people get the value out of a resource.

How to implement it?

The ride-share/carpooling is in many countries implemented by a set of articles in the traffic regulations, enforced by police, traffic officers and traffic cameras. There are usually dedicated lanes with marking (for 2 or 3 people), which drivers can take advantage of if they have sufficient number of people in their cars. See for example: California’s carpool/high-occupancy vehicle lanes, or a general description of carpool laws (Note this: “Second passengers are considered any living person. Additional passengers may be adults, children or infants.”)

The rules simply provide preference to vehicles that have a driver together with one or more passengers. Interestingly, in the case of the carpool lanes, the provision is to allow busses and motocycles to use these too. I’ve participated in the scheme in many countries, including toll-free bridges and carpool lanes in California. The system is simple: if you have more than 1 passenger, you are privileged. If you are on a motorbike, you are privileged. If you are alone in your car, you cannot make use of the preferential lanes. The system in its core is very simple, straightforward. It is a simple addition to traffic regulations (in most cases). It also leads, as a side-effect, to many very interesting social phenomena, such as “slugging”.

The preference scheme: a puzzle.

So far the argument was quite straightforward. We have identified that a simple ride-share (carpool) scheme is a good way to deal with the traffic problem. The scheme generates greater happiness. It makes the best use of a limited resource by providing it to the largest amount of people, it encourages sharing of resources, it encourages young children to be aware of environmental and social issues, and it limits the single-occupant vehicles on the road, by providing strong incentives for sharing. The scheme is fair, treats everyone equally, does not discriminate, at anytime anyone can use it provided that there are at least 2 people in a car.

Let us imagine now the following dilemma: as before, we have just ONE single parking space left, and we have the following situations to decide the preferences:

  1. A couple, in their 30s, with two friends, also in their 30s.
  2. A single mother with 3 children: 2-, 3- and 4-years of age.

In this case we have 3 possibilities:

  • Option A: we could give no preference to anyone. Both of the cases: (1) and (2) are THE SAME, indistinguishable, and will qualify for the limited resources in an exactly the same way. In both cases 4 people benefit, therefore, the cases are indistinguishable. (Recall the phrase: “Second passengers are considered any living person. Additional passengers may be adults, children or infants.”).
  • Option B: we could give preference to the mom and her children, as she most likely needs it the most. Taking a bus with 3 small children is a major hassle whereas taking a bus if you an adult with your friends is not a problem at all. We could call upon Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article [25](2), and give preference to the mother and her children, on the basis that she probably needs it the most, and should be treated with special care. This would constitute a case of “positive age discrimination”, where children were given preference over the adults.You can check for example in the Australian Age Discrimination Act 2004Articles 14, 15, 16, 27, 28, and 33. The purpose of Age Discrimination Act 2004 is to ensure that people of all ages are treated equally and have the same opportunities, among others, in “getting or using services” and “accessing premises and facilities” provided by governments and local administration.

Which option would you choose? A, B or C? Which option is FAIR? Which option is discriminatory? In positive or negative sense? Which option would meet your moral standards?

The world of carpool laws.

All the ride-share and carpooling schemes quoted above go simply with Option A and this is probably what most of people would choose as a FAIR option. What’s wrong with options B and C? Option B make sense and seems fair, but is impractical to implement and enforce. It would require somehow to give preference to children which in the case of carpooling is impractical (separate lanes?). “Positive age discrimination” seems fair, and there is nothing wrong with option B.

How about option C? Would it constitute a negative age discrimination case? If you are a lawyer, and you know the answer, please let me know.  From my layman reading of Articles 14, 15, 16, 27, 28, and 33 of Austrialian’s Age Discrimination Act 2004, I would guess that Option C is or is really close to, breaking the law.

If you know of carpool schemes in your country that use Option C, please let me know.

My hometown case: Dunedin, New Zealand.

Some years ago Dunedin City Council (DCC) together with Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, University of Otago and Otago Polytech has setup a ride-share parking scheme on its own. This is an applaudable and forward looking initiative that provides a mechanism to deal with the traffic problem.

The scheme is overly complex though. Much more bureaucratic as compared to carpool schemes around the world. It worked more or less for the last 8 or 9 years, and the traffic officers were issuing fines to single people trying to park in the ride-share zones. You’d have to have at least one passenger. The passenger could be anyone, and children were not fined, until 2010, when the DCC amended the rules. Please have a look into the Dunedin ride-share rules. The 2010 rules include the new clause, that was not there before:

1. The Rideshare parks can only be used by Rideshare users who:
a. Are at least 15 years of age

Apart this extra rule, the scheme is pretty much consistent with previous years rules. The change, however, means that people that used to park in the ride-share zone with their kids, are now fined if there were no other adults with them in the car. A child is not anymore considered “a passenger” (or, like locals want to call it, a ride-share scheme participant).

What reasoning could possibly lead my local governance reps to opt for Option C instead of opting for Option A? How could that possibly happen in a freedom and fairness loving country like New Zealand? Do they really mean to negatively discriminate children under 15 years old? The rules are pretty much black and white, and there is not much space for interpretations or misunderstanding. Since the start of the year, the traffic officers were eagerly (at least some of them) issuing fines to the single moms and dads with their small kids trying to take part in the scheme.

Of course, the City Council officials do not mean to negatively discriminate children. The arguments vary depending who you talk with:

  • according to Ride-Share administrator, Bruce, the current scheme is fair. According to him, the scheme is designed only for staff and students of the University of Otago and Otago Polytech, and since there are no staff or students under 15 years of age, all is good. As far as Bruce is concerned, the correct understanding of the 1(a) rule “are at least 15 years of age” is:

“are students or members of faculty of the University of Otago and/or Otago Polytech”

  • according to G.Fraser from DCC who deals with customer requests, the scheme is actually designed ONLY for licensed drivers. Since there are no drivers under age of 15, all is good. So, as far as G.Fraser is concerned, 1(a) rule “are at least 15 years of age” should be understood as:

“hold a valid New Zealand driving license”

So why the rule 1(a) does not use the actual words that the DCC official use for interpreting the rule, but instead talks about people under 15 years of age? This is a bit of a puzzle. Interestingly, with both of the interpretations (being a member of faculty, or holding driver license) there are certain legal consequences, which, as far as I understand it, would not hold a legal scrutiny and might constitute an inequality case. I am not a lawyer, and it is rather difficult to get to the bottom of WHY EXACTLY this particular rule (the age-limit rule) has been introduced into the scheme  with this particular wording, instead of the one of the “proper” rules: the faculty membership rule, or the driving license rule. I am not sure also what regulations govern the management of public parking spaces, such as in this case. It would seem unfair to me to restrict public parking space to a selected subgroup of the local community – but this is probably a completely different issue.

It seems children in New Zealand constitute a “special case” as far as human rights are concerned. Children do not have all the rights that are attributed to adults. To put it simply, people under 16 in New Zealand do not have the same level of protection that adults enjoy, and it is somewhat easier to discriminate children. Unfortunately, New Zealand does not have the equivalent  of the Australian’s Age Discrimination Act 2004, and even then, I am not sure if that could be used in this case.

Reality check.

With the wording as is, with the “no people under 15 years of age” rule, can a non-faculty member and non-student or person that does not hold the valid NZ license take part in the scheme? Yes. The parking officers do not enforce membership to any of the institutions, and do not check driving license. This somewhat contradicts the interpretations given above.

Can a child use the scheme? No. The parking officers will enforce the age rule simply by visually judging the age of the passenger to be or not, 15 years of age. Little children are not allowed to participate in the scheme – the smaller the child the easier it is for the parking officer to issue a fine. If the child look as if it is 15 years of age or older, well, you may be lucky to pass the parking officer’s scrutiny (they tend to observe the parking from a distance). With infants and very little children, you really out of luck. Sorry.

Is the system fair?

Civil disobedience.

I know this is a trivial issue, and there are much more serious tragedies in the world to worry about. Yet, there is something beautiful about this case: by being so simple, yet, so eagerly defended by local authorities it demonstrates that mistakes can happen, and that it is not trivial, to have them corrected.

Who introduced the rule? What went through their head when they have done that? Are people’s moral barometers completely out of whack? If trivial issues like that cannot be simply and swiftly fixed, are we running a risk of repeating some of the history’s biggest nightmares again?

What would you do if you were a parking officer issuing fines to single moms and their kids? Most of the officers do not dwell onto moral dilemmas, I guess. Or show much empathy and compassion. For them, the rule is the rule, and they just do their job. Is that what we all should be doing? Are we justified?

Epilog.

After 8 years of using the ride-share scheme I and my two daughters are using buses now. There is nowhere else to park in the morning. I have to admit that my girls enjoy riding the bus. I just do not quite know how to explain to my older daughter what the Dunedin’s ride-share scheme is all about.


Pierwszy raz na basenie

Bylam dzis po raz pierwszy na basenie! Bylo super, bardzo mi sie podobalo, choc basen, dzieci i woda troszke mnie oszolomily. Tato i mama bawili sie ze mna, i na zmiane opiekowali sie mna albo Emilka. Rozne szybko – co prawda nie potrafie jeszcze sama siedziec, ale jestem bardzo ciekawska, duzo gaworze i uwielbiam bawic sie z moja starsza siostra.


9 tygodni, 2 dni.

Rosne dobrze. Mam juz 4.85kg, 55cm (za kazdym razem cos jest nie tak). Obwod glowy 39.2cm. Usmiecham sie do wszystkich, zoczynam troszke uzywac moj glos. Jestem troszke chora, i mam troszke zapchany nosek. Bardzo lubie jak moja siostra, Emilia, czyta mi ksiazeczki. 


Moja pierwsza zabawa.

Dzis bylam razem z mama, tata i moja siostra na imprezie w University pre-school. Przyszlo bardzo duzo dzieci – wszyscy byli poprzebierani, ja tez mialam smieszny stozkowy kapelusik na glowie. Ciekawe swiatla, duzo muzyki. Emilia bawila sie swietnie, i smakowalo jej tez jedzenie. Usmiechalam sie do wielu osob, i po raz pierwszy ssalam swoj kciuk publicznie – rodzice sie smiali ze maja druga corke ktora ssie palec – chyba beda musieli zorganizowac jakis smoczek dla mnie. 


Mam juz 4 tygodnie.

Dzisiaj odwiedzila mnie nasza midwife, Wiki.  Mam juz 3720g, 54cm wzrostu, a moja glowka ma 36.5cm obwodu. W nocy budze sie sama regularnie co 3 godziny i glosno domagam sie jedzonka. Potrafie wodzic oczyma za roznymi jasnymi przedmiotami, i czasami robie smiesznego zeza. Meczy mnie jeszcze troszke kaszel, ale mama daje mi antybiotyk i kaszel powoli przechodzi. Po zoltaczce nie ma juz praktycznie sladu. Rodzicom wydaje sie ze potrafie sie usmiechac – znam jeszcze inne sztuczki, ktorych jeszcze nie zauwazyli. 


16 dni.

Bylam dzis z mama i z siostra Emilia w szpitalu na badaniu krwi i moczu. Bardzo zesmy sie wszystkie trzy umeczyly i wyczekaly – w porze lunchu szpital byl niezle zdezorganizowany. Jestem bardzo silna – walczylam dzielnie podczas pobierania krwi. Wszystko wyglada ze jest w porzadku. Rosne! Mam juz 58cm dlugosci, o 9cm wiecej niz jak sie urodzilam oraz waze 3470g. 


Lidia came to join us

Lidia was born today, at 4:50, after 3hrs labour. 3145g and almost 50cm. Ula’s contractions started around 00:45 – they were 30s long and spread every 8min. We went to the hospital with Ula just before 2:00. Contractions were then around 45s long and re-occurring every 4min. Ula did not use any pain killers or drugs, and went on with more frequent contractions till around 3:40 – at which time she went into the pushing stage. It was not progressing fast. At some point we almost started thinking of what’s next if baby’s progress in not achieved – but shortly after the progress has been achieved – the pushing started to work, and shortly after we could see the tip of the baby’s head. This was around 4:40. 10min later, Lidia as out in her entirety. Both, Ula and Lidia were fine and Lidia expressed her suprise to the sudden change of environment by a loud cry. Lidia was placed on Ula’s breasts to have her first feed, and she quickly got more pinkish/redish hue colour of her skin. After the meal, she went to sleep, quite content and not really bothered by anything. After a while, she woke up again, and started looking around, especially fascinated by light sources. She seems to be quite alert and responsive girl. Lidia joined us, ie. me, Ula, Emilia and our families and friends in our journey through life. I hope she will like it in here.