European Parliament votes to review Daylight Savings Time

As an ardent foe of the so-called Daylight Savings Time, already practically dreading that in less than a month, suddenly the sunrise will again be almost as late as 7:30 a.m., my day was brightened by some news.

The European Parliament voted 384-153 “to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it.” Some excerpts:

The claim that setting clocks an hour ahead in spring doesn’t save energy or make societies safer is often used by Daylight Saving opponents. In the past, when lighting a home was the primary driver of electricity consumption, adjusting clocks to take advantage of late-evening sunlight might have made a dent in that consumption. But in today’s world, air conditioning and electronics are also significant portions of electricity demand, and optimizing business hours to coincide with daylight hours doesn’t significantly impact that draw of electricity.

In fact, the US added three more weeks to Daylight Saving Time in 2005, in part in the hopes of capitalizing on potential energy savings. But by 2007 that dream hadn’t panned out: people just consumed more electricity in the dark morning hours instead of in the dark evening hours.

The vote is small and preliminary step, and even the finding of “not worth it” would not directly help me in California, but it’s a start.

Daylight Savings–an idea way past its time.

Spring 2018. Or is it winter?

Sometimes in a climate like this one, the seasons kind of mash together. It was an unusually warm January, and some trees are in bloom now. Yet this morning the temperature was 30F and there were ice crystals on the grass.

First blossom one one of our almond trees–8 Feb.

The Flavor Delight aprium is in bloom, 11 Feb.

The blooming is not early, despite the January warmth. The almond depicted above usually has its first bloom around the same date in February: the 12th in 2017, 6th in 2016, 3rd in 2015. The Flavor Delight likewise tends to have its first several blossoms open around now: 14th in 2017,  7th in 2016, 15th in 2015.

What is somewhat more unusual is below-freezing temperatures at this time of year. (I am sure they were common at this point in February decades ago, but not recently.) The latest date of a below-freezing temperature in 2017 was 25 Dec. (29F, though it was 32 on 24 Feb.), in 2016 2 Jan., in 2015 3 Jan, and in 2014 5 Feb. And the current forecast calls for a few days of low temperatures in the 20s and 30s. This could be bad for pollination of the trees in bloom and for tender young leaf growth on the citrus and some other trees.

That is the nature of a Mediterranean climate–“spring” begins in early February, but winter can keep hanging on.

FruitsandVotes.com

I am happy to report that I finally got around to having the old domain map to this one. From now, it should work to use http://fruitsandvotes.com and get here. For the past however long, using the old URL would take you to an error page.

The old post-specific links still won’t work, because of the difference in how URLs form the old hosted site (numbers) and the current Word Press site (title words). But at least it no longer will look as if the blog is dead, as must have been the case to many folks stumbling upon an old URL and trying it out.

Fog and chill

It has been foggy in recent days. Far from my favorite kind of weather, especially when it sticks around all day.

IMG_0036

Sometimes, however, it can be good for the chilling hours accumulation that the deciduous fruit trees need. It is the tendency towards multi-day dense fog events that has made the San Joaquin Valley (south of here) historically a good place for prunes, peaches, apricots, and other fruits that need winter chill to set well in the subsequent growing season.

However, this has been the case with this fog event only on one day, when we had a low of 39F and, due to the fog, the temperature did not reach 50 till after 10:00 a.m. Prime chilling temperatures are roughly 38 to 45, with some continuing but significantly diminishing value up to the lower 50s. So that day was a good chill day.

Not so much since. For the past two days, the temperature has just hovered in the 45-51 range. That’s pretty close to useless.

(I had been meaning to write about the fog and chill even before I saw that a reader had commented at a post that is almost 12 years old, with a question about chill. One of the things I always appreciate on this blog is people commenting on old threads. I almost never close comments, no matter how old the thread, unlike some other blogs out there.)

The Fruits and Votes readership survey

I’d like to thank everyone who filled in the survey of the Fruits and Votes readership. We got a total of eighty responses, which, given the amount of views this blog receives on a regular basis, seems like enough to draw inferences from.

location

The United States, with roughly 4-5% of world population, represents 33% of this blog’s viewership. Australia and New Zealand, with just 0.4% of world population, represent nearly 20% of readership. It’s Asia (60% of world population, 2.5% of responses), as well as Africa (no responses whatsoever) where Fruits and Votes is disproportionally less viewed.

age

For reasons that should be relatively obvious to fellow readers, those under 18 are under-represented, with those over 30 being over-represented (given the Western-centric tilt of the readership, this presumably makes some sense).

85% of you come here for the votes: the remaining 15% are here for fruits and votes, while no one wants fruit only.

The most popular region, with 54% of readers enjoying posts from it (this is approval voting), is Canada, Australia and New Zealand-only 24% of readers enjoy posts from South Asia. 99% of readers enjoy reading about electoral systems (a practically Soviet figure!), while executive formats and federalism secured the approval of 55of readers.

parligraph

We asked what sort of electoral system you most liked for a country with unicameral parliaments and parliaments. A third of you went for MMP, while about a quarter opted for STV: the most popular system overall was some form of list PR, which received the support of nearly 40% of you, although division over list types split the pro-list vote. No one opted for first-past-the-post, and only four readers opted for any form of non-PR system.

presgraph

Interestingly enough, by far the most popular electoral system for an elected President is probably the rarest-a majority of you opted for preferential voting, used only in Ireland and (sort of) Sri Lanka. The more popular two-round system came in a strong second, while the other options (FPTP+variations of the two-round system) made little impact. Note that the one entry for “presidents should not be politically powerful” was written in before I closed that option.

 

Sukkot 5778

I love decorating and covering the sukkah with plants grown on site.

After the ingathering from your threshing floor and your vat, you shall hold the Fest of Booths [Sukkot] for seven days. You shall rejoice in your festival… for the Lord your God will bless all your crops and your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

Chag sameach!

 

Baseball’s wild cards strike again

The 2017 Major League Baseball season offers a strong indictment of the current format of two wild card teams. I rarely see or hear criticism of the new format; the consensus of the writers and talking heads seems to be that adding the second wild card has been a masterstroke, simultaneously making division races more meaningful and creating exciting races for each league’s last slot.

This year’s final standings come up short on those aspects, and more importantly, on another that has concerned me ever since the format was adopted.

This season, we do have some very deserving division winners. Two AL teams (Astros and Indians) have over 100 wins, as does one NL team (Dodgers). Another NL team has 97. However, if the selling point of the format is that it makes races exciting, this season did not deliver so much. Most of the second half of the season, it was fairly clear who was going to get nine of the ten postseason slots. In the AL, the second wild card was more up for grabs, as a bunch of mediocre teams (including my favorite team) vied for the slot. In the NL, most of the season, the two eventual wild card winners were close to one another, but far ahead of the pack. Only a late winning streak by the Diamondbacks and a slide by the Rockies let the Brewers back in and made the race for the second wild card somewhat interesting at the end.

Now look at the wild cards. The gap between the two winners in the AL (Yankees over Twins) is six games. In the NL it is also six (Diamondbacks ahead of Rockies). In both leagues, then, we will have single-elimination games pitting teams whose regular-season finishes were not even close.

It is fundamentally unfair in baseball to give a team so decisively surpassed during the regular season one shot at dethroning the team that bested it during the 162-game schedule. If it happens in a best-of-5, or preferably a best-of-7, well, that’s the way it goes sometimes; a series is a fundamentally fairer way of giving a lesser team a shot and is what has made the postseason compelling ever since divisional play was introduced in 1969.

The wild card is also a splendid idea. It prevents one of the league’s top teams from missing the postseason entirely despite having a better record than one or more division winners. But as soon as that postseason starts, one unlucky game can end the superior team’s season at the hands of the inferior team. This year, one of the wild card teams has the same record as one of the division winners. Yet the Cubs would not be eliminated until they lose three games (and it would be to a team with a better regular season record), while the Diamondbacks would be eliminated if they lose only one (to an inferior team). This is fundamentally bad institutional design.

The design of institutions is something we care a lot about here. There must be a solution to the problems I have identified in the current MLB playoff structure. I still prefer my previous proposal of “two divisions, two wild cards” (2D2W) wth or without the “asymmetric series” that I also proposed. However, when I made the 2D2W proposal, I was arguing for keeping the number of teams advancing to the postseason at four rather than the new format’s five. Even if MLB recognized the improvement my plan offers over the status quo, it is highly unlikely the number of teams making the postseason would ever be decreased.

So, we need to work with five teams advancing, while satisfying my criteria of not having a single-elimination game that might pit teams with substantially different records against one another, and also preserving the current principle of some reward for winning a division rather than a wild card. (Ideally, also enhancing the odds of the team with the best record getting to at least the LCS, or at least not reducing those odds.) I have tried to game out (so to speak) postseason formats that would balance these goals. I have failed. Maybe someone can come up with a plan.

As I said in my 2015 version of this complaint, whatever the outcome, October ball is almost here, and even dumb institutional design can’t ruin that!