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An increasing number of workers are turning to Uber to get around. The ride-sharing company handled 47 percent of car rides expensed through the processing company Certify last month, up from 15 percent in March 2014. Rohit Verma, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration says since they’re not spending their own money, business customers are generally more focused on convenience than price.
In many cities in the US, using Uber can be more convenient than hailing a taxi on the street. It's certainly more convenient payment and tip-wise. And finally, to use a buzzword loved by Silicon Valley, Uber can provide a seamless experience both for the user and the company: if a firm signs up for Uber Business, the worker doesn't even have to file an expense report.
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Comedian and actor Matt Walsh was at SXSW Interactive in March to talk about VEEP, the HBO comedy series in which he stars.
Walsh is also co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv comedy troupe and director of A High Road, an independent feature film. He is currently working on his second film, A Better You, which he reportedly shot digitally in 10 days.
We caught up with him to talk about politics, comedy and how Veep portrays Washington DC.
How has the internet made your job as a comedian easier? Or harder?
Easier or harder. Well, I was recently talking with a screenwriter friend of mine. One of the interesting things about technology is things like Google and texting have really challenged plot devices. Like if you can imagine a film noir movie where people could just text each other? You would never tail someone, you would never meet them in an alley.
I had to get to a phone...
Yeah, exactly. You don’t run out after the press conference and get into a phone. And then in terms of being like an actor, I guess it makes you …. you kind of have to be engaged, I think, with your audience. I do twitter. I like twitter because it's mostly one way. You don't feel the burden of, oh, I have to get back.
What about twitter as a form of comedy? Does it have any similarities with improv?
It does in that some days I’ll just try to tweet something. For example, I’ll just start writing and not thinking about it and then I’ll go back and edit it. So you're sort of improvising your thought. Some people who are great at twitter, they have like 10 jokes banked in their drafts. I never do that. Like I see, "Oh that’s a cool picture, and I’ll get rid of it and I am like, I did my homework today ... I am done with my twitter homework."
You have three young kids.
We have three young kids.
What’s funny to you about how they interact with technology?
Well, my son who is seven-and-half, Jude, because I work in Baltimore, he likes to text me on the iPad now, and because of that predictive texting, like if you start the world ‘he’ it'll sometimes say ‘hershey’ or ‘helium’ and then you can just guess. So it’s like, "Hi dad, how are you elephant balloon times square is the house ready boyfriend guerrilla."
Do you know what I mean? But it’s like two or three paragraphs. I think he thinks it makes him sound smart. So he’s using all these big words and it’s like, "Holy cow! You wrote me five paragraphs." And then I read it and it’s sort of ridiculous.
I heard someone describe Veep as way more realistic than House of Cards when it comes to politics in Washington.
Which seemed like a great compliment and also moderately concerning.
Yeah. People laugh and say, "Boy, your show is exactly like DC!" And I'm like, "That shouldn't be funny! That’s a really important business you guys should be doing." But again I think that is what comedy does. It reminds you of ... I always say politics is trying to push ideals and yet the reality is it’s like flawed people. You know, [they] get this bill, they are eating barbecued chicken or they are from downstate Illinois, and they are sitting on the senate oversight committee that wants to talk about the navigation on a drone and should we fund it for 2 more billion or not and they are like…
They’re like, "There's barbecue on that page…"
Yeah. They are just normal, flawed human beings. I mean basically we should have a dictator and we’d be all better off.
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California is facing its worst drought in a thousand years, according the state’s energy commission. The Snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, which Northern California counts on to replenish reservoirs, is 94% below average. So what happens when there's less water for hydropower?
Normally, hydropower fuels 15%, on average, of California’s energy needs, primarily in the northern half of the state. (The state's Energy commission puts the figure at between 14% and 19%) So with less hydro? “It almost cuts it in half,” says Heather Cooley, director of the Water Program at the non-profit Pacific Institute. She estimates hydropower's contribution dropped to around 8%.
This has meant that over the past few years, California has had to turn to dirtier energy sources to make up for the loss.
“Generating this electricity from other sources increased greenhouse emissions by up to 8 %,” says Cooley.
Hydropower is cheap, so replacing it has also cost the state. Cooley estimates Californians have paid $1.4 billion extra for their power over the last three years. Robert Weisenmiller, chair of California’s Energy Commission, says these effects will persist into next year, costing Californians another $300 million.
“We will have somewhat dirtier air, somewhat higher prices of power, but the lights will stay on,” he says. Blackouts are not in the cards.
For farmers in the central valley, Weisenmiller says “it’s a double whammy – higher energy prices and...less farming.” Some farmers will have to spend more on energy to pump groundwater.
California’s aggressive move towards renewables has, however, cushioned the blow. “Solar and wind has more or less doubled, two and half times between 2012 and 2014,” says Weisenmiller. Without that, he says, emissions would be worse.