December 2007

Monthly Archive

Happy New Year

Posted by on 31 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Current Events, Tech

It takes a village

Posted by on 19 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Business, Current Events

Perhaps it’s because I’m a non-parent, and/or because I’m the child of an immigrant mother so enthralled by her chosen home of Canada that she believed Canadians incapable of all ill, leaving her kids to fend for themselves on buses, subways, and trans-border flights to grandparents in the statistically more perilous 70s, but shouldn’t the narrative of the story about the little girl who walked off a Westjet flight with a helpful seatmate who delivered her to her parents be something more along the lines of “At Christmas time, a little girl makes a new friend on her first flight as an unaccompanied minor”?

I’ve talked to little UMs next to me on flights, helped them open the plastic containers holding their lunch, stopped them from kicking the seat in front of them, asked them where they were going, taken a look to make sure they were matched up with their relatives later. Should I not be doing these things? Under the constant, if not always close, gaze of a flight attendant, striking up conversation with a chatty child seems benign enough.

How did this became a front-page story, carried in several major papers? Did the father call the media? Or was it the good samaritan:

Mr. Cataford told local media that the flight crew ignored the child, so he helped Sara-Maude off the plane, packing up the girl’s toys and helping her into her coat.

Normally the little girl would have stayed on the plane while other passengers deplaned. So is it that the flight crew “ignored” her, or that the man was getting ready to get off the plane and thought she should be getting ready too? Cataford could have led the girl to a flight attendant, or pushed the call button to summon one, but instead he led her off the plane past the crew. That could only have been to prove a point, which makes his motives more suspect than anyone else’s.

Apparently the five-year-old was confused by the flight experience and:

During a stopover in Winnipeg she almost got off the plane, thinking she had arrived. Fortunately, a fellow passenger had asked her where she was going.

Doesn’t this show that society works? Five-year-old starts to follow the crowd, not yet at the jetway door, stranger passing by notices, speaks to child, probably alerts flight attendant.

Is it that these parents, and all of us, have such low expectations of our fellow citizens that we find any gestures of care for young, confused-looking children extraordinary, rather than part of normal human behaviour?

Westjet may have been negligent — I couldn’t say. But based on the story published in newspapers, full of the claims of “good samaritan” Caraford, neither can you.

And in the meantime, the sinister tone in a story about a five-year-old who successfully and safely made her way from A to B seems misplaced.

Hats off to Hearst

Posted by on 18 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Business

Someone gets smart:

Instead of dropping its Canadian prices, a U.S. magazine publisher has quietly removed the American price for its magazines — leaving only the Canadian price on the cover.

You go, Hearst Magazines! What the market will bear!

The hyperbolic reaction ranges from calling the move a “shell game” (The Star headline) to commenters on CTV.ca calling for “a boycott.” Yeah, that’ll teach them! After watching Canadian purchases of Esquire dry up, they won’t know what hit them!

But here’s the key part of the CP story:

But despite the loonie being at or near parity with the U.S. greenback, the Canadian magazine prices remain up to 30 per cent higher than what Americans pay for the same Hearst Magazines publications.

“At or near.” Somewhere up there anyway — we don’t really know. Our petrodollar is so volatile, we have no idea where it might be by the end of the next week. But although we are a fiercely sovereign country with a free-floating currency that is worth alternately more and less than the US dollar, could we please have all prices pegged to yours? Thanks.

Fun with numbers

Posted by on 13 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Business

Pace the Globe and Mail’s John Partridge, a lovely man, a lede like this always makes me question whatever follows:

You should probably ignore all the headlines you have seen shrieking about the vast amount of cross-border shopping — physical and online — triggered by the soaring Canadian dollar.

Really? Why? Because Stats Can says so:

The study shows, for example, that the number of same-day stateside auto trips by Canadians more than doubled between 1986 and the third quarter of 2001 – peaking at a monthly average of 4.9 million trips in 1991 – a period when the Canadian dollar climbed 21 per cent against the greenback.

Wow — a doubling over 15 years.

Of course, the population also grew between 18.5% between 1986 and 2001, while the growth between 2001 and 2006 was a more modest 5.4%. So all things considered, you might expect any growth in trips to be less significant in the shorter recent period:

However, between 2002 and October 2007, when the loonie leaped 44 per cent, the average number of trips climbed by just 200,000 a month, to 1.9 million from 1.7 million, Statscan said.

Long delays at the border are one of the reasons for the decline in same-day car trips — and here’s a flaw in the data: it only counts same-day trips. Because of the new delays at the border, and the customs exemptions permitted after 48 hours out of the country, far more generous in 2007 than in 1991, if memory serves, couldn’t more people be staying overnight to do their cross-border shopping? Anecdotally, this seems to be the case with Ontario bureaucrats.

Online shopping hadn’t ballooned through October as much as one might expect, either:

Canadians have not shifted markedly from cross-border auto trips to the United States to online shopping there. Shipments to Canada by public- and private-sector couriers, the dominant route to receive a product ordered online, show a steady increase since 1995 of $300 million a year on average. Rather than showing an exceptionally strong increase in 2007, growth has been below average.

Except — what does that mean? What is average growth for online shopping, which I can only imagine has been growing by double and triple digits for the last few years?

The Star covers some of the same ground, here.

Streetcars, redux

Posted by on 13 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: TTC

The Queen’s Quay East streetcar plan, discussed earlier is taking shape, at least the north-south link toward Queen’s Quay (link; link). Hopefully it’s completed fairly promptly (I know, I know) – the Cherry St. streetcar loop by itself is just silly.

I assume, though this isn’t directly stated, that this will be a version of the King car, starting at Broadview station, turning south on Cherry to Queen’s Quay and ending up at Union. It would only be on King St. for a block and a half or so.


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RSS, Mr. Bean!

Posted by on 12 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Toronto

Environment Canada hurtles rashly into the 21st century:

Watching ducks walk

Posted by on 10 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Current Events

A story in the Globe today reports on a study of how consumers make decisions about what to buy. The study posits that consumers choose products they identify with — the “in” group — and shun ones in the “out” group. In one experiment, the group of Canadian:

study subjects used and graded identical pens that were randomly labelled as “vintage” (a neutral group), “Belgian” (not a group they belong to, but one that doesn’t provoke strong feelings of non-identity), and “American” (a label with which they did not want to be associated).

(Emphasis mine.)

To no one’s surprise:

People rated the “American” pen much lower after researchers asked them a series of questions that made them think about their Canadian identity.

What questions led to this swelling of pride among the Canadian research subjects, you may ask?

(For example, “name a Canadian celebrity you admire” and “name a Canadian city you’d like to visit.”)

Odd — Michael Cera and Thunder Bay aren’t having that effect on me. But onto the analysis of the lead researcher, marketing professor Katherine White:

It’s not that the research subjects were anti-American, Dr. White said. They just felt strongly that “American” was a group they did not belong to, and thus they unconsciously lowered their opinion of products with that label.

I’m quite sure that without much effort (thanks, Google), I could find the same weasel words used to explain away any prejudice held against any group. It’s nonsensical. Keeping in mind that the three pens were identical, take a look at some definitions of prejudice:

Unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, esp. of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group.

A preconceived preference or idea.

An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.

Chanukah Sameach!

Posted by on 07 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Humour

 … from the folks at New York’s Balducci’s.

Ah yes, Canada’s huge movie piracy problem…

Posted by on 06 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Current Events, Media

Five months after the law came into effect, after “weeks of private investigation,” Canada has arrested exactly one person for videotaping a movie in a theatre.

One arrest. One.

If the cinema owner in that story is correct that it’s put a major dent in the level of piracy in Montreal, and the movie distributors’ association rep is also correct that the legislation is now working, it appears they’ve arrested the one guy who was Canada’s piracy problem.

Well, phew.

For all your bludgeoning needs

Posted by on 06 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Business

From CBS Marketwatch: 

World of Warcraft Visa. This comes from the online role-playing game World of Warcraft and gives cardholders points toward free game time. For every 1,500 points earned, the cardholders gets one free month of play time.

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