Happiness versus age

I had CBC Radio One playing for most of the day, Saturday. In a WireTap episode called “How to Age Gracefully,” host Jonathan Goldstein talked about getting older.

Goldstein interviewed Rob Trucks, and Rob said,

There have been several studies that suggest happiness over the course of a lifetime is a U-shaped curve, and the lowest point of happiness is 45 to 49.

This immediately brightened my day and I really hope he’s right. I can’t imagine another 30 years of feeling the way I do now.

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Wiretap graphic © CBC 2014

Posted in big questions, happiness, me | Leave a comment

Thirty-three things Americans should know about Canada

The Internet is a marvel. There is so much information out there, easily accessible. The downside is that not all of it is correct. A friend linked an article from tickld titled “33 Things Americans Should Know About Canada. Seriously.

I started to read it and my bullshit detector went off with the first point, and went off the scale at the second point.

Shall we fisk? Yes, we shall!

1. Our president is called a Prime Minister.

No, we have no president. Never did. The head of the government is the Prime Minister, and the approximate analogue in the U.S. government is indeed the President.

2. Baltimore, Maryland has more murders in a week than the entire nation of Canada does all year.

In 2010, the most recent year I could find homicide statistics for both Baltimore and Canada, Baltimore reported 223 homicides1 while Canada had 554 homicides2. That one city of 600,000 can suffer the same number of homicides in a year as a country of 35 million has in six months strains credibility, but the numbers prove it. The claim put forth by tickld would have you believe that Baltimore has 554 homicides every week, or 28,800 every year, which is plainly false. Two minutes with Google would show this claim as false so I’m left wondering what the author is thinking.

I wrote them about this egregious error a week ago and have heard nothing. I am not expecting a response.

3. You don’t have to be born in Canada to be Prime Minister.

You must be a Canadian citizen, however.

4. Canadians do not find, “Say ‘eh’ for me,” to be particularly funny.

5. Canada has rednecks, too.

6. We’re a lot bigger than you, in land mass, but our population is considerably less. The populations of Los Angeles and New York City would be around 30 million people. The entire nation of Canada has around 32 million people. Due to the fact that most of our country is in the northern latitudes, we huddle close to the border, for warmth.

Our population is smaller, not less. Even better would be to say we have fewer people. That way, it doesn’t sound like we’re all shorter than our southern neighbours.

7. In the War of 1812, we kicked your butts. The reason why your Whitehouse is white is because we set fire to it and it was whitewashed to hide the damage (for propaganda purposes). Some Americans will say that THEY won the war. However, to win, a party must reach their objective. Your objective was to take over British North America (what Canada was called then), our goal was to stop you. You don’t have any more northern territory along the Canada/US border than you did before 1812. So who won? (Alaska doesn’t count, you BOUGHT that state from Russia.)

Canada didn’t exist in 1812. The British colony of Upper Canada, with a generous dose of British troops, took the fight to the Americans. It’s up to you to decide if a country could win a war that occurred 55 years before it was created.

8. A form of baseball was played just outside of Toronto, Ontario three weeks before Alexander Doubleday played the ‘first’ game of baseball in your country.

First, historians have debunked the story of Abner Doubleday (not Alexander Doubleday) having invented the game in Cooperstown, NY in 1839. Second, the first game of baseball was first played in 1749 in Guildford, Surrey3.

9. We do not find the term “Canuck” derogatory, like Americans find “Yank” derogatory. It apparently originated during World War One. Your soldiers were call “doughboys” ours were called “Johnny Canucks”. I think the British coined the term, but I’m not sure.

If you’re not sure, you should check before you publish your errors. Johnny Canuck first appeared in political cartoons in 1869 where, according to Wikipedia4, “where he was portrayed as a younger cousin of the United States’ Uncle Sam and Britain’s John Bull.” I found no reference at all to Canadian Troops being called Johnny Canucks.

10. We are not “just like Americans”, we have our own national identity, we just haven’t figured out what it is, yet. Someone once said that, “Canadians are unarmed Americans with health care.” That pretty much sums it up, I guess. We are internationally (but unofficially) known as the “World’s Most Polite Nation.”

11. Our national animal is the beaver. Sure it’s just a rodent, but they’re not even CLOSE to being extinct. You can still get money for beaver pelts. It is NOT our main unit of exchange, we have money, just like you.

So the point is what, exactly? “Neener-neener, our national animal isn’t nearly extinct!”? Big deal.

12. We do not find the fact that American wear Canadian flag pins (so they can get better treatment in Europe) very amusing. So stop it.

13. We have Thanksgiving in October, so we don’t look like copycats (it IS an American originated holiday, after all). However, we celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Passover and other holidays at the same time you do.

We do this so we don’t look like copycats? Give me a break. Could it be that because Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration and with our colder climate, our harvest is later, and therefore the celebration is later?

14. We were formed, as a nation, in 1867.

Canada came into being on July 1, 1867 with the 1867 Constitution Act. Most Canadians you’re likely to meet were formed much later.

15. November the 11th is called Remembrance Day, up here. It is a day when all Canadians honour our war dead and the veterans who are still amongst us. Its significance is that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Armistice was signed, ending World War One.

16. Not every Canadian speaks French. In fact, Canada is the only country where speaking French is not cool.

Speaking French is not cool? Where are you getting this stuff?

17. We spell words differently. Honour, valour, defence, neighbour, colour, centre and other words are from the British way of spelling. We also pronounce the last letter of the alphabet “zed”, not “zee”.

We spell some words differently. For some words we favour the British, for others we favour the American.

18. The Queen of England is not our national leader. She’s’ just a figure head and somebody to put on our money with the birds. (Some Royalists in Canada will have something different to say about his, but they’re a minority.)

The constitution states that the Queen is Canada’s head of state5. Period. No loyalist minority required. When the Prime Minister decides to call an election, what does he do? Does he go ahead and call the election? No, he must go to the Governor General of Canada, the Queen’s representative in Canada, and ask permission to call an election.

Yes, it is true that the Prime Minister advises the Queen on who should become the Governor General, meaning that in general, the Prime Minister chooses the Governor General. It’s also true that the Prime Minister’s requests of the Governor General are seldom declined. Still, suggesting that her role is simply to appear on our money is to entirely ignore the Constitution that defines Canada. Do that and you might as well make up any crap you want…just like some of the ‘facts’ put forth by tickld.

19. Our states are called Provinces. We even have three Territories.

Canada has no states. The largest political divisions within Canada are provinces and territories, and our provinces are roughly comparable to the U.S. states.

20. We DO NOT have snow all year round. We DO NOT live in igloos. We DO NOT ride around on dog sleds.
We DO NOT have to check the back yard for polar bears, before we let our kids go out to play.

These points are largely true, though how true they are depends on where you look.

21. Many Canadians have never played hockey in their lives. There are many who do not like hockey.

22. Besides, our national sport is not hockey, its lacrosse. It’s one of the few sports that originated on the North American continent, it was played by the Aboriginals.

23. We didn’t invent hockey, we just made it better.

24. Even if an “American” team wins the Stanley Cup (the “World Series” of hockey) it doesn’t matter to us, because all your best players are Canadian.

25. On the other hand, if a “Canadian” team wins the World Series we ignore the fact that all our baseball players are American.

26. Stop asking if we know somebody in Canada when you find out we’re Canadian. We DON’T know everybody in Canada.

27. We have no right to keep and bear arms. So leave your guns home if you’re visiting, otherwise they’ll be confiscated at the border. We have very strict gun laws, and fully automatic weapons are pretty much illegal. It almost takes an Act of God to get a licence to own a pistol. (This may be a contributing factor as to why we only have about 600 homicides a year, nation-wide.)

Act of God? Not by a long shot. You need to take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, and pass the exam (which includes a written test and a practical test during which you handle three weapons as directed by the examiner). Only then can you apply for your firearm licence, which includes criminal and background checks. If your application is approved, you receive your licence after a 28 day waiting period. Certainly an American can more easily acquire a firearm, but a Canadian need not call on the deity of his or her choice to get through the process.

28. The border between Canada and the US holds the title of the “World’s Longest Undefended Border”.

29. Our side of Niagara Falls is nicer looking than your side. In fact, even when Americans use images of the Falls in advertising and movies, they film the Canadian side. It’s called Horse Shoe Falls, by the way.

Rarely does anyone use film anymore. Further, the side of the border that looks better is largely immaterial. The point the writer is fumbling to make is that for the most part, is that the view of the falls is better from the Canadian side.

Goat Island currently splits the flow of the Niagara River. To the north, the water forms the American Falls. To the south, it forms the curved Canadian Falls, which is also known as the Horseshoe Falls (not the Horse Shoe Falls).

30. We own the North Pole, and therefore Santa Claus is Canadian. The internationally recognized mailing address for jolly old St. Nick is:

Santa Claus
North Pole
Canada
H0H 0H0

Canada doesn’t own the North Pole. No nation does.

31. We call eskimos “Inuit”, because that’s what they call themselves.

While it’s true that ‘Eskimo’ is now seen as derogatory, but ‘Inuit’ has not replaced it. The reason is that the people to which the term Eskimo refers are the Inuit and the Yupik6. ‘Eskimo’ is still used in Alaska but it has fallen out of favour in Canada and Greenland and there is no replacement name that encompasses the same peoples.

32. That movie you thought was filmed in New York, or Seattle, or Chicago, or Los Angeles — may have just been filmed in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto.

So there you have it. Now you just might know more about Canada than most Canadians do!

The title promises 33 things. The authors can’t even manage to get the item count correct.

 

1. Wikipedia, “Crime in Baltimore,” retrieved August 25, 2014.

2. Statistics Canada, “Homicide in Canada, 2010,” retrieved August 25, 2014.

3. Wikipedia, “Baseball,” retrieved September 1, 2014.

4. Wikipedia, “Johnny Canuck,” retrieved August 25, 2014.

5. Wikipedia, “Governor General of Canada,” retrieved August 25, 2014.

6. Wikipedia, “Eskimo,” retrieved September 1, 2014.

Posted in peeve | Leave a comment

Zara’s idiocy

I’m a firm believer in Hanlon’s razor. It states,

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

There are times however, when someone’s behaviour is so ridiculous that I can’t imagine simple stupidity being the cause. Such is the case with clothing retailer, Zara. They sold a shirt for children that they claimed was “inspired by classical Western films.”

Once you see it however, you’ll note that it looks a lot like the striped uniforms Jews were forced to wear in concentration camps, right down to the yellow badge. The only difference I can see is the stripes on the uniforms were vertical rather than horizontal.

The point at which Zara’s behaviour exceeded the bounds of stupidity, in my opinion, was their apology. It is fairly lengthy, and says pretty much what you’d expect, up until the very last sentence:

as soon as the issue became clear, it was decided the product will be removed from shelves across the world and exterminated.

See what I mean?

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From +972 via a @missmayim retweet

Posted in consequences, idiocy, marketing | 2 Responses

Monopoly…

I read a new word today in Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. You see, he’s an independent author, and he shared some of his thoughts about the current ‘situation’ between Amazon and Hachette Book Group in an entry named Fisking Charlie Stross: More on Hachette/Amazon. I found this short and interesting paragraph in this entry:

People have a choice on where to buy books. Amazon being the biggest bookseller on the planet doesn’t make them a monopoly or monopsony. If readers demand Hachette books, Amazon has not prevented them from being sold. There are thousands of other retailers who sell Hachette titles.

My first thought was that monopsony was a typo and he surely meant monopoly. Then again, since monopoly appears two words earlier in the same sentence, joined to monopsony with the conjunction ‘or,’ it wasn’t a typo. Not of monopoly anyway.

So I went off to the dictionary!

Let me start with the word you know:

monopoly 1 Exclusive possession or control of the trade in a commodity , service , etc.; the condition of having no competitor in one’s trade or business ; Law a situation in which one supplier or producer controls more than a specified fraction of the market. m16.

And now, in a sense, the opposite:

monopsony Economics. A situation in which there is a sole or predominant consumer for a particular product. m20.

Neat, huh? The etymologies are cool, as well. Monopoly is from the Greek mono (one), and pōlein (sell) while monopsony is from the Greek mono (one) and opsōnein (buy provisions). I also find it interesting that monopoly is from the middle of the 16th century while monopsony is from the middle of the 20th century. Is that progress?

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Definitions from the electronic Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

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Need insurance?

What do you look for in an insurance company? I’m sure there are many answers to that question, but if you’re looking for an insurer that will screw you over, and then go far out of their way to screw you over again when called to task, I think I know a company you might consider.

Andres Carrasco, a 76-year-old retired bus driver living in the Los Angeles area took legal action against Adriana’s Insurance. That’s bad, but it’s worse than you think. According to the Los Angeles Times:

The settlement was the result of a 2012 lawsuit in which Carrasco alleged that an employee at the company assaulted him when he tried to buy insurance, his attorney said.

See what I mean?

Photo by Antonio Gallo, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

AP photo by Antonio Gallo, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

The insurance company settled the case and owed Carrasco $21,000 by July 25. The insurance company certainly did pay. You can see Carrasco with some of the settlement on the photo to the right. Yes, the insurance company paid $21,000 in coins, including pennies. Adriana’s Insurance staff delivered 16–18 five-gallon pails filled with coins to his attorney’s office after they brought the ‘payment’ to Carrasco’s home and he refused to accept it.

Wow.

It boggles my mind. Companies will certainly see customers who are absolute assholes. I’m sure it happens all the time, but customers really have no reputation to protect. They can simply go elsewhere. Companies, however, certainly do have reputations that takes years to establish and are easily damaged. You can bet this story will make its way around the Internet and people will pay attention. Those looking for new insurance certainly will, and even those who know how reticent insurers are to let go of any money have a first class example of one company that will even try to fuck you once they know they have to give you money.

No matter what this guy did, the company should not act so childish. This is doubly so when all he did was suffer an assault at the hands of one of their sales people.

Now of course we only have his side of the story, and everything I’ve said above is predicated on his story being the unvarnished truth. According to their report, the Los Angeles Times reporter contacted Adriana’s Insurance for comment, but they did not call her back. On a lark, I sent the company an e-mail message asking for their side of it. If they reply, you can read about it here.

I just can’t help but feel Adriana’s Insurance is going to get an education on what happens when you really screw over a customer and social media finds out about it.

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Information and photo from The Los Angeles Times with additional info from The Telegraph. Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Posted in customer service | Leave a comment

I don’t know.

A woman who I follow online recently wrote:

I love it when guys at the bars try to sound smart and talk to me about physics. And then they make complete idiots out of themselves because they have no idea that I know everything coming out of their mouth is completely wrong.

Random dude: “Yeah I’m into advanced physics. Do you know what the speed of darkness is?”
Me: “c”
Him: “No it’s the speed of light.”
Me: “…”

Guys pull idiotic crap like that? And at bars?

While this is certainly a step beyond, it reminds me that I can not stand people who are incapable of admitting they are wrong, or that they don’t know something. I find this is more common with men, as if admitting that you don’t know something is somehow unmanly.

Honesty and straightforwardness is absolutely manly. If you are entirely unable to simply admit that you don’t know something, you’re not a man, you’re a child in an adult’s body. And an ass.

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The town in which I live

I’ve gone so far as to look up the difference between a city and a town, and the Wikipedia entry for City unhelpfully states, “there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings.”

Would a population of 83,000 make one think of a city? Perhaps, but I don’t think I live in a city. Look at today’s front page:

0728_newspaper

Aretha Franklin performed in Lewiston, New York Tuesday and she decided to stay here in town. She went to Johnny Rockets and was told that since she ordered her meal to go, she couldn’t sit in the seats provided for those who ordered an eat-in meal. Of course it’s completely silly. The restaurant is falling all over themselves to apologize, to the point where the restaurant CEO hopped aboard a plane to come and personally take care of damage control. The employee is 15 years old and she’s been on the job for just a week, so she can probably start looking elsewhere for work.

Still, this kind of stuff happens everywhere all the time. The only reason it’s news this time is it happened to a celebrity. But here, it’s front page, above the fold news because it’s the biggest news in town!

See what I mean?

Posted in celebrities, customer service, me | 1 Response

Destiny beta, complete

My progress after five days of fun.

My progress after five days of fun.

Ah, good times. The only problem is that with all good times…namely, they must come to an end. Bungie shut down the servers and they’re off to make things better for the Destiny release on September 9. I can hardly complain as they opened the beta to the Xbox players six hours early, and kept it going a day longer than planned.

So far, I’m quite pleased. I didn’t come into this pleased as it seems that the PlayStation 4 is getting all the perks and advantages. I’m sure they have their reasons, but it makes me feel like a steerage passenger, you know? Despite that, I’m feeling positive about Destiny.

It’s definitely not Halo, but its pedigree is obvious. It’s different but also comfortable. I’m hoping this impression carries over to the release version of the game.

One thing I am not impressed about is that even though the game is available for the newest generation consoles, the Xbox One and the PS 4, and the previous generation consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS 3, but no multiplayer gaming is allowed between console generations. I wouldn’t normally care, but the two people with which I want to play are still using the Xbox 360. I’d feel silly buying a game for the 360 because I have a better console now, and I also would feel silly not playing with them because I bought the version for the Xbox One. And before you suggest it, I’ll also feel silly if I buy both! Happily, this is a very first-world problem.

So here’s to a quick arrival of September 9!

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That word ‘ever’

I was watching The National last night and one of the stories was about air safety. With the July 24 crash of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, it’s been a bad year for air safety. The story really got my attention when the reporter, Peter Armstrong, said that 2013 had the lowest number of air passenger fatalities ever. Ever! 

Even if you ignore all the years before commercial air travel, what about the early years of passenger service in which the number of fliers were so few as compared to today? He specified no start date, so were there fewer fatalities last year than in 1919 when Aircraft Transport and Travel started flying military biplanes modified to carry two passengers each between London and Paris?

It could be that last year was the safest year on record in terms of the number of fatal commercial airline crashes per people/miles flown. Wikipedia claims that the worst year by that reckoning was 1929. During that year there were 51 fatal commercial airline crashes killing a total of 61 people. Figuring in the distance, it works out to one fatal crash for every 1,000,000 miles flown. With today’s volume of air travel, an equivalent rate would mean 7,000 crashes annually! And do note that the 61 fatalities from 1929 is fewer than the 210 fatalities from 2013.

Maybe this is what Armstrong meant, but it is certainly not what he said. Come on CBC, you’re better than this.

I sent a query to the show about this. If I hear back, so will you.

Posted in numbers, transportation | Leave a comment

Destiny test

After a day and a quarter. Three to go.

My progress after a day and a quarter. Three to go.

Bungie’s much anticipated game, Destiny, is in the midst of a public beta. For the Xbox, it started Tuesday evening and ends on Saturday. To be a part of it, you have to pre-order the game.

So far? It’s really good. Remember that this is merely a test, so the available missions, one’s progression, and the available maps are all very limited. It’s funny because I approached this game with more than a small amount of trepidation. I’ve been looking forward to both Destiny and Titan Fall. Happily, Titan Fall had an open beta that didn’t require pre-ordering the game. Happily because, to my great surprise, I didn’t like it at all. I like multiplayer just fine, but when there are no single player missions, and the whole game is based on death match playing, it’s not a game for me. Like Titan Fall, Destiny is entirely on-line, but there are still missions, and you can complete them yourself, or co-operatively with others. There is a death match portion, but it’s entirely separate.

Like Cortana in Halo, Destiny provides you with a disembodied electronic companion. For hours, the voice sounded familiar despite it being obviously electronically manipulated. Then it hit me. It’s Peter Dinklage! As good as he is, I dearly miss Jen Taylor.

I’m stuck at level 8 because they’ve limited progress for the beta, and without progress, the appeal is somewhat diminished, but I’m looking very forward to the Destiny release on September 9.

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