More stupid from Bell

I received a call today from Bell. They were pushing their three-in-one bundle of home-phone, satellite TV, and Internet. Once I could get a word in edgewise, I told the guy I wasn’t interested. At that point he hung up on me. That’s Bell, keeping it classy.

So I called the Bell customer service number to tell them to stop their telemarketing calls. Four levels deep into their telephone system maze, I had to listen to a promo for Clara Hughes’s ride across Canada. It’s a great cause, but when I’m trapped in your phone system, it would be wise that you not throw your good deeds into my face and waste my time, okay Bell? I might get the crazy idea that you really don’t give a crap about the cause and are merely using it to make money.

I finally got through to a real live person, and she was so singsongy, I’m still not convinced she was a real person. I asked that they no longer have their telemarketers call my number. She asked if I meant that I wanted their telemarketers to stop calling, or all telemarketers to stop calling. Seeing the trap, I quickly explained clearly that I didn’t want them calling me, because she otherwise would have shuffled me off to the do-not-call list, and Bell would have kept calling me. All told, she apologized and promised three times that Bell’s telemarketers wouldn’t call me any more. I was tempted to ask for how long, but I didn’t. Nor did I explain that their telemarketers were acting in a way that does Bell no favours.

Is it really so difficult to understand, Bell? Simply don’t bug me and don’t act like an asshole when you contact me. If you follow these simple rules, you won’t have to apologize. Make no mistake, pissing me off and then apologizing doesn’t make it all better.

Oh, check out this pearl from the “just because you say it, doesn’t make it true” department of the Bell web site:

How does Bell commit to their customers?

Delight.

Yes, delight. Simply put, that’s our mission: To delight you with the products, services and customer support that we provide to you every day.

Talk about clueless. I’m sure they have all sorts of high-cost consultants, but they still don’t have anything resembling a damned clue. Delight is the farthest thing from my mind when dealing with these jokers.

Posted in consumer life, customer service, marketing, spam | Leave a comment

Crank up the reality distortion field!

There’s an election coming in Québec, and that means the Parti Québécois takes leave of their senses even more than usual, and that’s saying something!

This time around, PQ leader Pauline Marois thinks that she can dictate Canadian border policy after Québec separates from Canada! What a trick. While discussing her party’s tourism policy, a reporter asked her if an independent Québec would be more attractive to tourists, and she replied that in addition to Québec continuing to welcome Canadian tourists,

We could continue to go see the Rockies in the West … or go to Prince Edward Island and [the rest of Canada] could continue to come visit us. There will be no borders and no tolls.

Later in the day, she was called on to clarify what she meant…meaning to explain her nonsense. According to the CBC, she elaborated,

She said travel between Quebec and the rest of Canada would operate like the European Union, where members of individual countries can cross borders without showing a passport.

“People would be able to travel freely through Quebec, and Quebecers would continue to be able to visit the Maritimes and British Columbia. That’s all I was trying to say this morning,” Marois said.

Pauline, if you take Québec out of Canada, you have to understand that you won’t be able to continue to threaten Canada to get your way. Once you’re gone, you can do whatever you want within your new country, but your influence will stop at the border. And make no mistake, there will be a border. Whether your people will need a passport or whether they’ll have to pay a toll when they cross this border is our decision, not yours.

If you want to take your people out of Canada so you can make your own decisions, have the decency to acknowledge that making decisions also involves accepting the consequences, whether good or bad. Unfortunately for everyone, you’re following the typical separatist strategy of promoting the positives, and incorrectly claiming that there are no negative aspects. Those with half a brain will know you’re lying, and the rest will come for you with torches in hand, once Québec separates. Is that what you want?

Posted in idiocy, politics, Québec | 1 Response

Don’t spy on me

February 11 was The Day We Fight Back against mass surveilance. Conceived in the U.S. to focus the protest against NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, Open Media Canada adopted the occasion to protest the same type of mass surveillance carried out by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) against Canadian citizens. I happily took advantage of the day to tell my MP how I feel. Coincidentally, he’s also the Minister responsible for the CSE.

From: Rick Pali [rpali@alienshore.com]
Sent: February 11, 2014 1:28 PM
To: rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca
Subject: We don’t want to be spied upon!

Today is #TheDayWeFightBack and I want to state in the strongest terms that law-abiding Canadians do not want their own government spying on them. Whether my calls, e-mail, web-traffic, or my meta-data, it’s not the government’s business unless a judge says otherwise.

And it’s doubly insulting that we have to pay for it.

Stop spying on us.

I was surprised when a reply arrived. It’s not the type of message for which I would expect a reply. I was less surprised that the reply arrived three weeks after I’d written. At this rate, the next time I write and receive a reply, it’ll be months in coming. Anyway, here’s what I got:

From: <dnd_mdn@forces.gc.ca>
Subject: RE: We don’t want to be spied upon!
Date: March 5, 2014 at 3:22:26 PM EST
To: <rpali@alienshore.com>

Dear Mr. Pali:

As the Minister responsible for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), I want to thank you for sharing your concerns about privacy issues.

CSE’s role is to collect foreign intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians from threats at home and around the world. CSE is also responsible for protecting government computer networks and systems, as well as the information that they contain.

In fulfilling these roles, CSE considers respecting the privacy of Canadians to be its most important principle. I can assure you that all of CSE’s activities are conducted in full compliance with Canadian law. This includes the National Defence Act, the Privacy Act, the Charter of

Rights and Freedoms, and the Criminal Code. Under the law, CSE does not target the communications of Canadians anywhere or of any person in Canada through its foreign intelligence activities.

The independent CSE Commissioner, a supernumerary judge, reviews CSE activities to ensure that they comply with the law. The Commissioner and his staff have full access to CSE facilities, staff, and records. The Commissioner has never found CSE to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSE’s culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians.

I trust that this information is helpful, and thank you again for writing.

Yours truly,

Hon. Rob Nicholson, PC, QC, MP
Minister of National Defence

Given all that we’ve learned about the CSE’s activities, this is no real reply. Further, the minister’s assistant entirely missed my point. I thought I’d better clarify.

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: dnd_mdn@forces.gc.ca
Date: March 9, 2014 at 11:08:08 PM EDT
Subject: Re: We don’t want to be spied upon!

Mr. Nicholson,

Thank you for your reply.

> As the Minister responsible for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)

I know who you are. You’re also my MP.

> In fulfilling these roles, CSE considers respecting the privacy of
> Canadians to be its most important principle. I can assure you that all
> of CSE’s activities are conducted in full compliance with Canadian law.

I find all of this hard to believe, especially considering that the Canadians you mention have no idea what the CSE does. Of course we have broad overviews and no end of assurances, but I feel less than assured. It could be true, but as I said, I’m far from convinced.

I’m not sure you really understood my intent in writing you when I said that Canadians don’t want to be spied upon by their own government. I understand that the CSE doesn’t listen to my phone calls, but you’ve said that harvesting metadata is legal, so whenever I make a call, the CSE knows who I am, who I am calling, how long we speak, and even where I am during the call. Legal or not, I call this spying. I suspect most Canadians feel the same way.

Given how you’ve gone out of your way to use very specific wording, I’m forced to be very careful in my understanding. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a computer translates what I say during my calls to text, so no person at the CSE is listening to my call.

Here’s another example:

> Under the law, CSE does not target the communications of
> Canadians anywhere or of any person in Canada through
> its foreign intelligence activities.

So the CSE doesn’t target Canadians. Got it. But if the CSE taps into an Internet trunk and records everything, they’re not targeting Canadians, are they? Yet the CSE still has a record of everything I do on the Internet. If you think I’m being paranoid, you have yourself to thank. As the CSE’s activities came to light, I paid close attention to your statements. As more information continued to surface, I could clearly see that most of what you stated was literally true when parsing your statements with their strictly literal meanings. But in many of those instances, the spirit of what you said was absolutely not true. That kind of sophistry will earn you nothing but skepticism once it’s discovered. And make no mistake, it’s been discovered.

Perhaps the CSE is acting in an entirely lawful manner. It could be true. But is that really where you want to set the bar? Why not do what’s right instead of what’s merely legal?

Know what I mean? And it deeply saddens me that I have to ask if you understand.

Will it make any difference? Unlikely. Will the minister even see my message? Even more unlikely.

I still feel that I need to make the effort, if only to let them know they’re not fooling us.

Posted in Internet, law, me, politics, privacy, words | Leave a comment

The dirty Trans-Pacific Partnership secret

The governments of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam are negotiating a free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The talks started in 2005 between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. The remaining countries joined the party in the interim. Canada joined in 2012. It’s likely you haven’t even heard of the TPP, despite the government being a part of it for two years. Why is this? Because the negotiations, and the agreement itself are entirely secret.

That’s right, our government wants to become part of a free trade agreement, but it appears that they see nothing wrong with negotiating on our behalf while hiding the agreement from us. Frankly, it’s ridiculous and insulting. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I wrote my MP about the issue.

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
Subject: TPP
Date: February 18, 2014 at 9:10:27 PM EST
To: “rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca” <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>

I’ve been reading about the Trans Pacific Partnership lately and I’m really surprised at the secrecy surrounding not only the negotiations, but the agreement itself.

I’m not sure how this kind of thing works, but isn’t is reasonable for the people of Canada to be able to review the agreement so we know what we’re getting into? Is there anywhere I can learn about what exactly is in the agreement? I find it hard to believe that it’s being negotiated in secret and Canadians won’t learn what we’re agreeing to until it’s a done deal. That’s no way to handle a multinational agreement. If it’s a good thing, we’ll all agree and support it.

I’ve been reading alarming things about the TPP, and I’d like to make my own decision.

Ten days later, I received no reply. Mr. Nicholson was actively promoting himself on Twitter all the while so I wrote back and asked when I might receive a reply. Later in the day, I got one.

From: <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>
Subject: The Trans Pacific Partnership
Date: February 28, 2014 at 3:58:28 PM EST
To: <rpali@alienshore.com>

Dear Pick Pali:

I am writing to acknowledge and thank you for your email correspondence to Mr. Nicholson in which you expressed your views concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership. Please find attached a link which I think that you will find informative.

http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/tpp-ptp/index.aspx

Please be assured that your comments will be passed along to Mr. Nicholson, as he very much appreciates hearing from constituents.

Thank you once again for writing.

Stewart Graham

Constituency Assistant for the
Hon. Rob Nicholson, MP
E-mail: rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca
www.robnicholson.ca

I didn’t expect much, and I didn’t get much. The link is to an entirely fact-free feel-good site about Canadian involvement in the TPP. I’m about to send this message in reply.

Mr. Graham,

Thank you for your reply.

I followed the link you sent me and I assure you, I did find it extremely informative … though more for what wasn’t there than for what was.

I wrote with concerns about a binding agreement being negotiated on behalf of Canadians in secret. Given how the current government has embraced secrecy, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that it sees nothing wrong with this, but let me assure you, everything is wrong with it.

Particularly frustrating is the section detailing how the government consulted Canadians. The web page states, “The Government of Canada launched a comprehensive consultation process on December 31, 2011….  This process indicated broad support for Canada’s entry into the negotiations.” Comprehensive? I would suggest to you that at least 90% of Canadians have no idea what the TPP is, nor that it’s being negotiated on their behalf in secret. Do not mistake support for being a part of the negotiation for supporting the TPP itself. How can Canadians support the agreement if they have no idea what it is? And why should I accept the government’s assurance that they’re looking out for my interests? The best way to assure me of that is to show me the details of the agreement.

Frankly, keeping this agreement secret likely means the governments involved have something to hide. Reports about leaked contents of the TPP agreements seem to bear this out. I came to you for details of the agreement and instead of the facts I wanted, you sent me to a feel-good government page that amounts to a pat on the head and the assurance that I have nothing to worry about. It’s far past time that the government treat Canadians as stakeholders in decisions and not children who need nothing but empty assurances.

For example, the page that details these vast consultations with Canadians about the TPP … the consultations that Canadians in general and the media in particular, seem to know nothing about … claims that “interested stakeholders have an opportunity to provide their views related to Canada’s interests in the TPP.” Frankly, every Canadian is a stakeholder. I know this is difficult for the government to understand, as consultations about changes to copyright laws have shown. In those ‘consultations,’ the stakeholders allowed to appear at the hearings were extremely limited, and were largely limited not to the public or the artists who generate the content being protected, but rather the media companies.

Besides, tell me how anyone can provide meaningful feedback on Canada’s interests in the TPP when they have no idea of the contents of the TPP?

Please do let Mr. Nicholson know that the TPP secrecy stinks to high heaven, and the few Canadians that are aware of the negotiations are aware of how ridiculous the secrecy is. Also, when Canadians find out that the government has kept the contents of the agreement from them for years, they will not be pleased, and no patronizing pat on the head will mend the damage.

An MPP’s job in particular, and the government’s very purpose in general, is to represent the public. This addiction to secrecy, and pretending it’s somehow acceptable and normal, is nothing but disrespect and ass-covering made manifest.

I can not find words to express my disappointment.

Rick.

It’s difficult, but I try not to pre-judge. An open-minded approach is best. Rather than condemn the person/organization based on an incomplete understanding of the situation, I start asking questions. Expressed more cynically, I prefer to leave room for the person/organization to disappoint me. I’ve been a constituent of Rob Nicholson for less than a year, and he’s excelled. I expected no less because the Harper government has been disappointing me for nearly a decade. A very, very long decade.

Posted in consequences, int'l affairs, me, politics | 3 Responses

Class + humour = priceless!

The best-known story of T’s pronunciation involves the British countess and society wit Margot Asquith (1864–1945), wife of Herbert Asquith, who was Britain’s prime minister from 1908 to 1916 and who later became Earl of Oxford. Legend places this razor-minded, aging, titled lady at a 1930s dinner party that included blond American screen siren and bad girl Jean Harlow. (The connection isn’t impossible, as the Asquiths’ son was the movie director Anthony Asquith.) Jean Harlow, recognizing her, asked loudly, “Say, aren’t you Margot Asquith?”—but mispronouncing the name as ‘Mar-got.’ To which her ladyship replied, “Oh, no, dear, the T is silent, as in Harlow.”

David Sacks
Letter Perfect
2003

Posted in celebrities, funny, quotes | 3 Responses

Damned statistics

It seems that the facts of what happened depends on who you choose to tell you about them.

I typically check the CBC News site for the medal standings during the Olympics. Here are the final standings according to a screen capture I just made:

The official site at sochi2014.com tells a similar story:

But NBC has a different story to tell:

The source data is the same, but the presentation gives a different standing.

It’s interesting. I had a further look around and every site based in the United States ranks the medal standings on the total number of medals earned, giving themselves a better finishing position. Every site based in the United States, that is, save one. The exception is the Associated Press. Everywhere else in the world, gold medals determine the standings, with the silver and bronze used as tie-breakers. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and neither is right or wrong, but I look forward to the day when sorting by the total number of medals gives the United States a worse position in the standings. What will the American media do then? Do I really need to ask?

For the record, these were the sites I found that sorted the standings as NBC did: CBS News, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, the Huffington Post (including the Canadian site), the NY Times, Sports illustrated, USA today, and the Washington Post.

This hearkens back to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Donovan Bailey won the gold medal for the 100 metre race with a world record time of 9.84 seconds. The US media traditionally referred to the winner of the 100 metre race as the world’s fastest man. But Bailey is a Canadian! Can’t have that, right? Happily, Michael Johnson won the gold medal for the 200 metre race, and he is American, so the US media called him the worlds fastest man.

Being the country next door gives us remarkably easy access to American media, so this uniquely sorted medal standing is nothing new, but it does allow another insight into the American media.

Posted in news, propaganda, sports | 2 Responses

Evening flight

20130715-210327 5D3 4M6C1944.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 400mm 1:5.6L @ 1/320, f/8, 1600 ISO

File: 20130715-210327 5D3 4M6C1944.CR2
EXIF: 5D Mk.III, EF 400mm 1:5.6L @ 1/320, f/8, 1600 ISO

Posted in show and tell, transportation | Leave a comment

Canadian Tire wrap-up

To my surprise, Canadian Tire Corporate Customer Relations replied to my last message. They wrote,

Thank you for your reply.

Canadian Tire is continually looking for opportunities to improve the quality and value we provide to our customers. Your feedback is very important to us and goes a long way in helping us to provide better service to our customers. We have forwarded your comments and concerns as Voice of the Customer, to those involved for further review.

Policies relating to the day to day operations of the store are determined by the store owner. As such, the option to have Field Marketing Representatives in their stores would remain at their discretion. We apologize for the inconvenience this situation may have caused you.

We thank you for providing us with the opportunity to respond.

Interesting that it’s each individual store’s decision about whether to allow these promotions. Frankly, I question this interpretation of the message. As terrible as the idea is, it wouldn’t be cheap to set it all up. Even if they only sent the required hardware to the stores that requested it, the costs would be formidable. It’s difficult to believe that they give each store the option to choose.

Still, as unlikely as it sounds, I can’t prove otherwise. And I’m not likely to make a habit of going to the next-nearest Canadian Tire location. Why would I? There’s a Lowes and a Home Depot closer than that. If this nearest Canadian Tire favours these bone-headed promotions, I’ll direct my purchases to one of those other retailers.

Posted in consumer life, customer service, marketing | 2 Responses

Don’t mess with physics!

Hyundai has a television ad running for their 2014 Elantra. In the ad, they say,

At Hyundai, we challenge everything. Even physics.

The question is what they mean by challenge. The logical answer is that they want to get as close to the limits as they possibly can. Like the best possible fuel efficiency, the most aerodynamic car body, and so on. The problem is that when one challenges someone, one means to beat them … and one doesn’t beat physics. The universe is set up so you can’t beat the laws of physics. One either simply fails, or fails in a spectacular fashion. In this case, it’s the ad firm behind the campaign who failed. Spectacularly.

You don’t beat physics … physics beats you!

Posted in design, marketing, transportation | 1 Response

The ‘stupid’ appears endemic

In my previous post, I detailed a very poor experience I had at the local Canadian Tire.

I tweeted a link to the post, and since I included the title in the tweet, I thought that I might hear from them. After I reflected for a moment, I couldn’t imagine the company would be quite so social media savvy, so I sent them the post directly. I received a reply this morning:

Dear Rick Pali,

Thank you for contacting our office.

Please accept our sincerest apology that our store environment did not meet your expectations. We take great pride in offering all of our customers a very positive shopping experience and are very disappointed that we did not succeed in your case.

Please trust that your concern will be shared with the Store Management at the Niagara Falls McLeod store so that we can prevent a recurrence of this service level in the future.

Should you require any further assistance or have additional concerns, simply respond to this email or contact us at the toll-free number provided below. Our office hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST) and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST).

We sincerely thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Corporate Customer Relations
Canadian Tire Corporation Limited
1-800-387-8803

My first reaction was, “What? What just happened?” I read it again and it seems to say that the store manager is responsible. Of course that’s absolute crap, so I told them so:

I don’t believe that the store management was the issue. Unless of course, that the local store printed up the coupons, purchased the touch screens, and developed this whole project on their own. In most cases, store management is a lot closer to the customers and with the exception of the exceptionally clueless, they’d never get in the way of their shoppers shopping.

No, this kind of thing is typical of corporate-level decisions made by people very far away from the customers. You’d be doing me, and all of the customers you still have, a great service by making sure the corporate-level people who designed this project see my message. If Canadian Tire is like any of the retail stored in which I’ve worked, the store manager felt much the same as I do about this.

I probably shouldn’t have bothered. Clearly, communicating with Canadian Tire’s Corporate Customer Relations is entirely meaningless. Their ads want to convince you that they’re your best pal, but the people in charge are at least as clueless as those any other corporation.

Disappointing.

Posted in consumer life, customer service, idiocy, me | 2 Responses