Whoa! This is either the luckiest or unluckiest dude ever

March 25, 2009

The BBC News web site had this headline today:

Man survived both atomic bombings

I just can’t decide whether Tsutomu Yamaguchi is incredibly lucky for having survived being in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates (and still being alive at 93!), or incredibly unlucky just to have been in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates…  or maybe he’s both the luckiest and unluckiest dude ever.

And speaking of luck, which I suppose is in some way a form of probability, the BBC News web site also had an article under their Magazine rubric today titled:

What do you get if you divide science by God?

The article starts by mentioning a French physicist, Bernard d’Espagnat, has been awarded the Templeton Prize for contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.  He has worked on quantum physics, which is a field dependent on probability (which is how I segued into this from the piece on Mr. Yamaguchi).

The author then goes on to interview 5 notable physicists on “the meaning of physics”, and assigning each a spiritual category corresponding to their view on the overlap between science and spirituality, ranging from the “Atheist” to a new-agey “Pantheist” at either end of the spectrum with various flavours in between: “Sceptic”, “Platonist” and “Believer” (the latter being a quantum physicist turned Anglican priest).

As for me, if I were a betting man (hmm, there’s that probability thing again…) I don’t think I’d bet against there being some kind of “meaning” to Life, The Universe And Everything — after all, if there isn’t then there’s nothing much to lose in betting for it being there, but on the other hand I’d feel a right prat coming face to face with, well, whatever it was I’d bet against.

Of course, YMMV.


Just how untransparent can they be?

March 24, 2009

In the snailmail today was a notice from Bell Canada:

We’re going green.

Dear R LEE

We are writing to notify you about an important change to our eBill program.

You are currently receiving a paper invoice, along with a monthly email notification advising you that your online bill can be viewed by logging in at the Bell Web site.  Following your next bill, we will be discontinuing your paper invoice to help reduce paper waste and protect our forests.

If you would prefer to continue receiving a paper bill in the mail, you have the option of keeping this arrangement now and in the future.  Simply log in to bell.ca/staypaper and click on “I wish to keep receiving paper bills”.

Thank you for choosing Bell.

Sincerely,
Jim Myers
Senior Vice-President, Customer Experience

OK, let’s start with “We’re going green.” — this has become the “ISO 9000” of the 21st century IMHO.

What I mean by that is back when the ISO 9000-series standards were first developed, they were initally the business equivalent of cod-liver oil — they were told it was good for them, but implementing the requirements for certification wasn’t always terribly palatable.

For companies that already had good quality and documentation practices in place, it wasn’t that difficult, but for many it was a real sea-change — and when they came out the other side, they probably really were better companies, with more consistent quality in their products and services (note: I didn’t say better quality, since implementing any of the ISO 9000-series requirements doesn’t guarantee that quality will improve, just that you will have documented the quality — good or poor — of what you do.)

But as more and more large companies insisted on their vendors being ISO certified, an industry of consultants sprang up around certification (and training to go with it) to make it cheaper, easier and more palatable, with the result being that getting ISO certification became a part of the price of entry into the game.  I won’t go so far as to say it became meaningless, but it certainly has lost some of its value as a differentiator between a supplier you want to deal with and one you don’t.

So, what I mean is that being green in the noughties is something companies have to do just to stay in the game, and which any good profit-seeking company will want to spend the least amount of money on to acheive the appearance of.

Which for me means that they may as well have said “We’re still here to make as much profit off you as we can.”  Fair enough, that’s what they’re in business for — I just object to the lack of transparency in cloaking it with green.

Next: I don’t particularly enjoy having them shout out my name in the salutation, I mean really, how hard is it to automate putting it into proper upper and lower case letters…

Then, the use of the Royal “We” — alright, so that’s a stylistic letter writing formula that I’m quibbling about, but the letter is written over the name of one individual, the Vice-President of Customer Experience.  Why not say “I am writing you…” — it’s certainly not as if the whole company was in on writing the letter…

OK, on to the part that really gets up my nose:

Following your next bill, we will be discontinuing your paper invoice to help reduce paper waste and protect our forests.

Now, as an individual concerned with the environment, I will certainly choose ways that I can “reduce paper waste and protect our forests”, but their statement says that they will be doing it for that reason.

Which is a load of crap: they’re doing it to reduce their costs and maximize profit.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with a company wanting to make a profit and reducing costs can certainly be a legitimate way to do that — I just take issue with it when there’s a attendant increase in the cost to society as a result (but that’s a rant for another day…)

So if they would not be so untransparent and just admit that they’re eliminating the paper bill using a “negative option” strategy (something which got the Rogers Cable company into hot water some time ago…) I would happily elect to not receive the bill in the mail.

Maybe if enough of Bell’s customers insisted the same thing, that they come clean and say the reason for eliminating the paper bill is to cut their costs and increase their profit, before allowing them to discontinue sending it, then maybe they’d do it.

Well, I don’t plan on holding my breath waiting for Mr. Myers to ‘fess up and admit that Bell is just trying to squeeze a few more pennies of profit out of each customer this way, but if you are a customer of Bell Canada and feel the way I do about this, then why not let them know how you feel and just perhaps we can get him to do it — particularly if we all threaten to click on “I wish to keep receiving paper bills” if they don’t.

And thank you for choosing Unconventional Wisdom.


Headlines that make you glad you’re not making the headlines

March 23, 2009

OK, so what’s up with the BBC News feed today?  It seems to have a particularly deathly theme to it:

BBC News feed with a deathly theme

BBC News feed with a deathly theme

Just makes me glad that I didn’t make the headlines (yet again… not that I’m particularly newsworthy 🙂 )


Two, Count ‘Em, Two Headlines That Make You Smile

March 9, 2009

Well, at least one of them makes me smile.  The other one, it makes me wonder about the people they have writing this stuff for the BBC News website.

Headline #1: “Hero in underpants tackles a ‘roo

Oh, come on, you have to smile at that! Maybe even chuckle out loud…

Headline #2: “Oily fish dementia boosts queried

Now that one simply boggles the mind.  I have this image of some halucinating lounge-fish… cheering for people who’ve been interrogated, perhaps?

Turns out the article is about a new study which calls into question previous claims that the consumption of types of fish which are high in oils containing omega-3 fatty acids leads to an improvement in cognitive function.  So the headline writer has distilled that down to “oily fish” (which on its own is reasonably straightforward, I suppose) and the claims that they are supposed to provide “dementia boosts” (OK, that actually sounds a bit opposite of what it’s supposed to mean — it reads to me like it increases dementia…) are being “queried” (called into question…)

Probably written by an escapee from a British tabloid newspaper…


The Best Job In The World

March 4, 2009

OK, this is kind of cool.  When I got home from work today, K asked me to fix up some links on the latest post over at her 42.1 blog (one of several she writes, check in the sidebar for others).

It turned out that the links she had added were fine, it must just have been some internet gremlins messing with them earlier, so I didn’t have to actually fix anything.

But then I watched the video she had embedded in the post, the one produced by a local University of Guelph student named Mitchell as his entry to land The Best Job In The World.

And I realized that I had actually seen them on the street the day they were doing the video — they weren’t actually singing and videoing at the time, so I just thought “Wonder what cause they’re out marching for?  Australia or Bust?  What’s that all about?

Anyway, he’s a really talented guy — it’s a way cool video he’s produced, check it out below — and he deserves a shot at this job.  You can help out by going and voting for him.

Go.  Now.  Do it, and keep your fingers crossed for him.