Thursday, August 07, 2008

The do-not-call fall

Sometimes things take a while to make it to Canada. The nutrition facts label on pre-packaged food was introduced in the U.S. in 1994. Canadians had to wait until 2005 for a similar labeling scheme. When it comes to the scourge of unwanted telemarketing phone calls it's no different. The U.S. National Do Not Call Registry came into effect in 2003. Five years later, Canada is finally getting a do-not-call list. It should be operational this fall (September 30th, so they say).

The bad news (as I see it) is that there are some exemptions. Even if we sign up, we'll still get calls—whether we want them or not—from charities, political parties, polling companies and companies with whom we have existing business relationships.

I can see the argument for allowing charities to make fundraising calls, but I still disagree. When I give to a charity, I want as much of my donation as possible to go to the cause, not to pay for fundraising. I suspect that a lot of money is wasted on competition between charities.

To plug the holes in the do-not-call legislation, Michael Geist has created a free service called iOptOut that provides automatic opt-out notification to exempted organizations. The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) also has a Do Not Contact Service. It covers mail, telephone, and fax. Note: When the National Do Not Call List comes into effect it will supersede the CMA's telephone service but not its mail service.

Don't call me, I'll call you

At the end of the day, I prefer an opt-in arrangement rather than an opt-out one. And if nobody opts in? Well, I'd say that's just fine.

Consider the U.S. experience:

What do you think? How has the do-not-call system worked in the U.S.? Are the exemptions in the Canadian system warranted?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paintings by Ottawa artist Aline Coulombe

An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.
—George Santayana

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log calculator

My son has written a program to calculate the logarithm using any base. Be careful of splinters!
The log base


For more stuff about logarithms see my posts:
log base 2 and double, double toil and trouble. And of course, don't forget Wikipedia.

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Friday, August 01, 2008


When I think of SAS, it's usually the Statistical Analysis System I have in mind. But there are about 50 other meanings. (Not everyone likes the word disambiguation, but I think it's helpful in cases like this!)

One meaning of SAS is the Scandinavian Airlines System. I bring this up because my father was a scandinavophile. Below is his hand-drawn map of Greenland.

On the southern part of the West coast of Greenland is a place with the Danish name Søndre Strømfjord (Kangerlussuaq in the Kalaallisut language). If you look closely, it's marked by a little red mark (it's an airplane symbol) on the map about a quarter of the way up from the bottom. Søndre Strømfjord has a fascinating aerospace history that began in 1941 with the establishment of a U.S. air base and has continued right up to the present day.

Hey, it's only 3 hours to the North Pole!

Part of the history of Søndre Strømfjord is described (in rather grandiose language) on the SAS website:
Polar exploration had been something of a Scandinavian specialty and it was no surprise that SAS set about the task of conquering the hostile airspace over the Arctic. It took a special polar navigation system, the heart of which was a polar path gyro, to overcome the problems of flying over the magnetic North Pole.

The first, pioneering transpolar route, between Scandinavia and the U.S. west coast was inaugurated by SAS in November 1954. A SAS DC-6B “Helge Viking” flew from Copenhagen to Los Angeles via Søndre Strømfjord on Greenland and Winnipeg in Canada. The route cut the distance between the two continents by about 1,000 kilometers and was hailed as “the first new commercial route in 1,000 years”
Which brings me back to my father. He was also a stamp collector and had a series of philatelic covers of historic flights involving Greenland. The cover below commemorates the 1954 Helge Viking flight.

Hmm, I wonder what that polar bear is thinking ...

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