The cost of “free”.

Andrew at Bound By Gravity relates a story of a friend who injured herself but will have to wait 12-18 months to get her free health care in Canada:

So how long is my friend expected to live with the chronic pain of an ACL injury, the inconvenience of a brace, and no chance of playing the sport she loves dearly?

12-18 months.

The Government of Canada will force her to wait between twelve and eighteen months to receive the treatment she needs in order to resume the life that she wants to live. The only saving grace for my friend is that her injury was so severe that it did not require an MRI to diagnose. (Had that been the case she would have been forced to suffer through an additional 6 months of pain).

Health care in Canada is free.Though in order to keep costs down the government limits the procedures that are covered and limits the number of medical school admissions and foreign-trained doctors, as noted in today’s National Post:

Rather than being seen as income- generators, as they are in U.S. hospitals and clinics — the more patients doctors can attract, the more money they bring in — Canada’s health bureaucrats began treating doctors as cost centres. Fewer doctors meant fewer tests would be ordered, fewer beds in hospitals filled, fewer surgeries performed and fewer billings to medicare. Control the number of physicians and governments believed they could control their health expenditures.

There was even a conscious decision made in the early 1990s by federal and provincial health ministers to cap enrolments in medical schools in an effort to reduce the amounts their governments were spending on health. Between 1991 and 2000, the number of medical-school admissions was reduced by nearly 14% and foreign-trained doctors found it increasingly difficult to earn Canadian licences.

So Canadians really pay for their health care through punishing taxes, long waits, and pain – really not all that different from much-loathed HMOs. In fact it is probably more correct to say that in Canada, the health care that the government allows you to have is free.

Of course if you wanted to pay for your own health care that would make you a criminal.


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Our copy protection is so secure…

…you can’t even play the DVD.

From Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants comes this story about Sony DVDs that don’t play on Sony DVD players:

In their zeal to make their DVD movies copyproof (yeah right) they have in fact made their latest releases unplayable on some DVD players, including my Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player. I recently rented “Stranger than Fiction” (2 copies) and “The Holiday” ( please no comments on my choice of movies) both by Sony Pictures. Both load up to the splash title screen and then load no further, then after about 60 secs the player turns itself off!

Sony’s answer?

We know about this problem. Its our new copy protection that’s making these discs unplayable in some players including our own, we do not intend to change the copy protection. The only correction to this problem is a firmware update to your player. The electronics division know about this and should have given you this information.

Yeah that’s it. The customers who actually paid for the DVD can’t play it and that’s their problem.And Sony doesn’t intend to change the copy protection.

Sony used to be a great consumer electronics company, but apparently is now run by idiots. I used to buy Sony products, but I don’t any more. And I do not intend to change that.


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Rogers website doesn’t work as advertised.

Just when I was seeing a slight improvement in service from Rogers, my wireless company, it seems that their online management tool for my wireless services doesn’t work at all. I’ve tried several times to make changes to my services and have failed every time.

A while ago I tried to add a $10 text messaging plan (2500 sent messages) to my son’s phone. Rogers provides no confirmation of changes. It wasn’t until I received a bill for $132 for text messaging that I realized that the change hadn’t happened. A customer service rep reversed the charge and said that he put my son on the $10 text messaging plan.

Little did I know that Rogershas two $10 text messaging plans. One plan offers 2500 sent text messages. The other offers 1000 sent text messages and 2500 received messages – not that impressive because received messages are free. So I was now paying $10 a month for 1000 messages, when Rogers could clearly see from my account that my son sends almost 2000 messages a month.

So tonight I changed it, as well as added back the voice mail/call display plan that was lost when my son switched to GSM and was told he wouldn’t lose any of his services. Again I received no confirmation, but this time I copied the order for future reference.

One would think that a company in the internet/communication business might have a better grasp of the internet and communications. Yet so far my every interaction with their website has involved at least one very bad billing surprise and one very frustrated call to the phone operators. And virtually every instance has given me a worse impression of the company.


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Drink more. Smoke more.

You may be protecting yourself against Parkinson’s disease.

Every day I read different scientific studies. More often that not the result of one study contradicts the previous days’ study, making me think that we reall don’t have a clue about how anything actually works in life.

Coffee is good.Coffee is bad. Red wine is good. Red wine is bad. Everything good is bad for you. Or vice versa.

Perhaps Einstein was right when he said this:

We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.


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What will they think of next?

If you have trouble getting lid off of jars you might want this new gadget, the LidsOff, from Black & Decker.

I have a simpler solution myself. A couple of years ago at the 4H Fair somebody was handing out little disc-shaped pieces of thick rubber emblazoned with the words "Smokey says only you can prevent forest fires." Wrap that thing around a jar lid and off it comes. Cost: free.

I have lots of gadgets, especially for the kitchen, but I try to limit my purchases to what I will actually use. I do own a Ginsu, but in my defense I bought it when I was much younger and dumber. I may be no smarter now, but I am older. Ok, I do own six different cheese graters. But I need them all, really.

Today’s Times has a great article about gadgets. Though I have no idea why anybody would want a brownie pan that makes every brownie with edges. I like the ones from the middle.


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Your account shows irregular activity.

In a full page ad on page 17 of today’s New York Times, Chase Bank offers Free Security Alerts to notify you when something unusual is happening with your accounts.

No offense intended to Chase, but I get several emails a week informing me that my account has irregular activity. And sometimes these emails even come from banks where I have accounts. This is known as phishing.

The problem for Chase, where I am a customer by the way, is how to convince me that their email is the legitimate one.

A year ago I received an email from American Express that my card showed unusual activity. The email looked legitimate enough, but when I called the number in the email it occurred to me that it could be a very organized crime. I asked the female operator how I could know I was speaking to American Express. She told me to hand up and dial the number on the back of my card. I did, and was connected to the same person, so I was pretty sure. And then she asked me the requisite twenty questions to prove I was me.

The problem here is one of identity. How can I securely identify an email as actually having come from the purported sender? How can they prove that I am me?

At the very minimum it would be nice if email software validated that all of the links in the message came from the actual domain of the apparent sender.

Perhaps the time has come for everybody to have their own Verisign key. At the very minimum we need some way to prove who we are. And it isn’t just email. Asking me for the last four digits of my social security number, as ATT used to do, or for my mother’s maiden name, isn’t all that secure either.


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Google’s sense of humor.

There are some funny folks at Google. They’ve come up with ideas like Google’s base on the moon. And they infuse some fun into Google’s products.

I saw this one the other day. If you go to Google Maps and get directions from Boston to London you get this route:

  • Turn right at Long Wharf (0.1 mi)
  • Swim across the Atlantic Ocean (3,462 mi)
  • Slight right at E05 (0.5 mi)


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Enter at your own risk.

I thought about titling this post "We don’t need to stinking badges." as an answer to Tim O’Reilly’s post about a Blogging Code of Conduct, complete with badges. You won’t see any of those badges on my site, thus the "Enter at your own risk" title.

Seriously, if you don’t like what you read here, stop reading. Change the channel. Turn it off. Whatever.

Jeneane Sessum, whose blog I continue to enjoy even as she was tarred by a broad brush on the whole mess that led up to Tim’s post, has captured some excellent points, with this favorite from Ronni Bennett:

And if that badge idea takes hold, then are those who, like me, stand as First Amendment absolutists against imposed standards of speech to have their blogs labeled – as Tim O’Reilly suggests – “dangerous territory”? One person’s insult is another’s satire. What constitutes foul language is highly individual, as is what is nasty.

Censorship is a trecherous undertaking. Once imposed, it doesn’t take much to go from banning individual words to opinion, books and soon, ideas. And then it has arrived at groupthink.

It was amazing how quickly a mob of vigilante bloggers formed after the events that occurred, based merely on a few written words. I understand that they all wanted to do the right thing, but sometimes the right think is to be patient and think things through.

I wonder how quickly and loudly that vigilante mob would act if someone broke the blogging code of conduct?

My code of conduct is pretty simple. I try to exercise common sense – to the extent that I have it anyway. But everything is offensive to someone, and we only say things the offend nobody then we would never say anything.


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Bit discrimination.

We would never allow discrimination on the basis of race. So why is it alright to discriminate on the basis of bits?

After all, that is what net neutrality is – all bits are created equal.

Not everybody agrees with this though. Digital Copyright Canada points to a post by MarkGoldberg suggesting that net neutrality is an extremist view:

There are extremist views that keep percolating from some elements in the discussion that threaten the nationalization of telecommunications infrastructure unless carriers embrace net neutrality. Whoa!

He says that innovation has happened without net neutrality regulations:

The rapid pace of internet innovation we have witnessed to date has taken place without specialized net neutrality legislation. It seems to me that network neutrality is overly broad regulation that will serve stifle innovation.

Yes innovation happened at a rapid pace precisely because the net was neutral. Telecoms are fond of saying that they are afraid of growth being stifled by new net neutrality regulations but they certainly wouldn’t have any problem with new regulations in their favor. What exactly would they lose if the net stayed neutral? Oh yeah, lots and lots of new revenue for the same service that they already provide.

Mr. Goldberg says net neutrality isn’t realistic:

Later in the week, I’ll look at some examples of why I think the objectives of net neutrality just aren’t realistic for customers who want advanced services.

Just out of curiousity, what are these advanced services that customers want? More digital television channels? There are already hundreds and there’s never anything on. Do users want companies like Google to pay more for bandwidth? Does that mean the my bandwidth cost will decrease? Didn’t think so.

When has a telecom company ever been the first to introduce any kind of advanced service? Any answer will do. Voice mail and call display are not exactly advanced services by the way.

The anti-net neutrality fight by telecoms is all about generating more revenue without providing any additional services. There won’t be one drop more bandwidth than there is now – it will just cost more. And there won’t be innovation like Google or Joost because those startup companies won’t be able to pay for the bandwidth.

Bit discrimination kills innovation. Funny thing though. All that innovation drove internet adoption. When the innovation stops, the customers don’t come and the revenue stops too.


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Paying more for less.

This image from Thomas Purves compares the cost of mobile data access in Canada to that of other countries, including third-world countries – and shows it very much lacking:

The motto of the CRTC, Canada’s telcom regulator is “Communications in the Public Interest”. Right.

If you live in Canada, write to your MP. The CRTC, as an institution, needs to be taken out and shot.*

Now the CRTC has always been useless when it comes to protecting the interests of citizens, but I’m pretty sure they don’t regulate wireless data rates.But it is embarrassing to hear Canada claim to be at the forefront of mobile technology when they are actually at the forefront of mobile billing.

One has to wonder though just how stupid these telecom companies are. Sure they’re raking in the cash from a few subscribers but that will plateau if they don’t start generating some growth. And at those rates unless your employer is paying the bill you probably aren’t rushing to sign up for a data plan.

So Canada will just languish at the back of the pack in terms of wireless adoption. But the carriers will still be getting paid so they won’t care. But if companies can’t convince users to sign up for data plans then we also won’t see any mobile innovation.


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