"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad.

People are either charming or tedious." - Lord Darlington, Lady Windmere's Fan by Oscar Wilde.




So? Does this mean I'm balanced?

Your Score: Androgynous

You scored 63 masculinity and 60 femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

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Getting the answer you want

In an episode of the British series Yes, Prime Minister, the Prime Minister was keen on reintroducing conscription (National Service) as a means of bolstering the armed forces, reducing unemployment and providing skills training to young people.

For various reasons, the civil service and military are opposed to the idea, which the Prime Minister believes to be a vote winner.

In this clip, Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Cabinet Secretary, explains to Bernard Woolley, the Principal Private Secretary of the Prime Minister, how to get the poll results desired.

This is one of the techniques used in negotiating with someone or trying to persuade someone - consistency. People want to act in a way that is consistent.

Psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, published a study in the 1966 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique showing just how consistent people will strive to be. The experiment was simple, people were asked to put a large, ugly DRIVE CAREFULLY sign on their lawn. Only 17% agreed.

Next, they asked a bunch of people to put a small 3 inch square sign in their window reading BE A SAFE DRIVER. Most persons agreed (sorry, I can't find the numbers for this). Two weeks later they were asked to put up the same large sign ontheir lawn. This time the total compliance for the entire population was 76%.

So the moral of the story is: to get commitment on something big, first ask for something small.

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The beauty of the written word

If you enjoy languages and the beauty of the written word, I suggest you take a peek at Omniglot: writing systems and languages of the world.

I could easily spend hours poring over the scripts.

Dhives Akuru

Both images are taken from the website.

[Update 27-July-2007 @ 00:13 to add better sample of Dhives Akuru script.]

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What am I doing?

Last week I purchased a new memory card for my camera. This is a 2Gb card and is my third (fourth if you include the one that came with the camera).

For some reason, I got it in my head to simply buy new memory cards when the old ones fill up (it is one way of keeping backups - aside from the ones on the hard disk). My reasoning is simple - the cost per shot, is cheaper than film. At a maximum resolution of 3.1 megapixels, I get about 2500 shots on a 2Gb card. At $70 for the card, this works out to 2.8 cents per image. Even if I buy film from the dollar store (which I have, but stopped because the film has sometimes been exposed to light), it works out to 4.2 cents per image (or 25 cents per image if you include processing costs of $4.99 per roll). Never mind that I can eliminate bad photos from the memory, but cannot retake poor film shots.

As I slipped into the driver's seat and laid my purchase down on the passenger seat, I had one of those "What am I doing?" moments. Unless my hard drive crashes, I am not going to review those memory cards. They will just sit in my drawer, aging, eventually becoming obsolete (like my 5-1/4 and 3-1/2 inch diskettes, my 5Mb tape backup system, and any number of obsolete bits of computer hardware).

Image nabbed from here.

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"Will you buy me this gum?” Tania asked.

"No," I said, "and I am not going to buy you any candy, chocolates or chips."

"Da-a-a-d, will you buy this gum for Jason?" Tania asked.

"Smooth," said the cashier.

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"A hermit eh? Then why's your table set for four?"

"That's nothing. My alarm clock is set for eight."

exchange between policeman and Groucho Marx in Night at the Opera

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jeesh shtyure

That is what it sounded like when the New Zealand doctor said it on CBC radio and I went What!?.

Fortunately, he repeated it a few times and I worked it was actually gesture. I consider myself pretty good at working out what people are saying in various accented English, but, man, that pronunciation was way off.

The way I say it, it sounds something like: jess chure.

Word of the day

uxorial: adj relating to or characteristic of a wife. From the Latin uxor meaning wife.

Got to love The Economist for using obscure snobbish words.

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"It is forbidden to ride a camel inside the village,"

my Sudanese friend told me.

The reason is that the homes have no roofs, except over the kitchen / cooking area. If you were travelling through the village perched atop a camel, you would be able to see over the walls and into people's homes.

Image nabbed from here.

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Customer service? We've heard of it.

Following on the heels of Barbara, I have my own tale of consumer woe.

Until the middle of August, I have the kids up here in Ottawa with me, since it is easier for me to get them to and from summer camp than it is for Sofia in Montreal.

Since the kids principally live in Montreal, that is where their beds are. I live in a mostly empty house in Ottawa, so I need to buy a bed for them to sleep on.

It was a pretty simple decision for me, I went to Mattress Mart because I've bought from them four times before (97 or 98, 2000, 2001, and 2003) and was happy with them. On 03-July-2007 I bough a futon from them and asked to have it delivered in the evening of 04-July-2007 - defined as being sometime between 17:00 and 20:00. ”Call tomorrow after three for a more accurate delivery time”, I was told.

04-July-2007 between 15:30 and 16:00 (I tried calling at 15:00, but the line was busy).

me: ”Hi, I was told I to call after three to get a better estimated time of delivery"

We exchange some information.

woman: "Between six and eight PM tonight."

04-July-2007 at 17:55

I arrive home. A little stressed because I had hoped to be a little earlier, but a spot of rain slowed traffic as I got went through the downtown core. I am listening to the tail end of All in a Day, CBC Ottawa radio's afternoon show from 16:00 to 18:00. At least the six o’clock news hasn't started, so I am pretty confident I am home before six.

Get the kids out of the car, grab their knapsacks, lunch boxes and wet towels.

Get to the house, no sign on the door indicating the delivery guys had dropped buy a little early. The mailbox was empty.

Get into the house, tell the kids to wash up, Turn on the radio, The World at Six has not yet started. Wash my hands and pull some pork chops out of the fridge, grab a frying pan, set it on the stove and hear the World at Six theme music start. Ugh. Okay, better tidy up the foyer.

Go to the foyer, start moving shoes, backpacks, lunchbags, wet towels, and some stuff we bought the previous night (nothing perishable) off to the side so I don't have to scramble to clear a path when the delivery show up.

Peek outside on the off chance they we arriving exactly at six. Nope.

Jason runs to the door to look outside (we have a solid front door, but there is a vertical window, about 6 inches (15 cm) wide beside the door). "When are they coming?", he asks. "They said they would be come between six and eight and it just turned six", I say. He continues to linger by the door.

I go back to the kitchen and prepare the pork chops. Time passes, we eat. More time passes.

Eager like kids who can't wait for Christmas morning, my kids are on a hair trigger running at every perceived sound to the door checking if the delivery men are here.

As the evening wears on, their enthusiasm wears off. "It's almost eight," Tania says, "what if they don't come?"

"I am sure they just had a lot of deliveries, but they'll be here," I said.

04-July-2007 at 20:13 I call Mattress Mart.

me: "Hi. I was wondering if your delivery trucks are still on the road?"

woman: "No. They all returned a while ago."

me: "Oh. Do you know what time they tried to make the delivery to [my address]?"

woman: "It says they tried to make the delivery at six o’clock.”

me: "That is not true. I was home at six."

woman: "It says here they arrived at six, waited 10 minutes and left a note saying they tried to deliver."

me: "There was no note when I arrived before six and ...," walking to door, opening and examining it and the mailbox again, "there is nothing on my door or in my mailbox now."

woman: "I'm sorry, I can only tell you what the driver has writen down. I don' normally work this location. If you could call back tomorrow, someone will be able to help you."

05-July-2007 at a little after 10:00

I call Mattress Mart again and have pretty much the same conversation I had last night. Me insisting I was home at 18:00, them insisting the driver tried to deliver at 18:00 and left a note saying so.

They offer to have the delivery manager talk to me. I agree.

05-July-2007 a little later that morning

The delivery manager calls. We speak. Same story.

He keeps trying to reschedule for either the following week (they only deliver evenings on Tuesday and Wednesday) or Saturday (I am in Montreal). As far as I am concerned, neither are acceptable. I want that futon delivered this Thursday, after 18:00. He tells me that his drivers don't work evenings today. I reply that I don't care, their driver failed to make the delivery yesterday and they will make it tonight.

delivery manger: "You're saying you were there at six. My man says he was there at six. I have to side with my man."

Brilliant! Excellent PR! Call the customer a liar.

I tell him that if he is unwilling go deliver tonight, then I will cancel my order. He is unwilling. So I call Mattress Mart and tell them to cancel my order. I am told this will take 10 days, needs to go to head office and there will be a fee. I reply that I Will not be paying any fee because Mattress Mart failed to make the effort to deliver the futon when they said they would.

05-July-2007 at 12:51

I e-mailed their Customer Service outlining my complaint and that I have no intention of paying anything for Mattress Mart's failure.

They claim to respond in 2 to 3 business days. Today is business day 4. I also tried to speak to the store manager, Gabrielle, but she was in a meeting. She has not returned my call.

Other Point of View
I recognize that in this dispute, I am the clear underdog. After all, what could be the delivery guy's possible motive to randomly choose me to not deliver to?

I don't know what caused the delivery failure. That is not my problem. That is Mattress Mart's

But what is more believable: delivery guy randomly fails to deliver futon? Or customer misses delivery and tries to blame delivery guy? (So, I am not just upset at Mattress Mart, I am also upset at every person who lies, manipulates, deceives, distorts or misrepresents the truth.)

Could I have missed it?

Around 18:00 I was in the foyer, right next to the front door. Jason was watching out the window for the truck.

My kitchen is 15 feet (4m) from the front door. The doorbell is located above the kitchen entrance, it works and it is loud (when you press the doorbell button, you can hear it outside). When I am in the kitchen (and listening to the radio) I can hear the knocks of timid kids trying to sell me chocolate bars (some kids don’t use the doorbell, I guess they are afraid I might actually be home). I doubt very much I would miss the delivery man - especially since I was waiting for him.

End story
I am upset with Mattress Mart because I know where I was on 04-July-2007 at 18:00 and I know where the delivery guy was not.

There was no attempt at delivery to my home. There was no delivery attempt notification. Any attempt to say there was is a lie. And I hate lies! (I despise injustice of any sort).

I am very willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. But in this case, there is no doubt because I know where I was. Had they told me a delivery attempt had been made at 17:45, then I would be less sure. I could believe the delivery notice had blown away or been purloined by some mischievous kid.

Had I seen a delivery attempt notice, I would have called and seen if they could make it back toward the end of their run.

I know where I was. I know what the facts are on my side. As a consequence, I will never do business with Mattress Mart again, nor will I ever recommend them to anyone again (actually, I will gripe about them), simply because they are lying.

What effect will this have on Mattress Mart? Minimal. Let's be honest, aside from this futon, how many more bedding purchases am I likely to make? The kids will get upgraded bedding in a few years, so there is 2 purchases (maybe 4 if they live with us well into their 20s). Sofia and I are looking at getting a new bed and we will probably buy a new bed every 10 years or so. So there is another potential 4 sales. So, no, Mattress Mart will not suffer form the loss of our 6 sales. Even if I convince friends, they will end up losing what? 20 sales over 40 years? No big deal for them.

I will let the order cancellation process run its course. If I am charged. Then I will complain with the Better Business Bureau (they are a member, and no, they do not have that many complaints). If that does not resolve it then I will write the consumer ombudsman at the Ottawa Citizen. And if that doesn't work, then I will take them to small claims court (this order may change depending on any statutes of limitation)

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. - Tom Clancy, author

Image nabbed from here.

05-July-2007 at around 20:00

jason: "Will they being the bed tonight?"

me: "No, Jason, they will not be bringing the bed tonight, or ever,” and my heart breaks.

[Update: 13-July-2007 @ 14:56. Spoke with Gabrielle at the head office. She was pleasant and polite and listened patiently as I spilled my story of woe. She said that I will be getting a refund in full. Which is good. But I still wonder why my e-mail to customer service has not been answered and it also seems that Gabrielle was never requested to get back to me. (Actually, I don't even know how the person on 05-July-2007 could tell me she was in a meeting because I called the St. Laurent Office and she works at the Colonnade Rd. office - discovered when I did a follow up call today at 14:00). Hmmm. Anyway. Case closed.]

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40% + 60% = 100% Right?

I heard there was a 40% chance of rain this morning and a 60% chance of rain this afternoon. Does this mean there is a 100% chance of rain some time today?

Assuming rain in the morning and rain in the afternoon are completely independent events* (they are not).

We calculate the probability of rain in the morning AND the afternoon to be 0.4 * 0.6 = 0.24 (or 24%).
We calculate the probability of rain in the morning AND no rain in the afternoon to be 0.4 * 0.4 = 0.16 (or 16%).
We calculate the probability of no rain in the morning AND rain in the afternoon to be 0.6 * 0.6 = 0.36 (or 36%)

Adding up all the probabilities of some combination of rain and not rain we get 24% + 16% + 36% = 76% chance of rain today.

Alternatively, it tends to be more commonly calculated as the (1 - probability of no rain**), which is 1.0 - 0.6 * 0.4 = 1.0 – 0.24 = 0.76 = 76% chance of rain.

* Independent events are events whose outcome (result) has no relationship to previous outcomes (results). For example, tossing a coin: whether the coin comes up heads or tails does not depend on what the coin came up before.

** the probability of no rain in the morning is 60% (or 0.6) and the probability of no rain in the afternoon is 40% (or 0.4) in case you were wondering where those number came from.

Bonus: 20+ years ago I discovered that weather forecasters calculate the probability of rain based on historical meteorological records. If they say there is a 40% chance of rain, what they are really saying is, "Based on our records of similar weather conditions, it rained 40% of the time". As far as I know, there is no magic formula they use, just a big database look up.

Image is nabbed from here.

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What is your tribal allegiance?

I have observed in church that the congregation half-heartedly mumbles prayers and maybe a few intrepid souls will join in singing any hymns, but when it comes to singing the national anthem, people stand to attention, puff out their chest and sing loudly lest their neighbour think them unpatriotic.

This past Sunday / Canada Day (01-July-2007) proved to be no different - patriotism won handedly over godliness.

Image nabbed from here.

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