Over Belled

Seeing as I had nothing better to do last night, I calculated the taxes on my phone bill.

There are two taxes: a 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and (in Ontario) 8% provincial sales tax (PST).

My bill was $50.07 before taxes.

My GST should have been $2.50 and my PST should have been $4.01. Instead it was $2.51 and $4.02 respectively. I was over billed $0.02!

Of course, that is really insignificant, however, this morning I discovered it is happening to others. Assuming Bell Canada bills 1,000,000 customers (probably low, considering the number of residential, business and cell phones available in Canada), that means an extra $10,000 per month for Bell or $120,000 per year.

Typical rounding practice is to round down if less than 1/2 a penny and round up if 1/2 a penny of more. And Bell appears to round this way, except it then adds a penny to the final result.

The numbers in bold should be the final result, but since Bell adds a penny, it is actually the numbers in italics.

$50.07 x 5% = $2.5035 => (rounded) => $2.50 + $0.01 = $2.51
$50.07 x 8% = $4.0056 => (rounded) => $4.01 + $0.01 = $4.02

Now I am going to have to go and check various other bills. sigh.

Image grabbed and cropped from here.

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If you have an hour to spare...

Might I recommend listening to the CBC Radio's Ideas episode "How to Think About Science" featuring Richard Lewontin's take on it.

I think he offers a lot to think about.

(Of course, if you don't like him, there are 17 other episodes and ways to think about science).

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Pale Blue Dot

Seeing as today is Earth Day and I am strapped for time, I am gently appropriating this post from Ingrid's blog.

I think it is a powerful message to reflect upon.

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To The Nines

Today, Princess Tania turns 9.

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"If we abandon fidelity, for which we are formed, and make designs against our neighbour's wife, what are we doing?

What else but destroying and overthrowing? Whom? The man of fidelity, the man of modesty, the man of sanctity. Is this all? And are we not overthrowing neighbourhood, and friendship, and the community; and in what place are we putting ourselves? How shall I consider you? As a neighbour, as a friend? What kind? As a citizen? How can I trust you? If you were a utensil, you would be so worthless that no man could use you, and you would be thrown out on the dung heaps, and no man would pick you up. But, being a man, you are unable to fulfill any role which befits a man, what are we to do with you? Since you cannot hold the place of a friend, can you hold the place of a slave? Who will trust you? Is it not reasonable that you too should be pitched somewhere on a dung heap, as a useless utensil, and a bit of dung? But then you complain, "Doesn't anyone care about me"? They do not, because you are bad and useless. It is as if wasps complained that no man cares for them; if a man can, he strikes them and knocks them down. You have such a sting that you throw into trouble and pain any man that you wound with it. What would you have us do with you? You have no place where you can be put.

Epictetus, Discourses, Book 2, Chapter 4 (with minor alterations to, hopefully, make the language a little less stuffy without changing the meaning)

Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher and teacher. The Discourses are dated from the very turn of the 2nd century.

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The Marks

My Canadian trademark application was approved on 20-February-2008 in accordance with section 37 of the Trademarks Act.

37. (1) The Registrar shall refuse an application for the registration of a trade-mark if he is satisfied that

(a) the application does not conform to the requirements of section 30,

(b) the trade-mark is not registrable, or

(c) the applicant is not the person entitled to registration of the trade-mark because it is confusing with another trade-mark for the registration of which an application is pending,

and where the Registrar is not so satisfied, he shall cause the application to be advertised in the manner prescribed.

This is really a conditional approval. Basically, the trademark is published and persons have 2 months to challenge it.

As with legal documents, it is worded in an odd way (reorganized by me): [W]here the Registrar is not ... satisfied [that the application meets the requirements for refusal], he shall cause the application to be advertised.

There was also a note in the acceptance letter that I should ignore any third party solicitations regarding the application.

Yesterday, I received an invoice from a European agency located in Hungary requesting me to send them US $1650 in regards to my trademark application (along with my full business name and tax number).

You can read a warning about such organizations here as well as browse specific sample letters.

(My apologies for not divulging the trademark name. It has nothing to do with trying to be coy. It has everything to do with keeping my anonymity / privacy - the application is easily looked up and from there you could get my full name and address.)

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"Sometimes, Grandma reads me stories at night."

Comment Jason made to me as I put him to bed about a week and a half ago. I asked him if he wanted to have my mother's ashes in his room that night.

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Belated Blogiversary

Earlier this week (07-April-2008), Forbidden Planet became a 3 year old toddler. Over a period of 1101 days, I have managed 556 posts (including this one). Not as prolific as some bloggers, but I think averaging one post every two days isn't too bad.

My ground rules for posting are pretty simple:
  1. no more than 1 post per day (I have broken this rule 3 times, I think)
  2. keep the posts concise. My fictitious goal is 3 paragraphs
  3. avoid repetition
  4. leave the reader with something to think about

I hope the approach I take to blogging is similar to what Lister Sinclair expressed about the way he approached the production of Ideas: (paraphrase) "I assume the listener is intelligent and very knowledgeable in all subject matters, except the one I am presenting."

I think I have been reasonably successful.

Some of my favourite posts over the past 3 years (there is no rhyme or reason to their selection, except that they came quickly to mind and I like them):

Evolution of a Peeve
What Self Cleaning Windows, Deodorizing Lights and Your Skin Have in Common
Non-Conforming or Non-Conformant?
"That was a long time ago."
Pictures of Ottawa

and, of course,

Richardology (the responses are a trove of inestimable wealth).

Image nabbed from here.

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What brings people here

Despite me not posting recently, people still manage to find their way here. This is a recent snapshot of search terms landing people here. I removed all terms looking for this SPAM (which makes up about half my search hits) and any clearly looking for the movie Forbidden Planet.

What we are left with is this - feel free to enlarge and look at it.

I sometimes search on the terms and manage to find myself, other times I have no idea how people managed to find me.

Note: Google seems to track if you search on your own blog. Many times I enter the search terms and find myself, only to enter them a little later and find I have disappeared from the search. This is most evident when a search initially brings up 3 or so pages (including mine) and a subsequent search brings up those pages, less mine. So beware searching on your own blog. This also seems to apply to clicking on searches recorded within Stat Counter.




"There used to be something called God ..."

"It's a subject," he [Mustapha Mond] said, "that has always had a great interest for me." He pulled out a thick black volume. "You've never read this, for example." ...

The Savage took it. "The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments," he read aloud from the title-page.

"Nor this." It was a small book and had lost its cover.

"The Imitation of Christ."

"Nor this." He handed out another volume.

"The Varieties of Religious Experience. By William James."

"And I've got plenty more," Mustapha Mond continued, resuming his seat. "A whole collection of pornographic old books." ...

"But if you know about God, why don't you tell them?" asked the Savage indignantly. "Why don't you give them these books about God?"

"For the same reason as we don't give them Othello: they're old; they're about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now."

"But God doesn't change."

"Men do, though."

"What difference does that make?"

"All the difference in the world," said Mustapha Mond. ...

"Then you think there is no God?"

"No, I think there quite probably is one."

"Then why? ..."

Mustapha Mond checked him. "But he manifests himself in different ways to different men. In premodern times he manifested himself as the being that's described in these books. Now ..."

"How does he manifest himself now?" asked the Savage.

"Well, he manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren't there at all."

"That's your fault."

"Call it the fault of civilization. God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That's why I have to keep these books locked up in the safe. They're smut ..."
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World




"I'm Cool, You're Not!"

A week or two ago Jason asked, "What is 10 minus 100?"

"Minus 90," I said.

"No, it's zero," he said. "If you have 10 and you take away 100, then you take away all 10 and you have zero. Ha Ha! I'm cool, you're not!"

He is always asking about numbers and seems to be pretty good at math. A few weeks ago he surprised me by asking for my dad's age and then my age and almost immediately working out the difference (68 - 41 = 27). I was pretty impressed because that is pretty good for a 6 year old.

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Bleh and the Aroma of Fresh Baking

Last week was a rather hectic as I commuted daily between Ottawa and Montreal (200Km each way or 1600Km in total or 120L of gas) because Sofia was in Brazil and that left me to take care of the kids (same thing happens next week when she goes to Panama). So opportunities to blog were rather scarce. This week, I have to play catch up at work on hours missed last week.

I am not out of ideas, just out of energy to blog. bleh.

Anyway ...

I was in Chapters this past Monday and went to the magazine rack to look at magazines. I picked a glossy one (Circuit Cellar) and it was warm. It felt very nice in my hands and evoked a very pleasant emotional rsponse. I didn't have my infrared pyrometer with me (even if I did, I would have felt self conscious pulling it out to measure the temperature of the magazines, the shelving and lights), but I would estimate it at having been somewhere between 30C and 35C (based on measuring the temperature of my hands later on and remembering that the magazine felt "alive" warm and not "heated" warm).

It got me wondering if this was done on purpose or simply an artefact of the lights crammed into the shelving to make the magazine bright and attractive. I think it is an artefact.

However, it got me thinking about other thinks that evoke strong positive emotional responses in us and can be used to manipulate us to buy things. I've looked at homes where the sales agent has brought in a bread machine and baked bread to give it that nice smell.

I then wondered if other goods could be sold by warming them. Towels came to mind. Imagine walking into your favourite department store, you are browsing, your eye is caught by some display in the towel section, you walk over and pick up a warm towel from the shelf. You could optionally waft in a fresh scent, maybe vanilla, maybe lily-of-the-valley (muguet in French). I think, stores could sell more towels if they were soft and warm when customers picked them up (but it has to be a living warm, close to body temperature, not a heated warm, because then it is artificial).

Of course, maybe this would only work in climates where it is cold or cool. I can't imagine it working in Singapore where it is hot all the time (a blogger described it once to me as the land of perpetual Spring and Summer) - forecast to be between high 20s and low 30s (with rain) for the next few days.

For the curious, I did buy the magazine (along with a few others and a book).

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