Rethinking airline seat upgrades

Interesting post from the Economist’s travel blog: you can now upgrade your airline seat after boarding and taking off on some airlines. I’m fascinated by this as a student of logistics; empty seats on an airplane are the ultimate perishable good, meaning the value is lost the moment you pull back from the terminal gate. This is why airlines spend millions of dollars matching demand to price to ensure as much revenue is squeezed from the rest of the plane, and why it’s common practice to overbook a flight to account for no-shows (the cost of accommodating a bumped passenger is small compared to the cost of running with an empty seat). There are enough consumers out there who are cost-conscious enough to stick with economy seats, but human enough to think packing into a metal tube like a sardine is unpleasant, and this policy is geared to them. Imagine — you book your economy seat, then find you’re the middle seat between two “ample” colleagues. One quick swipe of a credit card and you’re up in front. Everyone wins; that much more room in coach class, you get to stretch your legs and enjoy a flight for once, the airline’s goodwill heightens with its customers, and the bottom line improves marginally as business class fills.

Too Much Ado Over Radio 2

It’s been said that Canadians are slow to change. Ample evidence of this comes from this week’s reconfiguring of CBC Radio 2. I will admit it right now — classical is not my usual cup of tea. It’s pleasant background music, I suppose, but so is, for example, Buddha Bar. Consequently, I didn’t tune into Radio 2 very much before the “format change” (quotations to be explained later). Every time I did it was classical of some kind, or Vinyl Cafe with warm stories about the gentle shenanigans of Dave, Morley, and the Turlingtons — for the American readers, think Lake Wobegon but more (maple) syrupy — or some opera.

As of September 2, Radio 2 has reduced the amount of classical to 5 hours a week day, and added a morning and evening show. The hosts are no longer those who tut-tutted at Trudeaumania; bypassing those who were actually caught up in the PET fad, they went with people who were, well, conceived around the time Pierre took Barbra Streisand out on the town. In short, they’ve rejigged the station for an audience that might have been influenced by disco and synth pop, but who also want a dose of Mahler, Peer Gynt and Glenn Gould. They’re trying to convince a new group of listeners who loved Paul Potts’s Nessun Dorma that there’s a whole opera surrounding it.

The old have decided this is a bad thing. Continue reading “Too Much Ado Over Radio 2”

Velvet John Baird and Poker-Playing Dogs

Nobody else seems to have caught on to what would usually be an instant poopstorm, so allow me.

Edmonton is on track to win a bid for a National Portrait Gallery. See, the federal government, whose power base is the west, doesn’t like that all the good stuff goes to Ottawa, so they opened up the location of the NPG to private-sector bids in nine Canadian cities, including Ottawa. Turns out Edmonton is a favourite, with a bid to locate it in the new Epcor building downtown. There has been much debate over the “proper” location of a gallery, and I do not wish to wade into it; there are excellent arguments both for and against. However, Jim Gray of the Ottawa Citizen has some opinions on the matter, not least of which have to do with the quality and seriousness of an Edmonton-based gallery. In a story on the Ottawa bid, he writes and I quote:

The gallery would normally be the purview of Ottawa – you know, musty paintings of the Duke of Somewhere, Governor General Something or Other. But the most recent acquired collections in the spirit of Western culture at the Edmonton portrait gallery/P3 livery stable would be so un-Ottawa: Environment Minister John Baird in black-light poster; Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon finger-painted; and the prime minister himself, Stephen Harper, on velvet or whatever medium is playing well in Fort McMurray these days. Doubtless, they would all look good in the Elvis wing, certain to be the most popular exhibit in the Edmonton gallery besides the poker-playing dogs. Those cute little pooches always knock ’em dead with the dice-on-the-rearview-mirror set. Found art to be sure.

Pardon my (implied) French, but WTF?

Billions in Profit, $500 at a Time

An entertaining bank story for your Monday reading pleasure.

With our old home equity plan we had a line of credit (Old LOC) and a Visa (Old VISA). When we bought the new house we needed to pay off the old stuff, and we got New LOC and New VISA as part of the new home equity plan.

In the process, I overpaid the old Visa by $500. I didn’t catch this until a few months ago. Called the bank up, asked them to please transfer my credit balance from Old Visa to New LOC. Sure, they said, no problem.

Two months later, another round of statements and I realize they had transferred the credit amount from Old Visa to Old LOC. Not so helpful, so I call again, explain my problem, and ask them to transfer credit balance from Old LOC to New LOC. Sure, no problem, we’ll get on that right away.

A week later, transfer hasn’t shown up in New LOC, so I phone to see what’s going on. Transfer never happened, much apology, will re-authorize. Then a phone message at home: we can’t do the transfer, would you mind going to your branch and getting it done?

Three days later, I check New LOC. I find the $500 transfer in there, but it’s been transferred in the wrong direction. Now, instead of having two closed accounts with $0 balances, I have Old LOC, which I can’t access or check online, with a credit balance of $1000. The extra $500 came from New LOC. Pretty impressive given I was told they couldn’t actually process the transfer for me.

The status now is a promise to transfer all the money back into new LOC, backdating as appropriate to avoid interest charges. If this happens without further intervention I will have to schedule time to retrieve my jaw from the floor and reattach it.

The Cluster-F**k that is Voting in the Alberta Election

My wife forgot that it was election day in Alberta today. I must admit, I almost forgot myself and realized this past weekend that I needed to vote today.

So on my way home from attending a ceremony celebrating my employer’s $500,000 gift to the UofA I stopped at the usual polling station in my neighbourhood. Or at least, what I thought was the normal polling station. I do live in a new area, but for the civic election I voted at the Summerside Community Centre… seems like a reasonable place to vote in one’s community. When I got there, there was a sign that said that there was no polling place there. So I went home, assuming that the polling place would be a few blocks away at the Ellerslie Elementary School where I voted in the last federal election… (I think… I’ve voted in three different places for the last five elections at various levels, so I might have lost track). Alternatively, I thought that it might be at one of the elementary schools in Millwoods… which becomes a pain, especially in the weather today. But that’s where I voted in the second-to-last federal election, so maybe that’s where I needed to go.

Turns out that even though I live in a presumably urban centre, I need to go from 79th Street south of Ellerslie Rd (9th Ave SW) to J. Percy Page High School, which is 5.4 KM away according to google maps and is very tenuously connected by public transit. (I do drive, as would most voters in my ‘hood, but still!)

I’ll be interested to see what voter turnout ends up being in my riding. Well, and in several others. In trying to find out where the polling stations are in my riding (couldn’t find it unless I randomly input addresses), I came across information that the Windsor Park polling place has been moved away from the UofA campus… doesn’t Elections Alberta work for all of the people, not just those in power?

The thing that ticks me off is that with the rural domination that is Alberta politics, we’re just in for another four to five years of the same old, same old anyway.

It is black or white? No, black IS white!

The best proof I’ve seen that Alberta’s current premier is suffering some kind of multiple personality disorder comes in this story from the Globe and Mail. There’s a lot that people don’t really understand about oilsands development, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a full grasp on the issues. But the one incontrovertible truth is that extracting oil from tar sands takes incredible amounts of water and vast amounts of electricity, both of which are environmentally unfriendly practices no matter how much of that water you process and return to source or how you generate your electricity. So for someone to say that the environment trumps the economy but in the same breath refuses to slow the development of oilsands would require two separate personalities sharing one body.

I guess it would be possible to put the environment first and not directly slow development, if you were willing to impose stringent requirements on oilsands developers or charge royalties that would pay for the environmental cleanup. But that indirectly slows development, and it’s already been made clear that the current government has no intentions of slowing anything, thankyouverymuch.

The humble semicolon in transit

I’m a great fan of the ability for the English language to absorb, sponge-like, the words of other languages and even made-up words (blog, anyone?). I think it’s one of the things that has led to English being one of the dominant languages on the globe, even if it’s one of the hardest to learn. However, grammatical conventions are the glue that hold those words together, and I’m much less keen when conventions or style change them. When I was but a lad of fifteen, sitting in Mr. Thiessen’s English class, to end a sentence with a preposition was worth at least a lecture, if not the silent gleam in the eyes threatening out-and-out violence.

All of this is to introduce a story, apparently the most linked on the New York Times‘s website, on a now-rare use of the humble semi-colon in, of all places, subway advertising. Who would have thought that an article would wrap up two loves of mine — grammar and subways — in such a neat little package?

(PS – any grammatical errors in this blog post are due to my writing it at 7:45 in the morning.)