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August 29, 2011

Banning Guns Again

There has been a rash of gun violence across the US again, and people are picking up their banners and rhetoric about banning guns and the need for more and stricter laws. There are a few points that the majority of people don't seem to grasp or understand:
  1. There are, literally, thousands of gun laws already in the books. There are hundreds of gun laws in each state and hundreds more at the Federal level. The country has very strict gun laws.
  2. A very small percentage of gun violence is done with legally purchased, owned, registered, and otherwise sanctioned guns. The vast majority is done by illegally purchased, obtained, and used firearms.
  3. Enforcement of these laws is the toughest aspect; there are not nearly enough ATF, FBI, or policemen to enforce the thousands of laws already on the books.
  4. Vastly (approximately 10x each) more people are injured and killed by stabbing, blunt force trauma, and car accidents each year than by gun violence, yet we don't see these same people asking for a ban on knives, baseball bats, rocks, fists, or automobiles.
When you add a law or ban a weapon, you are only making it more difficult for or banning it from those who want to legally obtain the weapon. Those who are not using legal means to get their weapons are not affected in the least.

Instead of adding more (useless) laws or trying to ban something that isn't to blame, how about we put more money into local and state police coffers, so that they can hire more policemen to patrol the street, patrol gun shows and gun stores, and enforce the laws we have? How about we put more money toward education and job creation, so that family life is better, people are smarter, and jobs are more plentiful so that fewer people have a need for gun violence? How about we put more time and effort into understanding why gangs form and what causes gang violence, and root out the source of these issues?

There are many ways American can tackle the gun violence issue in the country. Many of them will treat and stop other social and societal issues along the way. But banning guns or adding new laws? That just winds up being whistling in the wind.

August 15, 2011

Hiding Your Options is a Canadian version of Netflix. Recently, there was a big postal strike that affected mail delivery across the country. While the postal strike and negotiations lasted for over a month, ZIP is giving its clients 13 days of "make-goods" for our inability to return watched, or receive new, movies.

What I think is funny is that, when I contacted them directly via their online support Chat function, the CSR I chatted with said specifically that they would contact each affected person personally (i.e., via email) with what those make-goods would be. I have yet to receive that email. Then, last week, my wife signed in to our account and saw a button to click relating to the make-goods at the top of the home screen for their website. As she wanted to discuss the issues with me, she ignored it and did what she signed in to do. When she mentioned it to me, I logged in and did not see any link or display on the home page.

We discussed it again last night. I logged in and showed her that I could not see the link on the home page she mentioned. She logged in and verified it wasn't on her screen either. I then called the company's 24/7 support line and explained what I wanted. The person was not at all surprised. I told him I was in front of my PC and logged in to my account. I asked if he could just walk me through where that selection was so I could pick my make-good. He said, "You have to type the address I'll give you into the browser address field; you can't get to it from the website."

'Pretty tricky,' I thought. They put a link up that was a one-off display when you first logged in to your account (or was a limited time header on their main page). If you did not selected it that one time (or during the limited time) it displayed, you were SOL unless you thought to call them and ask them about it.

This strikes me as a nation-wide company with thousands of members affected by the postal strike doing its best to:
  1. Seem like it cares and will do something for its members.
  2. Make it as hard for its members to actually get their money back using one of the two options they provided.
  3. Limit the amount it gives its customers by determining that people were affected for a far shorter period of time than the mail strike actually affected folks (at least for those of us in Atlantic Canada).
I am not averse to a company making a profit. However, when you own a company that deals with the mail exclusively and the mail is down for a period of time, your customers will be affected and should be compensated for the time they were unable to use your company. If you do this willingly, even maybe going the extra mile for them, they will be loyal and happy customers. Happy customers' positive word-of-mouth may even make you a few more customers, allowing you to make more profits.

However, on the flip side, doing as little as you can, determining that people were affected for far less time than they actually were, and hiding, obfuscating, and/or limiting people's access to the benefits will garner you people dropping their subscription rate, canceling their account altogether, and negative word-of-mouth, which may cause more previously-loyal customers leaving your company. And all of this lowers your profit margins.

In the end, we decided to take one of the make-goods, lower our current account by one step (saving us $8 a month), and are considering canceling once we burn through all of our Zip points we have collected. I can't help but wonder how many others will do something similar?

August 2, 2011


Yesterday, my wife and I were returning from the movies. As we neared a particular intersection, I saw one vehicle coming toward us. Once that car passed, I started to go. A sharp intake of breath and a, "Geez John!" from my wife and I slammed back on my brake. At that moment, out from behind the passenger-side post came an entire other vehicle that I would have hit dead-on had I continued going.

It is funny to think that an entire vehicle can hide behind that post, but, of course, the post is really close to you and the car, for all its size, is farther away.

The posts that hold up the roof/ceiling of the cab area on my vehicle are about 12" wide at the base and a fairly steady 4" wide the rest of the way up. But that width is only about 3' away from me, at the farthest, while the 7' long and 5' wide car is 30+ feet away from me. In this particular instance, the fact that my perspective as the driver was so impeded by these thick, plastic and metal struts nearly caused a hellacious accident.

One thing my wife and I have noticed is that this issue is becoming more pronounced. Newer cars seem to have even thicker, wider posts, and the bases often have speakers and air vents in them, making them even wider. This is problematic as it can seriously impede your ability to see cross traffic, around corners or bends in the road, and can make your "blind spot" even larger -- all of which can increase your chances for being in a collision.

I'm very happy and lucky that my wife wanted to see that movie with me yesterday. If she hadn't, who knows what could have happened?