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Get Out The Vote!

Posted 2011.04.06 16.58 in Pointless Blather

It seems like every election there’s at least some talk in the media about voter apathy. Some percentage or cross-section of the populace are disaffected, disinterested, disillusioned, or dis-whatever. Most-recently I read that it’s the youth that they fear aren’t going to get interested enough to get out and vote.

I can’t speak for the youth today, but I can say that when I was going-on 18, I couldn’t wait to vote. I was very eager for the opportunity to cast my ballot and have my voice heard, I saw it not as a right but as a responsibility or duty that every citizen was expected to fulfill.

In fact, my own experience is that apathy and age are directly proportionate – or maybe I’m thinking of cynicism… But I digress.

What I’m actually writing about today is how to get more people to vote, plain and simple. As I see it, there are a few specific problems with our current system, which contribute to lower-than-desired voter turnout. If we address and correct those problems, then more people will vote. Let’s look at the problems one by one, below the fold.

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Postal Service

Posted 2010.12.10 23.11 in Pointless Blather

Hot on the heels of my rant about the rate increase on stamps, here’s another one about postal service. Postal Service, by the way, is a phrase known in grammatical terms as an oxymoron – that is, something which is self-contradictory. Other examples include military intelligence and jumbo shrimp.

Enough grammar, on with the rant.

So I’m waiting on a couple parcels coming through the mail. I know, bad time for shipping stuff, and frankly I’d rather use Fedex or DHL and pay the extra $$ for overnight delivery. But this particular merchant only offered UPS and mail, and the only thing worse than mail is UPS.

So I’ve got the tracking numbers and I’ve been watching the tracking screens on a regular basis. Yesterday one of the packages cleared customs and was in the big sorting station that’s about 15 miles from here. No updates after that. I had hoped it might come today, and they usually bring parcels at about 9:30 in the morning so I stayed home till then, just in case. But the tracking still said it was at the sorting station.

Now just a few minutes ago I happened to look at the tracking site again, and was surprised to find this:

The top line caught my attention first – attempted delivery? Notice card left? 16:07?! I was home before 4pm, and nobody attempted anything at 16:07 – still, I went and checked the mailbox incase there was a stealth visit. Nothing there, of course.

So I look closer and then I see the second line. Aha. So at 16:06 the package went ‘out for delivery’ then a whole 1 minute later they attempted to deliver it but I wasn’t home, so they left a card. In other words: Lies.

I’ve caught them playing this game before.

What they really do is, say Fuck it, and don’t bother coming by at all. They take the package directly to somewhere that it can be picked up. Then they drop the notice card with the regular mail sorting so that it turns up with the following day’s regular mail.

So Monday, the notice card will show up with Friday’s date on it, and it will tell me that my package has been waiting for me since Friday night at some postal outlet.

And for this level of service, they’re raising the rates again next month! Yay for Canada (expletive deleted) Post!

Yet Another Postal Rate Hike

Posted 2010.12.10 9.59 in Pointless Blather

So Canada Post’s website is announcing yet another increase in the cost of sending mail. They raised the prices last January. In July, the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax represented another hike in the cost of sending a letter. And now they’re going up again this January.

Sure, you could claim that the HST wasn’t really a rise in the cost of stamps. I guess not. But it was a rise in the cost of mailing a letter. Overall, the cost of mailing a letter in Canada will have gone up 10 cents in the course of a single year, once the new rates hit next month. That’s a 17.5% increase, incase you’re keeping score.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • This time last year, a domestic 1st-class letter stamp cost 54 cents. Ontop of that, you had to pay 5% sales tax (GST). This brought the total cost of mailing a letter within Canada to 56.7 cents. (They’d charge you 57 cents at the register.)
  • In January 2010, they raised the price of a stamp to 57 cents. Now with the 5% sales tax, the cost of mailing the letter became 59.85 cents (that’s 60 cents at the register.)
  • On July 1st, the sales tax was raised by 8% (here in Ontario) where we went from 5% GST to 13% HST. This brought the total cost of mailing that same letter to 64.41 cents (64 cents at the register.)
  • And next month, the same 1st-class letter stamp will reach 59 cents. Add the 13% sales tax and you get 66.67 cents, which will be rounded to 67 cents at the register.

That’s a 10 cent increase over a 12-month period. 5 of those cents are on the face-price of the stamp, the other 5 are in sales tax. From 57 cents to 67 cents, is an increase of 17.5%.

Obviously, fewer people are using snail-mail. What with email, being able to pay bills online, et cetera. So for most folks, it’s probably not a big deal. If you only send a couple letters a month, then it’s maybe going to cost you 2 or 3 dollars at the end of the year.

For small businesses however, I think it is a big deal. If your business needs to mail invoices, cheques, and other stuff that isn’t a good fit for email, then your costs of running the business have gone up measurably. If you send out a couple hundred invoices per month, these rate hikes become a lot more significant.

Or how about people who aren’t computer-savvy and still rely on the postal service, folks on a fixed income… I’m thinking about older people, retired folks, like my parents.

Anyhow… it’s not the first time for a postal increase and it won’t be the last. (Canada Post have already stated they intend to raise the rates 2 cents per year till 2014.) It’s just that it feels like a tripple-whammy with the recent tax hike hitting only a few months ago.

Whine and Cheeze

Posted 2010.11.07 9.17 in Computers/Internet/Technology, iPhone

I’ve recently gone back to doing some iPhone programming. Back in April 2009, I had a list of features I wanted to add to one of my apps, and here it is, a mere year and a half later, and I’ve actually done it.

Quite a lot has changed since then, of course. The state of the art back then was iPhone OS 2.x, with OS 3 just-around-the-corner. Now we’re at 4.1, and 4.2 is coming in November. The tools have all changed too; I’ve lost track of how many times the XCode development tools have been upgraded.

So the first big challenge for me was to re-learn how to actually do the iPhone programming, and then to get my ‘antiquated’ project sources up-to-date so they’d work with the current dev tools. Then after all that, I could finally start with the actual enhancements.

The current XCode tools let me develop for iOS 4.1 (for the iPhone and iPod Touch) and iOS 3.2.x for the iPad. They also let me select a deployment target ‘as far back as’ iOS 3.0. The reason for this is so that folks who aren’t using the very-latest OS could still use my app. Personally I think it’s important to include backwards compatibility. On the one hand, upgrading to the latest OS is free and typically it is highly recommended, but some people simply don’t want to, or don’t feel the need. Or in the case of the 1st-gen iPhones, they simply can not do it — Apple has dropped support for the original iPhone; the latest it can run is iOS 3.x

So, I build my app using the 4.1 tools and specify that it will deploy for 3.x on upwards. In the places where it uses 4.x-only functions, I put those functions in a conditional branch so they won’t cause a crash or anything on the 3.x devices.

And at last, here we find the whine…

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Mad Science Happens Here

Posted 2010.08.16 17.45 in Computers/Internet/Technology

All I wanted to do was get the raw data off of one (marginally obsolete) (mini-sized) hard drive and onto another (marginally obsolete) (mini-sized) (but slightly larger) hard drive.

Wisdom Worth Repeating

Posted 2010.07.16 13.03 in Pointless Blather

WordPress Calendar Grumbles

Posted 2010.01.07 16.44 in Computers/Internet/Technology

This damn problem is back again! Grrr!

Wordpress Calendar Borked

I had screwed around with the WordPress files back in November and had it fixed. That was on WordPress version 2.8.6. Then they came out with version 2.9 in December, and that reintroduced the bug, and I screwed around with the files some more and it fixed. Now 2.9.1 is out and it’s back again.

The infuriating thing is it’s not just the simple fix that I thought it was – I don’t know how or why, but just implementing the one-line repair doesn’t fix it. First you have to break it worse, then after that the one-line repair works.

It’s very annoying – I actually use that calendar a lot.