keep the gas prices high

July 27, 2008 · 0 comments

i'm going to go on record here and say that the rising gas prices are a good thing. of course not on our wallets, but as it pertains to the environment. what these high gas prices should be teaching us is to be more environmentally conscious not just in the interest of saving a buck.

here's a few positive areas where a high gas price is beneficial:
1) the immediate scaling back of gasoline usage
2) the increased pressure to find alternative power sources
3) greater composition of more fuel efficient cars on the road
of course, the one downside is the cost, but there's a positive spin there. it will only train people to be smarter about their consumption and will hopefully translate to better usage habits in the future for themselves and their children as they learn from their parents.

another outcome should be a correction in the supply/demand curve, or so economists would have us believe. meaning a temporary hard time where we push down demand but pay a high price should result in lowered prices as supply catches up. provided that we continue on with our ways that allowed this shift to happen, the prices of goods and services derived of and delivered by oil products will eventually fall. but can we as humans learn those lessons and keep on course?

in the spirit of full disclosure, i only use the car to play golf on weekends and pick up groceries here and there. so yes, it's easier for me to take this pov, but i can also look at it objectively. if i did drive more, i can guarantee that i would be much more conscientious about my driving. for one, i'm a cheap ass, so it would suit me to cut down.

i realize it's not a popular position to take, but everyone has to make sacrifices to turn this around. sure we'd like to put the onus on those with the financial means to do so, but change has to come from everywhere and everyone. to only force the wealthy to make sacrifices is a) not the largest cross section of the population therefore change will only go so far and b) we all are responsible so we all need to contribute to the solution. i understand it hits the poorest hardest, but if they get smarter too, then we all win.

i read an article recently in macleans talking about the woes of the airline industry, primarily as a result of rising gas prices. while i hate the notion of the impact the changes airlines are making and their impact if i wanted to travel, they are all necessary and smart means to achieve an environmental end.

similarly, we've already seen the impact on the auto industry, namely in the sales plummeting of larger vehicles. sadly it took up to this year for people to finally break and say $1.30/litre is too much and give up their gas chugging suv's and stop buying new ones. sure, i don't like people losing their jobs, but to turn the environmental ship around, it means we might have to go through some hard times. no one said it would be easy.

there is one flaw in all this, and that is the intent to save the environment is missing in most people. it's just a happy byproduct, if they even realize that. in respect of gas prices, people are out to save money first. that's the next step, getting people to realize that the behaviors that they will have to adopt to save money on gas are behaviors that they should use to save the environment.

cigarette companies are advertising again

July 19, 2008 · 0 comments

in 1997, the tobacco act was passed in canada, regulating, in part, the 'promotion' of cigarettes through media vehicles. in section 22, the act stipulates guidelines by which tobacco companies can promote their products:

  • in publications delivered directly to an identified adult through the mail, or that have known adult readership of not less than 85%
  • in places where young people aren't permitted by law, such as bars
  • by highlighting actual brand characteristics or by providing factual information about the characteristics, availability or price of the product
it also stipulates what tobacco companies can not do in their promotion:
  • use lifestyle advertising featuring glamor, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring, or other associations that might appeal to young persons
  • depict (in whole or in part) any tobacco product, or it's package or brand - or even any imagery that might evoke a product or brand
  • sponsor youth oriented activities or events
  • include the name of a tobacco product or manufacturer as part of the name of a permanent sports or cultural facility
so contrary to popular belief (i thought so as well), cigarette advertising isn't banned or illegal, just very difficult to do. but eleven years from this statue being enacted, cigarette companies have started to become active in advertising again.

i'd first seen these ads a few months ago, but wrote them off as anti-smoking ads by the government or some other agency dedicated to their elimination. you see, the ads were very simplistic and stripped down, nothing like the glory days of the marlboro man or joe camel. also, the ads seemed too generic and with such minimal branding, it looked to me like whoever was making the anti-smoking ads made the brand up because i don't know any of the cigarette brands featured (maybe because they aren't advertised and i don't smoke).

however, upon closer inspection, they are indeed cigarette ads. so far, i've noticed the ads in two magazines, and i feel the need to point out who they are: toronto life and time magazine. the reason i think they need pointing out (and if there were others, i'd point those out too) is a failing to their readership, and to their editorial dignity.

advertisements serve two purposes: 1)a revenue stream and 2)service and inform readers with appropriate and relevant ads. publications who run cigarette ads have failed their readers by doing so. they have sullied their pages to make money at the expense of their readership's health. their corporate citizenship is now staked on the irresponsibility of running advertisements for harmful products. in a time when pr means more than ever, magazines pandering to cigarette companies is a mistake waiting to be apologized for.

just because tobacco advertising isn't illegal, doesn't mean a magazine has to now run them. the law heavily restricted them in the first place with good reason. it was something everyone but cigarette manufacturers were behind and though we can advertise them, doesn't mean the underlying impetus behind it is lost or any less of a problem. a conscientious decision should be made factoring in all the negativity involved with no upside beyond revenue. but what does that translate to in your brand's perception?

shame on toronto life and other magazines who have accepted these ads to run. where is their moral compass pointing? are the readers better serviced because they can see cigarette ads? does this enhance their magazine and make it a better product? on the contrary. it points out that they are clearly on the side of making money above integrity, regardless of the source. are they that hard-up for money? they've survived for years without the tobacco revenue stream.

in the specific case of toronto life, who is supposed to be representative of this fair city and its denizens (albeit the upper class ones mainly), advertising cigarettes is in no way reflective of the community which has taken such severe measures to ban smoking to the level it has.

both magazines adhere to the 85% adult readership rule. still 15% (and likely higher) are kids and underage people who are going to be influenced by these ads. even if one started as a result, isn't that one too many? similarly with lapsed smokers, this doesn't help them stay smoke free. it only makes smoking seem more acceptable or legitimate since it's being advertised.

i realize the debate will always exist as to why cigarette ads are any different than say alcohol ads or fast food ones. it's a semi-valid stance if you ask me. while both those have their negative effects, they aren't unto themselves deadly (save for the few but very extreme cases where both used in such quantity and duration as to wreak havoc close to that of cigarettes). moderate intake of alcoholic beverages (namely wine, but beer as well) have proven to be beneficial and reasonable consumption of fast food is easily mitigated by activity and balanced diet otherwise. there is no mitigating cigarettes.

i don't want to lose sight that tobacco companies are any less in the wrong. after all, it was them who decided they wanted to start advertising again and whose money is fueling the morally inept decisions to run their ads. let us not forget the other culprit in this matter, the canadian government and provincial governments. for it is doing by not wholly banning cigarette advertising or cigarettes in general. again, money is at play as billions (nearly $7.1 billion in gov't fiscal year ending '06) are put into the government coffers from tobacco taxes. that's pretty substantial and i don't know how we would compensate for that otherwise, but the future medical needs of these people will certainly drain the government of more than the taxes levied on tobacco brought in. it's about making the tough and unpopular choices i guess.

i get that businesses exist to make money and magazines are no different. so where do we draw the line? is cigarettes that line? there is no upside to cigarettes. we wouldn't advertise and sell a cereal made of glass shards would we? i'd think a magazine would have a problem running that ad. what's the difference with cigarettes?

so what say you? have i taken an extreme moral high ground? is this not an issue?

no iPhones for you rogers

July 8, 2008 · 0 comments

a techcrunch article came across my twitter feed today with breaking news that apple is pulling the new 3g iPhones from their canadian stores because of rogers' (the sole canadian carrier) outlandish data plans. good on you apple.

not only is apple the leading innovator in technology but now has assumed the role of policeman, fighting against inaccessible wireless bytes. someone has to do it, especially here in canada where our data packages are worse than 3rd world countries. i knew it was bad, but that's appalling.

to give my own perspective and why i care so much is i'm paying $11/month for 2 lousy megabytes of data transfer with rogers. this effectively leaves me with little to do outside of the few sites that have a mobile version that is low bandwidth intensive. and god forbid i go over my measly amount for the wrath of incremental bandwidth will leave my bank account in a sorry state.

there's a few good stories coming out of this whole situation.

1) that companies listen to consumers and take impactful action in response. apple listened to all the people who petitioned for lower wireless rates to make buying an iphone actually be worthwhile for the functionality your purchasing and not have to sell your first born to do so.

2) this should cause wireless rates, especially data ones, to go down significantly. rogers lost a huge opportunity to build a lot of goodwill and cache in the market by being the sole iPhone carrier. so one of to possible scenarios will hopefully happen: rogers will have to lower their rates to get the iPhone back which will cause the other carriers to lower their rates to compete or one of the other carriers gets the iPhone and the rates they will charge to accommodate apple will result in industry-wide rate decreases.

3) deregulation? will this spur the crtc to eliminate the current 3 company oligarchy and open up the industry for the sake of competition and fair prices for consumers? let's hope so.

i'm still dumbfounded by how profoundly rogers bungled this launch. the opportunity they lost was tremendous. someone is surely going to get fired for this. someone should anyway. while they've suffered a pr nightmare and the brand has some serious repair work to do, if they can reconcile with apple, there won't be much in the way financial repercussions. why? because apple devotees will take their product wherever they can get it, however soon they can get it so they will still flock to rogers. if they ever do get to launch it. maybe the only outcome is their exclusivity won't be a long, but they'll still have lots of iPhoners locked in by then.

as readers of this blog (are there any?) know, i'm no apple fan boy. i do respect the company for what they have carved out as product makers, innovators and marketers, but i'm not going to line up for their wares. probably won't ever buy any of them (i do own an ipod but it was a gift). that they have the power and clout to affect major industry players in other countries is impressive though.

update - july 9th, 2008
rogers succumbs to customer pressure and lowers their data rates. but in a half-assed way. it's only a promotion offered to those who sign up before august 31st. this gets you 6 gigs a month for $30 where before $30 got you only 300 megs.

i still call bullshit because it doesn't solve the problem apple was really trying to get at, that of standard rates being astronomical. it's a band-aid solution so rogers can save face. what about those who buy an iPhone after that date? they get royally screwed.

gadget glut

July 6, 2008 · 0 comments

my intense anticipation for the new batman flick made me think how we're all becoming a little like batman. in what way, you ask? well, batman is known for his arsenal of crime fighting gadgets he totes around on his bat belt.

we too are becoming batman, only our growing array of gadgets are productivity, entertainment and communication ones. will the bat belt soon become a fashion necessity? the look has already started with the blackberry holsters so prevalent.

first off we have the gadgets themselves.

we have the phone, digital camera, ipod, earphones, video camera, usb key and sd memory card.

add to this the standard accouterments carried by all.

wallet, keys, change, sunglasses amongst other sundries.

all said, that's a lot of crap. for the most part this isn't a problem for women because they have their purses. and the purses in style these days being of luggage proportions can accommodate any number of devices and accessories without issue. but what options are available to us guys? short of a bat belt, how will all this be carried? fanny packs, man purse, cargo pants/shorts, shoulder bag, attache?

not all those options are either professional or very manly and some aren't practical. technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not more cumbersome.

as much as we've pushed technology forward to give us an all-in-one device (ie. smartphone) we still prefer the devices that service their niche area. not only that, smartphones are not within everyone's grasp. the camera on a smartphone doesn't offer us the same features and quality a regular digital camera does. while a smartphone can play music, our mp3 player gives us a better experience in sound, navigation and playability. smartphones are good, but not as good as we're accustomed to so they haven't fully replaced anything yet.

how do you carry your glut of gadgets? my vote is the shoulder bag, but a size larger that it can't be construed as a man purse. my general rule is that if it can hold legal paper, it isn't a purse. but that solves the problems on weekdays when i have a reason to lug that around. i don't have a good solution on weekends when i'm just out and about. i guess i just cram my pockets, but i feel a little to clunky when i do.



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