Air Canada's bug letter

Saturday 29 October 2011, 12:15

Well, I wasn't looking for compensation to help me feel better about what already happened. That's past and cannot be changed, and the actual expenses I incurred were minimal and don't need to be reimbursed; but the future can be changed, and what I was looking for from Air Canada was some solid reason to believe that it will never happen again. Giving me a discount code or similar benefit serves that goal only if I can reasonably believe that it costs them more to do that than it would have cost to solve my problem at the time it could have been solved - so that at a future opportunity they will have an incentive to solve the problem rather than paying me off afterward. A back-of-the-envelope calculation (based on number of passengers involved, number likely to complain and get paid off, and so on) suggests the break-even point would be a payoff with a wholesale cost of at least about $5000; and that's far more than it's plausible they would ever offer, and far more than 15% off any ticket they sell.

Instead, I figured it was possible, and I was hoping, that they'd give me some other reason to think that it would never happen again: for instance, by telling me that it was against policy and they would follow their policy better in future; or even that they were changing their policy. A policy change to "find me an hotel when that is impossible" wouldn't be the only way they could change the policy; I'd have been pleased if they'd just pull strings to have me and the other passengers allowed to remain in the terminal overnight. I know that's possible, it would have cost them very little money (much less than finding hotels in a town where the hotels are all sold out) and it's something Air Canada could do that I could not do for myself.

But they didn't tell me their agents' actions were against policy, nor that their policy would change. Instead they gave me documentation in writing that they think they did nothing wrong, and implicitly that they will do it again if they have the chance. Since my point of view is that it must never happen again, the logical conclusion is that I have to stop doing business with Air Canada.

Unfortunately that won't be easy. There aren't many choices besides Air Canada on some routes into, out of, and within Canada; and because much of my travel is for work and paid for out of other people's budgets, I'm not always completely at liberty to choose the airline I use. So it's not realistically possible that I can promise myself never to step onto an Air Canada plane again. But I'm certainly going to try to avoid it.

Another thought on the Astrolabe copyright thing

Friday 7 October 2011, 08:54

It may have been inevitable that this or something like it would happen, because the astrological community has a long history of making extralegal claims on factual information. Many algorithms have been published in books with copyright notices claiming that if you implement the algorithms, then you can only use the resulting software for non-profit purposes. That's a transparent attempt to claim software patent protection (inherently questionable already) without having a patent at all, using copyright law as the basis instead, so as to get the much longer term and lack of review applicable to copyrights instead of patents.

Astrolabe announces change in business: was astrology, now copyright trolling

Thursday 6 October 2011, 22:13

The Unix time-zone database - necessary to the operation of Linux-based computers and many other systems around the world as well - has been withdrawn from distribution because of a lawsuit filed by Astrolabe Inc. I'm really saddened to hear of this, because I liked Astrolabe. They've been in the business of selling astrological software for a long time, and they make many popular products, some of which I have used and recommended. But now I can't give them any more money nor can I recommend that others do so, because they have attacked the basic infrastructure of global computing. The word "terrorism" is so overused now as to be practically worthless, but attacks on infrastructure are often mentioned when people try to define it. Shame on you, Astrolabe.

On being missed

Wednesday 5 October 2011, 12:15

I recently visited Seth Godin's Web log to dig out his item about yak shaving, and while I was there I saw this recent posting about being missed. He asks the question: if you didn't show up, if you suddenly went away, who would miss you? And he proposes that it might be a valuable goal to make it so that a lot of people would miss you. That's certainly an interesting and important question to ask, but I think it's really the wrong question to ask.

Regarding Billiken

Thursday 29 September 2011, 19:50

In my coverage of the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka, I mentioned the Billiken shrine at the top. Wikipedia's article on Billiken is of some interest. Note that they refer to him consistently as "the Billiken," although the basis for doing so seems to be flimsy (some sources do it, and Wikipedians think that is the last word). He was always referred to without a "the" in the English-language materials I saw in Osaka, just with "Billiken" used in the normal fashion for a name, so I'm not going to add a "the" here.

Billiken apparently originated in St. Louis, Missouri, with a woman named Florence Pretz, who saw his image in a dream and designed and patented a doll based on it in 1908, predating Kewpies, which came out in December of 1909. Wikipedia claims (with a "citation needed" note) that he "sprang from the height of the \"Mind-Cure\" craze" and links "Mind-Cure" to New Thought, though I'm not sure how legitimate that link is. But it's certainly interesting to know that anybody thinks there's a New Thought connection.

Note that Pretz is also the name of a Japanese snack food made by Glico; it's basically a long pretzel stick, somewhat similar to the popular Pocky but without the frosting and salty instead of sweet.

No room at the inn

Thursday 22 September 2011, 15:10

I'm in Vancouver now. The typhoon aftermath was somewhat nightmarish. Air Canada dumped me and my luggage in the lobby of Narita Airport (which does NOT operate 24 hours a day like pretty much all other major-city airports in the world), telling me to go away and come back the next day. That was the first point at which I really realized that not only were they not planning to pay for my hotel, but they also washed their hands of actually finding me an hotel. And hotel rooms were unobtainable in Narita, because of the large number of other people who had found out much sooner than I did that their flights were cancelled; and the trains out of Narita were about to stop running.


Wednesday 21 September 2011, 04:33

I'm writing this over Narita Airport's atrocious free wireless service, so I won't write much, but: due to Typhoon Roke, my plane out of here is delayed "indefinitely." So far, it has been 80 minutes. I believe there are some planes flying out of here, just at a much lower rate than normal. I've heard that JR has stopped the trains; when I left Tokyo there were a couple of shinkansen lines cancelling service, and my train to the airport was delayed about 15 minutes, but otherwise the trains were running normally.

If everything were on schedule, I would have 3 hours 10 minutes to make my connection in Vancouver for the plane to Winnipeg, so at the moment, I'm in no danger of missing that. But it remains to be seen how long the delay will actually be.

ETA: The flight has been cancelled. That in itself is not the airline's fault. If it's unsafe to land a plane here, I obviously don't want them to try. However, I do think it is the airline's fault that in the hour and a half since the cancellation, there have been no announcements about it whatsoever on the loudspeakers or the departures screens. I had to figure out for myself that my flight was mysteriously no longer listed on the departures screens (not listed at all - not just listed as "cancelled" like other cancelled flights) and then I had to have the wherewithal to get on the Web, check the airline's Web site, see that the flight was cancelled, figure out where to go to ask for more information (which was a gate OTHER than the one that had most recently been listed as the gate for my flight, before it disappeared from the list) and wait in line to be told what to do - and even then I was not REALLY told what to do. There's a failure to provide sufficient information to passengers here, and that's a problem.


Tuesday 20 September 2011, 09:44

I am starting this draft sitting on a bench in the Kyu-Shiba Gardens, near the Hamamatsuchou train station, Tokyo. This is my last full day in Japan - I leave tomorrow morning - and I have no really specific plans for the day, though in the evening I'll be meeting up with some friends who are Westerners living here (one Canadian, one British). This will probably be my last update posted before I leave. It's been quite a trip.


Friday 16 September 2011, 07:07

I'm titling this entry "Kanazawa" but in fact that's just my base of operations; much of what I've done in the last few days has been in the surrounding region.

Fast update

Thursday 15 September 2011, 19:34

Full report later, but I had a good time visiting Keta Taisha and the space museum in the Hakui area, and didn't get lost nor abducted by space aliens despite nobody in the town understanding any English at all. I bought a charm labelled 「心むすび」 and am about 95% sure it's the one I wanted, rather than "protection from hemorrhoids" or something, though I'm sure they were selling charms for that too. The food is good in Kanazawa.

My office computer in Winnipeg, which I was using in place of the home computer that crashed, now seems to have crashed also. At least this one has other people with access to the room who can go reboot it if that's what it needs. An email has been sent; and even if that doesn't get fixed, I have further backup options. On the plus side, I tried my debit card in another bank machine and it worked, so maybe it wasn't locked out after all, or they unlocked it.