July 29, 2007

Feedback in Unexpected Places

And he sang from his heart
and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang;
It just made him whole.
--- Harry Chapin, Mr. Tanner
Whether your hobby is singing/dancing/writing, there's value to creating in solitude. But there's not much joy without interaction. To my surprise, I've been getting more feedback by email than from comments to posts. I didn't know.

I generally post once a week, which makes visiting Riscario Insider daily of little value. So you're best served by subscribing for updates by email from Zookoda. If you reply, your response comes back to my sending email account. Who knew? To my surprise, I've been getting emails. I didn't know because I wasn't checking those accounts ... until today.

How Many Email Accounts?
How many email accounts do you have? To organize and reduce spam, I use the following email accounts
  1. work-related (2 accounts linked to my Blackberry)
  2. personal (Gmail)
  3. blogging (one per blog, using a commercial provider since Gmail only allows 500 outgoing emails per day --- think big!)
  4. junk (Gmail)
Gmail's great because of the space, permanence, spam filtering and ease of finding messages. There's one problem: you can only sign into one account at a time and I have three. So I was only checking my personal account. My blog email addresses are now forwarded to one Gmail account, which I'll check regularly.

So I'm catching up with belated replies. You may also have emails waiting for you unexpected places.

Live Comments
By the way, your comments now go live without moderation.

July 23, 2007

Hidden Costs of Air Travel

I bought some batteries, but they weren't included - so I had to buy them again --- Stephen Wright
Hidden costs are annoying. The "nickeling and diming" can really add up. We know that most prices in Canada are subject to Goods & Services Tax (GST) and Provincial Sales Tax (PST). We're used to that.

Airline Tickets
Some prices have unexpected add-ons. Take airline tickets. I normally use a travel agent when travelling on business or internationally on vacation. So I focus on the total price, not the components. Next month, we're vacationing in Banff. So we decided to book online through aircanada.com. The process is simple and easy --- almost enjoyable.

The surprise came at the end. Each ticket had the following unexpected charges
  • $46.00 for Navcan and Surcharges (no further breakdown)
  • $40.00 for an Airport Improvement Fee
  • $9.34 for a Security Charge
That's $95.34. Add $32 for GST and the total is $127.34 per ticket. The disclosure is good, except for "Surcharges", but the total was unexpected.

My wife says "That's not right" and my son asks "What're you gonna do about it?"

Be thankful there's no PST ;)
Did you know ...
Life insurance premiums already include provincial premium tax (which varies from 2% in most provinces to 4% in Newfoundland). There's no GST or regular PST.

July 16, 2007


Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
--- William Shakespeare
In financial services, trust is essential and there are many advisors are trustworthy. How do you find them? According to The Money Diva, "screening the monkeys for a good one would be more work than learning how to invest better". That suggests having no advisor or sticking with one who doesn't satisfy. As Thicken My Wallet says "the financial industry preys on inertia".


The bigger issue is trust in society. Who can we trust anymore? Politicians? Religious organizations? Police? The stench from the few "bad apples" fills our nostrils, taints our perceptions. It's pretty sad when spinach, pet food and tooth paste aren't safe.

You may have missed
There are many trustworthy accountants, advisors, car mechanics, doctors, lawyers, etc. The problem is the effort of finding them. You can't simply do a web search. Referrals from someone you trust can be an option. They may not know or they may not be able to say (e.g., try asking a police officer for a burglar alarm company).
Our distrust is very expensive.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson


July 7, 2007

Huh? Fraud Protection And Your Bank Card

Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it - there's nothin' I want more
Ya know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you
--- Bryan Adams

My bank is doing "everything possible" to protect me from fraudulent activities. That's reassuring. They're up to date with "new fraud protection and detection technologies". I'd expect nothing less.

I'm happy. I don't want self-appointed Robin Hoods stealing from me. I bet there's great news. Let's read on. They are "proposing to take the further step of adjusting the daily limits" on my bank card. Downward. Huh?

Maximum cash withdrawals are being slashed by 50% from $1,000 to $500. Debit card purchases drop from $3,000 to $1,000. That's 67% less!

I don't mind these changes. Making spending harder = Making saving easier. I just need to freeze my credit card in a tin can full of water (see Three Practical Ways To Increase Your Net Worth). I'm worried by the subtext: the war against fraud is being lost.

Everything Possible
Wouldn't doing everything possible include
  • photo ID on the bank card
  • embedded security better than a magnetic strip
  • text messages to your cell phone whenever a transaction takes place
Those measures would be reassuring. Chopping usage limits sends the opposite message.

July 1, 2007

Thoughts on Sicko

I cannot believe, nor even pretend
That the thunder I hear, will just disappear
And the nightmare will end.
--- David Gilmour, Out Of The Blue

Sicko is not a balanced documentary. So what? Michael Moore has things to say. We can benefit by watching, even if we don't agree with all his points.

45 million Americans don't have health care. The 200 million who do, may not be getting good enough health care because of the profit motivations of the private suppliers. The United States is alone (among comparable countries) in not providing public healthcare.

Major Points
The film shows that the average person can get better health care in other countries such as Canada, Britain, France and Cuba. How can a country without healthy citizens excel? The American for-profit healthcare industry is not shown in a good light. The poor perceptions can add to anxiety in other countries regarding the likelihood of getting claims paid for disability, critical illness and long-term care.

Life often looks rosier in other places. France in particular looked like a country where life is much more balanced than it is here in Canada and the United States. Naturally, there are costs to providing the government services the French seem to enjoy.

I felt sad --- very sad --- to see that 9/11 rescue workers have not been getting proper medical care. Their actions were so selfless.

Sicko is well worth watching. You're sure to leave the theatre disturbed about the health care that Americans receive. Overall, I'm glad to be living in Canada with universal health care.

Happy Canada Day!