clock Many of my posts are about things that don’t make sense — notably those on political and economic matters like ‘free’ trade, globalization, the tax system, intellectual property laws, and my recent post about 12 aspects of business that desperately need innovating.

These ten things are more general. Some of them have bugged me for a long time. Maybe I just don’t understand them. If you do, please enlighten me:

  1. The English language: Why don’t we make English spelling phonetic, or at least consistent, like most other languages? And the grammar should be consistent as well. And why don’t we get rid of unnecessary extra letters, and capital letters entirely? 
  2. Non-Daylight Savings Time: If DST is good for the winter, why not all year round? In fact, why don’t we all go to one time zone worldwide, and simply let each city and business set times that make sense for it. Especially if we use the 24 hour clock. It’s not like we can’t phone a business if we’re not sure what their hours are. And there are no standard hours for anything any more, anyway.
  3. The Dow-Jones Industrial Index: Why in the world is this still the most important index of markets in the world? It covers only 30 stocks in one economic sector, and comparing DJII levels over time has been totally warped of any meaning by additions and delistings over the years (a lot of the companies that were part of the DJII back when it started are now defunct). And why is it still quoted with two decimal points, when the significance of the decimals is less than a Bill Gates sneeze?
  4. Pay radio: Why would people pay money for a digital receiver, and then pay again every month, to hear commercial-less music in their car. Haven’t they heard of CDs?
  5. The Neilsen 21-49 demographic: The 50-69 age group, the baby boom babies, are the biggest demographic bulge in history, have inherited a record amount from their parents and made a lot more themselves, are likely to live on average another 20-30 years, and have a taste for luxuries, but are excluded from viewer/listener demographics used to set advertising rates . Why?
  6. Multiple sign languages: Sign language is wonderful. You can communicate regardless of your spoken tongue, even in noisy areas your voice won’t reach, and hearing isn’t an impairment. It could be the universal language, taught to everyone. So why is there more than one sign language in common use?
  7. Consumer prices: Now let me get this straight. You spend vast sums on advertising to promote your product over some other brand. In some cases, like fashion ads, the product is not even pictured, nor are any of its benefits cited. And then you add the cost of the advertising to the retail price and expect customers to pay for it. In the case of breakfast cereal this adds up to 80% of the price of the product. This will even stump visiting aliens, for sure.
  8. No-frills airlines: A 38-minute flight from Toronto to Cleveland, where there’s only one class of seating (cramped), costs $1,200 round-trip. They feed you pretzels if you’re lucky, charge you $5 for a beer, and then thank you for choosing their airline. Hasn’t management figured out that flying is expensive, and if your product is inherently expensive, you don’t cut out luxuries, you add them, because the extra cost of the luxuries is peanuts compared to the perceived value it adds. Instead of $1,200 for pretzels, charge me $1,300, give me a champagne cocktail in a real glass, an on-board massage, and a free CD of my choosing to keep, and I feel like royalty. Can you imagine if Rolls-Royce made a no-frills car, what it would do to their market?
  9. Time measurement: 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, variable number of days per month, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour. Who designed this and why weren’t they fired? Put the year first, forget about months, and break the day into 100,000 seconds. Period. So 2004.001.50000 is noon January 1 next year. Put this with one time-zone worldwide (see #2 above) and you would save millions on calendars, clocks, schedules, and all the archaic relics that force us to adhere to this absurd measurement system.
  10. Weblogs: Well you knew this was coming, didn’t you? They’re great for some things, but for political campaign strategizing, philosophic debate, and relationship-building (business or personal)? Talk about making a job unnnecessarily difficult. Telephone, anyone?
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  1. Rob Paterson says:

    Morning Dave I am off to the dentist and am I so glad that there is something to distract me before I go.Isn’t the English langauge moving to phonetics slowly. More people speak it for whom it is not their first language – I think about 200 million in India alone. I suspect that it will migrate this way -or diverge like latin into Italian, Spanish and Romanian.The time idea is neat – was not our ordered time driven by the railway schedule? Will not a 24/7 world work to open up time again?The boomer ad view. I agree Dave – there are lots of us and we have all the money. Why then is CBC Radio making these pathetic moves to be “younger” none of my kids or their friends listen – I find it all so inane and miss the old fart prgrams

  2. Michael says:

    Good stuff Dave. English – I couldn’t agree more. English must be incredibly difficult to learn as a second language. I’m reminded of George Carlin’s routine ( http://www.fencing101.com/vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3573 ), in which he runs through a list of reasone why English is difficult.Time Zones and measurement – Have you ever heard of Swatch’s Internet Time? ( http://www.swatch.com/fs_index.php?haupt=itime&unter= ) Both of you are on to something.The Dow – This drives me nuts! It’s only 30 stocks, and the index is price-weighted. There are so many better indices from which to choose.

  3. PI says:

    1. The English language: Why don’t we make English spelling phonetic, or at least consistent, like most other languages? And the grammar should be consistent as well. And why don’t we get rid of unnecessary extra letters, and capital letters entirely?

  4. Marie Foster says:

    I would love to dump daylight/standard time changes. I always end up completely disoriented around those times. Then a few years ago I decided that just because everyone else changes time I don’t really have to. It worked out pretty good. I went to work an hour earlier and left an hour earlier. I was on a flex time schedule so it worked out fine. I still do it in a way. I am very flexible about if and when I end up changing clocks. Come to my house and you will find a few on both times. I still get up in the morning and go to bed at night.

  5. Charly Z says:

    I’m sorry, Dave, but I disagree with you on fixing the English language: better to kill it while we have the chance! ¡Muerte al inglés! ¡Que viva el español!

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob: Hope the dentist was painless. Agree on CBC radio except I can’t bear Rex Murphy.Michael: Glad you agree on the Dow. An expert’s opinion is worth a lot more than mine.PI: Wow, you must have been a debater in school. Thanks for the link to French metric calendar. I was an English measure, and a poet, and I still think phonetic English would be an improvement. But then I don’t like antiques either. And I get your point on Sirius, though I still begrudge paying for radio.Marie: Maybe I should try your approach. Funny thing is I don’t get jetlag, but DST changes wreck my sleep clock for weeks.Charly: I spent last evening with a colleague from Chile, and am hosting eight Latin American colleagues at a conference next week, and I’m sure they would agree with you. Especially like the Spanish convention of up-front inverted punctuation so you know what’s coming, and the strict phonetic rules. Besides, all the Romance languages steal English words when there isn’t a native equivalent anyway, and often convert them phonetically, alors je suis d’accord: A bas la langue anglaise!

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    PI: That should say ‘I was an English major. I need to get some sleep.

  8. Martin Wisse says:

    Try and change the English language. Better people have tried and failed (Noah Webster to the white courtesy phone please).And English is dead easy to learn as a second language; it’s German that’s hard. (of the standard western European languages anyway).

  9. As long as you’re fiddling with the dating game, why not take on the most irrational part of it: numbering the year based on the uncertain birth date of a religious teacher?

  10. Chris Dent says:

    Pay radio: If I had the funds to subscribe I would consider it simply because I want to hear things that I haven’t selected. I want to be introduced to new stuff in an entirely effortless fashion (I can do this, to some extent, if the internet is available, but I don’t have that in the car, yet…).One thing I worry about with the growing presence of recommender systems is the winnowing of the view: after a while, if I pay attention solely to recommendations, I’ll only hear, read and see things that are representative of my profile.Where’s the growth in that? I want to grow.

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Martin: You’re right — if it was that easy it would have been done. But don’t count the next generation out. They’re used to English as an aural language not a written one, and they are hence less attached to its written vagaries.Christopher: Hah! Exactly. Mind you, at least our year’s length coincides with the natural event of the Earth revolving around the sun. Some cultures use calendars that are linked to more ephemeral events.Chris: I get digital radio on my satellite dish, and I don’t find the selections very broadening. Same old stuff, just made more narrow. Alas, you have to work hard to find unusual, quality stations. It’s even harder than finding good blogs. Maybe we should set up our own recommender system? As for the car, by the time most people get the traffic report and make a couple of phone calls they’re at their destination. You must spend a lot of time in your car to have time for serendipitous listening, but I agree that if you do pay radio could be worth your while.

  12. O RLY YA RLY says:

    English: In my experience, English was a lot easier to learn than French, German or Latin. Only Dutch was easier, but I am Dutch.Time: Why not start with that strange and unlogical American habit of putting the months in front of the days? 9/11? 11/9!

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Harald: The convention comes from the fact that in English the month does precede the date when written out i.e. September 11 becomes 9/11 in shorthand. What’s peculiar is that Brits and Canadians, who also purportedly speak English, put the day before the month in shorthand. I actually prefer YYYY.MM.DD as a format — global and unambiguous, until we get a metric calendar and clock anyway.

  14. xian says:

    I like the etymological clues in English spelling (as mentioned earlier). Also, pronunciation continually evolves, with occasional major vowel shifts and such. In fact, English as spoken is pronounced differently in various regions. Are you going to spell it roof or ruff, for example.

  15. Fiona says:

    I know why about #5 on your list. Youth are marketed to instead of the middle-aged well-to-do because they will be around to be used as tools in the future by the elite, and can be molded now to think and spend in ways that benefit that elite. There is an investment motive, here. Older people are smarter and harder to manipulate for profit.

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Wow, Fiona, you’re even more cynical than I am. I think you’re half-right: over-50s are more blasé about advertising and less prone to make sudden changes in buying behaviours. But they’re much more prone (perhaps ironically) to make longer-term buying decisions: paying more for quality, for something that is durable and will be useful for years. So if I were a car company, or a vendor of upscale technology tools and toys, or a business-to-business advertiser, I’d want that over-50 demographic included, even over-weighted. But then we’d need some ad agencies who understood how to advertise to that demo, instead of pandering to fads, and it wouldn’t be long before the ads would become better than the programs, and then where would we be?

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