These are stories Report on Business followed this week.
Building better mousetraps
I don't know of a single person who didn't raise an eyebrow, or wonder if they'd heard correctly, when Canada Post announced this week that it plans to stop city home mail delivery, the first postal service of a G7 country to make such a move.
"The rise in digital communications has dramatically changed the postal needs of Canadians," the post office declared.
Yeah, sort of like how the car dramatically changed their horse-and-buggy needs.
All of which brings to mind things that have faded, or are fading, away. So I surveyed my newsroom for things that have become, or are becoming, items for trivia games. Here's what we came up with:
The typewriter: The word processor of its day, it had a roller, a ribbon, hard-to-press keys (until electric versions were invented) and an exceptionally annoying bell that dinged when you reached the end of the line, prompting you to press a lever and go to the next line. Research suggests that the idea of a typewriter originated in 1714, with a British patent to inventor Henry Mill. It didn't catch on, of course, until much later.
Carbon paper: You could do neat things with it, like put it between two sheets of paper, put the paper into a typewriter, and make two versions at the same time. You could also get your hands filthy from its ink, and look silly when you then smudged it on the white shirt you had to wear to the office. Short form was CC:, which on a memo meant "carbon copy to," and, hence, that function on your e-mail.
The 8-track cartridge player: You can actually still find these things that basically played a loop of tape (see below), and you could use them in cars or as standalones.
The cassette tape player: You can still find these, too. Just like you can also find programs to convert them into MP3s. They could really hurt your fingers when you had to fast forward and rewind looking for the song you wanted.
The (original) Sony Walkman: As one of my colleagues put it, it had a "glorious reign as the personal stereo of choice." As a pocket cassette player (you needed a bigger pocket then), it was, as the iPod would later become, ground-breaking, changing the way people on the move listened to music. Now, of course, the Walkman comes in digital form.
The VHS recorder: The predecessor to the DVD player, you may still have one. Or at least one stashed somewhere in your basement. It played movies and such on big cassettes, with VHS winning a format war with Beta. Kids frequently jammed the machine.
The vinyl record: Hold that thought. Audio folks swear by it, and it has made quite the comeback given its quality. Like others of my generation (who started with typewriters and carbon paper), I had boxes stuffed with albums in my cupboard. My son took them.
The deposit or withdrawal slip: You had to go into a bank branch and fill out a form to put money in or take it out. (I hadn't been inside a bank for such a long time that I called my TD branch to make sure they didn't still exist. A very nice young man answered the phone, and was patient with me. Unlike the time many years ago when I wanted to buy my daughter one song, and asked at the store if it still sold 45s. I seem to recall laughter.)
The pen: It still exists, but why bother? Particularly since you don't have to fill out deposit slips any longer.
Rabbit ears: Small antennas you put on top of a TV. And you had to get off the couch every five minutes to adjust them for better reception.
The phone booth: If you're not Clark Kent or a college prankster, you shouldn't much care.
The answering machine: It still exists, but why bother?
The physical phone book: Kids used to sit on them so they could reach the top of the kitchen table.
Cutting and pasting: As in, you cut something out and pasted it somewhere else with glue.
The razor blade for men: It still exists but it's really hard to leave just one-eighth of an inch of stubble.
The professional photographer: There's a reason Oxford Dictionaries chose "selfie" as 2013's word of the year.
The password: No, not really, but one of my colleagues pointed out that the NSA knows everything you do online and via mobile phone anyway, so why bother.
- Barrie McKenna: Canada Post phasing out home mail delivery, raising rates
- Bertrand Marotte: Canada first G7 country to cut all urban home mail delivery
- Rob Carrick: Why you won't miss Canada Post home delivery
- Bill Curry: Mail delivery cutbacks a calculated risk for Conservatives
- Eric Atkins and Brent Jang: Small businesses to take a big hit from Canada Post's delivery change
- Boyd Erman in Streetwise (for subscribers): While Canada Post threatens balanced budget, CMHC is a huge help
- Barrie McKenna: Canada Post's Chopra puts survival plan into action
- High-priced homes with no mail delivery: 13 things that make Canadians unique
- Snow, rain and gloom of night won't stop the post office. But e-mail, IM will
Bits and pieces
Shaking, not stirred: Three British doctors have had a bit of holiday sport with a study that suggests the real James Bond wouldn't be able to shoot his way out of paper bag given his alcohol consumption. Said the authors of the study, published this week in BMJ and based on 14 novels: "James Bond's weekly alcohol intake is over four times the advisable maximum alcohol consumption for an adult male. He is at considerable risk of developing alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, impotence, and other alcohol related health problems, together with being at serious risk of injury or death because of his drinking. Although we appreciate the societal pressures to consume alcohol when working with international terrorists and high stakes gamblers, we would advise Bond be referred for further assessment of his alcohol intake and reduce his intake to safe levels. We conclude that James Bond was unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, even if would have wanted to, because of likely alcohol induced tremor.
It's okay to be an "incorrigible rogue" in Britain again. According to The Telegraph, more than 300 British offences are being repealed, among them the banning of said troublemakers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which warns that "persons committing certain offences to be deemed rogues and vagabonds."
This, too, from The Telegraph: "A burglar got trapped while trying to raid someone's house and ended up hanging over the toilet – he then tried to call for help but dropped his phone in the bath, a court heard."
And from AFP via the New Straits Times: "A Japanese man went on a year-long burglary spree, making off with a haul worth $185,000 to feed 120 cats a gourmet diet, police said Thursday."
The week's top news
Kellogg Co. announced plans to close its cereal operation in London, Ont., by the end of next year. Eric Atkins, Tavia Grant and Greg Keenan look at a series of body blows to southern Ontario, but a $4-billion investment by Cisco Systems Inc.
- Kellogg to close London, Ont., plant, lay off about 500 workers
- Novartis to close plant in Mississauga, cut 300 jobs
- Cisco plans $4-billion investment in Ontario, could create 1,700 jobs
General Motors Co. tapped Mary Barra as its next chief executive officer. Greg Keenan reports on the first woman to lead a major auto maker.
Canada's telecommunications regulator said it's ramping up its probe into whether the country's big wireless companies are charging excessive rates to smaller competitors for the use of their networks, Rita Trichur reports.
Air Canada struck a major deal with Boeing Co., worth at least $6.5-billion (U.S.), choosing its planes over those of rival Airbus SAS. Greg Keenan and Sophie Cousineau report.
Chip Wilson announced he's stepping down as chairman of Lululemon Athletica Inc., while the yoga wear retailer also named a new CEO to replace the departing Christine Day. This, on the same week as the company cut its financial outlook. Marina Strauss reports.
- Lululemon's new CEO sees few changes to retailer's 'fantastic' business model
- Lululemon cuts outlook on tough holiday season, product woes
A coalition of business groups says it's a national "embarrassment" that European countries are poised to gain better access to markets in Canada than the provinces enjoy. Barrie McKenna reports on the push to dismantle internal trade barriers.
The week in Business Briefing
- See the stocks Barron's picks for 2014 (Oh, the bargains)
- Even David Rosenberg is 'throwing in the towel' on the Canadian dollar
- Canada's housing market most overvalued in the world, Deutsche Bank says
- High-priced homes with no mail delivery: 13 things that make Canadians unique
- Did founder's 'thighs' comments 'exacerbate' Lululemon's setbacks?
The week in Streetwise (for subscribers)
- Tim Kiladze: Canadian banks struggle in the Caribbean
- Jeffrey Jones: Joint ventures the answer to oil patch woes: Report
- Jacqueline Nelson: U.S. venture capital group expands Canadian footprint
- Rachelle Younglai: Junior miners' prospects growing bleak
- Boyd Erman: While Canada Post threatens balanced budget, CMHC is a huge help
The week in Economy Lab
- Clément Gignac: With QE tapering in sight, how high can long-term interest rates go?
- Christopher Ragan: Harper's distaste for carbon taxes is bad for the economy
- Shihoko Goto: China, Japan could use a market shock to come to diplomatic senses
- Linda Nazareth: How to stop worrying and love migration
- Brian Lee Crowley: Don't try to fix CPP. It's not broken
The week in ROB Insight (for subscribers)
- Brian Milner: New U.K. tax on foreign home buyers could kill a golden goose
- Scott Barlow: Loonie's worst days are likely over
- Carl Mortished: When the cheap energy runs out, what happens?
- David Parkinson: Winter no longer fuels a seasonal oil price spike
- Brian Milner: Greece achieves a budget surplus. Now, how about jobs?
The new focus on the struggle of America's lowest-paid workers reflects one of the more dissatisfying aspects of the recovery: Since 2009, 54 per cent of new jobs created in the United States have been low-wage positions. Joanna Slater and Kevin Carmichael report from New York and Washington on the demands of the low-pay earners.
TransCanada Corp. is filling its Gulf Coast pipeline to deliver crude from Cushing, Okla., to Texas, but it will be feeding a market already absorbing a growing abundance of domestic oil, Shawn McCarthy and Jeffrey Jones report.
Canada Goose Inc., the company behind those parkas, sold a majority stake to U.S. private equity giant Bain Capital. Iain Marlow, Sean Silcoff and Susan Krashinsky report on how this will drive the company into new markets.
Canada is heading for a gridlock in energy development that will it of future wealth unless it can solve environmental and aboriginal conflicts, a blue-ribbon group warns in a new report. Shawn McCarthy reports.
Canadian banks are churning out record profits. Global fears of an economic shock are waning. But Toronto-Dominion Bank's CEO is feeling uneasy. Read Tim Kiladze's interview with TD's Ed Clark to find out why.