Open Letter to Rogers with My Review of Their Ignite 250u Package.

All Updates will appear at the bottom as they happen.

Hello Rogers,

It has been awhile since I have been a Rogers internet customer.  I remember the terrible customer service on all levels and the inability of any single Rogers employee to resolve an issue on their own. I saw your new internet packages and thought I would switch back from Bell to get the 250u Ignite deal.

After this new experience with your install process I can say that you have taken the period of me being a Bell customer and used that time to truly perfect the art of terrible customer service.

Wednesday March 18th

Technician 1 arrives, plugs the modem into the wall, attaches the coax cable and I ask if this unit has the AC wifi and he says “this one does it all”.  So I specifically ask if it is the top model and he then says no and that this one was just as good.  He then runs out the door before the modem is even booted up.  Modem is the N model.

I run a speed test.  90 down 10 up.  Not the correct speed. So I call into technical support to see what is wrong.

Technician says my connection works fine. He claims the reason that the speed is slow is because the work order on my install has not been completed.  He says he needs to transfer me.  I questions why it would run at half speed in that case. He transfers me to customer service.

I speak with customer service.  She tells me that the work order is complete and after checking a few things and obviously not knowing how to fix the issue says that I need to wait 30 mins after plugging a modem into the wall for it to get to full speed.  I questions why it would need 30 mins to increase the speed and she says to wait 30 minutes and then to call back if it’s not up to speed.  An obvious punt but I am not going to argue because she obviously can’t fix the issue.

I wait the 30 mins, just in case she wasn’t punting me and call into Technical support again.  This technician tells me that there are various types of cat5e cables and that I need to swap out the cable. I correct him by saying that there is only one cat5e and maybe he is confusing cat5e and cat5 but that my cable is in fact cat5e, as required. This obviously goes nowhere and I realize I sound like a jerk even arguing this point and I swap the cable.  No change in the results.  Meanwhile he is insisting that my speed is supposed to be 250/10 and I said that the package is 250/20.  We go back and forth a few times but I know it is going nowhere so I give up.

Time:  73 minutes (not including time technician was at my place since he left so quickly)

 

Thursday March 19th

A tech is scheduled to come to my place again today to look at the lines.  He arrives with his test gear and a laptop and this is good because the first tech had neither of those things.

He tests with his laptop and his special line tester.  Cable looks good. Signal looks good.  Still at 90/10.

Swaps out the modem. Still 90/10

He calls his support line.  They confirm I am on the right package and that there is nothing wrong on their end.

Technician tells me there is nothing wrong with the lines and nothing wrong in the computer and there is nothing else to be done.  He calls his supervisor who tells him to plug the modem power into the wall instead of my power bar.  Same result

He tells me that whenever Rogers releases a new service it is glitchy and that if I just wait awhile then the speed should eventually come up.  Couple of weeks should do it. I mention that the 250 service has been around for months and it is just the Ignite name that is new. He leaves.

I call into technical support.  I tell him everything that has been done to troubleshoot.  They run through all the steps again.  He repeatedly claims I should only have 250/10 and I tell him the package is 250/20 but that it doesn’t matter because I am getting 90/10.  After a while he determines that yes he is going to escalate the issue.  He claims I should get a call in 24-48 hours from a technician.  That is where I am now.

Time: 17 mins + 30-40mins for technician visit. 

As you can see, this would appear to be a perfectly coordinated effort to screw with me and yet I know it isn’t   You have it set up so that each employee can only do one thing and in some cases, they don’t even know how to do it.  I am not going to threaten to cancel because I want the 250 speed and no one else offers it.  I really did expect the bad customer service because I know that you can never call Rogers just once. Anytime you call Rogers for anything you must call at least twice because your agents will screw something up the first time.  I fully expect to have to call back in after the connection speed is fixed to fix my bill.

The best part of this is that you are charging me for this service.  Install and activation fee? Yes please!  I am considering sending you a cheque for $1000 to come to my place and kick me in the balls but we’ll have to conclude this transaction first.

In summary, I expected bad service.  The bad service coupled with the agents that cannot or simply refuse to attempt to resolve the issue was a surprise. You have truly shown the world how being the only game is town allows you to not give a shit about your customer service.  Impressive.

 

Saturday March 21st

Rogers attempted to help through twitter yesterday.

rogers_twitter

The image is poorly shopped to fit all the messages.  I only cut out my my phone number.

So yes you were so concerned about my tweet that you wanted to know the problem.  Although you didn’t read the tweet because it has all the details (this post).

I did get a call while I was in a meeting at work yesterday.  Perhaps it was a Rogers rep?  No message was left and no one called back.

It is now Saturday at 9 am. Current status:

rogersspeed_mar20

I expect that anyone that can fix this issue is probably off for the weekend.

Sunday March 22nd

I received a tweet from RogersHelps yesterday telling me that someone had left me a voice mail on Friday. To check I actually dialed into my voice mail box which I had not done in a year or two.  Normally any voice mails I gets are sent to me as text with an audio clip attached.  When I remembered my password and logged into my mail box there was a message from the “Office of the President” (OP) there.  So the reason I didn’t get the voice mail was because my Rogers  voice mail service didn’t work properly which I found pretty funny.   I called them back and spoke with someone there.  They agreed that, so far, I had not received good service.  They informed me that they would look into the issue and call me back but that a technician would need to be sent out.

They claimed that this time they were going to send a senior technician.  I told them that the second technician that had arrived claimed to be a senior technician.  The rep was surprised by this.

The rep from the OP then said that I should be getting the speeds that I pay for at 250/10.  I mentioned to her that everyone there keeps saying that it is 250/10 so it must be in their system somewhere written like that but the service is actually 250/20 on their website.  I suggested that either the website was incorrect or their internal systems were.  She said she agreed that one was wrong and that she would look into it.  Rogers.com website, for the record:

rogersspeeds

This morning I got a call at 9 am that sounded at first like a telemarketer because the line was silent for 5-10 seconds before the robot voice came on.  It informed me that Rogers appreciates my patience and that they are still looking into my issue.  Rogers robocall! First time I have had one of those.

 

Monday March 23rd

I got another robocall from Rogers today.  In its half automated half bored human voice it told me that my issues have all been resolved.  It also gave me Rogers’ full mailing address in case I wanted to contact them. Maybe it didn’t trust that my internet or phone would be working.   At home I tested what the robot told me.

rogersspeed_mar23

Turns out the robot lied to me.  Nothing has changed.  The hilarious part is that I don’t even have to make things up to make Rogers look bad.  I just need to keep documenting the normal customer service.

I have not yet received a callback from the Office of the President.

Tuesday March 24th

I heard nothing from Rogers today.  I called back into the Office of the President at around 4:05 pm.  They close at 4 pm.  I left a voice mail.

I suppose I could have called back into your tech support but I didn’t feel like spending another hour on the phone power cycling my modem.

My speed is still 90/10.

Wednesday March 25th

I called into the OP today and they said they did not have a technician appointment for me yet but they were looking into it and that they would call me back.  Rogers is going to send an in-house technician rather than a contractor and hopefully they can find some answers.  All possible remote tests have been performed and no problems have been found.  I should hear back from the OP tomorrow with my appointment date.

I have also been told that my first month of service is going to be free.

Thursday March 26th

Today I have some average news and some good news.

The average news is today Rogers called me 6 times and threw a lot of excuses at me. Got my hands on some audio recordings.  Since I am lazy, here you go!

I cut out silences and names.

So now the good news.  Speed test when I got home was similar but I then ran another test at about 10:30 pm and…

rogers_speedWow, they really fixed the hell out of the download speed!  Upload is still a bit low but I am fine with that for now. I called and left a voice mail for the OP to cancel the technician.

To be clear, everyone I dealt with was polite and I can’t really fault them.  In most of the cases if they didn’t know something it was because they were never trained on/told it.  I do wish they would refrain from making things up when something doesn’t work out.

Final Review 

When that speed test finally hit 250 and then jumped up past it I was pretty happy.  I have tested some downloads out on the Steam network and the transfer speeds I am getting are unreal. Yes, it was kind of a pain to get the service up and running but I had a connection the whole time; it wasn’t like I was without internet. I recommend you get this service if you like to download things stupid fast.

 

TL;DR Of Whole Post

Rogers Ignite 250u is crazy fucking fast.  Get it.

Update:  I ended having so many problems with Rogers customer service that I tried to switch to the slower Bell service but their customer service was brutal. Their internet connections are fine but their customer service is beyond bad.  I have settled on a smaller company that leases lines from Rogers.  In a way Rogers is still getting my money but at least they get less of it.

Free Money: February 2015

When last you heard from Free Money there had been a profit of $13.98 generated from mining and selling bitcoins.  Since then, the two video cards that were used to do the mining have been sold for $100 each.  Yes, that is some pretty fast depreciation but that is the way it is with computer hardware.

So for Free Money 2014 the final calculations looked like this.

– $367.29 Cost of mining hardware

+ $381.27  Sale and Conversion of bitcoins to Canadian dollars.

+ $200.00 Sale of mining hardware.

Total Profit.   $213.98 Canadian or 58.3%.

Definitely beat the market.

Since it is already February you can guess that deciding what to do for Free money this year was a bit tougher.  There was nothing that really jumped out as the cool new thing in the news.  Since I wanted to use the profits from last year there was also an initial capital limitation.  $218 is not enough to start a real trading account on standard stock markets and it is far below the requirements for day trading or forex accounts.  So what was needed was some sort of smaller market that was a little more legitimate than the prediction market used in Free Money 2013.

This year eToro will be the focus (and hopefully source of) Free Money.  eToro bills itself as a “social trading site”.  This means that you have a social profile much like Facebook or Twitter but the entire website is dedicated to trading.  You can trade standard stocks, limited commodities, forex and market indices.  I am going to try to describe it without sounding like an advertisement. Their big feature is being able to follow other traders and even copy them.  You can set a certain amount of your money to simply copy all trades made by another user on the site.  This creates superstar traders that everyone copies. It’s social!

Standard Stock is not the focus but they have an interesting setup.  You are allowed to buy fractional stocks.  So if a stock price is $40 and you want to invest $100 then you will get 2.5 stocks. The downside to this system is that they only execute standard stock orders once a day, right after market close.  I interpret this to mean that this site should only be used for medium and long term stock holds.  If you see your stock tanking in the middle of the day, you are along for the ride until the trades execute at about 4:30 EST. Fees are low, 0.1% of the trade value.

Forex, commodities (gold, silver, oil) and indices(Dow Jones, FTSE, etc.) are not limited in this way.  You can do leveraged, intraday trading in these categories. Fees here vary, mostly to do with the leverage amounts and how long you hold.

You can deposit as little as $50 USD into your account.  I decided that $200 USD would be my starting amount; in-line with the profits from last year.  Since the Canadian dollar is so weak right now that cost  $250.78 CDN.

Since I am just starting out on the site I decided to put through an easy trade to get a feel for the system.  Yes, they have a practice mode but that does not make my posts very exciting to read so real mode it was. I thought markets were a little harsh on MSFT after Microsoft announced their quarterly results I put an order in for $100.  The order was placed at lunch time and the trade executed at 4:30 EST as advertised. Price was $41.64; a little higher than when I put the order in but only by about 0.7%. So,

Current position:

Cash: $100
Portfolio: $100 Microsoft stock purchased at $41.64

Warning: This section will definitely make it seem as if I am trying to sell you on eToro.  They have a referral system.  However, it is a benefit to both parties.  If I refer someone to the site and they deposit $200 USD then we both get a free $100.  So if you deposit $200, you end up with $300 to trade with and I get an extra hundred.  Seems like a sweet deal to me and since this series is all about Free Money I am all for it.   If you are interested,  you can click here to use my referral.   Remember, you can always check it out with a practice account first.

So Free Money 2015 begins. The stakes are still low and it will take some serious effort to beat the last year’s 58% return but it should be a little more active than just setting a computer to process codes in a closet.

Regarding the Bank of Canada Interest Rate Decrease

Stephen Poloz and the Bank of Canada shocked markets this week by dropping the target overnight rate by 0.25%.  In my previous post I spoke about all the reasons that the BoC would likely be raising the rate at some point this year; you can go back and read that if you like.  This is a long post so you might want to go get a beer before you start reading.

Bank of Canada’s Policy Shift and Stephen Poloz
Before we get into the effect this is going to have we should say that on page one, paragraph one of the “How to be a Central Banker” handbook it says do not shock the market.  Mark Carney made a habit of being boring and predictable and everyone praised him for it.  They liked it so much they drafted him into the big leagues at the Bank of England.  Avoiding this shock alone was a good enough reason to delay this rate change.

Forward guidance is the term used for when a central bank indicates ahead of time what it is likely to do in the near future and in the long term.  It helps markets decide what they are going to do in response.  Calm, collected responses.  When the US Fed says it will not change rates until unemployment is below X%, that is forward guidance.  Poloz has said that risk assessment is the new way forward for the BoC.  Yes, forward guidance has worked well for us in the recent past but now we are going to try something new.  In October he might have dropped a hint that most people (including myself) missed.

Some of you may be wondering why we aren’t being more specific about the likely future stance of monetary policy. Let me answer by saying that forward guidance remains a key element of the policy tool kit – but one that we will reserve for times when we believe there are net benefits to its use. There will no doubt come a day when we will offer forward guidance again – but not this day.

tumblr_inline_nbuyozjs1J1s9979a

But more importantly he said this in September.

We have begun putting our growth and inflation forecasts in the form of ranges rather than points, and have given even more prominence to uncertainty and risks in the Monetary Policy Report. We have refined our analysis of financial stability risks and raised the profile of our Financial System Review. And, we have begun to offer a more fulsome description of how those risks are entering our policy deliberations. These changes have brought more transparency to policy decision making, and our policy narrative has shifted from one traditionally seen almost as “mechanical engineering” to one now characterized as “risk management.”

Why is that important?  Well with the rate changes today it indicates that possible or perceived risk is now the most important  thing when the BoC makes policy decisions.   In this week’s announcement press conference Poloz said this.

Accordingly, we decided that it was appropriate to take out some insurance against that downside risk in the form of a lower interest rate profile. Policy insurance is a logical part of our risk management framework. Today’s action is intended to reduce the risk that our inflation path might move materially to the downside, as well as cushion the impact of lower oil prices and facilitate the economy’s sectoral adjustment to its new circumstances. The Bank has room to maneuver should its forecast prove to be either too pessimistic or too optimistic.  

So now interest rates are an insurance policy against possible future risk and this is the new framework, got it.  Also, you will notice that this statement basically says that lower rates are not out of the question.  I would hope at least they have a model that is predicting this and that their nice precise model would tell them how much of a cushioning effect this rate cut would have.  Because thinking that a central bank has a great model that lets them see things that the commoners do not is part of the game they must play.  What does Poloz have to say about this?

Oh.

Please, for the love of god, STOP CALLING IT INSURANCE!

Housing
Although mortgage rates should follow long term bond rates rather than be tied directly to the overnight rate we can expect to see lower mortgage rates sometime next week.  It only takes one bank to set everyone off.  Ratehub is currently showing 2.18% as the best 5 year variable and 2.69% as the best 5 year fixed rate.  This means that we could be seeing sub 2% variable rates.  If you are looking to buy a house this is good news.  If you are at the CMHC and you are trying to cool the real estate market with tighter lending rules, sorry, you can go to hell.  All those predictions of bubbles bursting in Vancouver and Toronto will have to be pushed back again.  Calgary could certainly run into some problems in real estate so maybe his is a good thing for them.

Currency
From the press conference this week.

Finally, we discussed the risk that by moving today we would surprise financial markets. We generally prefer that markets not be surprised by what we do, and believe that transparency around our analysis of the economy will minimize the scope for surprises. In that respect, we took comfort from the observation that the consequences of the drop in oil prices appear to be well understood, and that the possibility of a rate cut had begun to enter markets in the last couple of weeks. Moreover, given the magnitude of the shock, we concluded that the benefits of acting now rather than waiting would outweigh the costs of any short-term market volatility that might arise.

Our dollar dropped 3 cents versus the US dollar immediately.  So  the markets had not already priced this in. At all. We are glad you discussed it though.

We will have to wait until this month’s total data is in for the CERI fluctuation but I imagine the Canadian dollar dropped everywhere.  (Less so against the Euro)

Trade and Local Prices
A weaker dollar means that all of our exports are cheaper.  This is good for our GDP.

It means that we will not see gas prices as low because our weaker dollar buys less on international markets.

Inputs to manufacturing are more expensive assuming they come from other countries.  Any capital investments in machinery or other equipment that need to come from other countries is now more expensive.

Almost all consumer goods are more expensive.  Electronics, clothing, some food. Anything not made in Canada is now more expensive.

Conspiracy Theory
If I was a journalist (Like, a real one, not a guy with a website) I would probably put in a freedom of information request for all communications over the last few months between the government and the BoC.  Why?

Government delays budget because oil prices are sagging and they need more time to balance the books. If only there was a way to boost exports to pick up the slack from those low oil prices to help reach the promised balanced budget.

BoC drops the interest rate when markets are expecting a hike within the year and what do you know, the currency tanks.  This is good for exports!  What a coincidence.

The BoC would never manipulate the currency like that.  After all in September Poloz said,

A floating loon is a thing of beauty, and so is a floating loonie, at least from this economist’s perspective.

How can you not trust an economist that talks like that?

Household Debt
When interest rates are low, people take on debt.  When interest rates are low for a long time people take on a lot of debt.

That is why on December 10th Poloz said.

Let me just add a few comments specific to the most important risk discussed in the FSR: the difficulty that highly indebted households would have servicing their debt if they were to face a sharp decline in their incomes or a sharp rise in interest rates. This situation raises the risk that a shock to the economy could trigger a correction in house prices. The probability of this risk materializing is low, but if it did occur, the effect on the economy would be severe.This risk would be greater if house prices were judged to be overvalued relative to fundamentals. … Although there is considerable uncertainty around this question, various approaches – including our own – suggest that there is some risk that the housing market is overvalued, and our estimates fall in the 10 to 30 per cent range.

Yeah so Canadians really need to get their debt under control.  Now lower interest rates should allow you to pay down more of your debt but unfortunately most people see it as a chance for cheap borrowing.  But since this is all caused by lower oil prices what did Poloz say about that this week?

 Canadian consumers will spend less on energy, but they could save some of the windfall rather than spend it

Fools!  You are trying to save the money you are not spending on energy since the price in oil dropped? Well that is bad for the economy.  Lower interest rates! Borrow more!

The fact that he sees money not spent on energy as a windfall says a lot here.

Currency War
We’re in one.  More on that in a dedicated post to come later.

Final Thoughts
As mentioned, shocking the market is not a good move for any central banker unless you have a specific goal in mind.  I do not think this is a great move but I do not have access to the data sets or models that the BoC does.  Their 25 page Monetary Policy report reads as if it was written with a rate freeze in mind and then edited at the last minute so it made more sense with the rate decrease. I would really like them to try to justify their decision a little more clearly but then again I think there are only a handful of people that read the MPR when it is released anyway.

Personally, I was floored by the announcement.  I really expected a freeze.  I will be keeping an eye out for lower mortgage rates and if I see something at or below 2% then it will be time to call my banker.

2014 in Review and a Look Ahead to 2015

Once again I am writing my final post of the year at the last minute so please forgive the inevitable grammar and punctuation mistakes. I am just typing it and posting it.

Last year’s predictions ended up being almost entirely wrong.  I had underestimated the ability of the American government to delay things so the Keystone XL pipeline was neither approved or denied.  It is still in limbo. So no predictions there this year other than I think they have to come to a decision.

The overnight rate of the Bank of Canada remained at 1% for the entire year so that prediction held up. We are now looking at 2.1% core inflation which is slightly above the 2% target.  This by itself does not mean that the overnight rate is going to be raised but there are a few other things the BoC will be keeping an eye on.

Oil prices are extremely low as you have probably noticed as you purchased gas 40% cheaper than you did last year.  This will drag the Canadian dollar down with it.  A weaker Canadian dollar means that all of our exports become cheaper to other countries.   Canada does sell a lot of oil but it only accounts for about 3% (in 2009) of our GDP.   Overall, then, we should see a good growth rate for the economy.  This means that companies will start to spend the billions in cash they have been sitting on for the last few years, traditionally this would lead to inflation.   With the inflation rate already over target I expect we will see an overnight rate increase this year.  Poloz (BoC Governor) has made some comments about the strength of the Canadian dollar but that is just central banker talk. It is not the policy of the BoC to try to defend the price of the Canadian dollar so they could not mention that as a factor in the raising of rates. Raising interest rates makes your local currency stronger, but since you are a reader of this blog, you knew that.

Mortgage rates are always a topic of concern in Canada.  People have been talking about the real estate bubble in Vancouver for 10 years. Mortgage rates normally follow long term bond rates rather than the overnight rate but you can expect a rise from the BoC to have a knock on effect on all Canadian lending markets if it done early in the year.

Last year I predicted that Russia would crack down severely on terrorists and that maybe this would lead to some countries boycotting the Olympics.  None of that happened. Instead, Russia annexed/invaded parts of the Ukraine and is still currently involved in fighting there.   NATO has done nothing militarily but did apply sanctions on Russia.  When oil prices dropped so did the Russian currency, by 40% or more.   Their central bank decided the best way to defend the value of the rubble was with their control of the interest rate.  The first move was to 10% and then to 17%, a massive, massive increase.  The currency seems to have stabilized for the moment.  All the Russian companies that are holding debt in Euro and Dollars are going to have a really rough time this year. Expect to hear of at least some defaults.   As a reference, the last time the interest rates in Russia were this high was in 1998, right before the government defaulted on all its debt.

For our neighbours to the south this should be an interesting year.   Democratic Obama now has to deal with both the Congress and the Senate run by the Republicans.  I think we have already got a little glimpse of this plan for the next two years.  If he was smart he would continue to push these huge issues to the Congress and Senate for the next two years.  Education reform , military spending, entitlements.  Huge issues that have been completely deadlocked.  If the Republicans try to block everything he does then they will easily lose the next election.  They will be forced to concede on at least a few issues.  Not only that, the Republicans will have so little time to properly build their feigned outraged narrative and catch phrases for each individual move they will probably have to drop back to some nonsense about King Obama and the only people believing that will always vote Republican anyway.  I really hope they do something positive down there. Their political system has looked pretty ridiculous for a number of years now.  It is time for them to gain some self awareness and fix some of their issues.

Wow, this is getting to be a long post.  Ah well.

There will be a federal election in Canada this year.  Low oil prices will drop a few billion off the revenue side of our balance sheet this year.  The Conservative government has pulled a pretty smart move with their recent income splitting changes.  This will reduce the amount of surplus, if there is even going to be one this year.  This is smart because in an election campaign there is nothing that opposition parties like to do more than to tell everyone how they will spend the extra money that is sitting in government coffers.  Low oil prices and income splitting should eliminate any extra money so any promises made during the election will have to be offset with a cut to another program.  Not that this will stop anyone from making vague statements like “this will be paid for by savings generated by making X process more efficient” but there is not much we can do about that.

That is it for me this year.  Thanks for reading for another 365 days.  Until we meet again in 2015, have a happy new year.

No-Season Tires Revisited. A Solution to the Problem of People Stealing My Time

Last winter I wrote about people with “all-season” tires on their car. Read that post here. Today’s rant will cover the same topic.

The roads have once again become cold/wet/icy/snow covered and so it is time to revisit this issue.  Winter has come a bit early this year and we have had at least three evenings in the last two weeks where the roads have been snowed upon.  My standard drive home is about 30 minutes.  On these three nights my travel time was between 50 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes.  There were no accidents, no closed lanes, no damaged street lights; just people having to massively reduce their speed because their cars are not prepared for the same winter conditions that come every year.  Every year.

While I was driving home today at between 10-20 km/h there was lots of time to think about a solution to this problem.  Here is the thought process and conclusion.

  • There are negative externalities here that are not being priced into the market.  No-season tire users pay nothing for the massive delays they cause for everyone else on the road. This is a market failure.
  • Even far right conservatives agree that one of the roles of government is to step in when there are market failures.
  • Government goals are better achieved when they influence people to take action rather than forcing them to take action.
  • In Quebec the government made winter tires mandatory. I agree with this but…see the previous thought.

Therefore, the reasonable conclusion is everyone’s favourite thing, taxes.  The government of Ontario would start imposing a new tax on “all-season” and “all-weather” tires.  The revenue generated by this new tax would be used to subsidize winter and summer tires.  “All-season” tires would become more expensive while both summer and winter specific tires would become cheaper.  It would not even have to be an actual subsidy, just a reduction in the current taxes and levies.This would make it more attractive for people to have the appropriate tires in all conditions.  Better grip on dry pavement or in the rain during the summer and better grip in snow, ice and wet in the cold of winter.

The nice part is that after everyone finally moves to two sets of tires the number of accidents on the road would likely be reduced. This would reduce the cost of emergency workers, repairs on light posts and signs that people smash, etc.  These saving could be used to offset the ongoing costs of keeping the taxes low on season specific tires. The new tax would also reduce the thousands of hours people spend in traffic behind people forced to drive at a snail’s pace by ultra predictable, yearly re-occurring  weather. Problem solved.

So yes, today on the drive home I got so frustrated with people that think that their no-season tires are good enough that I invented a new tax.  You’re welcome.

 

 

On the Events in Ottawa Today.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed in Ottawa today.

When I saw the news breaking this morning the details were very limited.  One thing was clear.  A reservist standing guard at the National War Memorial had been shot.  There were pictures of him receiving medical attention. One picture in particular of a woman giving him mouth to mouth while others performed chest compressions stirred some emotions in me that I was really not prepared for.

I thought This was a follower of Islam, again. This time they have gone too far. We need to get  them.  

I was so angry.

But get who?  It was only minutes later that the reports starting rolling in that the gunman was dead.  Probably exactly as he has planned.

At this point it was not even clear who the shooter was or what his motivations were.  Reporters were making the link to Islam as they kept talking about the radicalized convert that had killed a soldier in Quebec two days ago.  Always insinuating the link, never saying it outright. I started to think of how people would react if it was a radicalized Muslim versus just a crazy person with a gun. As if it made a difference.

And now 8 hours later I am still angry but I even with this small passage of time I have been able to take some time to reflect.

I used to live near Parliament Hill and would visit often; the security presence was visible but very subtle.  According to the National Post the first 911 calls came in at 9:52am.  There are images coming out of the suspect on the ground, likely dead, at 9:56am.  Four minutes. If there is a positive we can pull from today it is the professional and efficient response of the parliamentary security, RCMP and Ottawa City Police.  They maintain a open, public space with effective , non-intrusive security. They do a great job.

Now comes the hard part for many Canadians.  We need to figure out if anything could have prevented this, see what went wrong in the reaction and improve it. What we do not need is to lock down all public spaces with heavily armed security guards.  The systems we have in place have been effective up to this point.  Should we be on the lookout for more attacks on soldiers? Of course we should.  But we do ourselves no good asking to live in a police state fueled by fear.

To anyone that says that parliament needs to be locked down from now on please understand that that the War Memorial is not on Parliament Hill, it is outside the surrounding fence, across a public street.  The only way more security would have prevented this death is if the entire downtown core of Ottawa was made a secure area with both vehicle and personal searches of everyone entering the zone. That is an Ottawa that I do not want.  Here is an image I took on Canada Day two years ago.  The steps to the War memorial are about 20m away; just off camera to the left.  That building on the right is the East Block on Parliament Hill.

Canada_DayThis is the Ottawa I know.

My initial desire for revenge, fire and brimstone have calmed.  Canadians should take a moment to think about how we fit into this dangerous world.  Think about how we want our government to react.  We should not be out for blood.

Stephen Harper had been scheduled to give honourary Canadian citizenship to Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, today but the event was cancelled because of the shooting.  Is it related? That is not clear at the moment. When Ms. Yousafzai spoke in LA in August she said this:

“You cannot kill terrorism. Violence only breeds more violence. The best way to fight terrorism is with books, pencils, and education.”

Do I think that the world’s problems can be solved without ever using military force? No, I don’t think anyone is that naive. But I also do not think that instantly reacting to the natural human desire for revenge will solve things in the long run.

Today has been a rough for Canada  I hope tomorrow we wake up resolved, confident and alert but overall, not much different from an average Thursday.  We must resist the urge to awake fearful, angry and bloodthirsty because that would certainly make us less Canadian than when we opened our eyes this morning.

 

 

Free Money: July 2014 Update

So it is time again for an update on the Free Money series.  The original plan was to keep my system mining Bitcoins until the end of the year and then sell them all off.  With my last update I had estimated a break-even date near the end of the year.  Since then the price of Bitcoin has fluctuated a number of times as it tends to do.  At last update the price was sitting at around $500 USD but in general had been much more stable than usual. When it started to rise again I decided that it might be time to sell.  I transferred all the mined coins, a total of 0.56143691 BTC, to a Canadian exchange site that would allow me to transfer between BTC and Canadian dollars.

I set the sell price to $692 and the order closed in about 40 minutes at a price of $692.46999990 giving me $388.77822 Canadian in my account.  There was no fee for the exchange but there was a small fee to have them deposit the funds directly into my standard bank account.  Final outcome was a total of $381.27 which means that we have moved into the black.

 $381.27 – $367.29 = $13.98

 I know what you are thinking. WOW!!  That is FREE MONEY! Yes it is, just not a lot of it.

The main thing to remember here is that I still own the original mining hardware.  It is not worth the same as it was new, obviously, but it can be sold.  That would significantly improve returns on this setup.  The amount of hashing (number crunching) power that my two video cards put out now is so small compared to the overall network that they generate very little profit, even with zero power costs.  So I will keep them running for now until I decide what the next step of this year’s Free Money will be.  It would be too boring to simply sell the video cards and call it a day. 

 Checking in with Litecoin.  The coin that everyone thought would be “silver to bitcoin’s gold” before they understood the reality of the alt coin market is now sitting at $7.57 USD, so $8.21 CAD.

I originally could have picked up 14.3 coins which would have a current value of $117.40. So while the Free Money has not generated a lot of profits this year so far, it could have been much worse.

 So stayed tuned for more Free Money experiments this year and feel free to send in any suggestions.

Temporary Foreign Workers: Explanations and Solutions

Temporary foreign workers (TFW).  Love them or hate them, they are here to stay. The program has been around since 2006 and continues to gain strength.  We will not go over the entire system  because there are thousands of sites that do it in very fine detail.  Wikipedia is always a good source.  What we will do is look at the effect TFWs have on a labour market.  You can see it in the latest Youtube video here.

As in the video, it seems that for most part this program is being used to keep wages down which was not its goal.  The entire system is under review at the moment and one of the current suggestions is to make the program be accessible only to firms in regions that have extremely low unemployment rates.  This is a very good idea. A low unemployment rate is a good indicator that maybe a company legitimately cannot find a Canadian to fill the position. If the region has an unemployment rate of 8% then there is little reason to bring in foreigners to do the work.  That single change would make a large difference.  Although, there have been reports this week that workers are being hired to work in one city and then being moved to another as soon as their application is approved and they move to Canada. This type of behavior cannot be allowed to continue

All cases of worker exploitation must be eliminated.  These workers should have regular check-ins by mail, email, a website or in person by someone from the labour ministry to ensure that they are not being abused or exploited.  They should not be afraid to lose their job if they report abuse of the system.  If abuse is reported and confirmed then they get put on top of a list for the next available position.  Most of the jobs are low skill and if one company in a low unemployment region is having problems finding enough workers there are likely more in that same region willing to take a worker that has already passed through the application process for a discounted or no fee.

There is a lot of red tape in these proposed changes. The costs for the administration should be covered by the fees that firms pay when they apply to hire a TFW.

The next few months will reveal how the government is going to deal with all the recent negativity.  I would like to see them implement the changes listed above and discuss making the TFW process a path to citizenship.

The Future, now. Since 2010.