Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Letter To President Obama

I read Joe Klein's "Amazing Grace" article in the Dec 19 edition of Time, and was inspired to send the following letter to our outgoing President today:

Dear President Obama,

You may recall that you spoke at OPOWER's Arlington headquarters in March of 2010. Just a few months later, in June of 2010, I was hired to help build the engineering team for OPOWER's San Francisco office. That was the first time I missed you.

In the two weeks leading up to June 24 of 2010, I was ramping up on my new job at the Arlington office. As I was leaving the next day, my boss took me and another co-worker out to lunch on that Thursday. He offered me the choice of where to go. Two of his suggestions were Guajilo Mexican food or Ray's Hell Burger. I thought Mexican sounded good, so we walked there. A short while later, black SUVs showed up and a Secret Service agent posted himself inside the door of Gualjilo's to make sure nobody left while you and Dmitry Medvedev enjoyed a burger and fries next door at Ray's. This was the second time I missed you.

Now we come to the end of your term, and I can't help but already be missing you for a third time. I will most miss your clarity of vision, our steady progress towards broader public good and the compassion and leadership you demonstrated and modelled for our whole nation. Whether in the face of good, bad or sometimes ugly events, I always felt reassured by your hand at the wheel.

I have grave fears that the same legislative engine that so vigorously opposed all the good that you've accomplished in spite of them will now spitefully dismantle it all in concert with the President Elect. These fears have caused me to question the 22nd Amendment. However, you have inspired in me great hope that what has been done once can be done again. That anything undone can be re-done with sufficient clarity of vision, steady progress, compassion and leadership.

Respectfully and Thankfully,

Rob Fagen

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Getting Screwed (a little) By Starbucks

On April 12, 2016, Starbucks is adjusting their customer loyalty program. Instead of one Star per purchase, with a free item every 12 stars, you will now earn 2 Stars per dollar you spend, and need to collect 125 Stars for a free item. Additionally, at the transition any Stars you have on April 12 will be multiplied by 11.

I did a little analysis of whether the transition and ongoing purchases are more or less rewarding under the new regime. It is (unsurprisingly) sensitive to what your average purchase is. Here's the numbers:

Not to spoil the surprise, but if your average purchase is less than $5.21, you will not be receiving as many rewards as you used to. For example, someone who spends $3.50 per day will now have to spend $62.50 for a freebie instead of $42. They are getting a 5.6% return on their purchases instead of the 8.3% they used to. That's a pretty big haircut.

Then again, you're spending $3.50 for something with a make-at-home cost of less than $0.50 plus the amortization of whatever equipment you use. If you buy a $400 espresso maker and it lasts for four years of daily-weekday coffee (250/year), that's an extra $0.40, for less than $1.00 total.

Actually, if you're going to go that route, the new Starbucks rewards plan is a great change for you. You'll now get a free bag of beans after every five bags instead of every 12.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fight back against net anti-neutrality

I just sent this message to the FCC via -- I would recommend you do as well.
Dear FCC, 
Please don't let self-interested actors gut your brave and excellent work in preventing them from violating one of the internet's most fundamental operating principles: net neutrality. As a collaborative form of communication, the internet has thrived when all connected networks have been fair, balanced and unbiased towards the traffic passing over them. 
Previously, the attempts to capture the internet focused on charging content providers for unimpeded data transmission to the customers of an ISP. When that consumer requests content from a paying content provider, service is fast and efficient. When that consumer requests content from a non-paying content provider, service is throttled. This was stopped by last year's ruling. 
Now, networks are implementing plans where total data for a customer is capped, followed by a reduction in level of service when the cap is exceeded. They are exempting their own content or the content of a paying content provider from affecting those caps. The equation is the same whether the network constraint is on the service provided or the source of the data. The outcome is identical if the behavior at the consuming endpoint is impaired when a non-exempt data source serves data. The outcome is against the Title II rules. 
Please act to enforce the rules and keep the internet open and thriving.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Mathematical Riddle I Thought Of At Random

A bit more than ten-thousand, or just seventeen.
What is the number that you think I mean?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And so it begins...

Welcome to the harbinger of the next financial crisis.

King Digital Entertainment, maker of Candy Crush (and a bunch of other stuff that hasn't been nearly as successful) is going public with a multi-billion dollar valuation and 600+ employees.

Granted that they are profitable, and so the half billion dollars they raise will give them infinite runway. However, I have but three words: this. seems. crazy.

bless them, and I hope they're successful, but my gut tells me we've reached the peak. I think I'm heading towards a lot more cash.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Brilliant or sociopathic: you decide

Got an email from someone at work, and it included a number of attachments. Turns out there were no real attachments, just all of the images that this person includes in their email signature. I turn to my neighbor and ask "Am I a crotchety old fart if I don't like seeing all these images pasted into email signatures? Doesn't anyone read RFCs any more?". He did tell me I was a crotchety old fart, but he did agree it was kind of ridiculous the number and size of images in signatures these days.

Then, inspiration struck. Stick a google display ad in your signature. Stick an Amazon affiliate block in your email signature. Clickthru rates will stink, but think of the pageviews!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Huffington Post is just as stupid as Vallejo

So I was reading about the guy who painted a crosswalk in Vallejo and got arrested for vandalism.

HuffPo had an article.

Some yahoo made a comment about it:
I hate to be the sole voice stating that I feel the sentence for painting an unauthorised cross-walk was well deserved. There must have been a reason why the City did not paint one at that location in the first place, especially when there are three others. Maybe there was a visibility issue, a curve in the road, different elevation, bushes, anything that makes it harder for approaching cars to see pedestrians at that location. A crosswalk ( basically lines painted on a road) would not give any protection to the pedestrian if the driver of the car can't stop in time. Look at it from this point of view : What if some unfortunate child stepped onto a unauthorized crosswalk, thinking it safe, but was invisible to the driver?
I tried to post a reply:
I took a quick look at google maps for that area, and if you look at this stretch of Sonoma Boulevard between Nebraska and Curtola Parkway, it's as straight as an arrow. Furthermore, there are a total of seventeen intersections in that stretch of road, all with crosswalks. Fourteen of the seventeen have all four crosswalks. Only two of the seventeen don't have crosswalks over Sonoma. This intersection at Illinois has one crosswalk over Sonoma already. Seems to me that the painter was just making Illinois consistent with 80% of the other similar crossings. 
He was clearly doing both his neighborhood and the city a favor.  
However, HuffPo's implementation of using twitter and/or G+ to log in is totally broken. I have no idea if I've actually authorized HuffPo to recognize those credentials, because it's totally broken and I couldn't post my comment.