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.