Friday, April 14, 2017

How Insurance Should Not Be

I changed my jobs and I was surprised to find out that during the probation period I would not have any benefits. They didn't tell me and I didn't know I should ask as I had not been in this situation before.
I called the company that provided the group insurance with the intention to ask whether I could buy the same insurance coverage I would have after the probation period. Also, I wanted to ask whether I could be given the same rates my company was paying. It was a long shot but why not try it. I did not get the chance to ask any question as I was told to call a different number for individual insurance. I would have expected them to transfer me, but they are a large company, one lost customer is not a big deal :).

How Insurance Should Be

A few years ago I was shopping around for house insurance. I was surprised to find out you can not choose the amounts you want to insure for certain house "components". For example the minimum for the house content was too high for me, I didn't own content so valuable.

This seemed standard so I had no choice, I had to buy insurance for something I didn't want. And a few years ago I found 'Square One Insurance'. I was amazed, finally my kind of company.

Only pay for what you need
Most 'pre-packaged' policies automatically charge you to insure items like fur coats, gold bullion and rare collectibles. Don't own these items? Then you don't pay to insure them with us.

Pay monthly with no contract
We're confident you'll love our service and stay with us. That's why we don't lock you into a contract. With us, you can pay monthly or annually and there's no fixed-term contract.

I like this no-lock contract, if anything else better comes up I can move my "business". I never did, mainly because I didn't look, and I suppose the company counts on this :).

Square One Insurance will disrupt the insurance business I had thought. But when I told a few people about it, no-one was convinced. They were happy with their insurances so why change even if they could save money. After all house insurance is not mandatory and who buys it means they are risk adverse, and changing the insurance company would just increase the perceived risk.

Monday, March 27, 2017

BC Ferries Self Serve Ticketing

The ticketing machine prints 2 pieces of paper: the receipt and the ticket itself in this order.
There is a second delay or maybe a fraction of it when the ticket gets printed so some passengers who take the ferry for the first time just pick up the receipt not knowing the ticket is going to come out after and it is the ticket not the receipt that is going to be asked for when boarding.

Solution: just print out the ticket (ask on the screen if a receipt is needed).
Result: less confusion and paper/ink saved.

It is easy to notice things but more difficult to change them. Anyway I had to bring it up, who knows, they might change the system or perhaps there are very good reasons the machine operates as it is now. has an online feedback form so I had filled it out and submitted the form.

I would have expected to receive an automated email acknowledging my suggestion has been received, but there was none, perhaps I should submit another feedback  :).

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Aero Farms

AeroFarms is the commercial leader in indoor farming. We grow without sun or soil in a fully-controlled indoor environment. We have optimized our patented aeroponic growing system for faster harvest cycles, predictable results, superior food safety and less environmental impact.

And this was my question:

Is the nutritional value of your products same as if grown by traditional methods?

And no answer after more than one month. So I think they don't have too much of a nutritional value.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Canadian "Wells Fargo"

Hundreds of current and former TD Bank Group employees wrote to Go Public describing a pressure cooker environment they say is "poisoned," "stress inducing," "insane" and has "zero focus on ethics."  

Some employees admitted they broke the law, claiming they were desperate to earn points towards sales goals they have to reach every three months or risk being fired. CBC has agreed to conceal their identities because their confessions could have legal ramifications.
'We do it because our jobs are at stake': TD bank employees admit to breaking the law for fear of being fired

The following happened to me last year not with TD but with one of the other Big 5, so it seems everyone is doing it.

Exchanged messages with bank representatives (yes, I've dealt with so many):

My name is Jean, your banking advisor and I will be pleased to assist you with the recent limit increase on your Visa account.
After looking into your Visa account, I noticed that the limit on your account was increased to $11,000 on Sep 11, 2016 at 4:20 PM Eastern time.

My name is Linda, your credit card advisor, and I'm very sorry to hear about the misunderstanding.
After reviewing your profile, I am able to confirm that the limit was increased during a telephone conversation with one of our advisors, John on Sep 11th.

My name is Ann and I will follow up regarding increasing the limit on your credit card.
According to our records, we received consent to increase the limit on your credit card on Sep 11th 2016 at 4:20 PM by John Collins.

Hello Ann,

Please send me the transcript of the conversation.
I have no calls at that time and date from your bank or from anyone else for that matter.

My name is Mary and your message was escalated to my attention. I appreciate your patience.
I understand that Pauline has tried to call you on a few occasions and regrettably has not being able to reach you. I also understand that she has left you her name and number if you would like to discuss.
She has also advised that your limit was decreased back to the $8,000 and a letter has been sent to your attention confirming this.

But the real driving force here are incentives, the incentives given to employees to open new credit card accounts, no matter the impact on customers, as well as the incentives given to the banks themselves to further financialize our economy, no matter the impact on our lives and world.
Real reason Wells Fargo scandal should scare you

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Superstore: Are you a PC Plus Member?

If you want to use a Superstore self checkout this is the first screen:

Are you PC Plus member? 

If you press 'Yes' then you have to select one of the three options:

This is an extra click and screen.

I would get rid of the first question/screen and only have:
'If you are a PC Plus member please select an option by pressing one of the following buttons. If not press the 'No' button.'

Even better, the customer should not need to select an option but just scan their cards and the machine should recognize whether it is a reward card, credit card or mobile app.

Energy Bars

President Choice Super+ Energy Bars are the best energy bars I have ever eaten and I have tried out many other brands. I was so happy I had found them, finally my quest was over, they were organic, not expensive, and very delicious. 
But my joy didn't last long. I went back to the store and these energy bars were no longer on the shelves. Someone checked in the system and I was told the bad news this product had been discontinued!

17 November 12017
The bars are still listed on the site, but unfortunately you can no longer find them.

Chewy, moist and bursting with delectable fruits and nuts, our energy bars are a source of fibre and a good source of iron and copper. We call them “Super+” because they’re organic and contain natural source superfood and functional ingredients. No artificial flavours or colours.

23 and Me

23andMe is a company that offers genetic testing:
  • View reports on over 100 health conditions and traits
  • Find out about your inherited risk factors and how you might respond to certain medications
  • Discover your lineage and find DNA relatives
I was very curious what the genes say about me and I was ready to order but I read on company's website

Currently there are no protections for Canadians against discrimination based on their genetics - life insurance companies and employers may request an individual's genetic information or may ask whether an individual has had a genetic test.

The insurance company would ask whether I have had a genetic test, I would have to say 'Yes', they might ask for it, and if I said I didn't want to provide it -  perhaps the insurance company will gather from the genetic report that I am a high risk and deny me coverage - they could say they didn't want to insure me either.

So I decided not to do the test and this is a pity, I was so curious what my genes would have revealed.

And the inconvenient truth about genetics:

The Deliberate Practice Myth

The myth of deliberate practice is that you can fashion yourself into anything with enough work and effort. While human beings do possess a remarkable ability to develop their skills, there are limits to how far any individual can go. Your genes set a boundary around what is possible.

In recent decades, behavioral geneticists have discovered that our genes impact nearly every human trait. We are not merely talking about physical characteristics like height and eyesight, but mental abilities as well. Your genes impact everything from your short-term memory abilities to your mental processing speed to your willingness to practice.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bed Bath & Beyond - First-time subscribers get a 20% OFF

Canada registration is simpler than U.S. Only email address and postal code are mandatory. U.S. site additionally requires first name, last name, address, city, state.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Another bank story

I chose 'Now' as the transfer date and: 
"Error! The date provided is in the past. Please enter a different date."

It must have been the time difference. It was 9:30 PM that was next day where the bank system is, so the application considered the 'Now' is for the previous day.

Anyway, it wouldn't be so difficult to have a solution for this (not to call it a "bug", even if it is one, but after all it's very minor, part of the "annoying" category). So I had to choose 'Later' and select tomorrow's date (for me) that was 'Now' for the bank system.

Bank story

I changed the type of my banking account, and this one required a higher minimum balance than my previous account, in order not to be charged the "dreaded" monthly fee. I don't like paying banking monthly fees and I think only once did I pay one when they increased the minimum balance and I failed to notice. Never again I said back then :).

So I made the change in the middle of the month and I had a feeling this would happen: the bank charged me the fee as I hadn't had in my account the minimum balance every day of the month.

I'd called them and they said they would make an "exception" - as if it wasn't their mistake - and reverse the fee.

Their system is not set-up properly, the minimum balance should have been considered from the day I changed my account type not from the beginning of the month.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Two buses, one extra loop

There are 2 buses that go from Tsawwassen Ferry to Bridgeport. They both leave Tsawwassen Ferry at an interval of 3 - 5 minutes.

Both of them make a loop of 700 m / 5 min. Very few passengers get off or get on at the bus loop stop (two or three, sometimes no-one).

Usually this is the type of bus, a New Flyer.

I could not find the fuel consumption on and they don't have a contact email address. However, I found this graph so I'll use the consumption for a 'Transit Bus'.

Let's approximate to 4 miles per gallon; in the good metric system - that the U.S. should use it also - this is 6.44 km / 3.78 l which means around 59 l/100 km, no wonder I could not find this information on the New Flyer website. The fuel consumption is high but after all it is a bus, and I am sure the consumption is much higher for an articulated bus, so let's go for a round conservative figure of 60 l / 100 km.

The bus would consume 0.42 l for 700 m, and for the argument's sake let's consider it is 0.5 l.

Last time I saw the gas price at $1.21 per litre, but I assume the transit operator has some discount so they could pay $1 per litre.

10 buses per day that make this extra loop means 5 l of extra gas per day that is 1,825 l per year.
At the current price and with some rounding up to come with a nice number this would be $2,000, and again I think the consumption is higher than what I used as summer/winter more often than not buses use the air conditioning/heating.

Money and time are wasted not to mention the additional pollution and the solution is so simple, only one bus should do the loop.

Translink's answer:

Thank you for your recent feedback regarding making one of the 620 routes as an express bus and omitting Ladner Exchange. We will register you concerns about that route with the Planning & Scheduling Department.
Thank you, again, for your suggestion.

This was some 8 months ago and nothing has changed.

Excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs Biography:

One day Jobs came into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon, an engineer who was working on the Macintosh operating system, and complained that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon started to explain, but Jobs cut him off. “If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year. “Larry was suitably impressed, and a few weeks later he came back and it booted up twenty-eight seconds faster,” Atkinson recalled. “Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.”

In fact it is 489 lifetimes and something if considering the average life expectancy of 70 years.

The time people would save if one bus omitted a loop would be much less than the equivalent of a lifetime saved per year, but still.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Waste bin in aircraft washroom

Almost every time I have flown this is how the bin for waste disposal looked like and not because it was full.

After people wash and  wipe their hands they don't want to touch anything around them and it ends up like that.
What I do, and I suppose most people do the same, is to push the bin cover with a piece of paper and get rid of the used paper towels. However you have to dispose of the respective paper as well, but the cover catches it.

The bin cover should be opened by means of a pedal so no hands involved, it would be more hygienic.