Not such a good deal after all?

A little over three years ago, Ontario signed a “landmark agreement” with Samsung to produce power and jobs:

Premier Dalton McGuinty has signed a landmark agreement with a South Korean consortium that will see $7 billion invested in Ontario to create 16,000 new jobs over six years.

The terms of the deal were secret:

As you probably know, the province of Ontario has signed a $7B deal with Samsung.  Although the contract and its precise details are secret, Samsung has reportedly agreed to build 2500 MW of renewable energy generation and to try to arrange to have renewable energy equipment manufactured in Ontario.

So nobody knows exactly what the deal included, but companies don’t like to do work that doesn’t generate profit, so somebody was going to have pay for this. Tom Adams suggests that would be consumers:

The deal is apparently for 2000 MW of wind and 500 MW of solar with preferred access to transmission and “economic development” incentive payments topping up standard 20 year guaranteed Feed-In Tariff prices. All of this is to be paid for by consumers, not taxpayers.


Assuming capacity factors of 30% and 17% for wind and solar power respectively, if all the Samsung megawatts were installed today, consumers would be forking over about $1.11 billion per year to Samsung. Of this amount, approximately $75 million is for “economic development” incentive payments. If fully implemented today, the Samsung deal would jack up your rates by approximately 7%.

So the landmark agreement basically funnels money from your pocket to Samsung.

Fast forward to today. That deal doesn’t seem so good anymore:

Ontario’s signature green energy deal with Samsung was a “colossal failure,” the opposition parties charged Thursday after the Liberal government slashed the $9.7-billion agreement by more than one-third.

The province will now buy $6-billion worth of electricity produced by Samsung’s wind farms and solar projects over the next 20 years, which is $3.7-billion less than the original 2010 agreement, said Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli.

Odd since as noted above the original agreement was for $7B, not $9.7, unless of course they lied about that.

Maybe it’s time to look at the email trail to determine what really happened here. Oh that’s right. There’s 99 reasons why the government of Ontario deletes their emails.

It’s ok. They know that people are dumb, and their memories won’t last until the next election. So who cares, right? It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

An ATM machine at your wedding? Don’t invite me.

According to an article in today’s Record newspaper, in addition to flowers, couples are now getting ATMs for their weddings:

Arriving at a wedding reception, the last thing most guests would expect to see is an ATM at the front door.

But for some couples, having the machine is necessary in case guests see the venue and realize the gift they’re bringing falls short.

If the gift falls short? I find even the thought of this to be the height of rudeness.

If you consider your wedding to be a celebration of a big even with your friends, as we did, that’s great. If you consider it a fundraiser, then don’t invite me.

I think that we usually give pretty good wedding gifts, either tangible or monetary. But I’ve never done the math to see if we exceeded the price of dinner and drinks. And I’m not about to start now.

I’ve been to small weddings, with just a few close family and friends. I’ve also been to large, lavish affairs. We don’t choose the gift based on your choice of wedding; we choose it based on the fact that we want to give something nice and hopefully memorable to good friends.

If you can’t appreciate the gift, whatever it is, for the thought behind and not just the retail value, then you probably don’t appreciate the friends very much either.

If you’re hell bent on making money on your wedding, then by all means disclose the ticket price on the invitation, and I’ll consider it. But I’m pretty sure that I’m busy that day.

Update: My friend Mike Marmarou commented on the redundancy of “ATM machines” in the first line, so I’ve changed it to “ATMs”.

Brainteasers are a complete waste of time.

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, was asked a question about hiring:

Q.Other insights from the studies you’ve already done?

A. On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

I’ve been asked questions like that in interview before. Most of those companies don’t exist anymore. I could work out reasonable answers to puzzles like that but it doesn’t particularly interest me, and they have virtually no value in determining how I would perform in solving an actual business problem.

If you’ve ever wasted an interviewee’s time with a question like that, for which you could more quickly Google an answer, then you shouldn’t feel smart. You should feel pretty dumb for wasting both of your time.

In my career I’ve solved thousands of problems and generated millions of dollars in revenue for the companies I’ve worked for. All the best to those that didn’t hire me.

We just didn’t see it coming.

Waterloo Region has a deficit already this year:

The Region of Waterloo had a $971,000 budget shortfall as of April 30, mostly due to low waste management revenues.

The actual waste management deficit is about $1.3 million but it’s offset by savings in other areas.

This might be reasonable if it were the result of unforeseen circumstances. But it isn’t:

Staff project lost revenues could reach as much as $3 million by year’s end, the same loss recorded in 2012. [emphasis mine]

So staff knew there was a problem, did nothing about it, and is now reporting a deficit. Again.

How does that definition of insanity go? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

The reason for the decrease in waste management revenues? Companies in search of a better deal:

Those private haulers charge a lot less per tonne to dispose of the trash at private facilities than the regional landfill charges.

The region seems to be overcharging for the market, and losing business as a result. Wouldn’t it be prudent to consider lowering costs to come closer to the private haulers?

Regardless of that, predicting an annual deficit because of a failure to take into account an existing situation is just a budgeting failure. And these are the same people managing the $818 million LRT project.

Be very afraid. If they can’t budget based on existing knowledge, how well will they be able to deal with the unknown?

I’ve heard that song before.

So the makers of Candy Crush Saga want to do an IPO:

Midasplayer International Holding Co., the publisher of online and mobile games including the popular “Candy Crush Saga,” has hired banks to pursue a U.S. initial public offering, according to people familiar with the move.

It seems to me that another game company went public a while back with less than optimal results:

Zynga’s revenues for the first quarter of 2013 declined 18% year-over-year to $264 million as the company is in the midst of doing a big pivot onto mobile platforms. The company swung to a profit from a year ago though, with net income of $4 million. Last year, during the same quarter, Zynga earned $321 million in revenue.

Building a successful company based on the whims of game players doesn’t seem like a good long term strategy. People often play a game incessantly for a while, then tire of it en masse. At least Candy Crush Saga already has a mobile strategy in place.

IPOs like this seem destined as a way to create a big pop for a few fortunate well-connected investors, and that’s about it.


The tipping point for secure encrypted communications?

Like many companies in the past couple of weeks, Apple has issued a statement that they do not provide direct access to your data to the NSA:

In the wake of the PRISM scandal, Apple has issued a public statement detailing the extent of US government data requests. In the statement, it repeats that it does not provide any agency with direct access to its servers, noting that all requests for customer data need to be backed by a court order.

They also note that, as previously reported, they can’t decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data because of end-to-end encryption. So anyone using those technologies is currently safe from NSA snooping.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the PRISM story provided the tipping point for mass adoption of secure end-to-end encrypted communications, making it impossible for the NSA to listen in to any conversations?

Would the U.S. then consider passing a law making it illegal to use such encrypted communications, which would have the effect of intentionally obliterating the Fourth Amendment – for U.S. citizens only – but still allowing anyone else to communicate securely? Though at this point is seems that the Fourth Amendment is no longer respected by the government anyway.

Don’t blame the internet.

I see so many articles about the internet being the scourge of the earth. The internet is responsible for the spread of pornography. The internet is the tool of pedophiles. The internet is the cause of cyber-bullying. And apparently so much more.

The internet is just a tool. Like any other tool, it does what the user wants it to. It does nothing of its own volition.

Before the internet pornography was delivered by mail. Pedophiles hung around school yards I assume. And while the term “cyber-bullying” was coined for the internet, bullying has been around forever.

And stupid people do stupid things. It isn’t the fault of Facebook. Before the internet people just used different tools to do the same things:

Mr. Manaugh said that although there was a big difference between street art and outright vandalism, it is all social media. The inscriptions left on rocks in the desert and petroglyphs “are, to some extent, the Facebook wall of an earlier era in human communication,” he said, “a kind of geoliterature left in place for others to discover.”

The Times must be reading my blog.

A couple of months ago I wrote about the purported labor shortage in the tech industry. I wondered why basic economics didn’t seem to apply. There was a claimed shortage but wages weren’t rising.

And now today a Times editorial entitled Don’t Blame the Work Force asks:

If a business really needed workers, it would pay up. That is not happening, which calls into question the existence of a skills gap as well as the urgency on the part of employers to fill their openings. Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “recruiting intensity” — that is, business efforts to fill job openings — has been low in this recovery. Employers may be posting openings, but they are not trying all that hard to fill them, say, by increasing job ads or offering better pay packages.

So perhaps this isn’t a real labor shortage as much as a way to convince the government to let them hire more lower paid foreign labor.


Finding their Path.

I’ve been a Path user since it was new, despite their questionable use of my address book to spam my contacts. It’s a nice application, but it really never reached the kind of critical mass among people I communicate with to make it that useful to me.

It would be nice if other applications, like Instagram for example, supported posting to Path. However, since they don’t, I’ve just found it to be a bit of a bother to post to yet another social app. So it sits on my iPhone, mostly unused. Ok, completely unused right now.

But it’s nice to hear that they are still plugging along and getting some further funding. I have the feeling that there is a gem in the rough in there somewhere, but they need to find it and polish it soon.