August 31, 2013


“I was handed a tough life lesson at a very early age.”  Boomer Esiason

These quotations from MVP Quarterback and Sportscaster, Boomer Esiason come from various sources and re-arranged here for coherence.

“It’s easy to think that because I could throw a football, my life unfolded easily and without challenges but the road to becoming an MVP quarterback wasn’t all that easy.”

“My mom died of cancer when I was just seven years old and our family’s life changed in an instant. We lost the person who made our house a home and then all the responsibilities for supporting us financially and taking care of me and my sisters fell right there on my dad’s shoulders. I know that things would have been a lot different if my mom had life insurance.”

“If there had been life insurance, we could have hired the help my father needed to keep the household running as my mother had.”

“We lived paycheck to paycheck, but my dad was completely unselfish and did an incredible job taking care of our family. He taught me the true meaning of what it means to be a responsible dad.”

“A father’s first responsibility is to provide for and protect his family. That’s why I made getting life insurance a priority when I got drafted into the pros.”

“Just imagine if something happened to you and you hadn’t done the planning. The people you leave behind will feel the brunt of your mistakes.”

LIAM 2013

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. This year’s spokesperson is Boomer Esiason. He doesn’t bring the same poignancy as ‘Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro or the drama of basketball forward Lamar Odom who arrested for suspicion of DUI yesterday (USA Today). Boomer wasn’t in the Iron Man movies like Leslie Bibb.

Yet we once again see the lack of money made life much tougher than necessary. Same message. New messenger.

Money Lessons

Athletes earn lots but often spend lots (see 21 ways professional athletes go broke, Business Insider, Mar 2013). By his second year in the NFL, Boomer was in debt.

“You gotta have a Rolex, gotta have a car. You want to have a nice TV, nice clothes. Your girlfriend needs jewelry.”

''When you make $10 million, you don't make $10 million; you make $5 million, and part of that is going to agent fees. Ask most young athletes what their tax bill is, and I bet they don't know.”

Boomer managed to straighten out his financial life early, which is a great accomplishment. You’ll find more details in The New York Times (Apr 1998).

Special Needs

“Life insurance is about protecting the future and the people you love. That’s especially the case when you’re caring for someone with special needs.”

Boomer has a cause: fighting cystic fibrosis. His son Gunnar was diagnosed with that disease at age two in 1993. The Boomer Esiason Foundation has raised over $100 million and has a four star rating from Charity Navigator.

Got Enough?

“Boomer’s story shows that if you have people who depend on you, whether or not you’re the primary breadwinner, you need life insurance. Unfortunately, while most people agree that it is important, we are experiencing the lowest level of life insurance ownership in 50 years, and even those who have coverage have far less than experts recommend.”  Marvin Feldman, President and CEO of the LIFE Foundation

Insurance needs change. Boomer says, “As my career has grown, I’ve made sure my life insurance has grown along with it.”

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that poverty steals futures (see Seth Godin’s review). Since life is unpredictable, doesn’t reviewing your life insurance make sense?


Podcast 235

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Action beats awareness

August 24, 2013


WiFi not working wellOur first month using Rogers Unlimited Internet is now over (see a review). There’s more to the story.

The monitoring from SamKnows shows that Rogers is doing an excellent job of delivering the promised speeds to our house. However, we were losing speed and range over WiFi. Here are the steps we took to fix the problem.

Step 0

The wireless signal from the $8/month Rogers-supplied modem/router is lousy. More than one person on their tech support team has confessed they’ve turned off the wireless capabilities and only use the device as a modem only. Same here. We were transmitting the signal via our own dual band N router, a Linksys E3000 router we got at Costco in 2011.

Bad Tap

We placed a service call to Rogers because we weren’t getting the promised download speed of 150 Mbps. A technician arrived the following week and determined that the signal strength from the street to our house was dropping 3x faster than expected. He cut the ends of the cable and replaced the connectors. That didn’t make a difference. Days later, Rogers replaced the tap on the street (which I'm guessing means a splitter that brings the signal to our house).

Our WiFi was no better. Talking to tech support again brought a revelation: WiFi signals have trouble going through walls. Our router is in a basement closet at one end of our rectangular bungalow and we have walls of plaster (not drywall). Why were we never told the location was poor, even when a technician visited us onsite?

New Location

We moved the router to a better spot, which involved drilling a hole through a wall.

Guess what? The signal strength increased. Instead of 1-3 bars in my room at the other end of the house, I started getting 2-4. That's progress. The Internet was faster --- about typically 20-30 Mbps. That wasn’t good enough. 

Boosting The Signal

I read about range extenders. You place them between your router and where you want the signal to reach. This seemed too good to be true. I read reviews where people got signals where they previously had none. Worth exploring. There is a drawback. The repeater both sends and receives. That means you don't get full speed. Results are better with a dual band repeater. I got one at Best Buy.

Now I got five solid bars in my room. That's impressive but the Internet speed wasn't. I got about 30 Mbps. Return.

What Settings?

How do you know if your router is setup in an optimal way? A free app called inSSIDer shows how strong a WiFi signal you're receiving. The smartphone version is ideal because you can walk around where you want the signal and inSSIDer monitors.

You'll likely find interference from your neighbors. The three best channels for WiFi are 1, 6 and 11. For us, 11 is best because no one nearby is using it. However, our router selected the channel automatically and picked six, which was congested. Following instructions I found with a Google search, I manually changed the channel. This made a difference and cost nothing

Router Upgrade

We have a well-rated dual band N router (Cisco E3000, see review). Maybe it's time to upgrade? There are now "ac" routers, the step above N. We don't have any equipment that uses that "ac" but planning for the future is part of my life. These modems seem to work very well with N too and typically cost $100 to $200.
Linksys EA6400
While exploring, I saw the Cisco/Linksys EA6400 "ac" wireless router for $150 at Costco. The price includes a USB "ac" receiver you can plug into a computer. I bought. Recommendation: don't.

This router feels cheap (our older E3000 doesn't). Also, this router only has two antennas. The E3000 has three. The setup was easy. Unfortunately, the signal did not carry far and wasn't stable. That's unacceptable. The USB receiver was lousy at receiving a signal. The router comes with a CD but to install the receiver, you need to download drivers first. That's not consumer-friendly.

Maybe we got a dud. There are more expensive routers in the Linksys lineup but I didn't feel like trying them since there is already an excellent option.
Asus RT-66AC
WiFi working wellThis wireless router (website) routinely tops the ratings. It's pricey too. For some reason, Best Buy / Future Shop doesn't carry it. If you want one, you need to go online or to a specialty computer store. That means you could face problems with returns.

Earlier this month, Staples started selling this Asus model and put it on sale for $190 (regular $210). I bought the last one on the shelves. This router oozes quality. It feels solid and well made. There are three external antennas. Apparently the router will focus signals to where your devices are. It automatically selected channel 11, which inSSIDer still recommended.

Installation is easy (especially if you own a teenager) and you get many options. For instance, you can boost the transmission power from the default of 80 mW to 200 mW. You may not need or want to do this. The signal is much stronger than the other routers we've tried. I routinely get 5 bars in my office, which is at the other end of the house on the ground floor.

SpeedtestMy typical Internet speeds in my room using my main computer are 30-40 Mbps, and as high as 55 Mbps. The improvements are noticeable. My backup computer ranges between 40-70 Mbps. Maybe it has better antennas.

There is one disappointment: the "ac" signal at 5 GHz is weak. The higher frequency reduces the range. This isn't a real problem because we don't have any compatible devices yet.

Another Solution

The only other possible step I see is getting the modem/router relocated. Rogers charges $50 but may waive the charge if they've been unable to improve your service in other ways.

I avoided this step because I didn't like the previous wiring they did. That was in the 1990s and standards may have improved. At one point, we had three trucks and six workers onsite replacing the wiring all the way to the street. However, they ran the wiring on the outside of our house between rooms. I'm told that wiring is now run inside and hidden. I hope that's the case. Please share your experiences.


If you are not getting the promised Internet service, these steps may help you. Start by calling your provider. This is where dealing directly with a major company like Rogers or Bell helps over using a reseller. Now our Internet service is now quick and reliable over WiFi throughout our house.


Podcast 234

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS When buying equipment, pick a retailer with fair return policies and no restocking fees.

August 17, 2013


flying cars and more (click for slideshow from Popular Science)(Now that we have unlimited Internet and unlimited online storage, I’m scanning old documents and recycling the yellowing paper.)

Part of being an actuary is looking into the future. Here are predictions I made in high school circa 1978 — 35 years ago.

My teacher gave me 18/20 and wrote: “An excellently thoughtful, quite concentrated analysis. One weakness lies in the very brief, jerky paragraphs. Good work.”
18/20: An excellently thoughtful, quite concentrated analysis. One weakness lies in the very brief, jerky paragraphs. Good work.
If you’re a historian, you might want to read the original created with something called a manual typewriter. Below, I’ve made very minor changes and resisted the temptation to add commentary to highlight places I was right.

Calculations Of The Future

Click to read the actual article (PDF)Now is the future to those of the past.

The future, like tomorrow, will never really come. We, in a sense, are living in the future. Fifty years ago rockets capable of flying to the moon were thought to be things that the future would bring. Now they are things of the past.

In the future most things will be much more mechanical than they are now. Machines will be taking the edge out of the hard things in life. Life will seem much easier than it is now.

Appliances will be able to automatically, for example, make coffee and keep it hot. The appliances will even start at the set time.
Advertising billboards may be luminous as to save energy.

Aerocars working on the principle of the hydrofoil will give very smooth rides. One problem though, that is being encountered with experimental aerotrains is that the trains can be moved with only one finger when they are on, even though they weigh several tons.

Buildings may be built underground.

Contact lenses will be in more use than spectacles.

Cars will have built-in computers capable of checking is anything is wrong with the car, diagnosing the problem if there is one, suggesting the best manner to go from Point A to Point B after taking traffic patterns into consideration, and the computers will even be able to drive the car automatically.

The main sources of energy will be solar cells and uranium. New sources of energy may even be brought in from other planets.

Engines will be smaller but more powerful.

Fridges will be able to thaw out food in special compartments.

Furniture may be inflated with air instead of being stuffed.

Guns will be silent, smaller and more effective. Bullets will also be smaller and more effective.

Medicines will be able to combat diseases better than before. Cures may be found for such diseases as Cancer but even as these diseases will be cured, new diseases will occur.

Microphones may be the size of a penny.

Newspapers may be microfilmed. Every house would have a microfilm projector then so that the newspaper could be read. Sections that the reader wants copied would be automatically copied either by photostating, Xeroxing, or by some other method. The name would have to be changed from "newspaper" to something like "micronews", but the name is not really important.

Pens may contain enough ink to make a continuous four or five kilometer line.

Records of television shows will be sold. The buyer will just have to put the record on a special record player that is connected to a television set. The picture image and sounds will come on the television set. The viewer will then be able to watch his favourite shows at his leisure.

Radios will be smaller and more powerful. Now people need earphones for radios but soon radios may be the size of earphones.

Stoves will be able to automatically adjust and keep the food at the desired temperature. For example, you may went your soup kept just below a boil. The stove will be able to do it.

People will be able to travel more easily to the moon, Mars, and other planets when settlements are started on those places.

Typewriters may have digital letters with newspapers possibly included.
Watches will be of the type that have LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes).

All types of transportation will carry more people, use less energy, and go faster.

On the new telephones you will be able to see the person to whom you are talking.

Televisions will be wall sized. They might even be 8m x 6m x 3cm.

Tools will be stronger and lighter.

There will be a three or four-day work week.

People will not have individual single family homes any longer. There will just not be enough room for them. There will not even be enough room for semi-detached homes. If there are any single family homes then their cost will be astronomical. The kind of housing of the future will be apartment buildings. People will be forced to other planets due to the lack of room on Earth.

Locks will be like, to an extent, the locks that are used on most lockers, except the locks of the future will have a panel with digital numbers on it. The person will just have to push the right numbers in the right order to unlock the door. This will be a more fool-proof way to prevent locks from being opened by burglars.

There will be more vegetarians for the simple reason that there will not be enough room to raise the animals. Animals may, however, be raised on other planets and brought back in bulk on gigantic animal rockets. It will make the meat very costly.

Instead of fingerprints for identification there will be photographs of hands instead. These photographs will show very much detail. The photographs will be fed into computers. When someone has to be identified then all the person has to do is put his hand on the computer. The computer will check for ten thousand points of agreement.

Since the future can be tomorrow, next year, a decade from now, or even a century from now, the time the inventions are marketed, if they are marketed, will vary. Some of the things such as the wall-sized televisions, according to Toshiba, may be on the market in only a year or two while others will take years to be practical. Some things will last for years but others may not have any future at all.

As I have stated earlier, the inventions will SEEM to make life a little easier than it is by present day standards. If some things become easier, others will become equally harder. The inventions will make EARTH life easier, but when we go to other planets our technology may be useless and we may have to start from scratch.

If 100 years ago man knew of all the things that we have today, then then he would envy us. In those days television was unheard of. Maybe that is for the better. If man knew of television, then men would lose many working hours watching it. To get back to the point, man would want to be here to enjoy all our luxuries. If he learned that we pay for all of our luxuries by having problems such as insufficient natural resources, strikes, pollution, high rate of inflation, economic uncertainties, layoffs and a host of other problems, then man would stick to his more secure life of one hundred years ago.

We are in a similar condition. To us the life of the future may seem more promising than that of the present. If the future is better than the present only one thing can tell. The FUTURE itself.


Podcast 233

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS What do you (or did you) predict for the future?

August 10, 2013


HandcuffedWhen you get a mobile phone in Canada, you typically get a subsidized phone and a 36 month contract with nasty penalties for early cancellation. The rules changed (Toronto Star) in June. Now Canadians get the world standard of 24 months. The new plans generally offer unlimited nationwide calling. That I’d like since Bell only give me 250 local weekday minutes.

Don’t count on saving money, though.

Rogers, Bell and Telus (sometimes called Robellus) control about 90% of the market. The cheaper options — Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Wind Mobile — are all for sale (CBC). They don't offer the same coverage zones or high speed LTE. Those omissions may matter depending on where and how you use your phone.

On The Horizon

There’s speculation that Verizon may enter Canada to buy Wind, Mobilicity and 700 MHz spectrum. Robellus thinks that’s bad but Canadians and the government disagree.

Since Verizon is a premium carrier, rates may not drop. However, there would be more choice and perhaps more competition. Maybe roaming rates would improve. Right now, Bell charges me $1.45/minute ($14.50 for 10 minutes) and $6/MB ($600 for 100 MB) in the US.
In contrast, Verizon offers US customers visiting Canada 1,000 minutes for $15 and 100 MB for $25. Pay-as-you-go costs $0.89/minute and $2.05/MB — still much cheaper.

Life Insurance

Canada used to have major foreign insurers such as Met Life (where I worked) and ING (NN Financial). Both left to pursue higher returns elsewhere. While here, they operated much life the domestic companies.

What's going on? Thank Canadian laws, regulation and competition. Since shareholders demand high returns, why would Verizon cut rates drastically in Canada?


When you have a mobile phone contract, you can't easily take advantage of new offers. You're stuck until the end of your term because of penalties. Wind is considered consumer-friendly and the Windtab is a way to get a monthly subsidy to offset the price of your phone. The length got reduced to 24 months, unless you entered the arrangement when the period was 36 months. Don’t expect other carriers to offer you better terms either.

Life insurance is similar. As plans change, you're stuck. You rarely get the upgrades unless you buy a new plan. Plus, this process requires underwriting that could require body fluids. Since you're older, you'll likely pay higher premiums even if the rates have decreased. You'll want to think carefully before making changes.


When offered a choice, Canadians often prefer US companies: Walmart over Zellers (which Target bought), Home Depot or Lowes over Rona, Apple over Blackberry. There are always winners and losers. Let consumers win.

But Insurance

Life insurance is quite different. There haven't been major new entrants in ages. Also, you tend to buy through an advisor rather than directly.

If you don't like mobile phone contracts, you won't like life insurance contracts any better. You won't find sites that do thorough comparisons for complex products like universal life and whole life. There are basic comparisons for term life but the focus is on price, which is a simplistic measure. As with mobile plans too.

There are also similarities between the contracts for mobile phones and life insurance. Try reading them and see if you understand them.


Podcast 232

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS What do you think of Verizon?

August 3, 2013


unlimited = unlimitedOur first month of Rogers Unlimited Internet service is now over and we’re happy. That’s right: “Rogers” and “happy” in the same sentence. Compare this with how Rogers fooled us three times.

We used 806 GB of data last month without any catches. Our service didn’t deteriorate once we exceeded our previous cap of 250 GB. We didn’t get any warnings about using too much data. We had no additional problems. Rogers delivered.


Our plan is rated at 150 Mbps. Here are our download speeds in July, as reported by SamKnows.
download speeds vs promised
There were some glitches, perhaps due to our stormy weather and power outages. That’s forgivable. Overall, Rogers provided faster service than promised.

Peace Of Mind

The big advantage of an unlimited plan is peace of mind. In the past, we’d have to ration towards the end of the month once we got the dreaded warning that we’d used up 75% of our allotment.
approaching the bandwidth cap
Here’s how you could use much more data.


Get Netflix 1080pWe now watch Netflix in the highest quality without worrying. You might recall that bandwidth caps forced Netflix to cut video quality in Canada (GigaOm, Mar 2011).

Netflix offers HD (2.3 GB/hr), Super HD (1080p at 2.7 GB/hr) and 3D (5 GB/hr) (CBC, Jan 2013). There’s no extra cost but you need a supported setup.

Not every title is available in higher quality. Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies is but may not rank high on your must-watch list.A SuperHD title

If you’re buying a 4K TV (4096p), you’ll want content. Netflix is planning to deliver as early as 2014 (The Verge, Mar 2013). You’ll also want unlimited Internet since streaming consumes about 160 GB per hour (Deloitte TMT Predictions 2013).


I back up much more data online now. Previously, I only backed up one primary computer using CrashPlan+ Unlimited ($60/yr for one computer). Now we have CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited ($150/yr for up to 10 computers). Here are the home plans and reviews:
If you shoot HD video, you use up space fast. Archiving raw video is a good idea but takes up lots of room. Online storage is ideal if you’re using an unlimited service like CrashPlan+ and are patient when restoring files.

For backups, your upload speed is important. Rogers limits ours to 10 Mbps. That’s okay because CrashPlan+ also backs up files to a local hard drive. That allows quick backups and quick restores.


In the past, I’d download items and save them on a hard disk. That meant buying more and more external storage and hoping the disks wouldn’t breakdown. Now I delete items because I can re-download them easily (and they’re archived with CrashPlan+). There’s less need to buy physical storage.


If you have a family with children, an unlimited plan means less shouting.

The Drawback

The primary drawback with Rogers Unlimited Internet is the price. We’re paying $183/month for 150 Mbps unlimited. We don’t have cable TV (use Netflix, YouTube) and or a landline (use Ooma, Skype).

Compare that with Olds, Alberta where residents get one gigabit (1,000 Mbps) unlimited Internet for $57 a month (CBC, Jul 18, 2013). That’s even cheaper than Google Fiber, which costs $70/month.

At least Rogers is delivering what’s promised.


Podcast 231

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS How about unlimited Internet usage on my smartphone?