The Premier… on facebook???

Quite surprised to find a facebook friend request from, of all people, our Premier.  While I’m not sure whether to take it seriously or not, I’d have to say that if it really is him then I must say bravo Mr. Premier.  If not, then will the real slim shady Dr. Brown, please stand up.

Seriously though, it wouldn’t be impossible for Dr. Brown to have setup a facebook profile as it would be a tremendous move for connecting with the disillusioned youth.  Social networking sites for politicial campaigning?  Well, if it’s good enough for US Presidential Candidates  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then why not our Premier?

A quick search of other PLP MPs turns up nothing, which adds to the disappointing thought that perhaps Dr. Browns profile isn’t legit.  Surprisingly, while a quick search of Michael Dunkley didn’t turn up with anything, UBP MP Jon Brunson appears to have been bitten by the facebook bug.

Perhaps, I’m hoping, this is the start of a new era in politics.  One where Bermudian politicians take to the internet to bring better communication and collaboration between our leaders and our people.

Note:  you’ll actually have to join facebook to see the profiles of these politicians.

A reader writes

While commenting on my last article which voiced my frustration with the ongoing strike of trash collectors, A. Meringue suggested:

“Suppose your boss had agreed to give you a pay rise, but kept putting it off, what would you do? ”

Very simple. I get a new boss.

“If a third party (the public) was depending on you, and you weren’t around to make the deal, whose fault would that be?”

So your reasoning is that you shouldn’t only try to hurt your boss, you should also hurt his customers too?  This when they’re ultimately your customers as well.  What is the gain?  Is it just to ensure he feels it?

Personally I believe the people deserve to know why a strike is occuring, and especially when it is going to happen.

What if I threw such a tactic at my workplace, just as you suggest. I decide I’m fed up with my boss and his delays so I’m not going to turn up for work just to make a point.  It doesn’t matter that many of my colleagues are counting on me to make a deal that will be crucial for them.  Am I more important than everyone else?  Is it fair to not be a team player and throw the game just because I’m not getting my way?  This as opposed to giving your colleagues some notice to make arrangements and preparations for your absence?

What if your heart surgeon decided that he was fed up with not getting the raises he was promised the moment he was due to operate on you? Is your life not important enough? What if every doctor decided it at the same time? Are many lives not important enough?

Trash pickup & ferry service may not be life and death, but it should be realised that everyday people count on these public service individuals for their daily lives and thought it may not be as important to you, it may be very important to them.  What makes you more special than everyone else? 

Every service makes a difference and though it may not always seem like it, many greatly appreciate what those employeed in the public industries do.

Thats why it would be great if we knew their troubles with regards to pay and they took action in a manner that did not hurt their customers so poorly if they have an inssue with management. It means that when they return to the job the next day, instead of garnering disappointment and lack of confidence in the service they provide, they have garnered support. 

The customer is the most important part of the equation. He/she is where the money (or support) ultimately comes from. Without money, there is no raise. Without money, there is no job.

Less workers for more pay

Trash collectors have been striking for over a week now for officially unknown reasons.  While the Bermuda Sun has suggested that it is due to collectors wanting more pay, noone can really say for certain what the cause is.

Personally I’ve grown quite annoyed with the Bermuda Industrial Union as of late.  Last month I was left stranded in Devils Hole for over an hour before someone kindly told me that the Buses were not running.  Upon calling up the transportation board I was informed of an "emergency meeting" that had been called.  I’m sorry, I don’t care what kind of pretty words you want to use, any meeting held during regular hours of service that disrupts that service is a strike.  Similar goes for trash collecting.  Refusal to collect the trash is a strike, not a work to rule as, unless I’m mistaken, collecting the trash falls within the boundaries of the job description of a trash collector.

It is rediculus that these sort of issues cannot be resolved through negotiation before taking planned strike action as opposed to these impromptu strikes where we’re not even told the reasoning behind them, which I think is absolutely absurd.  President of the Bermuda Industrial Union, Chris Furbert, should be glad that I no longer have a car as if I did I would have taken my trash and thrown it on his lawn days ago in my own form of protest.

So, as the Bermuda Sun suggests, is this recent strike action related to demands for higher pay?  Perhaps the workers do indeed deserve higher pay, especially considering government’s precident for increasing the pay of members of parliament and civil servants last summer, but at what cost? 

One question I’ve always wondered about is why we have 3 individuals manning each trash truck.  When I was away at school in London, Ontario, trash was collected every 6th weekday as a means to cut costs.  Beyond this, each trash truck was manned by a driver and one individual to collect the trash and throw it into the bin.  If 2 individuals could man trash trucks successfully in Canada, why is it that we have 3 per truck here?

Perhaps I’m just bitter for having watched my trash go uncollected for over a week, but in my eyes, I say increase pay to even more than the $26 an hour but make other cutbacks to compensate – such as 2 individuals per truck.

Seeking Hidden Truths

Last night, a group of local young Bermudians referred to as Youth on the Move held a second of a series of movie and discussion nights being held to facilitate discussion along the theme of Truth and Reconciliation.  The purpose of the movie night being to provide opportunities for continued discussion along the theme of the Truth and Reconciliation forums so that it may filter out to a wider audience of the Bermudian public.

Last night’s featured movie was “In My Country”, which told the story of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation commission hearings from the perspective of a pair of journalists.  Showcasing scenes from commission hearings and the stories told by the truths that came out of them.

The greater idea exposed by this movie was how the commission hearings were held to hold tribunals that would hopefully expose secrets and provide some means of reconciliation for those still suffering from the events.  By offering amnesty to those who committed abuses during the apartheid era (as long as they were politically motivated, proportionate, and there was full disclosure), the tribunals gained testimony that could be used to expose greater crimes committed and evidence for convicting those responsible.

Was the price of amnesty granted to 849 people who stepped forward to expose hidden truths worth the convictions of 5392 others and the truths exposed?  Admittedly the truths exposed would not instantly reconcile past conflicts but did they achieve first steps in the direction of true reconciliation and a lessening of the divide of black from white.

Are there hidden truths here in Bermuda that have yet to be exposed?  If so, how do we learn from South Africa’s efforts to take steps towards our own reconciliation?

Archive Entry: Bermuda as a business

This entry comes from a post made on my now defunct former blog back in June of 2006.

I read an article on heartbeatnews.com on Bermuda tourism the other day that contained a few very interesting statistics.  Apparently, in 2005, we had the highest level of visitors in 2005 with a total of 521,043 arrivals by air and sea.  Air arrivals reached 269,587, down marginally.  Cruise arrivals rose by 20% to 247,259.  Tourism earned a total of $448 million with an estimated $39 million in revenues coming from cruise visitors.  It then pointed out that this is less then 10 percent of overall spending.

Let’s take a moment to think about this for a second.  Cruise arrivals accounted for nearly HALF of incoming visitors yet earned us less then 10 PERCENT!?!  Looking at Bermuda as purely a business, I’d have to say I really don’t like those numbers; this venture doesn’t seem profitable at all.

Let’s compare Air earnings to Cruise shall we?

 

Cruise:

$39 million / 250,000 = $156 a person approximately

 

Air:

$409 million / 270,000 = $1515 a person approximately

 

So using these numbers, let’s assume we invest $50 million into tourism hoping to revitalize it.  I’ll suggest a couple projects which that money could be used to boost numbers on one side or the other.   For Cruise, let’s assume we use it to construct new docks and for Air, say a conference center.

So let’s figure out how many more people we need to bring in to recoup that cost for our people.

 

Cruise:

            $50 million / $156 = 320,000 people approximately

 

Air:

            $50 million / $1515 = 33,000 people approximately

So, if we wanted to recoup our investment, how much of a gain in each industry will we need to see?

Cruise:

            Over 1 year:  (320,000 / 250,000) x 100 = 128% increase

            Over 5 years:  (320,000 / (250,000 x 5)) x 100 = 26% increase

 

Air:

            Over 1 year:  (33,000 / 270,000) = 12% increase

            Over 5 years:  (33,000 / (270,000 x 5)) x 100 = 2.4% increase

I’m no rocket scientist, nor am I a CEO of a super rich reinsurance company, but to me, if Bermuda were my business, it would seem that it would be a hell of a lot better to invest my money in Air and not even bother with Cruise.  That’s not even considering the costs in terms of the people that flood our beaches, our roads, contribute to waste and take up spots in valuable activities that should instead be going to air visitors who earn us a good deal more?

If someone would be so kind, please explain to me why we’re even remotely considering building new docks for super ships as part of the waterfront revitalization plan?  Why are we also planning to destroy our heritage so that town cut can be widened?

Hell, if you can tell me that, perhaps you can also tell me why we’re even bothering to compete with the sun and fun tourism industry in the first place?  Our peak season is the Caribbean’s off season and frankly 4 months of sun worthy weather just doesn’t cut it in terms of competition.

If it were up to me, I’d be chasing the business rewards, international conferences, trade shows and incentive planning industries instead.  We are after all an international business center.  We also happen to be a short hop from the east coast, and businesses just happen to have the money to spend where “discount tourism” just doesn’t cut the mustard in comparison.  On top of that we’d get free advertising in terms of inviting more business to locate here, if we so desired to let them, that is.

Why is targeting business an easier sell?  Businesses give expense accounts to their traveling employees.  Foreign companies are taxed on profit so if you can write off expenses and lower your profit; you don’t get taxed on it, and happier employee’s too boot.  What better way to reward your workers then sending them to a conference in beautiful Bermuda?

I just don’t understand it why Vegas needs to be the only place where all the big conferences go.  Wouldn’t people enjoy coming to a destination like Bermuda?  Perhaps if we build a conference center or two, pandered to the industry a little, and capitalized more on our location, location, location… tourism wouldn’t be such a dead industry and we’d actually be running a profitable business.

Bermuda featured on engadget

News of Premier Brown’s electronic vehicle registration proposal has been picked up by engadget and has an interesting take on the issue, suggesting they wouldn’t want to be cruising around under such a system.  While I’ve written positively about the potential for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the past, I do have privacy concerns about it’s implementation.  RFID has alot of benefits but also carrys potential drawbacks.  How will the new RFID implementation fare for Bermuda’s people?  Will it be a success or a failure?

RFID tags have proven very useful in their applications in everything from product packaging, wireless access cards and electronic tolls so they’re proposed implementation in Bermuda should not come as a large surprise.  I’ve written previously about their potential to help alleviate parking woes in Hamilton as well as their ability to facilitate a trial of a congestion charge so they do have potential benefits, but what are the potential drawbacks of such a system?

Writers of engadget suggest that they wouldn’t want to be cruising around the streets of St. George in the near future, why? Premier Brown suggested that the reasoning for the RFID system was to crack down on the approximate eight percent of vehicles that are not licensed on our roads.  “RFID tags on each vehicle will interact with strategically placed readers around the island to ensure that all vehicles are properly registered, insured and inspected” he said.  What then are the concerns?

“Strategically placed readers around the island”.  This wording concerns me because it opens up a raft of possibilities.  This wording suggests that wireless detection units may be hidden around the island, the potential being that you could be tracked whereever you go.  You have nothing to hide you say?  What happens if someone compromises this system and is then able to track you everywhere you go? 

Such placement opens up many doors.  RFID readers could be placed strategically enough to track the time it takes you to cross the two of them and calculate your speed and automatically assign you a speeding ticket.  You could be tracked when you use your car, how long and where you go.  If we don’t know where the readers are placed, they could be placed anywhere.

What of the eight percent of vehicles not licensed?  Well unfortunately due to the fact that without RFID transmitters being affixed to cars, they can’t be detected so Police will still be required to do spotchecks to ensure that people have them installed in their cars.  This system will only effectively crack down on those who actually get their vehicles licensed, as depending on the distance that these transmitters work at, this solution may not be all that much better than the sticker method presently used.  Will this be a better solution and is the price of sacraficed privacy one worth paying for the benefits?

One cannot comment on the success or failure of the proposed RFID system until it happens, but knowing that we’ll still need spotchecks to determine whether people have RFID transmitters installed brings questions of why the readers need to be strategically placed around the island. 

The only real way we’ll know whether this project will be a success or not are to measure it’s goals of what it is hoped that it will accomplish.  So far extra tax revenue has been indicated as a benefit, but that sounds like more of a benefit to the governments budget than to the people.  Shouldn’t another key goal be to reduce traffic and parking congestion on a road system said to house the world’s highest density per square mile of motor traffic?  Hopefully so, but as always, time shall tell.

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No room for faith alone

Is that an echo I hear?  Oh right, it must be that time of year again for Club Med development and Dr. Brown is once again trumpeting the proposed success of yet another developer.  While I am pleased to hear that something is happening, excuse me if I sit amongst the pessimists who listened to Dr. Brown the last time when we switched developers from Quorum to KJA all while he was trumpeting KJA as the people to get it done.   As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.   At last report, Quorum is still waiting to find out why exactly they were turned down at the last minute in favor of KJA.  Why was that again?

“The pessimists among you will say: ‘So what, there have been others who said they were going to build.’ I appreciate and understand your pessimism, but let me tell you I made a commitment: in 2007, construction will begin on the new hotel in St. George’s. I can promise you it will be delivered.

I wouldn’t say there have been others who said they were going to build, I would rather say there have been others who were willing and capable, but were replaced by those trumpeted as so but clearly proved otherwise.  One also couldn’t bother holding Premier Brown to his promise for very simply it only requires the laying of a couple blocks in a row and calling it a wall to pass for “construction”.  Hell, we could have had that the whole time.

Tell you what.  I’ll make a promise of my own.  I promise that I’ll believe it when I see it.

How does one get a summer job?

A few years back while was working for a company in the building above Miles grocery, I ran into one of my Aunt’s who suggested to me that the reason I had my job was because I was whiter than her children.  This comment is one that has bothered me to this day for while there is little doubt that there may be some companies that are racist and will try to hold you back, not every company is like this.  You see, my father always raised me to understand that the only person who can hold you back from achieving your dreams is yourself.  There may be many obstacles along the way, but as the great hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said:  "You miss 100% of the shots you never take". 

The interesting thing about the job I had that summer was that I did not go looking for it, instead it came to me.  Was it the color of my skin that got me the job?  Likely this wasn’t the case considering that I sat next to another summer student much darker than me, just as the majority of summer students that year were darker than me.  If not that, was it a friend or relative who got me the job?  No, neither of those fit either.  The most fitting description of how I got that job comes from the words of Benjamin Franklin who said "God helps those who help themselves", for truly, it was my own drive an ambition that landed me that job.

To understand how I had people coming to me looking to hire me as a summer intern, I’ll have to roll back to describing my job searching of the previous year.  It was weeks before I was to return to the island for spring break of my first year of University.  While I was struck with dedicating time to my midterms, I also decided that I must find myself a job for the summer to help pay for my schooling.  So I took it upon myself to do as much research as I could.  Being off island, there were limited resources for me to tap into aside from the Internet, so I used it to it’s full potential and came upon a site called Net Link Bermuda, which is better known as the Bermuda Communications Directory. 

On this site I found an abundant listing of not only companies in Bermuda, but they were also organized by various categories and supplied contact information, even email addresses for some.  I took it upon myself to go through every single category that might be in any way related to what I’d have interest in doing.  From each category I looked up each company and recorded their details in an excel spreadsheet. 

Upon having compiled a comprehensive list of over 400 companies that I thought I might be able to get a job with, I began work on the most impeccable cover letter and resume I could put together.  I spent hours toiling over it to ensure that it would give the best first impression possible.   To save a great deal of effort, I made sure that my cover letter was general enough that I could replace three things in it for each company I hoped to contact.  I aimed to replace their name twice, once in the introduction and once in the middle.  Along with this I included the category of the company as a description of the type of work I was interested in which when combined, gave the perception that the letter had been personally written for each company I hoped to contact.

Once I was finally satisfied with the structure of my resume and cover letter, I went back to my list of companies and proceeded to copy and paste the name and area of business of each and every company into my cover letter and emailed it off.  400+ emails later and I was exhausted, though I was certain that there was no way I was not going to get a great job out of all of this hard work because out of 400 companies, there had to be at least one who would hire me.

As a part of my cover letter, I was bold and suggested that I would be visiting the island during a specific time (my spring break week) and would welcome the opportunity to meet with them for an interview.  My letter was as professional as possible, following online templates that I could find that suggested providing contact details and assisted with the structure of it.

Over the coming weeks I received many responses.  I was sure to respond kindly to each and every one of them thanking them for their time regardless of the response.  There were many companies who told me it was too early for them and they would not be considering summer students until later in the spring.  There were others who told me they had nothing available and some who even suggested they would be happy to hear from me again in the future in hopes that they would have something for me.  By comparison to the original 400, there were only a handful who responded back willing to meet with me, but seeing as I was only interested in 1 job, a handful would do just fine.

Of the many responses I received, I was able to arrange for a very busy week back on the island with 18 job interviews lined up.  No one who was willing to meet me knew anything of what I looked like or sounded like, I was nothing but a young Bermudian with minor previous job experience away at university seeking summer employment.  I spent the entire week running from one interview to the next as I tried to be as professional as possible.  Of those 18 interviews, 6 ultimately told me that they just wanted to meet with me and hoped I’d keep them in mind when I graduate and 12 ended up making me offers.  Before I returned to the island my father had told me that I’d be lucky to get one job but I refused to let him discourage me.  When I told him of my first offer, he urged me to take it though I decided to be patient and see how they all went in hopes of achieving something I’d be most happy with.

In the end I achieved a really good position that garnered good experience in the fields of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering.  Though in the end I decided that I wanted to progress into the computer/software engineering discipline of my studies and decided to move on the following summer.

As the summer approached the next year, I had aims to contact some of the other firms who had interviewed me, though before doing so I received a call.  One of the companies who had received my details from the previous summer but did not have any opportunities at the time were contacting me to see if I was available as I fit what they were looking for.  This was incredible for not only had my hard work paid off in getting a job in the first summer, it had rolled over into the second to the point where rather then me looking for jobs, the jobs came looking for me.

My father always used to repeat the same old boring quotes when I was growing up.  One of his favorites that I always hated was:  "How do you spell success son?  W. O. R. K."

Sometimes I hate to admit it, but he was right.  Other times, I’m thankful he shared such wisdom.

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Traffic solution: RFID based parking

Just over a year ago, back in March of 2006 I was asked by then Telecommunications Minister Michael Scott to develop a few ideas of how the Telecommunications Ministry could promote collaboration between Ministries to achieve larger solutions to some of the issues we face.  The following is an exerpt from the report I compiled and presented to him and the directors of his department.

Finding a parking space in town has become a horrendous nightmare. Trying to simply find a traffic spot is very difficult and even though we use scratch based systems, it does not solve our problems. It is commonplace where people will come early to get the best parking spots and spend a good deal of time during the day running back to their car to scratch new tickets to keep their spot.

The sheer cost lost in time for individuals willing to do this as well as the dedication of traffic officers to assign tickets costs our industry a great deal. On top of this we have difficulties chasing offenders to pay their parking fines and dedicate court time to forcing them to do so.

Perhaps a good solution would be to introduce an RFID (wireless identification transmitter) based system throughout town and migrate to designating certain specialized parking zones dedicated to supporting it. Such a solution may likely take the strain off of marking in town and allow us to change from our present scratch book and parking ticket based scheme to one that is more flexible. 

Through such a system we could digitally track how long people park in certain zones, we could create a scheme that encourages people to park for short durations but is flexible to still allow them to park for long duration as well. 

For example, key parking spots could start off at a rate of $1 per half hour and for every half hour you stay in the spot the price increases by say 25 cents (or some other reasonable number). I have given an example fee structure shown below.

 

Such a system would allow those who wish to pay more for great spots to pay a premium bringing in better direct revenue for government while encouraging others to park for short duration. It would remove the limitations of having to hand out parking tickets and those who sign up could be billed electronically with invoices being provided online as well as through mail to make collection easier.  It would eliminate the wasteful nature of hiring traffic officers and subsequently chasing parking offenders to pay their fines and appear in court.