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May 6, 2016

I am done with Volkswagen (, )

by fluffy at 7:12 PM

In college I drove my family's old 1985 VW Jetta, which was a lot of fun. It didn't have power steering, the air conditioner only had two settings ("warm" and "off"), and it would vibrate alarmingly when approaching New Mexico's freeway speed limit (which it took quite some time to get to), but I had many, many fond memories of that car nonetheless.

Last August I had a reason to have a car again, and I'd always been fond of the classic Beetle, so I figured I'd buy myself a New Beetle. I'd heard good things about them, and they definitely had a lot of devoted fans. The newest model seemed kind of fugly to me and I wasn't about to spend $24K for a car, though, so I decided to buy used. I looked around and found a used 2009 at a small dealership with all the options I wanted, and the Carfax checked out, so I took it for a test drive and fell in love, and bought it then and there.

That was my first mistake.

July 19, 2013

Please stop being dumb about gluten (, , )

by fluffy at 12:39 PM

So, I went to Whole Foods for lunch today, because their by-the-weight food bar isn't terrible.

I got some panko-breaded cod, and decided I'd like some lemon. They didn't have any lemon slices, though, just lemon juice at the salad bar dressing station, so I went directly to it. A person who was a few slots away got annoyed at me and said, "Sorry, but you're going the wrong way!" probably thinking that I was intending to make a circuit of the whole salad bar or something. But, whatever; I ignored her and just took the lemon juice while she glared at me. Then she grabbed some poor random Whole Foods worker and started asking about whether any of the salad dressings were gluten-free.

"What are my gluten-free options for salad dressing? Is this lemon juice gluten-free? I don't see an ingredients list on the vinegar. How can I be sure there isn't any gluten in it?"

I wanted to, but didn't, say, "Lady, do you know where gluten even comes from? It's a product of wheat flour. As in, the only thing that's even in the salad bar that has gluten at all are the croutons." I don't like assuming things about people, but I can't help but think that this is yet another example of how people hear about things being "gluten-free" and then assuming that gluten is somehow bad for you and that you need to stay gluten-free because of some nebulous Health Issues, and it's this stupid faddish trend that does nothing but make it even harder for people who actually do have a gluten intolerance to find things that are legitimately gluten-free. (Relatedly, people avoiding "glutinous rice" because of the gluten. Sorry, but no, that's a completely different thing.)

On the way back, the hair salon next door was advertising "vegan, gluten-free hair care."

April 27, 2013

Digital fulfillment options (, , , )

by fluffy at 5:46 PM

Right now there is a renaissance in digital goods fulfillment options, with plenty of startups hoping to get the long-tail microtransaction stuff going in their favor. Some of them are oriented more towards music, while others are oriented more towards eBooks or other sorts of things. Here's a quick comparison of a few of them (Bandcamp, CDBaby, Gumroad, and Simple Goods) for those who might be interested in such a thing.

April 23, 2013

Ting so far (, )

by fluffy at 6:11 PM

So I got my Ting phone on Saturday, and I'm happy with it. Phone-wise it's essentially the same phone I had before (Samsung Galaxy Nexus), only it's about 6 grams heavier and 0.5mm thicker. Oh no.

The voice service is pretty good so far, although I haven't used it much either.

The data service is passable. It's only 3G service for now, because LTE is only just beginning to be rolled out in Seattle (as a stealth beta), and I get around 800Kbps on a good day, compared to 10Mbps on T-Mobile. But that's enough for what I use data for on my phone most of the time, and in the meantime I have a Freedompop access point which I get 6Mbps on.

Unlike most pay-as-you-go/MVNO services, it actually lets you forward your voicemail to an alternate number, so Google Voice works with it with no voicemail conflicts (except that GV can't automatically provision it since it misdetects the number as being Sprint, but that's easily addressed from the Ting website).

So, in a week or two I'll just be canceling my T-Mobile plan and paying the $200 ETF (and reselling my GSM Galaxy Nexus). In the meantime, if you sign up for Ting via my referral link, both of us get a $25 credit, so that helps to lessen the blow. (And with my expected usage, that'll cover two months of service for me.)

One downside is that I really wish that in the lower usage tiers you could pay per unit instead of for the entire tier; I generally don't use text messages at all, and when I do it'll be 4-5 per month. At $3 for the first chunk of 100, that works out to 60 cents a text message for actual usage (compared to the 3 cents per message that it would nominally cost). Which I guess isn't too bad, really, but still, it's kind of offensive from a service-cost perspective. I suspect that most months I won't get any at all though, since I only use my phone's SMS gateway as a backup for my work pager and I hardly ever get paged. So, I expect my normal monthly bill to be $12-15. Which is totally fine compared to the $75/month I was paying before, for the same level of usage.

April 14, 2013

Cost of switching (, )

by fluffy at 8:22 PM

Based purely on the cost of the next 24 months of service:

  • Sticking with T-Mobile with the service I hardly ever use: $46.07/month → $1105.68
  • Switching to T-Mobile prepaid with the more amenable contract term: $30/month + $200 ETF → $920
  • Switching to Ting: $15/month + $200 ETF + phone price → $560 + phone price

So as long as the phone costs less than $360 I'd be making out better than T-Mobile prepaid, and as long as it's less than $545 I'd be better off than sticking with what I have.

Phone options available directly from Ting that work out better than T-Mobile Prepaid:

  • Kyocera Rise: $163, a semi-decent Android 4.x phone with a QWERTY keyboard (which would be nice). Big downsides: Crappy CPU, no LTE. Not sure those things would really bug me anymore. It's pretty ridiculously thick though (c'est la slider).
  • LG Optimus Elite: $193 but probably crap judging by my experience with LG phones (and spec-wise it's worse than the Rise, so uh, no)
  • Samsung Galaxy Victory: $294, slightly-decent CPU, supports LTE, has Samsung's crappy customizations but Cyanogen exists, almost as ridiculously thick as the Rise though

Phones which work out better than my current T-Mobile plan:

  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus: $404, the exact phone I have already. I can keep using my car dock (as rarely as I do that), known quantity for overall quality and speed and so on.
  • Samsung Galaxy SIII 16GB: $450, by all accounts a decent phone, although spec-wise not as good as the Galaxy Nexus so I really don't know why someone would pay more for a lesser phone (unless you REALLY want the Samsung customizations, and I don't know why you would).

So really it comes down to: would I rather keep using the same phone, in which case it makes more sense to switch back to T-Mobile's ultra-annoying pay-as-you-go service (sigh), or would I be willing to take a downgrade in performance but get a physical keyboard (and really the number of times that I've really wished I'd had a physical keyboard vs. Swype over the last few years have been, oh, about three).

Or it could just be worth the $44 to switch away from T-Mobile while keeping the same model of phone (and of course, I can always sell the used GSM phone, duh), and anyway the nature of Ting is that I'd have an auto-adjusting rate based on how much I'm actually using; the $15/month is just an estimate based on how much I use my phone right now, and it can go as low as $6/month, and the key other variable I'm not accounting for is that if I do end up needing more minutes or data one month, Ting's tiering-up costs way less (and is way less of a hassle) than T-Mobile's.

So yeah I'm thinking it works out best to just cancel T-Mobile and switch to Ting, with an LTE Galaxy Nexus. My parents switched to Ting a while ago and they've been pretty happy with it, so... yeah.

So much for T-Mobile (, )

by fluffy at 5:28 PM

I just spent a rather annoying time with a T-Mobile CSR attempting to get some clarification on why my account would be subject to an ETF if I were to convert it from monthly to prepaid.

Timeline of events:

2001: got my first cellphone on Voicestream, liked them, liked T-Mobile even better when they bought Voicestream out
2008: iPhone siren song got too strong, switched to AT&T with an unlocked, unsubsidized iPhone.
2009: Eventually gave up on AT&T, decided to never use them again and switched back to T-Mobile (via a pay-as-you-go service).
2011: Still on T-Mobile's prepaid, had an increasingly frustrating experience with the lack of integration between prepaid and some of their services.
August 2011: Switched to Virgin Mobile. Had a terrible experience all around (both with quality of service and billing problems)
November 2011: Switched back to T-Mobile. Purchased an LG Optimus 2X with a monthly installment plan (no discount or subsidy to the device).
July 2012: Upgraded to a Galaxy Nexus, bought unsubsidized directly from Google.
August 2012: Moved to Seattle, had terrible coverage, started using a VoIP provider with my home Internet connection, T-Mobile minute usage dropped to practically nothing.
February 2013: Applied a corporate discount to my account to mitigate some of the expensive suckiness. This reset my contract term to 24 months.
April 2013: Paid off the remaining payments on the installment plan, contacted T-Mobile support to make a service change and, while I had the CSR's attention, asked about switching to a discounted prepaid rate, in light of their announcement of doing away with contracts entirely and a coworker finding a much lower non-contract rate plan that suited my needs much better. Thus, this chat transcript (which I have also submitted to The Consumerist).
???: Going to switch to another provider that doesn't keep on jerking loyal customers around. Probably Ting.

March 3, 2013

Wherein I delete all my YouTube videos (, , )

by fluffy at 10:48 PM

So, a few years ago I made some remixes of other peoples' youtube videos, as a sort of slice-of-life thing. Many of the videos were about peoples' difficulty with other people on the Internet, or their views of politics, and so on. I was just doing an artsy thing.

February 27, 2013

LED light lessons (, )

by fluffy at 7:04 PM

The cost of getting 10 LED PAR20 bulbs from Amazon: $200.

The cost of getting 10 PAR20 bulbs direct from China via eBay: $100
The cost of the light diffusers to make the light usable in the kitchen: $10
The cost of replacing the 5 lights in the kitchen which failed (probably due to the incredibly slight heat buildup from the diffuser) with 5 more from Amazon: $100.

So in effect, having 5 crappy bulbs and 5 decent bulbs has ended up costing more than just getting 10 decent bulbs to begin with. But isn't that always the way?

Incidentally, I highly recommend the LED lights from lightkiwi. All of the Lightkiwi lights I've gotten have been excellent quality with great light output and very reliable. All the others... not so much.

January 21, 2013

An open letter to Frederator Studios (, )

by fluffy at 10:37 PM

I sent this letter to Fred Siebert and Pen Ward last night. I haven't gotten a response yet, but I will keep people updated if I do.

I have two questions, one of which I'm sure you've gotten a lot and one of which I'm not so sure but it wouldn't surprise me if you have:

1) Will Adventure Time ever be coming out on Blu-Ray?

2) Given the fact that the television distributors (such as Comcast) are terrible in general and the various Internet TV services (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) aren't really that much better when it comes to providing a decent selection of content at a fair cost in a way that actually supports the creators, my means of acquiring Adventure Time while still supporting it has been to buy a season pass of the SD version from Amazon while still continuing to torrent the HD versions, because in that way I have a much better viewing experience with less hassle, and I'm still sending some money you guys' way (without incurring the added infrastructure costs that supposedly justify the outrageous per-episode price of the HD versions). However, I suspect that most of that money is still going to the distributors of the show who, despite helping it to be seen, have absolutely nothing to do with the creation of it and are really only the fossilized relics that are leftover from a bygone era. So, given that, can I just send you guys some money to directly thank you for making such an amazing show and, conscience clear, continue to receive the show via bittorrent?

It really seems like a win-win for everyone that matters in this equation.

January 5, 2013

Giving up on RelayRides (, )

by fluffy at 9:10 AM

The service is great, but holy crap are the renters here idiots.

December 15, 2012

A downside to quaint Victorian homes (, )

by fluffy at 2:16 PM

So, my condo is a quaint Victorian home. Well, a quaint Victorian firehouse that was converted into a condo 30 years ago. Of course, being Seattle, all of the heating is electric, and being Victorian (and subject to Seattle historic preservation society rules) the windows are a bit leaky and drafty, and being Victorian and in Seattle, there's not a lot of light normally so I need to have a lot of lights on all the time to keep myself from getting rather depressed.

So I was expecting a fairly large electricity bill, but I wasn't expecting it to be $275!

Basically, the bill claims I used 3259kWh over the last two months, or an average of 49kWh per day — an average current draw of 2KW. That seems pretty high... until you consider the lighting and the heating.

The electric baseboard heaters in the dining room end up running way more than I'd like, because of the drafty windows, and the thermostat is also kind of fiddly with a ridiculously large hysteresis dead zone. Many times I've come home at the end of the day for the place to be sweltering inside. Clearly I need a better thermostat.

Lighting-wise, it's mostly halogen and incandescent track lighting. I've been slowly replacing the incandescent bulbs with LED ones, although it's taken me a while since the dining room spot lights require getting up on a ladder, and I'm not so good with ladders (I'm not afraid of heights, I'm afraid of falling from them). The dining room has 6 spotlights, previously each with a 75W bulb in it. The kitchen and studio each have 5 halogen PAR20 lights, each with a 50W bulb in them. That adds up to 950W right there. Of course, I don't run them 24/7, but I do run them quite a lot. In any case, I've finally ordered a 10-pack of PAR20 bulbs so that I can replace those ones right away. (They do not require climbing up on a dreaded ladder.)

A few weeks ago I did add some (technically HOA-covenant-violating) weather stripping to my dining room windows to improve the draftiness, and it helped but even then the baseboard heater still ends up running way more than I'd like. I have no idea what the wattage on it is but it's likely 1kW on its own. Then there's the heaters in the bedroom and studio, although they don't run nearly as much (admittedly because they get plenty of heat from the dining room and from the studio lights).

The dining room thermostat does have a "setback" function which doesn't work very well, but which would still be better than not using it at all. So I should definitely set that up, finally, and maybe look for a more modern, easier-to-program baseboard thermostat. (This one uses a mechanical timer switch that's fiddly and drifts way too much, among other problems.)

Other than that I can't really think of anything else that would be taking much power. All of my computers are pretty "green" (laptops or laptop-class hardware which maxes out at 75W and mostly goes into low-power mode most of the time). I guess there's a few things I leave on all the time that I shouldn't, like the stereo in the dining room. Unfortunately it doesn't have an automatic power-saver feature like the one in the living room. But it also shouldn't be taking more than a few dozen watts sitting idle, right? It doesn't get very warm, in any case.

What other stuff should I look at? I had a window person look at the dining room windows and there wasn't anything he could do because of the historical building stuff (they care very deeply about preserving the "character" of the windows), but the skylights aren't regulated by that and they might benefit from getting their seals replaced (I know the seal is failing in the bedroom skylight, for example).

It's also possible that this was a one-time irregularity, like maybe the power company didn't bill the previous owners for their last two months of service or something, although I can't see that mistake as having been made. I really should have checked my meter when I first moved in. The amount on the meter now is about 230kWh higher than on my bill, though, and the reading was taken 5 days ago, so that's 46kWh/day - consistent with my bill. At this very moment my meter is spinning at about 8 seconds per revolution, with a kH of 7.2 meaning I'm drawing about 3200W right now. Yikes. But the scary thing is that most of the meters in the building are spinning faster!

December 3, 2012

Voice over IP over Google (, , )

by fluffy at 10:05 PM

So, as I've mentioned in the past, I've been living a mostly Google-service-free life for the last year or so. I do my own email and calendar hosting on LiNode, I use DuckDuckGo for search, and I use Tiny Tiny RSS hosted on Dreamhost for my RSS feeds. (And Dreamhost in general for my webhosting, although I might move some of that over to the LiNode or get an EC2 instance or something.)

However, I still quite like Android, and so I still need a GMail account for its user account (for app purchases and such), and while I have that I also have Google Voice for my phone number, which I figure is fairly benign since I don't keep my address book on Google's servers and so far they haven't done anything to monetize my voicemails.

Once upon a time I worked for a VoIP startup in Albuquerque. Everything was based on standard technologies, namely SIP for call routing and various DNS-based things for endpoint lookup. In the VoIP landscape, most providers do something similar. But not Google.

Google Voice provides two forms of call termination:

  1. Routing your calls over the POTS network using a call gateway (which is expensive)
  2. Routing your calls over the Internet (which is cheap) using the Jingle protocol (which is non-standard)

Android itself supports SIP dialing and termination. If you have a traditional SIP account, such as with Vonage, 8x8, or any of the thousands of VoIP services out there, then you can use Internet bandwidth for your call routing, natively and built-in to the Android OS. But Google Voice — Google's own service, made by the same people who make Android — does not support SIP. Instead it uses Jingle, which is a protocol intended for establishing voice calls via XMPP. (Incidentally, most existing IM networks, such as AIM, use SIP for their call routing as well.) Android has no built-in support for Jingle.

SIP also allows you to have multiple endpoints connected to a single account; if a call comes in, then all connected endpoints will ring and any of them can answer the call. Jingle, however, has the same limitation as XMPP, in that incoming messages only go to one connected endpoint, and the rules by which it decides which one gets it are byzantine, opaque, and generally not very useful.

Where this is going for me is that I have fairly spotty cellphone reception in the two places I sit most often: my recording studio, and my office. However, I have great Internet coverage there. So, one of my coworkers pointed me to an app called GrooVe IP, a Jingle client for Android. It has a few rough edges, but it works well enough. However, it doesn't work too well if you have Google Voice set to forward to both your cellphone and your Jingle client, because both of them ring and the phone gets confused. Fortunately, GrooVe also makes GrooVe Forwarder, which you can use to turn the cellphone forwarding on and off based on GrooVe IP's availability. So, that works pretty okay.

I also decided for various reasons that it'd be nice to have a landline going through Google Voice, which is possible because of the OBi110, which will connect to Google Voice accounts, and also provides its own call routing mesh (which, as it turns out, sucks horribly). Unfortunately, it connects to Google Voice via Jingle. Which only supports a single endpoint at any given time. And you have no control over whether the OBi box or GrooVe IP gets priority.

So right now my choices are:

  1. Use the OBi exclusively at home, and my work phone number at work, and just not use GrooVe IP at all (and be stuck with suboptimal but available devices)
  2. Use GrooVe IP + GrooVe Forwarder on my cellphone, and return (or write off) the OBi and cordless phone I got to work with it (I was originally just going to use my AE90 with it, but I'm not sure the OBi can produce enough voltage to trigger the ringer, and anyway it turns out the OBi requires a touch-tone phone for initial setup — and of course pulse dialing won't work with it, not that I expected/needed it to)
  3. Sign up for a VoIP service, connect the OBi (which also supports SIP) to that, and pay an extra $7+/month for the ability to have a backup phone at home (and add it as a Google Voice POTS endpoint)
  4. Hope really hard that Google comes to their senses and adds actual SIP support to Google Voice and then have everything Just Work (ha ha who am I kidding that'll never happen, have you seen what they've done to IMAP and NNTP?)
  5. Sign up for actual POTS service, use the OBi in its intended capacity as a proprietary-calls-to-POTS termination device (which in turn allows me to roll my own limited version of Google Voice, essentially), be sure that my AE90 will work, and pay $14+/month for what just amounts to 911 access

Right now I'm mostly leaning towards option 2, because it works (mostly) and isn't terrible (mostly).

November 25, 2012

RelayRides renter guidelines ()

by fluffy at 4:22 PM

I just felt it necessary to send this email to RelayRides (any bets on how soon before something Not Always Right-worthy happens?):

Hi, lately I've had several renters book the car and then ask me if they can pick it up early, or if I'd be willing to drive the car some enormous distance in order to do the key exchange (and presumably I'd have to take a bus or taxi home afterwards). It seems like this should be obvious, but renters need to have it made clear that they are only insured during the rental period, and that owners are people with lives too so any special requests need to be settled in advance (and really it seems like a hell of a lot of liability and trouble for the owner to do long-distance pickups/exchanges to begin with).

Twice now I have gotten requests from people for me to either pick them up at the airport (I am not a taxi!) or do the exchange at a mall that's quite a ways out of town, and one of these requests came at the last minute after the rental was already booked.

Also, my most recent renter decided (on Thanksgiving!) that it would be okay to show up an hour late and waste a lot of my time, without bothering to let me know that she was going to be late or worry about the fact that maybe I had Thanksgiving plans to deal with as well.

So basically, it would be nice if you could clarify for renters

1) when they are allowed to pick it up
2) where they have to go to pick it up
3) the fact that the owners are human beings with lives too

Thanks.

October 16, 2012

Logitech Harmony remotes (, , )

by fluffy at 11:55 PM

So, my TV only came with a stupid "magic" remote which uses a gestural mouse and is painful to use. LG does a good job of making it hard to tell which of their standard remotes works with their TVs. And I wanted a universal remote that would work with everything; the universal remote which came with my stereo is quite good but, unfortunately, doesn't support the particular LG remote codes I need, either. So I paid way too much money for a Logitech Harmony One.

After spending a couple hours trying to get it to work reasonably I think I've beaten it into submission, but it was still bad enough that I decided to send a not-so-polite suggestion to Logitech support:

There is absolutely nothing intuitive or well-designed about this piece of crap web application thing. It's not even due to it being a web application, it's just that I don't think that the people who wrote the software have ever actually tried using it.

It would be really nice if you could just configure your devices based on what they're connected to (like, PS3 is connected to the A/V receiver on the HDMI2 port, A/V receiver is connected to the TV on the TV's HDMI1 port) rather than having to do a fiddly configuration of every port every single time you want to set up an activity.

It would be nice if you could skip the wizard crap, and just say which devices you want on and in which modes, and if you could see all the stuff about an activity or device at a glance instead of having it broken up into a dozen different pages.

It would be really nice if it didn't consider an Apple TV to be the same as a full media PC with keyboard, mouse, monitor, and gaming.

It would be exceptional if the button configuration for an activity could have groups of buttons set based on the defaults for one of the devices.

As it stands, the Harmony configuration software is CRAP, and it would also be really nice if there were just some XML-based format that users could use to create a configuration with an external tool. Allowing for third-party configuration would be a really good thing in this case.

Your wizards suck. Your UI sucks. The only reason I went with the Harmony is there don't seem to be any other learning remotes on the market anymore. I'm regretting paying this much for a nice device that's configured with such a badly-written piece of crap.

Your UI designers are bad and you should feel bad.

Was this abrasive enough?

October 11, 2012

Sophisticated phish ()

by fluffy at 8:18 AM

Lately, phishers have been getting a lot better (meaning better at what they do, not better for the world), and a bit more insidious. Recently I've been seeing a lot of phishing emails which look just like ADP emails (and of course my employer uses ADP so there's an air of legitimacy), but of course the links in the emails go to other domains.

Today I just got this almost-too-clever one:

This e-mail has been sent from an automated system. PLEASE DO NOT REPLY. If you have any questions, please contact your administrator for assistance.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Digital Certificate About to Expire
---------------------------------------------------------------------
The digital certificate you use to access ADP's Internet services is about to expire. If you do not renew your certificate by the expiration date below, you will not be able to access ADP's Internet services.

Days left before expiration: 3
Expiration date: Oct 14 23:59:59 GMT-03:59 2012

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Renewing Your Digital Certificate
---------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Go to this URL: https://netsecure.adp.com/pages/cert/register2.jsp

2. Follow the instructions on the screen.

3. Also you can download new digital certificate at https://netsecure.adp.com/pages/cert/pickUpCert.faces.

Of course, the actual underlying links to the supposed digital certs aren't on adp.com, and those purported URLs don't actually work (but they DO generate an SSL handshake error, which adds an air of legitimacy to the phishing email).

It's not as if a large company like ADP would be using self-signed user-installed certs, of course, but how would the general Internet population know that?

September 1, 2012

Please allow 7-10 business days (, )

by fluffy at 10:30 AM

Dear email marketing teams:

Why is it that you can get me on your mailing list the instant I've made a purchase in your store, but it takes two weeks to remove me from it?

Keep in mind that I was already a customer, and when you added me to the list there was no opt-in for the marketing materials.

I don't want your goddamn marketing materials, and all you're doing by continuing to send it to me in this "just in case" period is making me never want to shop with you ever again.

It reeks of desperation. Stop it.

(Latest offender: Guitar Center)

August 12, 2012

Aboda (, )

by fluffy at 6:15 PM

So, my temporary housing while I'm getting settled in here is handled by Aboda, which basically rents out a bunch of apartments everywhere and then sublets them on a daily basis, providing short-term corporate housing for people who have relocated or whatever. This time I ended up in what was called a one-bedroom unit in Fountain court, but it's more of a junior one-bedroom instead.

Things I expected to have in this place:

  • Space to put my stuff
  • A desk on which I could work
  • A TV, ideally with a reasonable setup

Things I got instead:

  • A living room that is way over-crowded with furniture that is completely excessive and unnecessary for a single person to stay for a month or two
  • A tiny bedroom with a billion dressers (okay, actually just one REALLY BIG dresser and two smaller nightstand-dressers) whose drawers hit up against the bed when they're opened, and which gives no space for keeping a suitcase, and a tiny tiny closet with no space
  • A bathroom with a ridiculous amount of towelage
  • A dining table with four carefully-arranged place settings which demonstrate that I can, in fact, have people sitting at the table (and which after driving for two days straight just read as "oh great, more crap I have to move before I can do anything in here)
  • Two LCD HDTVs (one more than necessary), hooked up to an old-fashioned cable box via RF modulator

Things I was hoping to find in the information packet:

  • Information about the amenities of the building I'm staying in (rules and regulations on the swimming pool, fitness center, what other things there are to begin with, etc.)
  • Information about what the various keys I got are for
  • Information about where to put my garbage
  • Information about how to pick up any packages or mail that arrive for me

Things that were in the information packet:

  • Condescending instructions on how to use basic appliances (the garbage disposal, dish washer, alarm clock, etc.)

Fortunately it's just temporary. Hopefully I can find out where the heck the garbage goes, though. Werner's poop is getting smelly.

August 2, 2012

UPS and downs ()

by fluffy at 3:52 PM

On the one hand, UPS still has terrible customer service, and many of their policies are pretty aggravating to the recipient.

On the other hand, it used to be that they would hold on to a package for a few days rather than deliver it as soon as it could arrive, to try to encourage people to pay extra for faster shipping (and paying extra for faster shipping wouldn't ever actually make it come faster); I remember many frustrating times when I'd pay for three-day shipping, and the package would arrive in town overnight and they wouldn't even attempt delivery for two days. But these days, even with the cheapest ground shipping option, if a package only takes three days to arrive, that's all it takes.

Of course, it's probably cheaper for them to do that anyway, since they don't have to deal with as much warehousing and logistics thereof. But still, at least their self-serving cost-reduction change is also good for the customer for once.

June 16, 2012

Billing morass (, , )

by fluffy at 9:00 AM

Last November 4 I got an ambulance ride due to another major panic attack combined with a bowel impaction. The drivers didn't really treat it like an emergency and just acted like a really crappy taxi ride, as always. I'd have been better off just having the friends who were staying with me drive me there. Or just finding a way of calming down before it got to the point that I felt I needed medical attention.

Every other month since then I've gotten the same bill from the San Fransico fire department, in the amount of $1786, with the message, "San Francisco Fire Department provided you emergency medical services on the above mentioned service date. At this time, we have not yet obtained insurance information. If you have insurance or participate in any program which will pay for these services, please complete and sign the reverse side of this bill and return in the enclosed envelope."

Of course, every time I've gotten that bill I've immediately returned with my insurance information, and the last few times I've also enclosed a letter stating that this is the Nth time that I've done such, and I have never gotten any response from my insurance regarding eligibility which indicates that they never actually submitted the claim.

On Monday I guess I need to just call them on the phone and see what the hell is going on here. I really don't need this hanging over my head like everything else. (But I'm also not willing to just pay the whole $1786 myself. I can afford it, sure, but there's several matters of principle at work here.)

April 30, 2012

"It Just Works" (, , )

by fluffy at 8:50 AM

For the first time in a while, I decided to buy an album off the iTunes Music Store (since it was the only place it was available). Actually purchasing it required:

  1. Logging into iTunes
  2. Accepting updated terms and conditions
  3. Logging into iTunes again
  4. Enabling a bunch of wish-it-were-two-factor authentication questions (with the usual problems the pre-set questions always have, and no way to set custom questions)
  5. Logging into iTunes again
  6. Being notified of the download on every iOS device in my house simultaneously (some of which I didn't realize were even turned on)
  7. Being asked if I wanted to turn on automatic downloads of purchases (why yes I WOULD like to actually download this music I just paid for!)
  8. Finally, logging into iTunes again

At that point it finally downloaded the album.

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