Category Archives: Rant

All Good Things Must

be made more difficult.

To be honest, T-Mobile has been an excellent company for me.  I’ve always had decent service and they’ve never really let me down.  Some of their promotional offers have been really interesting as well.  It was a long time ago that they offered one share of T-Mobile stock for free to all subscribers.  I regret not taking the time to claim that offer now.  "Free is free" and I didn’t take it.  Shame on me.

One of their other excellent offers was a checking account with 4% interest.  Absolutely unheard of when it came out and is still unbelievable today.  Granted, it’s only 4% on the first $3k in the account and 1% on everything over that.  But even so, 1%?  How sad is it that their base rate is still higher than everyone else?  When I signed up, I had no idea how they could afford to do it and all these years later, I still don’t know how they can keep it up.

Well, that time has come.  I’m sure there are a lot of money-wise people out there that are stocking $3k in that account and nothing more.  In order to qualify for that 4% max rate, you have to have a $200 deposit every month into the account.  Of course, people are going to people, so you can be absolutely assured that lots of people keep $3k in the account, then have an automated $200 deposit in each month and a corresponding $200 withdrawal every month as well.  Totally worth it for 4% interest on $3k, I’m sure.

A bank isn’t going to make any money that way, I understand that.  And so, it’s come to this.  A new change in the way you qualify for the max interest rate.  Again, I get it.  The alternative is they just stop the offer altogether and then it’s just another nice thing ruined by people.

So anyway, what’s the change?  Instead of having the $200/mo required deposit, you now have to make 10 purchases with the check card each month.  This is logical as the bank would get a transaction fee for each purchase and those fees would pay for the bonus interest.  Makes sense to me.  The thing I don’t like is the way they are selling it to their customers.  They say:

We understand making a monthly deposit may be tough and we want T‑Mobile MONEY to work for you. So, eligible customers will soon earn 4.00% APY* by using your T‑Mobile MONEY card for daily purchases like groceries, gas, or shopping online.

They understand making a monthly deposit may be tough.  But it’s easier to make 10 transactions in a month.  If you’re making 10 transactions in a month and not making any deposits, now that’s tough.  But that’s where we’re at, I guess.  Also, it’s a little irksome that to qualify for a higher interest rate, you have to lower your balance with 10 purchases.  But, it’s their game and their rules. 

I just wish they would have been honest with the reasons.  I thought TMo used to have a slogan, "Straight talk", but it seems that’s another company.  Why can’t they just explain it in reality and not need to spin it?

So that’s that.  Now, what does this change cost the users?  Here’s my plan.  I normally get a drink from RaceTrac when I get takeout from certain restaurants.  It’s $1.07 each time.  So, RaceTrac now gets my TMo transactions.  It’ll cost me a little over $10 to earn… wait, what?  $18 in interest?  Well, it’s not like that, exactly.  I would be spending the $10 on another card regardless, so the math actually comes out that I would be losing interest on that $10, or 10 cents.  Ugh, wait, not 10 cents.  It’s 1%/12 months, so actually .0833%… 0.8 cents a month.  I fucking hate math.

Now, if you were below the $3k balance and earning 4% on your whole balance, the numbers are a little worse.  So to maximize your money here, you need to keep $3k in your account, plus whatever monthly fluctuations you have to keep you over that threshold.  And for the people who automated $200 in and $200 out, now it would be a modification of maybe $20 in and $20 out via purchases each month.  Same game, new rules.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

This is long.  This is a rant about my workplace.  While the story is specific to my employer, it’s actually more of a rant about rampant capitalism, of which my employer is highly adherent to.  It is sort of a difficult post for me to write.  I’ve been wrestling with myself for the last couple of days on the topic because I’ve felt I have no right to complain.  After all, I have a job, I’m paid quite well, the work is easy and in a field I enjoy.  There are people who do not have all, some, or even any of those.  Why should I complain?

Let’s just cut to the situation, then break it apart from there.  Friday morning we got an announcement that because of the pandemic and the resulting slowdown in business at the company, there were going to be some changes implemented.  So far, this sounds like every other company dealing with COVID fallout.  The changes include: pay cuts (15% for managers and up, 10% for everyone else), discontinuation of 401k matching, discontinuing anniversary bonuses, and discontinuation of PTO cashouts.  Earlier in the year, when COVID began, the company announced a wage freeze, so no more raises until things turn around.

How did this affect me personally?  I am considered maxed out on salary, so my raises have been trivial for the last few years.  A wage freeze doesn’t hurt me too bad.  However, a 10% pay cut, wiped out 6 years worth of raises for me.  You can also take out 4% of my salary from the loss of the 401k match.  The anniversary bonus is something nice to look forward to, and since my anniversary is in a couple of weeks, this stings a little more than usual.

I say again, why should I complain?  It’s just money and even with the changes, I’m still probably in the top 10 highest paid people in the company.  My finances are very stable.  But to not complain is to accept and encourage that mentality that is choking and killing America – I got mine. Fuck you.

This is a family-owned company, and a couple of the family members/owners "work" there.  Over the years, their involvement has dwindled as their age has also progressed.  They are all very, very wealthy and surely want to spend their lives and their money in other ways.

As spokespeople for the company, the owners have always stressed how the employees are like extended family.  However, when we have our annual layoffs, the remaining people are reassured that the company is financially strong.  I get it.  A company is not supposed to lose money; it wouldn’t survive like that.  However, when times are lean and there is a choice to reduce profit or reduce headcount, the same decision is always made.

I say again, I get it.  Money can come from a business in three ways: a salary, year-end profits, and the intrinsic value of the company itself.  I would be on board if the decision to preserve profit was because the owners only income was the corporate profit.  But it’s not.  The owners have the intrinsic value, they have the annual profit, and they also all pull a salary from the company.  They are triple-dipping and hoarding all the profits for themselves.  They sacrifice others for their own gain.

Now, here’s the straw that broke my back with this last announcement.  Two things actually.  First was the mention of layoffs.  The announcement rationalized that when volume was down, the company would lay people off.  And why not?  They’ve done it every year for at least four years.  While they didn’t explicitly say we should be happy they didn’t resort to layoffs, mentioning it at all means it was considered.

So why wasn’t that the decision?  Thanks to freedom-loving patriots out there (who I’m sure had to fight valiantly against the current administration), it is in public information that I was able to find out that our company received a PPP loan from the government in the amount of somewhere between 2 and 5 million dollars.  A provision of taking that loan is that you do not lay off any workers.  So layoffs weren’t an option, although it was still considered.  However, there’s no restriction against cutting salary or benefits (research shows that this not uncommon).

If you know the PPP loan program, you know it’s not a loan.  It’s forgivable as long as you abide by its rules.  So, it’s free government money (it’s not socialism when it’s capitalism, right!).  Our company got over 2 million dollars for free to pay for our salaries and our company instead cuts salaries.  That improves the company’s profit, which goes to… the owners, exclusively.  Hypothetically, lets say our business was down enough that we made no profit this year, we just broke even.  With the PPP loan, payroll expenses drop by $2M+, profit becomes $2M+.  And that is not enough for the owners.  Fuck you, I’m getting mine.

I know business.  I know how it can be used to fuck people.  I saw it at my last job and I see it here.  In my last job, there was a "final con" to fuck the employees and enrich the owner on his way out.  While I’m not sure my previous employer actually got to execute his plan before I left, if my prediction for this company’s "final con" is correct, it’s already a done deal.

The owners are old and not involved in the business anymore.  They want out.  Business is down and has been down for quite some time.  That is bad for the owners.  When someone wants to buy a business, they want to see what return on investment they will get from it.  If the company isn’t turning good profits, its value (the sale price) decreases.  While anyone pitching the company is going to point out the glory years as what the company is capable of and will also hype the potential of the business when COVID ends, they still need to prove short-term viability and profit.

I’ve already told you the secret a few paragraphs ago.  Reduce expenses, profit goes up.  By cutting everyone’s salary and the 401k benefits and anniversary bonuses and the cash value of PTO, the company immediately looks better financially to a buyer.  The buyer has no obligation to restore any of those things.  For all they know, it’s always been that way.  Maybe they would see in a prior year financial statement that expenses were much higher, but why should they care?  The current and future financials say they’ll make good money.

Pause for a moment and absorb all that.  Now, because I have to explicitly say this, if the company looks like it will be more profitable to a buyer, the company can be sold for more money.  That money goes to… the owners, exclusively.  The salary and benefit cuts remain.

Now, in closing.  I do get it.  This is business.  Do not ever feel like your employer give one single shit about you or your life.  Are there exceptions to this?  Sure.  But America is greed and selfishness personified.  It’s going to take generations to turn this around if it even can be turned around.  It’s not going to happen in my lifetime for sure.  I really do empathize with the younger generations and what they are facing.

Bastards and Liars

Guess who stopped at my house again?  Spectrum.  This is the third time they have done this.  And boy did I let them hear it.

But the guy didn’t back down.  He stood his ground and as a good salesperson should do, he tried to get me to say something positive, because when you say positive things, your mood becomes more positive.  And additionally, the more you can keep the person talking to you, even if they’re bitching at you, it’s still engagement and there’s still a chance to turn it around.  Smart guy.

But he’s a fucking liar.  I told him the first reason I wasn’t going to switch, as I’ve said here before.  I’m with a company that has caused me no problems and he wants me to switch to a company that I’ve never dealt with.  Then I gave him #2, which is that Spectrum doesn’t offer the speeds that FIOS does.  That’s when he shut me up.

You see, while Spectrum doesn’t offer synchronous upload/download speeds, they do offer speeds that exceed what I currently have.  The one he pitched me was the 400/200 plan.  He said there was another plan, the gigabit option that was, I think 1gig up/500 down.  Well, that’s curious, I’d never heard of those plans before.  But to get that much upload speed must be super expensive, judging by how much the normal lopsided plans were.

He said he would be quick and just give me the numbers and be gone, which I appreciated.  He sidetracked a bit on a cable package, which I wasn’t interested in, but he didn’t care.  So it was about $55/mo for the 400/200 package and $88 for that, plus the cable package.  Huh…

As he was finishing up, I asked him if it was possible to put my house on a do-not-visit list.  He said maybe.  He would put a note in the system, which I doubt has had any effect the previous two times.  He also gave me their customer service number that might be able to do it.  And he left.

After cooling down a little bit, I took his card with the illegible writing on the back and went in search of these internet plans I’d never heard of.  Guess what?  They don’t exist.  The 400/200 plan he was telling me?  It’s 400/20, and it’s priced at $70/mo on their website.  The gigabit plan?  It’s 940/35 and costs $110/mo.  You fucking liar.

Can you imagine if I wasn’t adamant about telling Spectrum to get the fuck off my property?  That he could have convinced me to switch to a 400/200 plan that would be over twice as fast as what I had now?  How, after discovering this lie, what kind of bullshit I’d have to go through to reinstate Frontier?  You fucking bastard.

The Race Intensifies

Still watching the races, much to my dismay and angst.  Last night I had a moment of disbelief.  All those people insanely claiming, "this is all hoax!" and "It’s all fake."  For once, those people almost made sense.  And the reason for that was the pure incredulous of the numbers I was seeing.  I mean, look at this chart:

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You see those tiny bars near the beginning around 6/1?  That’s 1,000 new cases a day.  Back then, that was an unbelievable number.  It had me shaking my head at the stupidity of my fellow residents.  These last few days, what can I say?  Well, we went through multiple 1k days, then multiple 2k days, then 3k days, then 4k days.  And then, things changed.  There was one 5k day, but there wasn’t a 6k or 7k day.  It went straight to 8k.  Then 9k.

What are you supposed to think when something like that happens?  If you follow the drama and opposing viewpoints, right around that time, it is claimed that the numbers are being inflated so that they can be reported lower later on.  But that doesn’t make any sense to me because you still have the record of the shit days.  You can say it’s better, but better relative to the worst?  The worst still happened!

And it just seems like there’s some sort of disinformation campaign going on, just like everything has been in the last three years or so.  But the data is still there and it’s just an argument over how to interpret that data.

While on that topic, in a previous post, I put up an image that I consider misleading.  Let’s revisit that.

Now let’s compare that to how things are right now.

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In that old post, I said the chart was misleading because there was a delay as to when deaths were reported, so the true numbers were at the beginning of the chart and because of the delay, it would always look like the numbers were falling.  Well, look at the chart now.  Looks pretty flat, except for the most recent days, where you can expect less reported deaths.

So what’s going to happen is, as the deaths are reported (later), it’s going to make the chart look like it’s climbing, but the chart only has 30 days to work with.  As long as there is a 2-week delay in death reporting, that should keep the numbers pretty low.  But even if not, it will still look better.  It makes you wonder what a chart longer than 30 days would look like.

Class Action Pennies

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a class action lawsuit in which I was a participant.  The end result of that was me dropping out because I had to provide proof of my involvement, which I could have, but it was more effort than I wanted to expend for my “up to $900”, but realistically more like $5 award.

And now today, I get an email about the Yahoo security breach class action lawsuit.  Oh boy, this should be expensive.  Scanning the email quickly for numbers, I find that the settlement is for $117 million.  Nice.  Now, how many potential claimants?  Oh… 3 billion.

Quick, what’s the math on this?  About four cents per claimant.  Well, I guess that’s something.  And what, perchance, are the lawyers fees for the case?  $30 million, plus an extra $2.5 million for expenses (postage for 3 billion $.04 checks=$900 million, FYI).  Oh, and the expenses.  Some people endured a greater hardship to prove the culpability of Yahoo, and those people will get awards of $2,500, $5,000, or $7.500.  I did not see in a quick scan of the online documents how many people this award pertains to, but there are six plaintiffs.  When talking in millions of dollars, 4-figure awards are a rounding error.

So, let’s round down to the nearest million for the post-lawyer-payday settlement pool, which is now $84 million.  And now, each claimant is due at least 2.8 cents.  I would round that up to 3 cents, but that’s $6 million of rounding that we just don’t have the funds for.  Sorry about that.

One More Reason To Hate People

This is a problem I’ve been reading about with increased frequency.  A person will buy some thing, then fill the box with something else and return it, getting a refund and keeping the original thing.  In the cases I’ve been reading about, it’s hard drives.  A person will buy an external hard drive, open the case, switch out the large hard drive with a small hard drive (working or even not working) and return it to the store.

What happens is the store looks inside the box (maybe), sees everything is there and puts it back on the shelf for someone else to buy it and discover they got a tiny hard drive instead of what they thought they were getting.  That customer brings it back to the store and the cycle repeats.

This is very lucrative for some people, for people that lack morals, anyway.  But this happened to me on a less lucrative item, although no less infuriating.  I purchased an outdoor LED security light.  It wasn’t super cheap, in the $30 range.  I got it home and when I opened the box, inside was your typical two-light incandescent light mount, probably under $15.

Now, I am faced with a bunch of bullshit.  First is the wasted time and travel to return and replace this item.  Second is the thought that the store doesn’t really know that I wasn’t the one that made the switch and am trying to pull the scam off myself.  Third is the thought that the store may not actually take any action on this and put it back on the floor to repeat the cycle.  Clearly, something must be done here.

It’s easy to put the blame on the store, and I’m mostly in agreement.  I can understand the customer service part of no-hassle returns and wanting to make the customer happy, but they still need to verify the item being returned is the same as what was purchased.  And I think anything returned should be flagged with a label indicating it is not “new stock”.

And while this sounds great, reality says there’s actually very little stopping thieves from doing whatever they want to do.  How about the stories of people using self checkout to buy expensive things and ringing them up as bananas?  How about the rule that “loss prevention” is actually not allowed to engage with a suspected shoplifter?  Just keep on walking, they can’t stop you.  They literally can’t stop you.  And when shitty people learn this stuff, they just do it.

I had the thought that night that if I had used self-checkout, the mismatched product would probably have been caught because it would have a different weight.  The register would have said something like incorrect item in bagging area.  That’s great, but you know what really would have happened?  The clerk would have just overridden the register and I’d be on my way with the wrong item anyway.  Again, it comes back to the store, but they’re just doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy, because self-checkout problems are a sure-fire way to piss people off.  If you’re making the customer do the work, you had better make it easy for them.

But let’s just make it clear, customer service is a poor term when the customer is not even a customer, but only a thief.

FML

Fuck MyLife.

If you’ve ever taken a moment to search for your name on the Internet, then you know what I’m talking about.  There are plenty of websites that collect public data about people and aggregate it all together, then conveniently make it available to anyone that wants to search for your name.  MyLife is one of them.

A couple of days ago, I figured I would try and take control of my public information in 2020.  The first step I figured would be locking down these public profiles of me.  Should be easy, right?  Create an account, verify your identity, then set the account to private.  That’s how I thought it should work, anyway.

So the first site I went to was MyLife.  I searched myself, and on my profile page, I click the link that said something like “this is me”.  It brought me to the fake “searching for data” page, which I cancelled out of.  On a form that was displayed next, I provided my email address (as is my policy, a unique email address just for them) and clicked “Show background report”, which is a strange way of saying “create account”.

Immediately, at my “dashboard” (please note I never verified any of my info.  you can seemingly create an account for any name you want), I was shown a popup to enable or disable sections of my profile, with a button to “save changes”.  After clicking the button, I was taken to a screen showing different subscription options.  Yeah, no thanks, a free account is all I need.  But no, a free account is not what you need at all.  The “save changes” button does nothing.  Nothing unless you have a paid account, that is.  Fucking seriously?  So fine, these motherfuckers won’t let you lock down your account unless you pay them.  Fine.  You’re assholes, goddamn assholes.  But you are not getting my money.

But, ohhhhh, they have my email address now.  And now the emails have started.  Day 1: the welcome email, which reminds me if I upgrade to Premium, I can lock sections of my profile.  And in big type it says “Keep Your Info Private”.  Assholes.  Day 2: an email trying to warn me about how bad people are and how I need to be able to find out everything I can on everyone otherwise I or my family might get hurt.  Assholes.  Day 3: an email warning me that my online reputation affects my life.  Everyone is going to see my information online (after encouraging me to find everyone I know in the previous email).  ASSHOLES!  (post-publish update: 2 more emails came in on Day 3, one an ad for Experian Boost and another reminding me that there are other sites exposing my info.  I can’t stop them, but I can see who they are – for $$, of course.)

I have enough experience in web site development to have conversed with people who would create a website like MyLife.  They are scum.  There is absolutely nothing positive about the “service” they are offering.  It’s simple blackmail.  Just like those websites that supposedly list “cheaters” and make you pay to have your name taken off. 

Now, fortunately, my “reputation” on MyLife is just fine, but I know how they work.  If you have any entries on a municipalities Clerk Of Court website, you get whacked.  And it’s all the same.  Traffic ticket? Same as a DUI.  Do you want to know the difference?  Well, you’ll have to pay MyLife to see the details.  Unless you’re smart and go to the county Clerk of Court website and do the search yourself, then it’s free.

So MyLife ruins lives by making minor infractions seems like major red flags, then they won’t explain whether it’s a real problem unless you pay them.  And I guess that alone wasn’t scaring people enough, so what they started doing was listing your relatives in your profile and putting warnings if any of them had issues.  And I guess that wasn’t enough either, so they started listing neighbors in there and flagging them, too.

And while I’m definitely of the mindset that you will be known by the company you keep, this is completely ridiculous.  And it’s all in the goal of getting you into a subscription so you can hide that damaging information.  Fucking ASSHOLES.

Lightroom Data

When I was migrating all my files from my old hard drives to my new ones, I had a slight issue where my documents and pictures didn’t copy, because of a permissions difference.  When I resolved it, I had to copy the files again.  This also meant I had to wait for them to copy and stare at the progress as it made its way through.

While copying the pictures, I was stunned as it processed the Lightroom folder.  I had tried out Adobe Lightroom a while ago and ended up not using it because it was just too much.  And now I see it was more than “too much” in the application side, it was outrageous in the data side as well.  I don’t remember how many files I had imported into the Lightroom catalog when I was evaluating it and I didn’t really know what was happening in the backend while it was processing.  But what happened was a new folder was created to hold the catalog and preview files.

Those preview files – holy fuck.  When the copy was complete, I had to see for myself what had actually been done.  I checked the properties of the Lightroom folder and was floored by the result.

image-1

28k files and 23k folders!  What the fuck!

It’s not really the size that bothered me.  The thing I didn’t understand was why there are so many files and folders.  And every one is named unintelligibly.  It’s not like you can understand what you are looking at when you dive into those folders.  So why not use some sort of database file instead?  At least then you could get some query functionality out of it.

So it was with great pleasure that I deleted that entire folder.  That’s 50k file entries I don’t have to ever worry about anymore.

UberBastards

I just got a piece of spam mail, to my Uber email address.  I don’t recall saying I was ok with that.

The email is sketchy as fuck.  A company name of “Opinion Research”?  None of the proper CAN-SPAM hallmarks like indicating what email address this was sent to, or why it was sent.  Only because I use unique addresses for every account, do I know this came from my Uber signup.

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The survey is run by Qualtrics, which doesn’t mean much, since they’re just a survey platform, like SurveyMonkey.  This company has their own subdomain, opinionresearch.co1.qualtrics.com, so they’re at least somewhat legit (as legit as it looks so far).

As you see in the email screenshot, I did click to unsubscribe, which I thought would bring me to a page asking if I was sure.  It didn’t, it just took me off that list.  and it gave me another link to unsubscribe from all lists.  ALL lists?  How many have I been put on?

It’s really not a big deal.  If I see that my Uber address suddenly gets spammed, I’ll shut it off and create a new one.  But really, the point is, Uber has sold me out.  Those mother fuckers.

Then, I clicked on the privacy policy.  In bold type, in very simple to understand language:

image-1

No fucking thank you.  Recall what the original email said, “…will not be used to sell you anything.”  However, they will tailor the ads you see to the information you have given to them, then will ask you why they were or were not effective, so they can try harder next time.  What is this world coming to?

As a recent implementer of Pi-Hole (maybe a future post on that), this wouldn’t have worked at all for me anyway because my entire network is actively ad-blocked.  Suck my dick, Opinion Research!

Another Glorious Microsoft Sunset

I remember when Microsoft discontinued Live Spaces, which held my blog.  Obviously, I’ve been happily living in WP Land since them.  I remember when Microsoft discontinued MS Money.  I switched to Quicken and eventually switched back and lived with the limited functionality provided in the sunset edition.  I remember when Microsoft discontinued Zune.  I enjoyed my devices until the point that a Windows 10 update disabled the syncing capability in the Zune software, then they were thrown away.  I remember when Microsoft discontinued the MS Band.  I used it for another year after that and for whatever reason, I just started feeling jaded while wearing it.  It sat on the shelf for months and eventually got thrown out.

It was only a couple of months ago Microsoft decided to discontinue the software that drives the Band.  The hardware is useless without the software, so even if I did still have and want to slap the Band back on, I would have no way to use it.  Along with that discontinuation, they are shutting down HealthVault.  That is a major capitulation.

HealthVault was where the band stored all its data.  It created nice graphs and charts and had the capability to hold all your medical history and data.  It was the data repository for a lot of actual medical devices like scales and glucose meters and heart monitors.  And it’s all going away.  I took a look at my old data before it all disappears.  It looks like my two MS Bands recorded data between 7/17/2015 and 1/28/2018.  All my walks, all my sleeps, some random exercise sessions, and my daily step counts.

And this is something I want to say over and over and over.  FUCK THE CLOUD.  FUCK IT TO HELL.

The fact that you can’t own anything anymore is absolute bullshit.  Let’s look at my history.  Live Spaces was free and it was taken away.  I was able to preserve my data my moving it to WordPress, which is also free and could disappear at any time.  True, but, I can install WordPress on my own web server (and I do have an instance running on my web server!) and it will never go away again.  MS Money was not free and was discontinued.  I was able to keep using it afterwards.  This is how things should be.  MS Band was not free and was taken away.  Microsoft offered refunds to recent Band purchasers, but the point is, the maker should not determine when you will stop using something you paid for.  And all this cloud-powered bullshit, there needs to be an offline version available.  Is there anything that can function anymore without being online??

And this whole, giant, disgusting concept of “it’s free as long as we want to make it available” has got to stop.  It’s only a matter of time before people get burnt enough that they will refuse to use your products at all because it’s a given it will disappear at a random future date.  Make a product, sell the fucking thing, and let people use it.