Monday, April 21, 2014

Is Comcast Needy? Or Do They Simply Suck?

I've had some memorable run-ins with Comcast in my life. Like the time my Internet went out, and a "tech" told me I lost my IP address and had to call Microsoft to get another one, then they could get me back on the Internet.

After a brief stint on Verizon DSL, I reached a happy medium with Comcast: at least they weren't as bad as Verizon.

I'm starting to wonder why it's impossible to get anything done with Comcast without at least two phone calls and two visits.

A friend of mine recently changed service to upgrade. My friend tried to upgrade service online, but of course that never works, so my friend had to call Comcast. The first person quoted one package, but for some reason, Comcast decided to update all their systems during business hours, so the customer service guy couldn't make the changes. He said he would though.

My friend called back, and sure enough, Mr. "I Promise" had done nothing. The next rep gave my friend a totally different price.

The tech showed up to install the wireless gateway. It didn't work. So another visit had to be scheduled. That one worked.

Then my friend tried to make a change to service. The Internet stopped working, which required another call to Comcast to get that fixed. Somehow the gateway lost registration. Then another call because the TV picture got jumpy.

I'm starting to wonder if Comcast just really likes to hear from customers. Surely that can't suck that bad; that every single event requires at least two tries to get right?

Friday, April 04, 2014

How To Make Sure A Business Receives A Fax

Faxes Are The Most Secure Way To Transmit Information...

I do NOT believe that at all. But I've been told it. In this day and age when you can sign a document on an iPad or Android phone the same way you'd sign it on paper, a lot of businesses still insist that sending a fax is the "most secure" way to do it, and won't accept a digisign.

Did you know the first fax was sent in 1848? That's right. The "most secure method of transmission" your bank or insurance company insists on is technology that predates the Civil War. That's almost as old as the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation people who run these businesses, and almost as useless (yes, a fax machine is slightly more useful than a Baby Boomer or member of the Silent Generation working in a large corporation and not retiring, but not by much).

I've gotten into a lot or arguments with customer service reps about this. Do you know how many faxes I've sent with personal information on them (like SSN) that were never received through this "most secure method of transmission"? A fax machine spits out paper, which can easily be lost, or somehow never makes it to the person it's intended for.

And in almost every case, a business that insists on fax is too freaking lazy or useless to confirm they received it in the first place. It can take them DAYS to have somebody walk by the fax machine to sort out the faxes that came in. They're so process oriented, they can't take a simple action of letting you know they got the fax in the first place.

A friend of mine is having trouble at the same time with both a financial institution and a health insurance company. My friend sent faxes to both, and both claim they never received the faxes. And they won't accept the confirmation the fax machine spits out as proof it was sent in the first place. And in one case, my friend has several hundreds of dollars in claims that should be covered denied because they claim they never got the fax of a $10 receipt.

That's why I came up with my "Master Plan" for dealing with businesses that are still using pre-Civil War technology.

Send the fax a lot. Seriously. Don't just fax it once and take the "confirmation" your fax spits out as an assumption that they received it. If you're dealing with an archaic business, sent the fax 100 times. Or 200 times. Just keep sending the fax until they ultimately call you and ask you to stop. That's your proof the fuckers got it. In fact, put it on your cover sheet that "You bastards keep telling me you didn't receive my fax. I'm going to keep sending it until you finally tell me you got it and have processed it. You can inform me of receipt of any one of these 1000 faxes at xxx-xxx-xxxx".

Until they call you, run their fax machine out of both toner and paper. Repeatedly. In fact, make it your goal to cut into their profits with the amount of toner and paper you'll cost them. If you're dealing with a health insurance company, eat up more than the amount of denied claims in toner and paper.

That should get their attention.

If we work together, we can create a fax free future.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Good Can Come Out of Bad Things

It's perfectly human to not want to experience bad things. But they happen anyway. The best thing I can offer as to why is we live in a messed up world. People are messed up. Weather disasters happen. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, blizzards, tsunamis, they all happen.

To top it off, we have to deal with other people. Some people snap and flip out and shoot places up. Some people do it more "civilized" and wreck the economy, leading to a lot of suffering. Some people trust those who wreck the economy, making the impact on their own lives even worse.

Churchian authors and speakers get a lot of mileage out of topics like "Where is God when it hurts?" I can't read the majority of them.

Let me boil it down for you. I've had bad things happen too. My mom died in 2006. I lost my job in 2010. I had to get a job in another state and not see my family much for a few years. Then after years of a bad marriage, I was forced into a divorce last year. Had to short sale the house, which wrecked my credit. Child support and alimony take a large portion of my paycheck away. And of course, I'm going to be paying on more than $20,000 in divorce debt for a very long time (apparently, I got off easy; the average divorce can run $50,000 or more).

All of these things sucked. They were emotional drains. They were hard to endure and required a lengthy healing process.

But I can tell you one good thing that came out of all of them: I found hope, encouragement, and healing from people who had been there before.

I've already written many times about how frustrated I was when other Christians came in with absolutely useless and frustrating advice like "You need to watch Fireproof!" or "You need to pray!"

None of them had been there, and had no idea what I was going through. And they'd heard way too many sermons from pastors who likewise had never been there either.

But I found people who had.

And through them, I saw hope. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw that eventually, the darkness would go away and things would get better.

I can remember in particular a former coworker that I had a long talk with one day. He'd gone through a hurtful divorce too. As part of his divorce, he had to short sell his house too. And within a couple years, he was married again, and living in a new house. Things were going better.

But he went through the darkness I did. He coped with his divorce process in some of the same ways I coped with mine, although his choice of booze was different.

Some people help in other ways. One day, a couple of coworkers saw I was struggling. They took me out to lunch and just let me vent. Months later, after the divorce was over, one of them took me out to lunch again to "celebrate".

I'm not going to try to tell you why bad things happen. I'm only going to tell you that they do. And that you too can find hope from people who have been through those bad times too.

Could you image being the only guy on Earth to have been through a divorce? The only guy to have ever been laid off? That would suck. You would have to blaze the trail all by yourself.

But you don't have to.

And while I would rather have never gone through any of those things, my hope is someday I can provide hope to somebody else going through them that yes, things will get better. You will heal. It will be nothing but a bad memory.

There will be times when advice is useless. Sometimes when a friend is hurting, just take him out for a beer, keep your freaking mouth shut, and let him vent.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Conspiracy People Don't Seem To Understand How Anything Works

Now Mike Adams, the "Health Ranger" is getting in on the act with a claim that a 777 doesn't disappear unless a government wants it to.

Mike follows with five "facts" about RADAR and RADAR signatures.

Mike should stick to writing about coconut oil, because he doesn't appear to understand how RADAR works. Fortunately for you, I do. This is one of the areas I have some expertise in.
Fact #1) Every modern nation tracks air traffic with military radar systems
All the key nations involved in Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 run military radar systems 24/7. This includes Malaysia and India, of course. These radar systems are operated for purposes of national defense, making sure each nation can identify aircraft entering its air space.
If you don't believe that military-grade radar systems can track the altitude, direction and speed of a Boeing 777, then you don't believe in radar at all.
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/044511_Flight_370_reality_check_government_involvement.html#ixzz2xj6DBDr9

No, military RADARs are not generally used to track civil air traffic. Civil air traffic will show up on them, but that's not the purpose. Few, if any airports have a "military" RADAR. Most are severely outdated, and it often takes a crash to get an upgrade. As late as the 90's, LAX was still using a World War II era RADAR. It took a Cessna colliding with a DC-9 to force an upgrade, but that's only because the NTSB concluded the inadequacy of the obsolete RADAR was a factor in the crash.

Nations, including this one, don't have blanket coverage with "military RADAR systems". There are civil RADAR systems, such as those at airports and air traffic control centers. These are not military RADARs. Not every RADAR is military just because it exists. Mike here is also laying it on the line with his "If you don't believe... you don't believe in RADAR at all." Get bent, Mike. Stuff the Appeal to Ridicule fallacy where you'd put your iPhone 5.

Also, Mike seems to be assuming that all military RADARs are somehow magical and can pick up every last inch of space. No. Actually, most military RADARs have short ranges and specific applications, which don't including Santa Claus like abilities to know if a 777 has been naughty or nice.

Mike then builds his case by mentioning the civil RADARs, the RADAR signature of a 777, then that a 777 can't survive a crash into the ocean and remain intact.

For every point he is fairly accurate on, he has at least one other point where he is talking out his ass.

Here's how a RADAR works: a pulse of radio frequency is sent out into space. It has to be a pulse, not a constant beam, because the RADAR then listens for the return. If that pulse bounces off something, it returns to the receiver. If not, it keeps going until it dissipates.

If the RADAR receiver gets a return pulse, it goes through a signal processor.and a computer to determine the distance to the object, as well as altitude. You can "track" a plane through this process because as the RADAR goes around, it gets multiple returns close together. The computer displays a "blip" on the screen. But each RADAR has a filter, because there is a lot of noise. Rain has a RADAR signature, which would clutter a screen.

RADARs also do not work around the curvature of the Earth. The signal goes in a straight line. At ground level, you personally might be able to see about 3 miles because the Earth curves. A RADAR on a tower can "see" a little farther, but not all that much farther. They also have limited range.

We have not yet managed to cover every last inch of the globe with RADARs. Planes out over the open ocean are not tracked on a RADAR, because none of them are out on the ocean. Sure, a ship has a RADAR platform, but we don't have that many ships with Air Search RADARs.

A plane crashing into the ocean would leave a debris trail, but you still have to find it. That's not as easy as it sounds. And oceans have currents that start moving the debris almost immediately.

If in fact a government, or a collection of governments, for whatever reason wanted the Malaysia Airlines flight to disappear, I'm sure it could happen. But I have yet to see any evidence or even reasonable argument supporting it. All I see area  bunch of people talking out of their asses on subjects they know nothing about. They know nothing about planes, RADARs, search and rescue operations, crash investigations, or even covert government ops.

They probably don't even know the 777 had a fuel filter problem. The altitudes jet liners fly at are very cold. Moisture in the fuel tank freezes. The way the filters on the 777 were built caused ice crystals to form, blocking the flow of fuel into the engines. When the pilot tries to increase throttle, nothing happens. A 777 crashed on the runway at Heathrow Airport because of this. Supposedly Boeing fixed it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

This Malaysia Airlines Stuff Is Getting Ridiculous...

As best as I can render this "report" without resorting to a lot of logical fallacies, somebody received a blank photo with some EXIF coordinates from Diego Garcia (called a "secret" base in the post) and somehow this photo is tied to an IBM employee on the flight who somehow stuffed an iPhone 5 up his ass (do these people even understand the dimensions of an iPhone 5 AND a human anus?) and used a voice assistant to text somebody while he was while blindfolded.

They can tell he was blindfolded because of a misspelling in the text. Like people need Siri to misspell a word.

So this somehow proves the Malaysia Airlines flight was hijacked by military personnel and flown to a "secret" base (it's so secretive, everybody I knew in the Navy knew about it) and the plane is in a "Faraday Cage" hanger.

Since the writer doesn't understand the dimensions of an iPhone 5 or a human anus, I'm assuming he also has no clue what a Faraday Cage is. A commenter on the article said "At least he didn't have a Samsung Galaxy Note".

When I got divorced, I brought my ex-wife's EZ-Pass back to Virginia by wrapping it in a Faraday Cage: Aluminum Foil. Since I had my own EZ-Pass, I didn't want to get charged twice at every toll. I didn't. Wrapping it in aluminum foil and throwing it in the glove compartment of my car did the trick.

The site is called "Intellihub" which you'd assume had something to do with intelligence. But I don't think it does. I could register a similar domain name, which doesn't mean I have anything to do with intelligence (and I did do Naval Intelligence for a little while in the Reserves).

I have yet to see any speculation about the Malaysia Airlines disappearance that convinces me.

UPDATE: Since I made a comment on that Intelhub post, I've been getting the Disqus digests. This post is so stupid, most people thought it was an April Fool's prank.

Having A Bad Time? Remember Who The Real Enemy Is

In Hunger Games Catching Fire, Katniss is reminded at least twice to "remember who the real enemy is". One of those times, she was reminded by somebody she was about to kill.

This advice doesn't just apply to a fictional character living in a dystopian future. I say it's great advice for daily living.

I wasn't as good at compartmentalization as I am now. In 2001, I entered into what I now believe to have been a dysfunctional marriage, which miraculously lasted until it was officially dissolved in November 2013. Looking back, it was over a long time before that. I guess I just didn't realize it. Or I'd seen Fireproof too many times...

I'm not planning to pick on my ex. But since this is experiential, it makes an example. My ex wife and I fought constantly. And we never resolved anything. That's all I'll say on the matter, besides choose your mate wisely.

Early in the marriage, when we had a fight, I'd go into work still pissed off. In fact, one day about 6 months into the marriage, I walked into work, slammed my bag down, and asked the two guys I worked with "Has your wife ever pissed you off so bad, you were still pissed off the next morning?" Since both of them had been married 30 years or more, I had to do all the work that day because they couldn't stop laughing. For an 8 hour shift.

But at that point, I couldn't compartmentalize my feelings. I'd have a fight with my wife, (ex now), and would inadvertently take it out on somebody else, usually at work.

I eventually learned to stop doing that. but some marital problems would bleed over into my performance.

Then of course, there were the eventual financial problems, health insurance problems, and other problems that pop up in the daily course of life.

I finally learned to compartmentalize, so if I was having an issue with something, it wouldn't bleed over into other parts of my life. Last year, when I was going through the divorce, I did not let it affect my performance or interactions at work, or with anybody else.

I learned the lesson: remember who the real enemy is.

I know a lot of people who have been through divorces. I asked a while back if it was contagious. Seems like it's easier to list the people I know who haven't been divorced than the people who have.

I have some friends who are going through similar experiences. I can tell they're hurting. I can tell they're cranky, and want to lash out.

If you fit that description, like Katniss, remember who the real enemy is. Don't take it out on the rest of us. That's the advice I tried to follow through my own divorce.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

More "Conspiracy Theory" on Malaysia Arlines

There appears to be a new theory on the Malaysia Airlines plane, which I don't yet buy. I'll do the best I can to render it accurately, but to me it seems like a bunch of datapoints that may or may not be related tied together.

Apparently, there were some engineers on the plane heading to a conference in China. These engineers were patent holders of some military technology. They worked for Freescale Seminconductor.

There are also some big name tie ins to the story, such as Lord Rothschild and the Carlyle Group.

As best as I can tell from these blog posts,

http://qasimism.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/who-benefits-from-missing-flight-370/

http://www.westernjournalism.com/real-reason-flight-370-disappeared/ (Video included)

the flight going down and the engineers dying means that those shares of patents revert to Freescale Semiconductor and Lord Rothschild.

I still don't buy it when there are plenty of reasonable explanations for the disappearance of a plane over an area of water that is several times larger than the land mass of 'murca!

Believe it or not, flights go down mysteriously all the time. You just don't hear about it because you're not into aviation, and the media is too damn busy covering Miley Circus to tell you about it. I'm not even sure why this particular flight got any media attention. It was probably a slow news day and Congress hadn't done anything stupid yet.

Often when a plane goes down over water, it can take years, if not decades, to find the wreckage and determine the cause. Here is a flight that went down mysteriously over the Mediterranean. A journalist got a call from somebody claiming it was shot down by a missile. It took them many years to figure out what caused the flight to go down, which they ultimately determined had to be a bomb. They'll never know who planted it or why:



There are too many real world conspiracies to keep me busy without manufacturing my own. If the Malaysia Airlines flight was a conspiracy for some reason, fine. We'll get the evidence eventually. But tying in a bunch of datapoints with logical fallacies, such as Questionable Cause and Appeal to Fear, is not going to help.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Malaysia Flight Probably Has A Good Explaination

I've been reading about "conspiracies" like the Illuminati, Bilderberg, Skull and Bones, Kennedy Assassination, 9/11, and so on for more than a decade. There's a lot of good information, a lot of disinformation, and a lot off bullshit involved.

Use most of those words, and people accuse you of being a "conspiracy theorist". I'm sure most people who use those words together have no idea what either word means.

But then, when other things happen, the same people who say "there's no such thing as conspiracies" go batshit with stupid theories and speculation.

When the Malaysia Airlines plan disappeared, Facebook was filled with stupid memes like "They can track your phone, but they can't find a plane?"

Then people start going nuts with silly ideas like it was hijacked, the pilots killed each other, and so on.

But it probably has a VERY simple explanation.

According to a pilot who's article was republished by Wired, it was probably a fire.

The left turn is the key here. Zaharie Ahmad Shah1 was a very experienced senior captain with 18,000 hours of flight time. We old pilots were drilled to know what is the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us, and airports ahead of us. They’re always in our head. Always. If something happens, you don’t want to be thinking about what are you going to do–you already know what you are going to do. When I saw that left turn with a direct heading, I instinctively knew he was heading for an airport. He was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi, a 13,000-foot airstrip with an approach over water and no obstacles. The captain did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000-foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier toward Langkawi, which also was closer.

The profile of the flight and events we know all fit the profile of a fire on board the plan. They start shutting off circuit breakers in an effort to isolate affected systems, smoke fills the cabin, you can't go on oxygen with a fire on board, and eventually everybody succumbs to smoke and dies. The autopilot does its job and flies the plane as long as there if fuel on board and the control systems aren't affected by the fire.

The pilot suspects a landing gear fire, which happens occasionally. An underinflated landing gear and a takeoff roll on a hot runway can cause the gear to catch on fire.

It's all very simple.

As for why they can't track the phones on board, well, phones don't work in salt water. And while the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder are built tough, there are some crashes that render them inoperable and unrecoverable.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Guess We Learned Nothing From 2008, or 1928...

Of all the idiotic short sightedness... I present you with 3 Reasons To Tap Home Equity to Buy Stocks.

I kept checking to make sure this isn't from The Onion, or Cracked.com, or even Buzzfeed. Nope, it's Yahoo! Finance. Not that Yahoo! Finance has that great a reputation for being a useful financial site. This is probably the first time I've read it in years, and only because I read ABOUT the article but there was no link so I had to look for it myself.

It's not a bright idea to tap into one volatile market to invest into another volatile market.

I made the big mistake in the mid 00's to over-leverage a house because values were rising so fast. Then the market collapsed out from under me. After paying on an upside down house for 7 years, divorce forced my hand and I had to short sell the house. Housing values in that area crashed so bad, the buyer purchased the house in 2014 for less than I originally paid for it in 2001.

But since nobody ever learns, here is the seed for the next housing/stock collapse.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Is Churchianity?

If you hang out on the kind of blogs and forums I do, you'll often hear the term "Churchianity". Even the atheists, like Aurini, use it.

I thought it would be helpful to contribute a definition to the discussion. Churchianity, as I define it, is when the traditions and cliches of the church become the object of worship. This is also considered idolatry.

I've seen many examples of this. At a Baptist church I went to in New Jersey, the leadership was discussing the possibility of changing the name of the church from Baptist to something a little more pleasing to the surrounding community. For some reason, in that part of New Jersey, the word "Baptist" had some really negative connotations, and was keeping people away.

This was brought up in a church business meeting, and all hell broke loose. One old guy got up and said "The word Baptist appears 57 times in the Bible! That has to stay the name of the church!" (Eric's note, I've read the Bible many times. The word "Baptist" only appears in reference to "John the Baptist", which appears 14 times in the King James. He was probably thinking of "baptize".)

The pastor then brought up some new people who were attending the church, but were not members. He let them speak to the fact that they drove by the church many times, but were intimidated by the name on the sign. A woman got up, chewed the pastor out for letting non-members speak in a business meeting, and said "If they didn't like the sign, they should have kept driving!"

Holy crap.

So this is an example of Churchianity, when the name on the freaking sign means more to some people than Christ or any of his teachings. The name "Baptist" was an idol for them.

As a sidenote, somebody later confided in me that after they tabled the name change out of respect for a tiny percentage of membership (more than 80%, including me, approved of the idea to change the name; what's the big deal?), they'd hoped the minority would be forgiving. Nope, that small minority was pissed off that the idea ever came up in the first place. Even though the idea was "democratically" approved by a LARGE majority in accordance with the church business rules, they shut it down for a couple of people.

I also once attended a "Church of Christ" which is like a non-demoninational denomination. There are many in that movement who believe if you attend a church with anything other than "Church of Christ" on the marquee, you cannot be "saved". They also believe you can't use instruments in worship, and if you do you cannot be "saved". Also, they're restoring the "First Century Church". Again, that is Churchianity. Not all in that movement believe that; some just like the teachings and worship style. But seriously, there are people I once went to church with who now believe I am "lost" because I no longer attend a Church of Christ, and go to churches that use guitars and stuff in worship.

Or at least did. I'm in a phase where church service bores the heck out of me. I'm tired of singing the same 5 songs every week, tired of hearing people pray publicly for their sports teams, and tired of cliched sermons.

Hope that definition I contributed helps the discussion.