The Haphazard Blog

Life

Capital One May Want to Follow Their Own Advice

by on May.04, 2014, under Bills, Finance, Technology

This week I received a statement for my Capital One credit card for $0.00. It even says my payment is due by May 19. Also at the top of it?

BE SAFE!

Your trash could be an identity thief’s gold. Manage your account online and end the paper trail.

This reminds me of a story a software engineering professor told me. Every month she would receive a Visa bill for $0.00. She would call and ask them to stop sending them and there was nothing they could do about it. How did it finally stop? She actually wrote a check for $0.00 and sent it in as a payment. They processed the payment! I would hope their computer systems would be more advanced by now, but apparently not. On the upside, there are no blackout dates…

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When Amazon Prime Isn’t

by on Dec.29, 2010, under Life, Shopping

It seems like Amazon.com likes to teach me lessons about shipping. Amazon likes to occasionally offer free trials of their Amazon Prime service. For those who aren’t familiar with it, for $79/yr you get “free” 2-day shipping on your orders and can get overnight shipping for $4.

I’d learned from past purchases that the free super saver shipping can take forever, so when I decided to try and find a copy of Burnout Paradise for the Xbox 360, shipping time was important because I planned to play it while my brother was visiting. Amazon was offering the trial, so I signed up and ordered the game.

I learned that 2-day shipping is not the same as 2nd day air. They will use closer warehouses and ground shipping to get your item to you in 2 days. The main problem here is that UPS does not time guarantee ground shipments so they have no incentive to get your package to you if they make a mistake because there’s no financial consequence. I called Amazon, and they said sorry and offered me a $5 Amazon.com credit (that never showed up). UPS said they can’t do anything (like re-route it using a faster delivery method).

So here is what my package did:

Amazon (and UPS) Not So Prime

Two days turned into 12 (7 business) and I got it the day my brother left. I had never seen so many problems with a package.

On the bright side, a couple days later I got an e-mail from Amazon refunding my purchase. That meant a free copy of Burnout Paradise for the trouble!

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My Plate Is Overflowing

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Computer Hardware, Entertainment, Football, Life, Patriots, Sports, Technology, TV

It seems like my todo list is endless now. I’ve been working long hours on a project with a tight time schedule. It’s a good project, but it does take a lot out of you to work so many hours a week. It makes me think about people who work two jobs to support their family. To do that week in and week out (and I’m sure at least one of those jobs is one they don’t particularly like) just shows their commitment to their family. It’s mentally and physically taxing. I’m fortunate to have a job that’s pretty much 40 hours a week the majority of the time.

I have yet to fully catch up after my vacation last month. My MacBook was buried under 3 weeks of mail and bills. I finally got through all that so my desk is actually clean. I hate when my desk is covered with stuff that needs to be taken care of or put away. I still need to go through all the pictures from my vacation and put some of those online.

My DVR still has shows on it from when I was on vacation. Between work and physical therapy, I’m recording more shows than I can watch. The positive out of it is I’m dumping marginal shows this fall. Hopefully between the canceled/ending shows last season, shows I dump this fall and the new shows this fall, I end up with less to watch.

I have managed to watch sports live at least. West Virginia is 3-0. They had an incredible comeback against Marshall (avoiding their first loss to them) last week. I thought they were done when they went down 14-3. I suppose I had some hope of a comeback because I did record the rest of the game and checked in between shows. I was able to tune back in on their TD drive to make it 21-13 and watch the rest of the game to see them pull off the win. I got to miss the suckitude in the middle. Yesterday, they looked better to start the game. Looking similar to the Patriots against Cincinnati to really jump on Maryland in the first half. Then Maryland was making a game of it before WVU had a 9-minute drive to put the game out of reach. It’s nice to see a QB who can pass the ball. It’s been a long time (since Marc Bulger I believe) since we had a guy who can throw the ball accurately and stand in the pocket.

Needless to say, I was surprised by how the Patriots played on defense last week. It was just one game, but they had a great game plan and the young guys executed it about as well as anyone could expect. It certainly adds a new level of anticipation and excitement about the 2010 team’s potential. Hopefully it’s not just a tease. A good test this week against a team with a very good, attacking defense. This will be a real test for the offensive line. If the game was in New England, I’d feel real confident the Patriots will win. I guess I’m still skeptical that the defense is as good as they were last week. I don’t think New England will try that whole whiteboard nonsense again this year. They will have Welker (he had a huge game in the only one he played vs. the Jets last year) and possibly Edelman who is a lot better than he was in week 2 last year. It’s going to be another test, but I think New England will win a close game because the Jets defense is better than Cincinnati’s.

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I Am Now a Mac Owner

by on Sep.06, 2010, under Computer Hardware, Life, Technology

Four or five years after I first considered getting a Mac (I was thinking a desktop tower back then) I now have a MacBook Pro, courtesy of my brother. I took it with me on vacation to the National Parks two weeks ago as kind of a trial by fire thing to learn the nuances vs. Windows with no alternative. This was partly derailed by how busy we were (out the door by 8 AM, back after 8 PM for dinner) and the poor Wi-Fi reception until the last night.

There are a fair amount of nuances that I have had to pick up. The command key is the equivalent of the control key on the PC. Made slightly more confusing is there is also a control key on the Mac. The multi-touch takes getting used to and anything requiring 3 or 4 fingers as gestures are out. I can manage some two finger gestures like scrolling, but pinch/expand requires 2 hands. I see the value in all these gestures, but it would be nice to have the option for some legacy touchpad stuff like scrolling by using the edges of the touch pad. Maybe alternative gestures for pinch/expand like double tapping and dragging from a corner for example.

Some other things that I had to learn was the symbol for alt key. For some reason, Apple makes heavy use of the symbol in the menus (to tell you what the keyboard shortcut for the command is) but then they did not print that symbol on the key itself. The other thing is the lack of the page up/down and home/end keys. Those keys are very handy when using web browsers or navigating documents. So that leaves me with the multitouch for page up/down or fn+arrow keys.

The Mac also has forced me to reconsider syncing stuff. Until now, I had my work PC that I used for dual purposes and a Windows laptop. I’d use remote desktop to gain access to my e-mail or webmail for my domain. Now with two operating systems and my desire to use the Mac for more than an interface to my PC (there is Remote Desktop for Mac), I’m rethinking my strategy. My first step will be to move my e-mail to Google Apps. This also ties into my newly acquired iPod Touch. It has mail, contacts, etc. So when I also get a smart phone in the future, that’ll be another thing to sync. Google Apps is looking like it will make the most sense. One obstacle is I will need to determine how large my mailbox is at this point. I have e-mail going back to 1996. In all honesty, I don’t really think I need to keep 99% of it, but I don’t know that I want to sift through it all either. I should investigate e-mail archival options.

I’ve managed to run iTunes on both machines using the same library. It will also let me sync from either machine. I’m going to start using iPhoto to manage my recent vacation pictures next. I also need to download the iOS SDK so that I can start to play around with making Apps for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch families. Also on the list is installing Windows 7 with Boot Camp (and eventually using Parallels) and getting an SSD. Eventually I will have moved my entire personal life over to the Mac. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it so far. I feel like I’m jumping on the bandwagon a little late, but oh well.

A couple quick comments on the iPod Touch. I’ve been using it for a couple days now and it’s also interesting like the Mac multitouch. I’m going to be a lot slower at typing on that than with a keyboard. I’m basically reduced to using one finger. I have also started to figure out that it seems I need to hit just a little to the right of what I want to avoid mistakes. Again, the pinch/expand gestures are a problem, and in this case more difficult because you normally wouldn’t have it on your lap or on a table when you’re using it.

It’s interesting that ~15 years ago, PCs were very difficult for people with physical disabilities to use and got easier with voice recognition, laser ice, trackballs and touchpads. Now there is a movement to gestures and multitouch that makes it more difficult again. The same thing is happening with video games. First there was the addition of tons of buttons and now the movement to full body movement. It’s interesting what computing power has done.

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DirecTV Deals

by on Jul.12, 2010, under Bills, Entertainment, Football, Life, Sports, TV

I’ve detailed in the past the troubles I’ve had to go through to get the same deals other DirecTV customers get. This year was a totally different experience. I had read that DirecTV was changing the NFL Sunday Ticket package to remove SuperFan and make it one package. Ultimately, they split the package up. They removed the online viewing part of SuperFan and called that “To Go” and put all of the rest (Red Zone Channel (not the same as the NFL Red Zone Channel that has commercials), Game Mix, Shortcuts and HD) into the base package. The new price is $300 for renewals.  That price was a lot easier to pay. A little higher than I’d like (I’d prefer $250) but I wouldn’t cancel over it (I was ready to at the almost $400 I expected this year).

The price got even better thanks to the great community over at DBSTalk.com. They had a thread talking about a $20/off for 6 months discount for existing customers. I called to check on what was auto-renewing on my account and after the CSR explained that to me, I dropped the “To Go” part and asked if I could get the credit. They checked, said yes and that was it. They had also started a program to match DISH offering Free HD for life. I’ve pretty much had a credit to offset the $10 HD Access fee since I got HD a few years ago. I asked about that and was told I couldn’t get that with the current credit going and that they couldn’t drop that and add the other one in its place. I was told I could see about it once the credit ran out, but no guarantees.

There was also a thread about the Free HD for Life for existing customers (it’s really for 24/months right now). I got my notification that my bill was ready and when I looked at it, I saw that the HD Access credit was no longer there. I called in and inquired about that credit, the CSR checked that I had HD and was on auto-pay and said no problem and added it. Explained the most they can do for existing customers is 24 months but to call back when that runs out and they’ll add it back on again.

It has been a completely different experience and I don’t know why but it’s very much appreciated. That kind of service goes a long way IMO. A couple months ago I was doing the math on building a home theater PC, switching to very basic cable, getting a good OTA antenna, switching from DSL to cable HSI and switching to Vonage World. Now, I will scratch off the HTPC, getting cable and a what not. I am still considering a switch from AT&T to Cox for Internet and Vonage for phone service though.

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Panasonic Core Trainer Update

by on Jun.20, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

It has been a while (about 3 months) since my last update on the Core Trainer. I have gotten rid of all of my pain (upper chest caused by the Core Trainer) and lower back (had it for 7-8 months and I finally was able to fully heal by adding a second pillow to take some of the extension out of my back while I sleep).

My current goal is to ride the Core Trainer for the full 15 minutes with my trunk straight. To that end, I’ve been riding the Core Trainer every other day with the tilt all the way forward (it makes an anterior pelvic tilt for full extension of my lower back easier) at the second speed setting in manual mode.

I’m riding it every other day to give my muscles a chance to repair and recover. I know that I’m not exactly doing body building, but I think this is still applicable to me because I am trying to build muscle/strength as well as endurance.  This seems to be working. I can stay up for a minute and repeat that about 8-10 times during the 15 minute routine.

The next day, I also feel like I have more energy.

I also talked about using the stir-ups in my last post. I gave that a try a couple times. I could feel my legs working a little more, but it was at the cost of my posture. In the end, I want to focus on my trunk.

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Do Lost and FlashForward Have Similar Undertones?

by on Apr.18, 2010, under Entertainment, Life, TV

Lost seems to be heading down a path where there are two realities. I think to tie all this back to when the series started, you had the struggle between Jack (the man of science, choice/free will) and Locke (the man of faith, destiny). Were the survivors destined to end up there or was it just an accident? Now we are seeing certain common elements between the two realities in addition to some people seeing glimpses of what is/was/did happen on the island despite not being there. It seems as if some things are destined to happen, but there is also some freedom around those things. So Hurley wins the lottery and meets Libby regardless of the reality. In one he is a psychiatric patient, gets the lottery numbers from another patient, believes he is cursed and crashes on the island. In the other, he isn’t cursed or crazy.

FlashForward seems to have a similar element going with their show. It was recently revealed that Dyson Frost has had many FlashFowards and he said in most, Demetri dies. The FBI agent already showed that the FlashForward was not an absolute when he committed suicide, but now it appears that what it actually is is a possibility. Some have higher likelihoods than others. Then there are characters who absolutely believe what they saw will come to fruition and others who believe that anything can be changed (and a whole spectrum in between).

Another show has some similarities to both of these as well, Fringe. They established there is another universe where the majority of things are the same, but there are differences between the universes.  So it makes you wonder if again, some things are simply destined with some minor allowances for free will.

You can probably tell I have a fascination with the free will vs. destiny discussion (long before I knew what existentialism was). It seems to have intrigued me my entire life. So I end up enjoying all of these shows and movies like The Matrix.

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