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Breaking news!!! Steve Jobs is kind of an asshole. #att #apple

July 23rd, 2010 No comments

From this Wired article, first a few choice quotes.

“What is clear is that AT&T’s role will always be that of parsimonious gatekeeper, dictating to its customers how much data they can have and how much they’ll pay for it. It is precisely the role the company hoped to avoid, the reason that carriers long refused to give phone manufacturers and software developers the kind of influence that Apple now wields.”

I’ve always felt kinda sorry for AT&T. They’ve been my only cell carrier and I’ve never had the troubles with them that other people have reported. Since I got my iPhone (I’m still on a first gen) I’ve always blamed Apple for putting a shitty phone into the world’s best pocket computer. Even as an Apple loyalist (not fanboy), I believe all problems here can all be placed squarely on the turtlenecked d-bag in the big chair at Cupertino.

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Your Constitutional argument fails to move me

March 22nd, 2010 1 comment

I’m kinda fuck the Constitution.

But, you gasp, it’s the cornerstone of American democracy and the basis for our freedom and ideals and blahblahblah. What was that? I couldn’t hear you over Jim Crow laws and banned in Boston. The Constitution does what it’s told to do, based on who’s interpreting it. Partial birth abortion was protected in 2000, but not in 2007? Guns are a community right before 2008 and an individual right after? What changed, other than the make up of the Supreme Court? So much for your cornerstone argument. And the freedom one, for that matter (TSA, anyone?)

No one really gives a shit what the Constitution says and what the rich white guys who wrote it meant. People care about what they want and how they can twist unnecessarily florid writing to support their ideology, or whoever signs their paycheck.

This post is, of course, in response to the teabagger’s latest diehard belief, that health care reform is unconstitutional, based on the, whatever. Does it fucking matter? If it’s a matter of state’s rights, well that got decided in the Civil War. Common Americans, on both sides, made that decision with their lives, not rich men behind locked doors and armed guards. Not that you’ll ever get a fucking lawyer to buy that.

So if Congress says it can decide how health insurance works, the states shut the fuck up and do it. Unless they want to secede and see what it gets them. Let’s see the morons in the teabagger movement try to organize an army out of Wal-Marts.

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Rambling about money and the assholes at Freakonomics

October 20th, 2009 No comments

A long time ago on an email list I rarely visit any more someone I didn’t like said because he was stupid said something unusually profound. This was one of those dipshits that put “school of hard knocks” in places that asked him where he went to college, but he did pull this out of somewhere.

Money is energy.

Think about that for a second in relation to all the things people say money is. It’s not power, it’s not happiness, it’s just energy. Along with oxygen, calories and electricity it’s one of the things we need to run our lives. It’s a good way to keep money in perspective. How much energy do I need? How much surplus could I use? Too many calories and you get fat, too much electricity and you’re probably starting a fire. Even oxygen is poisonous in some circumstances, admittedly ones only a few people will ever experience. But some people just don’t think that way.

I learned at my last office job, people who are about money are bad people. Not “tend to be”, not “are likely to be” but “are”, bad people. This was brought home to me, well, first a little background. At this point I was a data entry clerk at a company that did yada yada yada with securities and blah blah blah with lawsuits. At the time I was one of the faster typers and there was a case this would be useful in.

In California somewhere there was a Mexican immigrant who was a janitor. He moved to America and got a job and if the Mexicans I’ve worked with are any indication he worked his fucking ass off. He saved his money and he invested his money. This janitor had a stock broker and that stock broker, probably thinking he was dealing with some stupid brown person, began writing himself checks off his customer’s account. I don’t know all the details but I was told to put aside whatever I was working on and enter this data because that particular individual was in the custody of the FBI and would be trading his suspenders for orange coveralls and the sodomy-victim-to-be’s employer needed to know how much they were going to have to return to the janitor. Hopefully it didn’t end there. That was only the most egregious instance I saw at that job, where dealing with the aftermath of retirees’ life savings having been dropped into dotcoms was a regular occasion.

All this lead me to decide money people are bad people. I’ve yet for this to be disproven, and people trying to buy their way into heaven via charity don’t count (*cough*Bill Gates*cough).

That’s the prologue, here’s the text.

When going back to school to learn a trade I had for some God damned reason to take Psych 101, which I quickly named Shite 101. The instructor was a big fan of a book called Freakonomics, which applied economic principles to just about everything. I wasn’t really listening to him, Psych 101 at that point had yet to do anything of value (and wouldn’t) but he kept talking about this book so it stuck.

I still haven’t read the book, but I do subscribe to the NY Times RSS feed of the Freakonomics blog. I’ve never put much stock into economics as its own discipline. When trying to explain stock prices to someone I came up with “consensual mass hallucination” and at the point decided that economics is properly regarded as a subset of psychology, probably mob psychology. But I didn’t think much about that again until a Freakonomics blog entry (or maybe a quote in their Wikipedia page) said that economics is “the study of incentives”. Yeah, that made sense. That fit both everything economists said about themselves and everything I’d seen their work actually. Maybe, I thought, just maybe there was something to this economics stuff after all. Maybe these guys are okay. Ah, to be innocent again.

Not too long ago the blog started talking about bribery as a legitimate tool in various things (NBA players bribing referees to resolve their labor dispute was one example I remember). If you have to explain to someone why bribery is bad, there’s just no saving that person. Better to abandon them in the woods when wolves are hungry or bear cubs are leaving their dens.

Then I saw this article on The AV Club. The gist is that the new Freakonomics book, Super Freakonomics, well, I’ll relay the quote from The AV Club.

So the real puzzle isn’t why someone like Allie becomes a prostitute, but rather why more women don’t choose this career.

OMFG.

No, let me spell that out.

Oh my fucking God.

So, Stephen and Steven, what’s IN that part of you where empathy used to live? Is part of getting an economics degree installing a door so you can just put that inconvenient bit of yourself in a drawer or does that piece of paper just rip your fucking soul out? Is there a genetic component to this, because let’s start selecting against it. Or is this just part of the evil inherent in humanity? This isn’t an idle, philosophical question. People educated in ways functionally identical (debates over freshwater vs. saltwater economics are like picking between being stabbed or shot) to these worthless bastards are the ones really making decisions in America today.

True, the writers of Super Freakonomics are guys and the writer of that AV Club article is a woman, but this isn’t a battle of the sexes topic. I’m entirely with Amelie Gillette on this one. Economics isn’t the study of incentives, it’s the study of how far people will debase themselves. If you need that explained to you, well, go play with that cute baby bear. His mom will be along shortly and the world will be a better place soon.

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Well, that was weird….

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

I got a response to a resume on Monday. It was a hotel maintenance job which I’m not really enthusiastic about because hotels typically don’t pay for shit. Which kinda sucks because hotels (you’ll note I didn’t say “hospitality”) is probably the industry I have the most experience in and the environment I’m one I’m generally interested in because, y’know, the asshole customers leave.

So the response was an email asking me to call the guy, the head tech or chief engineer or whatever, on his cell. I complied but the message said he was on vacation and didn’t give me the option of leaving a voice mail. Not a great sign. So I reply to the email, blah blah blah.

He calls this morning, wants to know where I’m at, what I’m looking for, all that jazz. At some point, in the midst of complaining that people in the NW are too laid back and more interested in the not working parts of their lives than in the working parts (more on that later) he mentions they want someone who can move up. Which causes alarm on my end because, well, I think most of you know me, or have met me, do I seem like management material to you?

So I work in to my end that I’m not interested in climbing the corporate ladder. That catches his attention and he asks me to expand on the theme. Well, sir (I didn’t say that, of course), all I want from a job is 40 hours a week (although if you want to give me some time and half I’ll take it), regular paychecks (hopefully every other week) and for it to leave me the fuck alone. Admittedly maintenance was kind of a bad choice for that last as someone’s usually on call.

But what I don’t want from a job is to deal with other people’s bullshit. Including the HR department, performance reviews, discipline and budgets and whiners. And meetings. Oh, shit do I ever want to minimize meetings. So, no promotions for me, thank you. I work, you pay me, the end.

I paraphrase that to him, of course. He then says they’re looking for someone who wants all that, so thanks for your interest blahblahblah, see ya later.

WTF? What was all that about? Were they really hiring for an assistant manager?? What bullshit. The pay was merely bad, not insulting like some (I was once offered the grand sum of nine dollars an hour for a hotel gig), but the line earlier about people in the northwest being too laid back is what really makes me think I wouldn’t have been about working for this guy/company. Why wouldn’t I be more interested in the leisure part of my life than the working part? An employer is someone who pays you because they have to, if they could find a way to do away with a body they will. So fuck them. The gold watch and pension mentality has left their end so the work ’til you drop mentality has sure as fuck left mine.

Bleagh!

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Trials and tribulations with #chase #bank

October 7th, 2009 4 comments

Yesterday I get an email that my account is overdrawn. I look online and see that I wrote a check for rent and forgot to transfer in the money to cover it. My bad. I freely admit my error and was fully expecting to be hit with a fee.

This morning I get an email that my account is overdrawn. I’d covered the transfer and I had about $13 left in my account, of which I spent about $10 last night but my unemployment insurance direct deposit should have hit. Confused, I go to the website. My balance is around $200, about half what it should be on dole day. I click to see account activity.

$136 overdraft fee.

One hundred thirty six dollar overdraft fee.

After I get over staring at my iPhone in shock I of course get angry. By the time I get home to my iMac where I can click the link (there’s a digression there about the Chase website, I’ll put it at the end) I’ve got a pretty good head of steam built up. Then I see that it’s rather four overdraft fees for four overdrawn transactions. Each one helpfully listed.

Three of these were not overdrawn yesterday. Because I looked. I monitor my bank activity pretty closely via the Chase website and these three transactions were already on my account when the rent check was processed (the rent check itself is the fourth overdrawn transaction). Today when I look, sure enough, every transaction within a day is now sorted in descending order by amount.

Which comes to one of the big screws of commercial banking. Chase, at least, processes big transactions first. Which they say is because big transactions are more likely to be important, car payments, rent, etc and it’s more important those go through. Baloney! When have bankers ever really cared about their customers’ convenience? Where did the term “banker’s hours” come from, because banks fall over themselves to help us out? Horse puckey! It’s so they can ding you for fees by overdrawing the account with big transactions first, then hitting you every time you get coffee or a beer or a taco. They know a lot of people lead cash-free lives and they work it for their bonuses and stock price. They also know this is b.s., because they’re stopping it. Some time next year.

So Chase is keeping $136. As I indicated above, I’m unemployed. Unemployment insurance has an expiration date and the job market in Portland is famously bad. I can’t just cover things out of savings when some day those savings might be all that’s keeping me from homelessness, or living with Mom again. All of this was caused in large part by Washington Mutual, now a part of Chase Bank! The screw has now come full circle.

Now another corporate screw, which goes beyond banks. The only way I’m going to get any satisfaction is to yell at some CSR. I hate yelling at front line employees. Give me a manager or partner, someone with authority and I’ll vocally add proverbial orifices to their body and smile afterward. But of course they hide behind their probably literally poor, overworked, overstressed pawns.

But they’re not keeping over a quarter of my weekly income. So I formulate a plan. First, I’d been a customer of WaMu for a long time, and I’ve stuck with Chase. I deserve better treatment than this. Second, three of these fees were because of your accounting shenanigans. The damage is far beyond my fault. Now, I want some of the fees refunded or I’m gone. I’m not going to argue, I’m not going to debate. Fix it, or you’ve got one less customer maintaining a decent balance. If you can’t do that, give me to someone who can.

It turns out Chase has a “goodwill” fee refund policy. What. The. (expletive deleted)? They know they’re screwing us, so they’ve come up with a policy to throw us a bone! But no more than once every twelve months. This “goodwill” refund is up to $70. I’d set my price at $100, but like I said I hate yelling at CSRs so I waffled and took it. I wonder now if that was planned, if they hired some shrink to ask how to defuse people like me.

But there’s more. Because of their fee I was overdrawn again, even with my UI direct deposit (I can’t see on their site what times those transactions came in but who wants to guess they process fees before deposits?). So there are more fees coming. The CSR couldn’t reverse a fee that hadn’t been assessed yet, so I have to call back tomorrow to take care of that. When I do I must talk to a supervisor because I’ve already used my goodwill refund and the CSR admitted whoever I get tomorrow will go to some lengths to avoid escalating my call.

I hate banks. I hate corporations. I hate corporate banks.

Okay, the website digression. Chase’s website sucks. There’s no way to get additional information about particular transactions from the site. WaMu’s website (which was also bad) had it, the description of each line item was a hyperlink. It didn’t give a lot of information, but you could get some. Chase, nothing. Except for on checks and overdraft fees.

This might not be specific to the website, but I hate the way Chase does transactions, particularly ones with tips. WaMu would list such transactions as pending until they’d been finally processed by the merchant with the tips included. With some merchants this could take over a week, but WaMu showed it as incomplete until the merchant said, okay, I’m done.

Chase shows them as finalized, then goes back to adjust the amount when the tip comes through. Which, okay, who thought that was a good idea? You can’t monkey with transaction balances after they’ve been posted!!! What kind of audit trail is that? You fail bookkeeping forever! Good bye.

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Teachers, take 3

September 2nd, 2009 3 comments

To my mind the greatest obstacle to ensuring every American kid gets a quality education is teacher’s unions. Admittedly, that link leads to an extreme example, but the underlying problem is everywhere.

You may say that political conservatives, who generally loathe public education because of its ability to level society, are a bigger threat. I do agree that conservatives hate public education and that’s a big reason why. However, most of the population can’t afford private schools, whether elite, parochial or whatever. It’s these middle and lower class folks who ultimately decide the fate of public education with their votes, and they’d be less likely to support cuts in public education funding if the product was worthwhile (religious extremists who hate secular education excepted, of course). And, with apologies to my friends who are or are becoming teachers, it ain’t. Oh, no, it’s really not.

I’ve hit this topic up twice now (here and here, it’s a bugaboo of mine because I do believe in the importance of public education. Were it up to me, I’d ban private education. Equal opportunity will never be realized until every kid in America has a chance to compete equally, starting with a quality education in a public school. But the rich will never buy into this as long as they have the option to give their spoiled brats a leg up. Of course an outright ban on private education wouldn’t work, so it would work thusly, you can pay for your kid to go to private or religious school, but they must attend public school full time (this would also help the kids victimized by their holy text banging cuckoo parents).

It’s a reach, I admit, but the first step is getting poor parents to not wish they could afford private education for their kids, because public schools suck. And why do public schools suck? Because you can’t fire a damn teacher! Nothing works without accountability and teacher’s unions prevent accountability from ruining a bureaucrat’s cushy summer-off gig. If teachers are all good (no one realistically thinks that all examples of any profession can be great), the poor will buy in (please note, by “poor” I don’t mean “black”, I grew up in a poor white neighborhood and my schools were crap, too). It slowly but surely creeps into the kind of petite bourgeoisie whose kids populate parochial schools (of course, not the people who demand religious education, but fuck them). Then you have a grass roots political movement that fucks the wealthy and powerful. Everybody wins.

But no one buys into a system that doesn’t work, and the public school system doesn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? Teacher pay is often presented as a problem, but that’s bullshit. Everybody knows public teachers generally work for peanuts, but that doesn’t make for a lack of new candidates. I personally wouldn’t be a teacher for any amount of money. You’ve got the kids, then the God damned parents, then the principals and I have no idea what the point of THAT job is. Still, there are plenty of people who WANT to teach for some odd reason. (for the record, I support raises and I doubt merit pay is workable, just fire the bad ones)

So why doesn’t it work? What IS the answer? Well, bad teachers. This is unfortunately a case where one bad apple does ruin the whole bunch. I couldn’t identify most of the teachers I had in a line up if they’d mugged me. But I can remember with astonishing clarity my 5th grade elementary and my 6th grade home room teacher. Because they were terrible fucking people. My 4th grade teacher was no great shakes either. They were the teachers that Pink Floyd sang about. I know my parents would remember my 5th grade teacher because they had repeated meetings with classmates’ parents and school officials about his tendency to threaten his students regularly and abuse them occasionally. If a parent slams a 5th grader into a brick wall, they go to jail, if a teacher does it, their union goes to bat. (Eyewitness blogger here, the kid’s initials were ZG.)

And that is the biggest threat to ensuring every kid in America gets a quality education.

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Unofficial advice for #yelp elite event hosts

July 17th, 2009 4 comments

As the title (with hashtag!) indicates, this is a post about Yelp and Yelping. If you don’t I guarantee you’ll find something more interesting on the web than this.
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I can ruin anything. Watch me.

April 24th, 2009 3 comments

Who the fuck invented job interviews? More to the point, who designed them to be a God damned torment? Waterboarding? Ha! You want torture, sit at a table with someone who already has a fucking job and wants to know what your fucking 5 year plan is. Osama would off himself before he had to sit through that.

This isn’t a happy one, you probably shouldn’t click on more.

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