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07/30/2015

Riding along the Obstacle Course

ShortTrip.JPG

 

Weather permitting, I enjoy riding my motorcycle to work. Six years ago, when I first purchased my Honda Shadow Aero cruiser, the shortest distance was also the best way to go. My ride took me about 25 pleasant minutes along 9 miles of easy going, even scenic, city roads.

Harsh winters, cheaply built roads, mismanaged city budget, lacking maintenance, careless "patching", quick and dirty "resurfacing", increased traffic, construction projects, and water main breaks, have since taken a toll on road conditions.

Some streets are closed, some have lane LongTrip.JPGrestrictions, many are in dangerous disrepair. The asphalt is cracked, riddled with potholes or patches, covered with sand, gravel, debris - not funny, if you travel on only two wheels.

So, in my attempt to pick the safest route to work, I was forced to add 3.5 miles and 15 minutes to my daily commute - each way, of course. For most of it I am now driving amidst dense traffic with frequent periods of stop-and-go.

 

06/25/2015

Finally got rid of "Apt. 119"!

Three times a year I order my free annual credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. It used to be quick, painless, and easy to do online - until two years ago. All of a sudden Equifax and Experian would not let me request my report over the web anymore. When I finally received the report from Equifax, ordering over the phone, I realized why: there was a change in my address.

Somehow an "Apt. 119" had been appended to my home address, which is a single family home, by the way.

That's when a frustrating journey began. I called Equifax to tell them about the error and have it corrected. You'd think that should be easy. It is not. It is actually impossible. They kept telling me they could not correct my address because it was being reported like that by one of my creditors. They would not tell me which one.

Experian just listed "Apt. 119" as one of three addresses somehow "related" to me, but didn't use it as my primary address. Calling them was just as frustrating, though - different reason given: we can't remove or correct any of the addresses associated to you, unless it is your primary address that is incorrect. They also informed me that the address was being reported like that by a creditor, and I needed to talk to the creditor. They would also not tell me which creditor.

A major break-through occurred this year, finally! I had ordered my annual free report from Experian again, over the phone, of course. It arrived today. On it I noticed the "Apt. 119" address came with an "address identification number". The same "address identification number" appeared under the section with our mortgage account. The mortgage that we refinanced two years ago. Apparently the bank had been reporting the address with "Apt. 119" ever since. Don't ask me why.

APT119.jpgLogging in to the online user interface for that bank account, going to their "service center", and fixing that address was easy. 

Hopefully, just another two years from now, I will be able to order my Experian and Equifax annual credit reports online again.

06/17/2015

Lines, or no Lines?

lines.jpgWhile I can still get by everywhere without glasses, it is increasingly tiring to stare at my computer screen for hours. So I thought some midrange bifocals would be advisable.

Costco has an eye specialist on site, and after you get your prescription, you can order your glasses right there. Very convenient.

The optometrist recommended those "no-line progressive" lenses that seem to be the in-thing to have. I didn't know any better, so I agreed to that.

My goodness! Let me tell you this: you want lines on your bifocals. After just briefly trying the progressive lenses I really wonder how anybody would prefer those.

Your area of useful correction is about pea-sized. Everything outside the immediate center of the lense doesn't help you see; it turns the world into a wobbly, distorted blur. So, to be able to work, you need to learn to keep your eyes straight at all times, and move your entire head to look at stuff. No way!

I paid an extra $20 to have the lenses switched for some good old-fashioned bifocals, with lines. Much better!

06/07/2015

Anonymity, at least 85%

I have been active on the internet since 1998, doing things that seemed crazy geeky at the time.

Like video-chatting with people on the other side of the globe. I used Netmeeting on Microsoft's IRL servers. My Skype account was created as soon as they released their first public beta version, some time in late 2003. Being an early adopter can have advantages! For Skype this means my profile is somehow frozen in time.

It can't be changed. It can't be edited. It doesn't get flooded with junk contact requests from scammers, spammers, bots and crooks. A few years ago, when I moved to the US, I thought I should maybe update my personal details - but it never worked. Skype15.JPGThe only things that I can change are the profile picture, and the password. Everything else doesn't seem to get saved.

No first name, no last name, no gender, no birthdate, no address, no language; whatever minimal information I entered back in 2003 is going to be all there is for the rest of my life. Skype thinks I live in Germany and I pay in Euros.

I was crazy enough to try getting that "fixed" and emailed back and forth for a while with their customer support. That was really funny! They had absolutely no clue. I had a feeling they didn't even understand, what my "problem" was.

Now I am happy about the fact, that I can "hide" my identity - at least with Skype - and be 85% unknown. It's a bit of a privilege, like my Yahoo! email account, registered in 1999, without a phone number.     

05/15/2015

The FedEx-Color-Rado Mystery solved

I buy lots of things online. Amazon, ebay, websites all over the world...... because it's convenient, and sometimes the only way to get what I want.

On April 30th I ordered a small piece of hardware for my accordion from a shop in Germany. They notified me of the item being shipped on May 5th.

On May 9th I ordered a box of Haribo "Color-Rado" of Amazon, unaware of the fact that the seller, a "German-Store US", was going to send the item directly from Germany. Amazon notified me of the item being shipped on May 11th - along with two other items I had ordered on Amazon's website that same day.

When I found a FedEx tag on my door on Wednesday, May 13th, I was pretty sure that would be my accordion hardware. I signed the sticker and placed it back on the door to authorize FedEx to just leave it there the next day.

Thursday, May 14th, I came home and found three packages at my doorstep. All the items I had ordered on May 9th from Amazon arrived at the same day, via three different carriers from three different vendors. My accordion hardware was nowhere to be found.

Since the expected accordion hardware was missing, I opened a case with FedEx to investigate, maybe get a refund. They were going to follow up with me today.

That won't be necessary, though. We needed a small box and went through the recycle bin in the morning. The box that my Haribo candy came in was the right size - and it still had the packing slip on it..... shipped via FedEx, directly from Germany, the door-tag number matched. IMG_3119.JPG

Now that was lightning-fast shipping! From Germany to my door within three days!? Signature required for a box of candy?!

Hopefully my accordion hardware will be in that envelop I'm supposed to go pick up at the post office today.