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Comments

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WhatsApp vs. WhatsApp Plus Fight Gets Ugly For Users

tompaulco Re:Really? (189 comments)

Not even remotely the same thing. Of course you would get in trouble for making Internet Explorer Plus. However, these are users. They did not MAKE Whatsapp Plus. They merely used it. Some of them, perhaps most of them are unaware that they are not affiliated. The appropriate target is the creator of Whatsapp Plus. Targeting the user is detrimental to WhatsApp's cause.

2 days ago
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Government Recommends Cars With Smarter Brakes

tompaulco Didn't hit "Send" yet (297 comments)

a third of 2013's police-reported car accidents were the rear-end crashes and a "large number" of the drivers either didn't apply the brakes at all (what?!)

That is because they didn't hit send yet. They were still staring at their phone and not concerned whatsoever with the innocents in the car with them, or the innocents in the car in front of them.
Another poster said that texters have worse response time than drunks. That is probably not true, because drunks at least have a response time. You can't respond to something when all of your sensory input is focused on something else. For texters, the response comes after the crash.
I have noticed a trend for years that rear end collisions have been getting more prevalent and the damage more severe. It was like people weren't even hitting the brakes. I blamed it on texting while driving. Now the statistics are saying the same thing.
However, I am NOT in favor of the new devices to apply the brakes when the driver doesn't. Automation in the cockpit will only lead to stupid people becoming MORE complacent in the car and will increase their irresponsible behaviors. Instead of looking up every other character to see what is going on, they will just stare continuously at their phone until they have finished their message.
Perhaps I could see having such a braking system if, after a single auto-braking incident, the car disabled itself except for low speed travel so it could pull over to the shoulder, and then, travel over 10 mph was disabled until the car was reset by a qualified driving instructor.

2 days ago
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Dish Network Violated Do-Not-Call 57 Million Times

tompaulco Re:Cardholder services (236 comments)

I would ask them if they take a check.

Not just ANY check, an out-of-state, two party, postdated, temporary, third party check. Made out for $2,000 over the disputed amount. For your trouble, please keep $1,000 of it and send the rest back in the form of a cashier's check or money order.

3 days ago
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Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

tompaulco Re:its nothing new really. (793 comments)

The F-350 is a truck. Why on earth would anyone lust after a truck? It's only practical purpose is hauling stuff around and the ones that are built today are rarely, if ever, used for hauling anything other than groceries. They eat gas, they fit only two comfortably because the back is taken up by the huge bed which nobody ever puts anything in. They cost about as much as a small 3 bedroom house. Nope, can't see any reason to lust after that.

4 days ago
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Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

tompaulco Re:HondaKarts? (793 comments)

I would like to see proof that straight pipes by themselves do anything for the cars performance. The stock muffler provides a certain amount of back pressure and the engine is specifically tuned to work with this type of pressure. Eliminating this pressure is more likely to reduce rather than improve performance.
Of course every teenager with $100 thinks that a bolt on part (which fits all models of Honda, Nissan and Toyota!!!1!!ONE!!) is somehow going to improve the performance of the vehicle better than the hundreds of Japanese PhDs that designed the car.

4 days ago
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Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

tompaulco Re:Just give the option to turn it off... (793 comments)

And what does that make people with 8, 10, 12 or even 16 cylinders? 6 seems downright emasculating at that point.

4 days ago
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IRS Warns of Downtime Risk As Congress Makes Cuts

tompaulco Re:Gov't contractors are not paid by the hour (253 comments)

That is the same as contracting anywhere, if you are an employee of the contracting house. You are paid salary and the company is still billed for hours you work over 40, you just don't get paid for it. That is why you don't be an employee of a contractor, you be a contractor. Or you find a contractor house that will pay you for all of your earned time. In that case, though, they will probably expect you to take some of the risk and not get paid when you don't have a contract.

4 days ago
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IRS Warns of Downtime Risk As Congress Makes Cuts

tompaulco Re:Cry me a river (253 comments)

They routinely expected 60 hour work weeks from the contractors.

Boo hoo. Contractors are paid by the hour aren't they? Every other company in America is demanding 50 hours of their salaried, overtime exempt (only in name in most cases) employees. So again, boo hoo.

4 days ago
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Doomsday Clock Could Move

tompaulco Re:*Yawn* (144 comments)

Well, AC thinks they will scrap another minute because they are fear-mongering lefty scientists. If they add time, then he is wrong. But I would have to agree that if they take a minute out, then they are just fear mongering, or trying to make a political statement about the environment. In truth, nuclear devastation is a real threat to life as we know it and could happen in a matter of minutes. climate change is an affect to the climate which could take decades to have any noticeable affect, although we measure it daily. Not that the climate isn't important, but it doesn't justify changing the nuclear doomsday clock. Yes, it is the nuclear doomsday clock, and has been since 1947. The word "Climate: did not show up in the reasons behind adjusting the time until 2007, despite the fact that man had been affecting the climate since before the idea of the clock arose.
If they need to make a Climate change clock and set it to 100 years until Climate Change midnight, that is fine, but there is no reason to hijack another clock that already has a stated purpose.

4 days ago
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Doomsday Clock Could Move

tompaulco Re:Who they do not attempt to stay relevant? (144 comments)

Well, you initially said "statistically", which is just wrong. Of the estimated 30 billion or so people that have died since Homo Sapiens became a species, 0 of them have died of an asteroid strike, so statistically, it is at the bottom of the list, along with sun going super nova, alien invasion, space herpes, moon colliding with Earth, giant space turtle stepping on Earth, Earth being swallowed by a black hole, etc.

4 days ago
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FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number

tompaulco Re:Wrong number (217 comments)

Autodialers don't dial wrong numbers. Only people are capable of that. If the autodialer did it, it was on purpose. The proposed change allows illegal autodialers to lie and say that it was a wrong number when it in fact was not.

about two weeks ago
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FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number

tompaulco Re:Easier to collect the fine (217 comments)

That doesn't seem excessive to me. If the call was on a DNC list and they chose to call it anyway, then they have chosen to break the law. Once they break the law, they no longer have a say in the consequences.

about two weeks ago
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FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number

tompaulco Re:Wrong direction (217 comments)

The first amendment limits the government from limiting free speech. The first amendment does not guarantee that I, a private citizen, must pay for the infrastructure for the government to make a political statement, nor that I must sacrifice opportunity to listen to their spiel. There is nothing in the constitution protecting government speech to me.

about two weeks ago
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FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number

tompaulco Re:Simple solution .... (217 comments)

Give the receiver the option. You have received a call, please press 0 to accept this call for free or enter a dollar amount for which you would be willing to take this call. After this call is over, you have the option to remove the charge if , for example, it was your child calling stranded on the road from an unknown number.

about two weeks ago
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19,000 French Websites Hit By DDoS, Defaced In Wake of Terror Attacks

tompaulco Biting the hand that feeds you? (206 comments)

The French, like many European countries is more liberal than the United States, and as such, was very progressive about allowing Muslims into the country, letting them live and work and worship as they please. As a result of this kindness, they have been beset with increased crime, riots, bombings and now DDOS. 70% of prisoners in France are Muslims. Only 5 to 10% of the population is Muslim. It is pretty obvious that a strong correlation exists between the Muslims in France and the Blacks in the United States. The difference being that the Blacks were brought here against their will, but the Muslims were welcomed with open arms. Regardless, in both situations, the result has been the same effect. Incidentally, Blacks are not a significant crime issue in Europe. This seems to support that race does not necessarily make you more likely to commit a crime. In the U.S. race is an excuse.

about two weeks ago
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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

tompaulco Re:The Dangers of the World (779 comments)

I remember seeing it after they threatened to take my kids away. My twin girls were upstairs asleep when the alarm went off. It was a false alarm, but the police came out anyway and when they questioned my wife and found out she was downstairs with my 3 year old while the two year old twins were upstairs sleeping, they threatened to take them away.
Here is a reference to Washington State law which is equally insane. Hopefully it only applies to foster parents, but there is no reason why foster parent rules should be any different than regular parent rules:
Children under six (6) years of age must sleep on the same floor of foster home as foster parents.

about two weeks ago
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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

tompaulco Re:The Dangers of the World (779 comments)

In my state, it would be preferable to leave the kids with a drug addicted parent than to let the equivalent of CPS have them. The kids are more likely to survive with their parents and less likely to get lost. Yes, my state agency has children in their care that they do not know the whereabouts of. And many have died while in the care of the state.

about two weeks ago
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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

tompaulco Re:The Dangers of the World (779 comments)

I have had the equivalent agency in my state threaten to take my children. They have never been abused, neglected, or mistreated in any fashion. However, in my state, it is illegal for you to have more than one child. Well, effectively anyway. It is illegal for you to be on a different level of your house than your child, and we had twins and another girl a year older. In order to obey the law, you would have to carry all three of them with you when you put one of them to bed.

about two weeks ago
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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

tompaulco Re:Hope they don't walk to public school (779 comments)

When I was in Kindergarten, I walked over a mile to school. In my current school district, you have to live over a mile away to ride the bus. Everyone else must walk or ride with a parent. It is certainly far less safe for 500 cars and hundreds of walkers to descend on the school in a 10 minute period than for 10 buses to do so, but it is far cheaper for the school, so they can invest more money in needless administrators.

about two weeks ago
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Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks"

tompaulco Re:Major? (257 comments)

When will people understand that death due to an accident that was nobody's fault is different than premeditated murder or someone who would not have otherwise died? Yes, terrorism deserves to be focused on more than accidentally choking on a Big Mac.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Journals

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Tricked into creating a Steam account

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about three weeks ago

I never steal media, and I don't like to download media either. I want to own my content, including the shiny disc that it came on. I don't want my software phoning home someday and due to some issue, like the company going belly-up, I suddenly can't play my game that I fully paid for.

But I saw a deal on Steam that seemed too good to pass up. There was a Tropico 4 Collectors Bundle with about 12 different downloads, all for $9.99. I already have Tropico 4, bought and paid for at my local Best Buy. And I have played through all the scenarios, so the downloadable content would be a nice change of pace. This seemed a reasonable price for 12 packages, so I went through the hassle of creating a steam account, verifying my identity, typing in all my payment information, telling them not to save it, and then, here comes the final payment page. $39.99. Excuse me? You lure people in by saying it costs, $9.99, and then on the final page, you say $39.99, with a little asterisk saying (some items have changed price since place in your cart)? Well, that seems unconscionably underhanded and slimy.

When I go back to the main page, it now shows $39.99 for the bundle. How do they do this, I wonder? Do they record it by IP address and present the lower price to people who have not looked at it before? Or do they just offer it for the lower price and as soon as someone tries to buy it, they up the price for everybody? It seems to come up as $39.99 for all my devices now, but they are all on the same cable modem, so they may appear to the outside to be coming from the same address.

Well, I have learned my lesson. Never trust a downloadable software company. Always buy a physical disc installation media.

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healthcare.gov still unusable

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 2 months ago

Well, after spending thousands of dollars worth of my time last year in getting healthcare setup for my family, I was notified that my premium, which had gone up by 50% last year when I signed up for ObamaCare, has gone up by 50% again.
So I tried to login using my password from last year, but it wouldn't take it. Apparently they think it is a good idea to expire passwords every 90 days for a site that people will use once a year.
So I had them send me a link to create a new password. Well, I still can't get in. It says I didn't answer the security questions correctly that I set up when I started the account. Well, that would be because I didn't set up any security questions when I started the account, so naturally I woulnd't know the answers. Also, one of the questions is "name a significant date in your life?" Well, it won't take dates as input.
So off to another year of spending thousands of dollars worth of my time just to get into this site, where they will probably show me that my current option which is now three times what I paid 14 months ago, is probably the lowest cost option now. Strangely my salary has not risen by a factor of three to keep up with the increase of Obamacare premiums. Why can't we go back to the cheap coverage that I had before Obama started this fundraiser for the insurance companies?

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Windows 8 is unusable

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 8 months ago

I knew the metro interface was going to suck on Windows 8 machines, but I hadn't realized that you can't effectively turn it off and use the computer as though it were not a cell phone or table.
Today I got a new laptop for a contracting project and the laptop is Windows 8. I have discovered that it is absolutely unusable. While trying to navigate to something on the desktop, other applications will just randomly come up and take over the screen. There is some stupid widget that comes up and says "slide to switch apps", which will not go away and hides items behind it. If you try to reboot the computer, it just says "Getting Windows ready Don't turn off your computer" and doesn't actually restart for about 20 minutes.
It is pretty obvious to me that this OS is completely unusable except as a tablet or phone OS and probably not even then.

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!@#&^$&*!@^$ ObamaCARE!!!

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 10 months ago

Holy mother of GOD!! Why did my insurance premium go up by a multiple of 3.5 in only one month? I have private major medical insurance and it has already jumped up by over 300% in the previous two years, but now it has gone up another 450% for a total change of over 800%. That's right, my premium is 9 times what it was just 3 years ago. I have had no major claims. And, of course, it being major medical, they didn't pay a dime out of pocket. I paid it all. I didn't get anywhere near the deductible. Yet my premium has skyrocketed. Coincidentally, this is right after Obamacare is enacted. i wonder if there is any correlation? What do all of those Pro Obama people think now? I hope they can afford to pay for me to go to the emergency room on their dime because I am dropping insurance and paying the fine. I can't afford to pay the Obamacare Premium.
My premiums alone on this plan are 1.5 times the maximum outlay for premiums and deductible that Obama says we would ever possibly have to say. If I include the deductible, it will be over 300% of the maximum out-of-pocket that Obama says I would ever have to pay.

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Took the bait again

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about a year ago

Once again, I have shown myself for a sucker when it comes to online paying of bills. Every time I think I will learn my lesson, but I don't. Everybody says how much more convenient it is to do online bills, and how writing checks is a thing of the past. But every time I go to do a bill online it takes far longer than it would have to just write a check and drop it in the mailbox.
I fell for the trick again today. I noticed that my utility company said I could pay the water bill online. So I went to the web site, navigated around for a minute or two until I found the right place and then clicked "Pay Bill". Oh, well first I have to set up an online account. OK, so spend a few minutes doing that. Now, let's pay the bill. Oh no, I have to wait for my e-mail with the link I have to click on in order to open the account. OK, so wait a few minutes for that. Click the link, log in. Oh, wait, they don't have my utility bill account associated with my online account. I have to associate them myself. Oh, and what is this? They need my last paid amount. OK, spend a few minutes hunting that down. Now, finally, we are ready to pay the bill. Hmm, the only option is by credit card, no checking account debits. All right, let's use American Express. Oh, wait, they don't take American Express. Okay, I guess I will use my Checking Account Debit card. Spend a few minutes filling out that information, and click "Pay Bill". Okay, another payment summary screen pops up. I have to click "Pay Bill" again. Oh, crap, but wait, I didn't linger long enough to see that they are charging me $1.50 paying online fee! Crap, can't back out now. They've already done the transaction.
So, after you have spent half an hour navigating their website, setting up accounts, linking accounts, figuring out your last paid amount, entering info for a card you don't want to use, THEN is when they are going to tell you that there is an extra fee for using this service which is cheaper for them to maintain then somebody handling the mail?
Well, they can look forward to my check next month. It'll be in the mail.

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Getting tired of misdirected mail

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about a year and a half ago

My postal carrier is incredibly lazy. We are the last house on the route, and whatever he has left over gets put in our mailbox, whether it is addressed to us or not. Today, he put one in that was for one block further south. I guess he didn't want to turn around and go back. Earlier this week we got one for a different house number AND a different street, several blocks over.
This is on top of the fact that whenever we get a package, he sticks a "sorry we missed you" card in the mailbox which directs us to a delivery center 7 miles away. It doesn't matter if we are home, he doesn't come to the door to check, just puts the note in the mailbox.
I have a real hard time justifying their constantly increasing stamp prices for the downward spiraling service that they are providing.

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Cable modem bandwidth caps?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Today I got an e-mail from Cox communication saying that I had exceeded my bandwidth cap of 250 GB on my internet plan. Well, this is a complete shock to me. I am not aware of any bandwidth limit on my internet plan. It's not like it's a phone where bandwidth is expensive (and unlimited on my plan).
So, I am only about halfway through the billing period, which I guess means that I have used 250 GB in about 11 days. That is pretty heavy, I must admit. Especially since I am only a casual user of internet at home. We don't do hulu, or netflicks or anything like that. My girls are home from school for the summer, and they play minecraft and watch youtube and play flash games, but I would think it would be hard to use that much bandwidth on those.
So cox directed me to a site where I could monitor the bandwidth usage. I went there and it asked for my login. I don't have a login to my knowledge, so I tried to register. It told me I already had a login, so I asked it to look up my login. After verifying all of my information, it asked me to call customer service. Well, screw that. It sounds like they have assigned me a userID and didn't tell me what it was, so I am not going to waste my time waiting on hold for them.

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Sony losing points

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Well, after all my defending Sony throughout the Playstation Network debacle, they are now trying to make an enemy of me. They offered me two free games from a list of about 10 as recompense for the inconvenience. However, when I go to try to collect on the offer, they say it is no longer a valid offer.

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Uh oh, its April Fools Day

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 4 years ago

... Guess I can't read slashdot today, if I get the free time to do so.

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Why are used cars so expensive?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago I am in the unenviable position of having to find a suitable car for my 16 year old stepson. Naturally, new cars are out of the question, because there aren't any in the price range that a new driver ought to be driving (approximately $1500 to $2000 in my opinion). So I started looking at used cars. However, there also aren't any used cars in that price range that actually run and aren't falling apart. My first car, 20 years ago, cost about $1200 and it ran and it was only falling apart a little. Also, that car was really only worth about $700. I figure if inflation has doubled in the last 20 years, and it hasn't, then I should be able to get a comparable car for about twice what that one was worth, or about $1400. However, it seems that an eight year old car with 100,000 miles on it these days still costs about 5,000. A lady at work was thinking of selling her 2002 Honda Civic with 72000 miles on it. I figured she might get $5,000 retail for it and I might be able to get it for $3,000. But no, according to Kelly Blue book, this car retails for almost $10,000, and trade-in is almost $6,000. This is a car that was probably released in 2001 and is therefore 8 years old, and has close to 100,000 miles on it. another 28,000 miles and you wouldn't be able to get a loan on it, but the dealers want $10,000 for it. It was only $13,000 brand new. How is it that a car can loose half it's value when it drives off the showroom floor, and then 8 years later still cost 80% of it's original value?
Where does one go to find reliable transportation at prices befitting the fact that the person driving it is almost certainly going to wreck it within the next two years?

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Employer wants to invade my privacy

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Let's preface this with the fact that I am not so happy about my job anyway. But I have been doing it, and doing it well, and trying not to whine too much about it. However, a couple of days ago they sent out a form that everyone is required to sign indicating that they agree to their information being put into a "treasury folder". This folder will contain Criminal History results, Consumer Credit results, Copy of Birth Certificate, Copy of state issued ID, Fingerprints, and other miscellaneous items.
It is probably not illegal for an employer to ask for any of these items, however, I feel that they hired me several years back without the stipulation that I give them this right to invade my privacy, so what need do they have to invade my privacy now? The thing is, they are being hypocritical. We deal with healthcare information, which I am happy to keep private in compliance with HIPAA, however, they want to keep our customers' data private while meanwhile digging through mine and sharing it with their customers. I don't agree to this.
So I am left in a quandary. I can't sign the agreement saying that I agree with it, because that would be committing perjury. However, if I don't sign it, they probably will fire me. This is an at-will state, so they can do that. I don't think it should be legal for an employer to demand your private, non-company related information and fire you if you choose not to comply.
Unfortunately, at this stage in my life, I do need the job. I have kids, and my other income sources do not generate enough to keep me above water without this job. However, every year I get a little more independent, and a little more likely to tell them to bite me when they come up with stuff like this.
The good news is I have an interview in about 1 minute with another company. Hopefully it will go well, and I can tell my company I do not wish to sign their paper and see how it goes.
More good news is that I talked with some other people who were wary about it, but were going to sign it because they thought they were the only one with concerns. Now I have about 5 people who aren't going to turn it in, so maybe our "union" can bring about some change.

Update 2008-09-08
Late last week I was brought in for "The Talk". Basically, I guess I am one of the last people who hasn't signed the paperwork allowing the company to investigate into areas of my life that they have no business investigating or keeping records on. I was told by the company lawyer that I would be terminated if I did not allow them to probe into my finances, credit history, and other personal information. I found some information in their documentation which said that after they fingerprinted me, this information would be turned over to the state law authorities as well. I told them that I absolutely disagreed with this procedure. Unfortunately, it was either sign the documents or be terminated. They also had language in there that said that if we refused to sign this stuff and were terminated then we would be considered to have "quit" and would not be eligible for unemployment. So they were pretty much strong arming me. So I ended up signing the documents because I have no other job to jump to at the moment, but I did verbally indicate to them that I was signing the documents indicating that I agreed, but that I did not agree and was only signing under duress. Also, I am writing this missive as further proof of my disagreement to their terms.

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USPS trying to lose customers

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Long lines at the Post Office have long been a problem, but today I was reminded of the issue once again, and it got me to thinking. The USPS keeps raising rates to cover costs on the one hand, but on the other hand they are trying as hard as they can to lose customers and thus the economies of scale. Today I went in to the local Post Office and there were 8 people in line and 1 clerk. I just turned around and left because I don't have 45 minutes to wait around. Another person in the line also left while I was standing there. The problem is, what is the alternative? If you have packages, you can go to FedEx, UPS etc., but the USPS has a government enforced monopoly on first class mail. I think it is time to break that monopoly and make the USPS compete.

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I got to do something interesting...

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 5 years ago It is not very often that I actually get to do something interesting at work. Once upon a time I used to do interesting and challenging work all the time. That was back when I worked on database administration and data warehousing. I used to have to come up with software solutions for business challenges. But for the last five years I have spent all my time coming up with solutions for software challenges. All of the software that I have had to use in previous years has been poorly designed, buggy, and basically not ready for release to the real world. So I spend all of my time coding around bugs that the vendor's won't fix, creating functionality via APIs that ought to be in the base product, and of course, spending huge amounts of time in meetings fighting with the vendors about their crappy products. I spend less than 5% of my time actually using the software to meet our business challenges.
I did finally do something interesting yesterday, although it was still an end run around a roadblock put up by our vendor. Basically we have been fighting with them for about 6 years on the fact that they don't provide us sufficient information on who is keying the batches in their product. Their "keying information" consists of the start and stop time and the keyer name of the last session spent on a batch of work. If one keyer does not finish the batch and another keyer picks it up, the start time gets overwritten and the keyer name gets overwritten, instead of another audit record being written. For six years, the vendor refused to fix this. So yesterday, I sat down and started writing code to write database entries every time the keyers changed any of the data. It was only a few hours work to create a solution that will give us all the information we need, and I still need to put together some queries to wrap this up into a report, but this is by far the most interesting thing I have done at work recently (pretty sad, I guess).
This just reinforces my recent thinking that my real calling in professional life is databases and datawarehousing. It is the only type of work I have ever done that gave me a sense of fulfillment. It was also something that I was very, very good at, as any number of former supervisors will attest. I wish I could find a job doing that sort of work again.

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Mixed feelings on Redbox

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Redbox is an interesting new idea in video rentals where you pay $1 plus tax each night. After 25 nights (and 25 dollars), you can keep the movie. You can rent the video from any kiosk that has it and return it to any kiosk you want. They don't have a store, so costs are low, but they have limited space, so selections are basically new releases only. The thing I like is that you can view selections online and determine what is available at different kiosks. This comes in handy for those of us who would rather sit in air conditioned comfort and browse movies from multiple locations rather than stand out in the heat and browse that particular kiosks selections. In fact, it is really pretty stupid if you are looking for a particular movie to take your chances that it is actually at the kiosk you happen to go to. However, lots of people are pretty stupid, particularly the ones that rent at the McDonald's locations.
One big drawback of the Redbox system is that each Kiosk only has one monitor and so even if you have efficiently made your selection online, or even if you simply want to return a movie, you could end up sitting in line behind someone desperately seeking a movie that is not in the machine through the somewhat slow movie selection screens. This seems to happen without fail at the McDonald's locations and has never happened to me in a supermarket location.
For this reason, I highly recommend that anyone looking to rent from Redbox choose their selections online, and then, even if they have to go out of the way, choose to pick them up from a location in a supermarket rather than one at a McDonalds. I also recommend to drop your movies off at any location other than a McDonald's, so you similarly don't have to stand in line.
A particularly bad example of this happened yesterday. I arranged my rental online as usual. Because there were no other locations that had the movie I wanted to see, I had to pick up at a McDonald's location. When I arrived, there was on lady at the machine already as I pulled in the lot. There were no spots near the redbox except for a handicapped spot, so I had to park about 30 feet away. While, in the process of pulling in to the spot and walking back to the machine, a lady parked in the handicapped spot (she did not have a sticker) and got in line behind the lady who was already there. After about five minutes the first lady was done, and the second lady started her transaction. She rented 6 movies. She looked at me coyly and said "movie night". I found myself unable to share her smile. Partly because it was 95 degrees and she had cut in front of me by parking in an illegal manner, and was delaying my 20 second transaction with her 15 minutes of browsing which any intelligent person would have done online.
All in all, though, Redbox has stopped me from using Blockbuster, where a one night rental is still $6. Maybe they will try the kiosk idea too. They actually have enough locations where they could just make an automated station and probably cut down on full time personnel.
Redbox's system is not flawless, however. Once I returned two movies, and they charged me a full $25 for each of the two movies that I had returned. I called their customer support and they were unable to find the tracking numbers for the movie and would not issue a refund. I found this very frustrating. After all, I may have even been interested in buying the particular movies, but probably wouldn't have paid $25 for them, maybe $15, definitely $10. But I had paid $25 and they said I owned them, but I didn't have them. Major suckitude. Luckily that is the only time that has happened so far, and I have mostly been able to enjoy first run movies for an average price of probably about $2.50 each, and the average falls each time I get to watch one for $1 and they don't try to charge me full price.

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My review of the PT Cruiser

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago These days, I guess the car rental companies are trying new things to try to attract customers. One of the things they are trying is offering non-traditional cars for rent. A few weeks back I was assigned a Chevy HHR, and one of my coworkers got a VW New Beetle (which he hated). This week I got a PT Cruiser. It was bad enough that I felt I had to comment on it. The first thing I noticed upon getting the car was that there was no way to open the rear trunk in order to get your bags in. There was no button inside to pop the trunk, and no button on the keychain either. There was not keyhole on the trunk that I could see. I gave up and put my bags in the back seat. I noted that getting on the highway was a chore for this vehicle, as it had very little pep even with the hammer down. As I drove to the hotel, I noticed that the information on the trip meter and the outside air temperature were in metric units. I was unable to locate any apparatus for changing this to standard units.
The next day I had to park in a parking garage. As I went to roll down the window, I discovered that there were no switches on the door for rolling down the window and no manual crank either. The controls were also not on the center console as they are on some cars. After a few seconds, I gave up and opened the door to retrieve my ticket. Later that day I discovered the window controls were up on the center of the dashboard, a very inconvenient and out of the ordinary place. As I went to park, I noted that the turning radius was terrible on this car and I had to make two attempts to get the car to turn into the spot. Also, the shaped of the front hood makes it impossible to tell where the edges of the car are in close quarters, which makes parking difficult. On the way home that night, I noted that the ride was terrible. After going over a bump, the car continued jittering for several seconds. Then when I went over some railroad tracks that were on a shallow corner, the car hopped sideways, which could have caused a loss of control, as it was totally unexpected.
Once, while fiddling with the trunk, I got it to open, and I looked at some articles on the internet, and discovered that you are supposed to pull up on the Chrysler logo. I tried this several times, but it was hit and miss. I found that even if I hit the unlock button twice in succession, it was about 50/50 whether pulling up on the Chrysler logo would open the trunk. The logo was kind of flimsy and I was afraid to pull on it very hard because it felt like it would break or fall off. Once I got the trunk open, I found that there was very little trunk space. There was also no privacy flap, which is a must in a wagon or SUV type of car where you can see the trunk contents through the back glass. I had to leave my bag in the trunk visible to the world in the parking garage after checking out of my hotel.
The keyfob has a panic button on it which is very easy to hit. I hit it once during the five days I had the car. It is located in a place where you are likely to hit it while removing the key from the ignition.
The gas mileage was surprisingly bad for a car that has so little pep.
There is really not much positive to say about the car. The styling is retro and harkens of a time before I was born, therefore it is not much interest to me. It may appeal to people who were born in the '50s. I think they were going for novel ideas on the convenience features which may work well for somebody who owns the car, as they would be used to the location of the features and it could be a subject of conversation with passengers. However, as a rental car, it just doesn't work. When you rent a car, you need the switches, trunk releases, buttons and other features to have expected locations and behavior, otherwise it is frustrating and possibly even dangerous. A rental car with no way to hide your bags is just asinine.

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When is a raise not a raise?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago When it's less than or equal to the increase in the cost of living. If you, as a manager, value your employee exactly the same this year as you did last year, assume that he has learned nothing in the interim, and that he doesn't add any more to the productivity this year than he did last year, than he deserves a Cost of Living Adjustment. If you give him now cost of living adjustment, then that means that you feel that the employee contributes LESS to the company now than he did last year, that he has lost some of his ability to do his job and has forgotten how to do parts of his job.
An employee who has worked hard, learned and applied new skills and taken on new responsibility should feel slighted if he receives only a Cost of Living Adjustment and should feel slapped in the face if he is offered no increase in compensation whatsoever.
This year, I received a modest pay increase, only it wasn't a raise, as I have not received a pay increase in the last three years. During that time, the cost of living increased by about 8.6%. By contrast, my increase in salary was only 6.25%. So I am worth about 2.4% less now than I was 3 years ago.
What is truly insulting in my case is that this current increase is only half of the amount that I was promised to get 3 years ago, which I was supposed to get two weeks after my start date. I was told they could not give me the salary that I requested, but in two weeks they would increase it to what I was asking. A year later, when I inquired about the status of my year old raise, I was told that raises were coming soon. A year after that, I inquired again, and provided updated figures of what other people with my job description were getting and pointed out that I had been lied to several times by management, and also quoted a new figure which I thought I should receive, which was about 20% under what other people in my position are getting. Well, I received my increase in salary, and it raised me up about 25% of the way to the salary that I felt I could accept. As I pointed out, it is even less than the cost of living has gone up. However, I know that management likes to give out small increases like this, because then they can feel that their employees are greedy if they request another raise before another couple of years has gone by.
Yes, I know that some people received no increase in pay this year, others received reductions in pay, and some have no job. I don't ask them to feel sorry for me. I ask them to be even more outraged at what their employer or lack thereof is doing to them.
Time to read the classifieds.

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The Golden Compass

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Well, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I work with and, of course, go to Church with quite a few Christians, and most of them are pretty conservative. So I had heard all the buzz about how this movie was a horrible anti-Christian movie where they kill God at the end. Well, the Bible tells me that I am always supposed to study and prove out what other people say to see if it is true. So I watched The Golden Compass, and much to the probable horror of many Christians, I watched it with my family. I was prepared to shut the movie off at the part where they killed God, if it came to that. However, I had my suspicion that they wouldn't kill God, because no one really knows what God looks like, and you can't kill the author of life, because He doesn't have a physical existence in the Universe that He created. To think that someone on Earth could kill God is like thinking a character in a painting could kill the painter.
Anyway, the movie was good enough as movies go. It was pretty similar to the Narnia movies. This is where I think some Christians get up in arms. Before I knew that C.S. Lewis was a Christian, I was always amazed that Christians didn't get up in arms about his portrayal of Aslan as a Christ figure. Other than the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, most of the other books did not have such a vocal religious message, so I didn't put two and two together that C.S. Lewis was a Christian. It was only later that he was and that he had written other Christian works. So it seems that Christians don't get upset when one of their own writes a book containing a blatant Christ figure who is not actually Jesus, but if another author who professes to be an atheist and an agnostic writes a book about fighting a false religion, than Christians get all up in arms. It's sad to me as a Christian myself. In particular the fact that so many have not seen this movie and yet pass judgment on it blindly by listening to what other people have said. I mean, this is why people bash religions, because people blindly listen and parrot back what other people tell them without so much as verifying what was said. Don't they read their Bibles? It plainly says that you should always read the scriptures to see if what the pastor says is true.
Another funny thing. The author of The Golden Compass claims to be an atheist and an agnostic. Those are two contradictory ideologies. An Agnostic does not claim to have the answer to whether there is a God or not. An Atheist claims that he knows for sure that there is no God.
I actually liked aspects of The Golden Compass. For instance, the religion they fought had people high up in the organization who KNEW that the religion was false and actively fought scientific study of "dust" which would prove the religion false. Of course, this is a strawman as there is no way to prove any of Earth's religions false scientifically. However, there have been efforts by some religions, including by Christians at times, to thwart scientific progress. In my opinion, this is because their faith is weak and they fear that science may discover something which proves their religion wrong. In truth, science can not prove a religion wrong if it is right. If God created everything, then science is the study of that Creation, and everything they discover will only ever server to reveal more about God. As a Christian, I believe I have nothing to fear from Science. I have read Darwin, his works did not turn me away from my beliefs. It turns out that I share the same beliefs as Darwin. He was a Christian. He also was a 'naturalist', one who studies nature. He came up with some theories about how species evolved. In many books he wondered at the grandeur of God's Creation. He never proved there was no God.
In short, this is a pretty good movie for those who, like me, don't like religion, and is not a threat to those who, like me, are Christians. The message is not anti-Christian, but anti-religion. I don't like religion either. Neither did Jesus. Religion is all about worshiping the practices of worshiping God, instead of just worshiping God. Religion says that by following certain rules and guidelines, you can obtain heaven. Religion is all about bondage to a set of rules. Jesus came to break those bonds and set us free. Not to enslave us to another set of rules.
By all means, see the movie. Don't listen to the people who haven't seen it.

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All the Cell Phone Companies are in with the scammers

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 7 years ago I want to make you aware of a huge problem with all of the major wireless providers. They all allow shady third party billers to claim charges against wireless customers, pass the charges through to the customer with no authorization and no research into whether the charge is legitimate, and then claim that they are unable to reverse the charges which THEY placed on the bill.

In my specific situation, my stepson had his phone stolen. When we received a replacement phone, he immediately started receiving text messages which we did not sign up for. Presumably the thief signed up for these programs. Even though Alltel is fully aware that our phone was stolen, and these charges mysteriously showed up on my bill on the very day that the new phone was activated (although I did not even give the phone to my son that day), they refused to reverse the charges and told me I had to call the original company which billed these charges. Why am I guilty until proven innocent? Why do I have to call a company with which I have never done business in order to receive a refund for charges which I never authorized? Nevertheless, I did as directed, and they said that it may be up to 12 weeks to receive my reimbursement, if their accounting department approves it. How come I have to pay my bill this month, but they have up to 12 weeks to reimburse me, if they choose to do so at all? Alltel says they will cut me off and charge me $200 per line cutoff fee if I do not pay these unauthorized charges. In my case, I know my stepson could not have signed up for these, because the phone was stolen and we had no phone with which to make these charges. In other cases, these companies apparently send unsolicited text messages, mostly to kids, because they know kids always respond to text messages, and if they receive a response, they automatically sign the phone up for charges ranging from $5.99 a week up to $9.99. Most of the time, the people with the phone are under 18, so are technically under no obligation to pay, but the phone companies and the shady companies who deceitfully send these text messages claim that the children act as their parents' representative, so the parent is responsible for the charge. This is not a case where a person can simply change service providers as EVERY SINGLE WIRELESS PROVIDER promotes this scam. They are all acting anti-competitively and in collusion to steal money from consumers. The wireless companies get to keep around 35% of these fraudulent charges, so they have no desire to help end the problem.

We need legislation to force Wireless providers to block these companies from billing their customers. These third party companies all provide a service which no one would legitimately sign up for for the price which they charge. People responding to their text messages have no opportunity to review pricing or know what they are signing up for simply by replying to a text message. Most of the people responding to the text message are not of a legal age to be able to be held to a contract.

I am completely fed up with the wireless companies all doing business with these third party deceivers and then claiming no responsibility, no ability to reverse charges, etc. I am writing my state representatives, the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, my lawyer, the Corporation Commission, and anyone else I can think of, because these companies are stealing from people.

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Airport (in)security

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 8 years ago It was my great displeasure to have to travel on the day after the foiled terrorist plot on August 10th, 2006. Security was, of course, heightened. It may seem odd to have heightened security when the plot was, in fact, foiled. But sure enough, they were not allowing liquids of any kind on the plane. They were allowing prescription medications, though. Obviously, a terrorist is not able to obtain a prescription for some medication, and then empty it out and fill it with some sort of explosive.
The most major annoyance was that no one was recommending to you at checkin that you should probably check your carry-on if it contains any shampoo, toothpaste, cologne, deodorant or anything like that. But really, who travels with that stuff anyway? Everybody just buys an entirely new toiletry set every time they travel right? Well, from now on they do. Once you get to security, you have to throw all that stuff away, even the $100 bottle of perfume. Just try to get out of line and go back and check your bag now. They'll shoot you where you stand. So you have no notice that they are going to make you throw away all of your toiletries until you are in the security line.
Then, the second annoyance. After they have forced you to throw away all of your liquids, they then ALSO refuse to allow you to take any liquids on the plane. So if you have a 6AM flight and decided to buy some toothpaste in the terminal to brush your teeth, you get to throw away the remainder of your toothpaste. If you buy some Orange Juice, you have to drink it before you get on the plane. This is AFTER security. Instead of forcing you to throw away everything you buy at the airport stores, why don't they just tell the airport stores not to sell explosives?
Finally, on the plane, I had to sit next to a guy who had his own aluminum coffee mug, with coffee inside it. Nice job, security. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

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Annoying thugs

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 8 years ago I've seen the movies where kids play "mailbox baseball"; driving down residential streets smashing up mailboxes with a baseball bat. I always thought that was a irresponsible, stupid thing to do. I mean, for one, it is a federal offense to interfere with the delivery of the mail. For another, it means that several people are going to have to get a new mailbox, even though they shouldn't have to, and even though they may not be able to afford to.
I thought that I would be immune to this, since I have a brick mailbox. But alas, I suffered from some derivative of mailbox baseball. During the night hours, what would almost certainly have to be several people, knocked over my brick mailbox. It would have been no easy feat, as it is about four feet tall, and 2.5 feet square. Someone would have had to both knock it loose from it's mortar, and then lift it up before pushing it back over. It obviously wasn't hit by a car, as the mailbox was knocked back toward my house, not along the street in either direction.
I can't understand the mentality that considers this "harmless pranking", as it quite obviously does harm to my budget, which is thin already, and also causes me unneeded stress with my family, and leaves me feeling violated and vulnerable.
Our whole society has a problem wherein the law abiding have to pay the cost for both upholding the law, and for the consequences if the law is not upheld. I feel it is unfair that I should have to pay for someone else's damage to my property. Why don't we just charge all the criminals that have been caught doing crimes like this, and pay for their damage out of that money?
We should make criminals pay for their own room and board in prison, pay for the legal system that brought them to justice, and recompense all the people that they hurt. Sure, it seems harsh, but of course, criminals always have the option of not committing crimes. It's not like anyone ever steals to survive anymore. The reason people steal these days is because they want stuff that they can't have unless they are willing to work for it.
I wish I could afford a camera system at my house. It seems like every couple of months, somebody vandalizes my house. If I could catch them on video, maybe I could get them thrown in prison. Seems harsh, but once again, nobody forced them to vandalize my house.

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