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.
... Guess I can't read slashdot today, if I get the free time to do so.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ironically, my father was charged with a crime which he did not commit. He did not unlawfully take a waterfowl. The environmentalist did. The environmentalist took the bird and buried it. HE is the one guilty of unlawfully taking a waterfowl.
Anyone in the northern part of the United States is aware of the problem with Canada Geese. The geese cause airplane crashes, automobile crashes, bite children and pets, and leave their staining and corrosive poop all over pavement, roofs and anything left outdoor. It is legal in many states to destroy the eggs of Canada Geese. Why? Because it is the migratory geese which are considered endangered. Obviously if they are laying egges, they are not migratory, but resident. The law has seen the light of day and realized that non-migratory Canada Geese are a huge problem. Some states even have hunting seasons for Canada Geese. Was the one that my father shot a migratory bird? Evidently not, as it was in Illinois in the middle of winter. However, even though Illinois will allow you to destroy eggs, you may not actually kill one of the adults. The EPA has estimated that there are now more than 255,000 migratory Canada Geese, twice the number there were in 1972. However, there are literally millions of non-migratory nuisance geese. On the roads of Illinois, hundreds are killed every day. Yet none of those people are thrown in jail, or even charged with a crime.
I feel that my father is being unfairly targeted by a man with issues dealing with his own past, and unfortunately, the justice system is actually paying attention to the man.
I boot into safe mode and the same problem happens, but luckily after the first error, I am able to click some of my other icons. I attempt to run adaware, but after 25 minutes of scanning, (and finding about 83 things), it throws an error and dies. I try rebooting several times. Annoyingly, I am unable to log off in safe mode, so I have to keep physically powering off.
At one point, after allowing my computer to send the results of an error to Microsoft, I get a message back from Microsoft saying that the error is caused by LAME MP3 codec. Well, I decide to go ahead and uninstall the program that uses that, just in case. Unfortunately, it will not uninstallin safe mode, and I can not get to the uninstall window in normal mode.
I run the windows file checker utility to make sure the original versions of all windows executables are in place. It exits without saying anything, which I don't know if that is normal or not. But it sure didn't fix anything, as the problem still persists.
I download and reinstall XP service Pack 2. It doesn't immediately solve my problem of not being able to shut down cleanly when in safe mode. But when booting back up in normal mode, the windows explorer problem appears to be fixed. The computer works fine all day.
Then this morning I wake up to find that Windows Update has downloaded some more files to my computer and automatically rebooted. Once again, I get the windows explorer and Dr. Watson errors on everything I touch. One more time, I will try reinstalling SP2. Plus I am disabling Windows update. The exploits from the script kiddies cause much less damage and stress than the Windows Update is causing me.
If SP2 doesn't work this time, I guess it is time to reinstall Windows.