Wednesday, September 1, 2021

WTF is up with clerks and flight attendants, anyone in any small position of authority, deciding to make up rules all by themselves?

 I have not complained on this blog for a while, so here goes: 

 WTF is up with clerks and flight attendants, anyone in any small position of authority, deciding to make up rules all by themselves?  It seems to be happening more and more.  

 Here are some examples that happened in the past: 

Home Depot has policy that allows dogs in their stores.  This was six years ago, before the dog-loving craze of today.  I walked in a Home Depot with my dog Max.  I've been in numerous different Home Depot  stores in the past with my dog, and I do it because the dog really enjoys exploring new spots (and my current Lab, Moose, loves eating the bits of cardboard on the floor, which is a pain since he can get plugged up).  This time, however, a male Home Depot staffperson stops me and says that dogs aren't allowed.  I don't argue and leave, and put the dog in the car (which I don't like to do, since it can get hot in the car after just a few minutes; the alternative of leaving the windows fully rolled down is unsafe for the dog AND the car).  Later, I do some research and the rule is that all dogs are allowed in all Home Depot stores!  This guy just didn't like dogs and made up a rule all on his own! 

 I saw on the news and later on Youtube, a Delta Airlines flight attendant (pre-Covid) full of authority, tells a family that their kid will be put in a foster home if they don't give up their paid seat!  

Flight attendants told the Schear family that if they didn’t give up the seat, they would be removed from the flight. “Then it’s going to be a federal offense,” a crew member warned Brian. “I mean, you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be put in foster care,” the flight attendant continued.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOeI26r3w6w

The flight attendant just made this crap up!  

 Yesterday, I go into Ace Hardware and take advantage of their sale -- buy two air filters, get one of lesser or equal value free.  I bought two of one size and one of another, and both are the same price.  The clerk rang it up and I did not realize that the machine actually did the calculation just fine.  I asked him why I did not get the third free.  

He made up a new rule, just like that!, "All air filters have to be the same size, sorry man."  I did not argue, I just told him to ring up the two that were the same size and I would go and get a third of the same size since it was free.  No, he had to ring it all up again.  I went to the back and got a third filter that was the same price and the size I wanted.  The ad is attached is pretty clear.  Why did Ace Hardware clerk have to make this crap up?  Because he is lazy!  

 


Friday, August 28, 2020

Air Pump Recommendations for Inflatable Kayaks (IKs) and Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs)

 I have both inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.  I like them both as does my dog Moose.  I use my Tower SUPs more than my tandem IKs; they are smaller, lighter, and just easier to lug around.  The IKs are more stable in whitewater.  I've only used them in very low Class 2 rapids.  They are great, but since I bought tandems (for why else than so Moose could come with me!) they are heavier and longer.  




My grouchy friend in Portland wrote me recently: 

    "Hey- what kind of pump should I get for my IK? Foot pump or NRS Wonder Pump 6?"

And my much less grouchy friends in Denver asked what kind of pumps I'd recommend for their new SUP: "You are correct. We need to get an electric pump. Took me longer than I wanted to pump this sucker up in 100 degree temperature. I need to find the message you sent with your recommendations."

*****

IKs need to be inflated to about 2 psi, whereas SUPs should be inflated up to 6 to 10 psi.  This is a pretty big difference.  

From the Aire inflatable kayak manual:

Top off each chamber in the same pattern. If you hear a humming sound in the floor valve, it’s the pressure release indicating the floor has reached maximum pressure (2.5 psi) and you can stop pumping. For the other chambers, using your thumb you should be able to depress about ½” from the top center of the tube. 

For IKs, here's what I recommend these days: 

I think the best all around (for IK) is a foot pump.  

However, I am always confused as the best Bravo foot pump to get and how many frigging models there are.

I have lately been using a Bravo! 9 Double Chamber High Volume and High Pressure 14.5 PSI Foot Pump to inflate my inflatable kayak (an NRS Outlaw II) so that they are semi-rigid.  This is overkill for an IK, which only needs 2.5 psi.  


Here's an inexpensive Bravo foot pump that will work for a while:

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-marine--bravo-7-foot-pump--10967644

Bravo 7 foot pump only $20, that's a deal.

Bravo 7 foot pump only $20, that's a deal.

I'll then pull out the awesome K-100 pump to finish off the pumping task.  The K-100 pump is just great.  I bought this pump with the internal check valve so air won't go back into the pump.  The internal check valve only cost $2.95 more, so it's a no-brainer to order it along with the pump.  


I also bought a K100 hand pump:

https://www.nrs.com/product/1714/k-pump-100


I love this thing.  It is great.  The Bravo foot pump will get you just about the whole way you need (for IKs, not SUPs).  I use K100 hand pump to top off the IKs (and to pump my SUP sup to 6 to 10 psi).

To get the IK inflated initially, rather than a foot pump, I'll often use an electric high-volume inflator as I describe below.  

****

To inflate a SUP (6 to 10 psi): 

Any of these will work to get your SUP up to 1-2 psi (initial high-volume inflation):

Bravo foot pump

Ryobi high volume inflator with battery or dual inflator

any electric inflating pump, like this one or the $11 one below:

https://smile.amazon.com/Electric-Portable-Quick-Fill-Inflator-Inflatable/dp/B074NZY3SQ/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=air+pump&qid=1598152824&sr=8-5



Here's an inexpensive pump that would work for initial high volume inflation:

https://slickdeals.net/f/14288885-outdoormaster-op420-0-64-ps-electric-air-mattress-pump-11-19-amazon?src=SiteSearchV2_SearchBarV2Algo1

$11.19 @ Amazon with code W76U5FDK


I have also used this pump, which works great off my car battery: 

Sevylor SUP and Water Sport Electric Pump, 12V, 15-PSI

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sevylor-SUP-and-Water-Sport-Electric-Pump-12V-15-PSI/35395714

(No longer at Amazon, probably temporary)


Electric air pumps work great when you are putting stuff together in your garage, but when you get to a parking lot, it's hot, you have a dog that is in a rush and wants to run around, there are lots of people, then having to hook an electric pump up to your car and inflate the SUP is just not advisable or workable.  Usually, I get my SUP initially inflated in my garage up to 1 to 2 psi -- I get it mostly filled up but nowhere near full with an electric inflator.  

I've been using a Ryobi high volume inflator or dual inflator for the initial high-volume inflation: 

https://www.ryobitools.com/products/details/one-18v-high-volume-power-inflator

https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-18-Volt-ONE-Dual-Function-Inflator-Deflator-Tool-Only-P747/308746324


I LOVE the Ryobi dual inflator and use it to fill my car and bike tires too.  The psi gauge is actually accurate and shuts off when tires reach the set psi!!!  And, using it is easy to figure out! Good user interface!  No have to read manual!

Once I get to the river put-in site, I'll use a K100 pump to get the SUP up to 6-10 psi.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

ASPCA's Poison Control Hotline Helped When My Dog Ate Mouse Poison

 The most important stuff first: 

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control

From their website: The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

*****

I've had Labs or Lab mutts for the past 30+ years.  They are great dogs, but they eat EVERYTHING.  EVERYTHING.   This post is about my experience when my dog Moose ate mouse poison.  

Here at my house in WA state, we have an ongoing mice problem.  So I bought some mice bait traps from Amazon and Lowe's near my house.  Here's what I bought: 



Tomcat Mouse Killer Refillable Station, Includes 1 Bait Station with 16, 1-oz. Baits - Child & Dog Resistant - Use Indoors & Outdoors to Kill Mice

The package arrived from Amazon, and I took it out from the Amazon package when the thin plastic bag broke.  The makers put their product in a very thin bag and it tore on its own!  Not thinking, I put the broken plastic bag on the floor of the garage.  

The next morning, I noticed Moose (a chocolate Lab, 80 pounds in size) had that "I'm so happy being bad" look on his face.   He had obviously eaten some of the mice bait.  This was a bit after 7AM in the morning, on a weekday.  Of course I was panicked and started calling vets.  We've taken our dogs to a local vet about four miles away for several years -- when we are in Olympia.  In recent years, this vet's staff NEVER f**king answers the phone!  Why don't they get more people to answer the phone?  Moose cut his paw last year during working hours; I called the vet, and they had no space to see him -- so I had to call around and drive Moose to a vet about 25 miles away.  OK, that was one time.  But they did not answer the phone back then during my dog's time of need and the ensuing phone tag was super stressful.  

My local vet had a message to call an emergency clinic.  This was 710am. I called the emergency clinic (about ten miles away), and they said that I had to call the Poison Control Hotline first.  I did so and was put on hold.  Did I mention that I was stressed?  I figured that time was of the essence, so I needed to get Moose to the vet to get his stomach pumped ASAP!  I could not take being on hold any longer (about three minutes) and jumped in the car to drive to the emergency vet.  At the main intersection from my home, I could have  turned one way and gone to the local vet, or turned the other way and it would have taken 20 minutess to get to downtown Oly for the emergency clinic. I decided against the local vet that was two minutes away -- they just have never been there for me and my dog when I needed them!  Again, I was really stressed out.  I had no idea how much Moose had eaten or how quickly the poison might get to him.  

While I was driving, I dialed the poison control hotline and finally got someone rather than being put on hold.  If you call the Poison Control Hotline, you will always get a standard greeting and message to press 1, etc and the message that there is a $75 fee.  I was not initially happy about this message and had no idea what this Poison Control Hotline was from, who ran it, etc.  Was it a government service, a for-profit business, what?  Was I wasting precious time by calling them?  Shouldn't I just haul ass to the emergency vet rather than wasting time calling?  

Thankfully, a calm woman named Lauren answered.  I pulled over to talk to her.  Luckily I could hear her well; I have a pretty bad hearing problem and often can't understand people on the phone (something most businesses need to recognize when they always force hearing-disabled people like me to speak on the phone!).  

I had (surprisingly, given my rush and stress) thought to take the package with me with all the bait in there.  She asked me the ingredients and EPA codes on the package.  I could find the ingredients but not the EPA codes -- looked everywhere on the package, several times.  Lauren kept asking me for the EPA number, which I could not find.  Thankfully the bag stated how many blocks of bait was in there -- 16 blocks.  When Lauren put me on hold, I counted 15 blocks left.  Whew, it was good that the manufacturer put the number of blocks on the package ( but bad that they used such a thin bag to contain the poison!).  Finally Lauren came back and said "no worries, Moose is big enough that eating one block of this poison should be no problem."  It turns out that there was no need to visit the emergency vet or even induce vomiting.  Moose, being 80 pounds, could eat up to four blocks with no issues. Supposedly.  

Here are some more details and things I learned: 

The active ingredient in this Tomcat Mouse Poison is Bromethalin (CAS #63333-35-7), 0.01%.  Other Ingredients**Contains Denatonium Benzoate 99.99%.  

Since I was relieved and no longer so stressed, I found the EPA numbers easily -- they were in plain view to the very left of the ingredients!  People can't operate that well under stress!  At least not me.  
EPA REG NO. 90780-10
EP EST. NO. 12455-W1-1

If you have a dog, get a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and store it in case you need to induce vomiting.  I had none at the house.  This should be a last resort (call the Poison Control Hotline and rush the dog to the vet!) but there's information about how to do this online.  All the stores that I've checked locally are out of hydrogen peroxide right now, due to the pandemic.  

I talked to Lauren and determined that the Poison Control Hotline is "under the ASPCA umbrella," but the hotline needs funding, so they do charge a $75 fee.  My wife donates to ASPCA and other animal rescue organizations every year, but I had the impression that ASPCA was one of those lame nonprofits that always, always asked for money, more money, more more more -- and was more of a marketing organization than something that actually did real work (hear that, AAA and to a lesser extent, AARP?).  I am happy to find out that ASPCA has real world services that help people and animals, rather than just being a marketing organization that takes your money and then spends it on mailings to get more money out of you.  

I told this story to a friend, and he wrote: 
> I’m also SHOCKED that there is a $75 fee for poison control.  Who knew?

I have no issue with paying this fee.  They said at the beginning of the voice answering service that there would be a $75 fee.  Also, Lauren took all my information down and gave me her evaluation first, before asking for my credit card, so it was classy on their part.  Good for the ASPCA.

Another thumbs up to ASPCA -- in Monterey County, where I have another home and spend a lot of time, ASPCA is very visible in helping out evacuees and taking in farm animals from the recent wildfires.  This hotline is obviously a service that all vets are making people use in cases of poisoning. So here's a nonprofit that really is doing real work.  Unlike a lot of other bulls*** nonprofits.  Why don't nonprofits pay tax anyway?  I saw an essay on this.  

Thanks, ASPCA and especially the Poison Control Hotline!  
Screw you, local vet that never answers the phone and is never there when your clients need you!  

Moose, that idiot dog, is fine.  





Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Costco - Incredibly Wasteful Packaging

 I've been a Costco member for years.  Costco's generally great.  However, some of their practices are incredibly wasteful.  They force their vendors to put small items in giant blister packages so that customers can't shoplift the items.  

I recently ordered a small, portable hard drive from Costco.com.  The hard drive is the size of a deck of cards.  It came in the customary large blister packaging, and even worse, the blister packaging came in a box the size of my garbage can!  

That's the hard drive in the red circle.  What a waste.  


Friday, May 8, 2020

How to Put a the Bing Image of the Day as Your Mac Wallpaper


I like going to bing.com due to the great images that are featured on the webpage, that change daily. For Windows 10, there's even a Bing Wallpapers app that will put the Bing Image of the Day as your computer screen's desktop wallpaper. Unfortunately, for Windows 7 and Mac users, there is no official app that can do this.

For Macs, there is an app in the App Store called Bing Wallpaper or something like that, that costs $4.99. I did some research and created my own app to accomplish this using a Python script and iCal Automator event. I have never used Python before but have made iCal events.  Here's what I did:

I got a Python script called bing.py from:
https://github.com/declangao/Bing-Wallpaper-for-Mac

Thanks, declangao! Here's the description:
"A simple Python script capable of batch-downloading and setting Bing picture of the day as wallpaper on your Mac OS X."


I then did some research on how to run a Python script on my Mac. It was easy. I learned a bit about MS-DOS and command lines back in my college undergrad days, so I know how to use Teminal commands on a Mac.

To run a Python script on a Mac using Terminal:
change directory to your desktop: cd Desktop
run the Python script: Python bing.py (or your own simpler filename.py) [.py file must be on Desktop]

I ran the Python script and my Mac wallpaper did indeed change to the current day's Bing wallpaper. So the script worked!


Next:
To create a Python Unix executable file, that opens a new Terminal window and executes a Python file: generally follow these directions:

https://martechwithme.com/convert-python-script-app-windows-mac/#formac
https://martechwithme.com/schedule-python-scripts-windows-mac/#formac

martechwithme.com's directions had me create a new text file and input these lines:

#!/bin/sh
Python /Users/norbertwu/Documents/Python_test/test.py  [I created a folder called Python_test in the Documents folder]

then save the file to the folder Python_test, save without an extension
in Terminal: enter "chmod 755 /Users/norbertwu/Documents/Python_test/test

This changes the permissions for the file so that it becomes a Unix executable file. However, I discovered that I needed to add the extension ".command" to this file, so that this would open a new Terminal window and execute the python commands.


So my steps were:
create a file called test_python and put the following text in it:

#!/bin/sh
Python /Users/norbertwu/Desktop/test.py [wherever the python script is located]


In Terminal, do the command chmod 755 on the test_python file.
Then rename the test_python file to test_python.command.

Done! By double-clicking the test_python.command file, a new Terminal window is opened and the Python script executes.


I opened the bing.py file and saw the first line was: #!/usr/bin/env python
So all I did was go to Terminal: cd Desktop [the file bing.py was on the Desktop]
chmod 755 bing.py

Then I changed bing.py file to bing.command (actually bingtest.command).
Thus, bing.command became an executable file.


Next, I used Automator:
martechwithme.com writes: Finally, if you want a real application file instead of a simple Unix executable that you will be able to schedule, we can do so by launching Automator.

Launch Automator: After launching the program, choose to create an “Application”.

In the list of actions on the left side, get the parameter “Get Specified Finder Items”. Once you added it to your right panel in Automator, you should be able to “Add” an item to this action. At this point, you want to browse through your files and select your Unix Executable.

After that, we need to add a new action, namely “Open Finder Items”. This will trigger to open the file selected previously in its default application.

All that’s left is to save. Choose a name that you will recognize and you will now have your own .app file ready to be launched! 

I ended with an Automator file called changeBingWallpaper.app which just runs the bing.py executable file.


You can create an iCal event that will run an AppleScript or Automator action at a given time, and have that event repeat at the same time every day.

I then created an iCal event (can do it in iCal or Automator): let's do it in Automator:
https://martechwithme.com/schedule-python-scripts-windows-mac/#formac has tips:

choose Automator, then New file -- Calendar Alarm.

This will create a separate calendar overlay in iCal, and put an event in there.

We then need to add an Alert. A “Custom” one precisely, following the screenshot below:

A Custom Alert allows us to set a different action at the time of event. One of these actions is “Open a file”

Choose the file .app you would wish to open once the event is triggered and set the “Alert” to trigger “At time of event”

Finally and to ensure that scripts are launched periodically, it is time to define the “Repeat” setting of the event.

You can hide the Automator calendar overlay, or show it, as you wish.


This opened a Terminal window every day at 8am, ran the Documents/Python_scripts/bingtest.command file and then left the Terminal window open.

To close the "hanging" Terminal window: I went to Terminal preferences: choose "close when script exits."
I did not want a notification window or to see the iCal window after this iCal event, so I did the following:
no iCal notifications in System Preferences and/or in the iCal Automator calendar, right click, turn off Alerts


There are a ton of other ways to do this, involving various programs like LaunchControl, etc.

Even Fidelity Investments Lies and Puts Links in Emails!

I've been a client of Fidelity Investments for many years.  They generally try to hold themselves to a fairly high standard, but like all companies, are constantly trying to get me to get paperless statements.  My banks are bad about this too -- every other time that I log into my bank's website, I get a popup asking me to go paperless before I can do my banking business online.  It's irritating.

However, today I got an email from Fidelity that is just too duplicitous.  Obviously, it's another attempt to have me go paperless (which saves them money, since they don't have to mail me statements).  But come on!  Don't use a deceitful reason to try to get me to go paperless!  Take a look:


"We’ve heard from many clients that they are concerned with receiving paper mail in this current environment. If you’re concerned as well, you have an alternative. You can switch to eDelivery—it’s safe, it’s easy, and it offers many other benefits as well."


This is such a load of crap! No one is worried about getting the virus in the mail. Don't lie and treat your customers like idiots. We customers can simply not touch paper statements or trash them! We know that we can get electronic statements by going to your website, but we want paper statements! Quit trying to get us to go e-delivery!






Not only does Fidelity lie in this email to its customers, but it has at least three links that ask you to "Agree" or log into your account. This, after Fidelity and all banks repeatedly tell customers to NEVER click on a link in an email.


****
Here's what Fidelity says in this webpage:
https://www.fidelity.com/security/look-out-for-suspicious-emails

"Cyber criminals try to gain your personal information via numerous deceptive means such as legitimate-looking emails with fake web links, phone numbers, and attachments. This method of email fraud is called phishing.

Avoid opening links or attachments in an email you are not expecting. Phishing emails will often ask you for personal information in an effort to obtain access to your financial assets and identity. Responding with sensitive information (like account numbers, passwords or social security numbers) is never a good idea."


****
You can't trust any company in this day and age to actually have integrity. Not even Fidelity Investments.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Airline Shopping Malls Are Great to Keep Your Account Active, but Don't Use Target.com!

I have tons of airline miles, with United, British Airways, Delta, American, etc from flying with them for years as a traveling underwater photographer, and from accumulating miles by using airline-affiliated credit cards.  Those airline miles are valuable!

I've been able to fly first class on Emirates for "free" by using miles, to Dubai and then South Africa, which was really a great experience.  I was able to get business-class tickets for my wife and her sister to travel to London and Paris a couple of years ago.  I recently visited my friend Beez in State College, PA, by using United miles, and was able to fly from Monterey to State College with a couple of stops in between.  This was a great deal since taking that route normally would cost quite a bit of money due to the low-volume ending airports.  By using miles and "Saver Awards" on United, I only had to use 25,000 miles round trip.  Too bad that United has pretty much stopped issuing award tickets.

Delta and United's miles no longer expire, but they may close your account if there's no activity in two years or certain periods.  I don't quite trust them.  British Airways, Alaska, and American miles all expire in 18 months to three years, depending on the airline.

I have miles in all the above airlines and try to show some activity every two years, regardless of the airline's policy.  It's not difficult to earn miles and there are plenty of websites that discuss how to keep your airline frequent flyer accounts active, and your miles from expiring.

I often try to remember to shop through an airline's shopping mall portal, which you can find from Google.  It's easy -- just go to the airline's shopping portal, enter your frequent flyer account number and password, and then choose a retailer that you would normally order something from.  Unfortunately, the online retailers that my wife and I use a lot -- Amazon, Ebay, Easy -- are no longer on these shopping portals.  But Target, Home Depot, and tons of other retailers are on the shopping portals.

However, BEWARE.  You might as well not shop at Target through an airline's shopping mall and expect to get points.  I made the mistake recently.  The airline shopping mall did track my visit and showed that I had visited Target.  However, it never credited my account with any miles for my Target purchase!  I wrote them to claim the missing miles, and here's the reply:

Kelly Yeung (British Airways Avios eStore)
Mar 26, 05:57 GMT
Dear Mr/Ms Wu,

Thank you for your email.

We’re unable to credit your account as your purchase is not eligible for Avios. The Special Terms of Target say:

Target does not offer a reward on: grocery, household commodities and essentials, home appliances, health, beauty, personal care, baby care items (diapers, wipes, food, and toiletries), pet care and supplies, electronics (including TV, portable, computer software and hardware and services), toys, sporting goods, movies, digital entertainment, video games and consoles, contract mobile phones, prepaid cards, gift cards, music, books and magazines, Target Pharmacy and OTC, automotive accessories, Target Photo, photo lab, Target Optical, Target CafĂ©, starbucks, pizza hut express, SweetJOJO, and orders deemed by Target to be for resale.

We’re sorry for any disappointment this causes.

You can view the Special Terms of all our retailers by visiting British Airways Avios eStore online at http://www.shopping.ba.com/, where we have an extensive help section, answering the most frequently asked questions.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind regards,
Kelly Yeung
British Airways Avios eStore
*****

So, given all the stuff that is not eligible, what exactly can you buy through Target.com and get miles for?  Everything is excluded, so why is Target even in the airline shopping malls?  I can't think of anything that I'd buy at Target that would be eligible!  
Ridiculous!  And bad on you, Target!  Bad Target!

Home Depot is awesome as is the airline shopping portal, and HD honors the points.  Unlike Target.