Tuesday, April 17, 2018

More Bad Websites

I've seen this absurd security question and answer on websites before.  It's obvious that this sort of question was coded into computers years ago and has remained since, with no one correcting the  contradiction in the question and the stated rules for the answers:

So, am I supposed to give a one-word answer to a question that demands two words? 
Or a two-word answer when I am told to "Use one word" in the instructions?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Sunrays and Diver in a Yucatan Cenote

A couple of years ago, I traveled with my former assistant and all-around good guy, Mike Ready, to dive the cenotes near Akumal and Tulum, Mexico.  Sev Regehr lives there and was kind enough to show me some of these incredible dive sites.  These images are of Sev in a  cenote, with sunrays (godbeams) streaming through the water.  Thanks, Sev!  Sorry it took so long to get around to editing these images. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Calla Lilies, Monterey Coast, California

Spring on the central California coast is a wonderful time. The flowers come out with the sun.

Pacific Grove's magic carpet of flowers, however, has died out in some places. And the monarch butterflies are probably dying out: according to the Coast Weekly, "Volunteers counted just 500 butterflies in the P.G. Monarch Sanctuary on Feb. 18, the end of the 2017-18 overwintering season."

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wild Irises Starting to Bloom in a Georgia Bog

In late March, I flew on a plane again, for the first time since October 2016 (when I returned from South Africa).  I have not missed flying, and feeling like a prisoner (thanks airlines) much at all.  Instead, I've been driving back and forth from our "summer house" in Olympia WA and our regular place in Monterey, CA.  In the summers, I've been trying to visit swimming holes in Oregon, WA, and CA.  The ipad app "Swimming Holes of Oregon" has been an invaluable tool. 

I flew to Savannah, Georgia, to visit my old pal Andy.  Andy works as a field biologist for the Georgia DNR, always part time, as he does not want to work full time.  His job now and for the past 15 years or so has been to survey kites, a bird of prey.  Kites are rare -- not quite declared federally endangered.  He spends all day, every day, for four months boating and hiking to find kite nests and surveying kites.  There are not that many.  The rest of the year he travels or has held jobs where he walks around and looks for indigo snakes. 

Andy has been exactly the same since I knew him in the second grade when we used to wander around in the woods in Atlanta looking for snakes and turtles.  Still doing the same thing.  The government somehow lowered his pay from ridiculously low to insanely low!  He never has cared much about money. 

He always seems to get government or nonprofit housing.  I've visited him in a few places where he's worked, and the government housing has always been adequate, even really nice, in the middle of wildernesses -- perfect for folks like him.  I am kind of stunned to see how much money is spent on this, both state and federal funds, and nonprofit funds. 

He lives and works now in a swamp-filled, snake-infested wilderness reserve near Savannah with too many ticks and mosquitoes for me.  I attach a photo of irises in a bog there that are just starting to bloom.  These wild iris are just starting to open.  In a week or two it will be incredible.  I will have to come back at the right time sometime.  Mosquitoes ate me up, and three tick bite areas have lasted over two weeks now!  I think that it was almost worth the insect bites to see wild irises like this.  Insects don't seem to bother Andy at all.

Friday, March 2, 2018

No one ever reads emails or texts carefully any longer

I sell my old stuff on Ebay and Craigslist, and it's nice to get rid of my old stuff, and to free up space in my garage. 

But -- my god man.  The amount of emailing and texting involved in setting up an appointment to meet ANYONE these days is horrific!  Because I have a smartphone to see my emails and texts, as well as a desktop program for emails and text, I see every email and text about four times.  My system is not good when I get a bunch of texts from anyone, particularly a bunch of small texts that are unnecessary. 

I think that most people are in the same boat.  They are being barraged with texts and emails. 

The result is that no one ever reads emails or texts carefully.  No wonder no one can concentrate any longer:

Here's an example, where "Horacio" on craigslist contacted me about a hard drive that I had for sale:

On Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 6:08 PM
Horacio: Still have the hard drive ? Also advertised as 2tb but you have written as 3tb

Me: Thanks for letting me know about the error in the listing.  It's a 2Tb drive.  It's still for sale.  I can meet between 9-5 at Juice and Java in downtown Pacific Grove if you are interested. 

Horacio: I get off work @4

2/27/18 4:13 PM
Me: Sorry, I just got your emails. Do you still want to meet? If so, 430pm at Juice and Java, downtown Pacific Grove. Let me know. I'm the guy with the hard drive on Craigslist. 4:05 PM
Horacio: I'm almost home I I live in Seaside.  Where?  4:06 PM
Me: Juice and Java is at 599 Lighthouse Ave. It's just to the left of the Bank of America in downtown PG. If not today, I can meet tomorrow but today is better. 4:06 PM
Horacio: I was just going to say tomorrow is better down there I'm almost home 4:06 PM
Horacio: You know I think I bought a hard drive from you before 4:07 PM
Horacio: It was good Touro 4:07 PM
Horacio: It was a Touro 4:08 PM
Me: Ha -- that was me. Do you want to try for tomorrow at 415PM? Same place. Glad to see you again! 4:08 PM
Horacio: Yes 4:09 PM
Horacio: By the way I love that little hard drive that I bought from you 4:09 PM
Me: OK, see you tomorrow. 4:10 PM
Horacio: Ok 4:12 PM
Horacio: I want it for sure 4:13 PM
Horacio: Thnx 4:13 PM

2/27/18 3:01 PM
Horacio: We still on for 415 3:01 PM
Me: Yes, I will be there. I won't be checking messages until then. See you there. Juice and Java, downtown Pacific Grove, to the left of Bank of America. Thanks! 3:03 PM
Horacio: Ok 3:17 PM

Norb gets to Juice N Java at 4:10PM, sits inside:
Horacio: Here 4:14 PM
Norb gets up, walks into J&J, sees no one.  Goes back and sits out front. 
Me: I dont see you. I am sitting out front.juice and java left of bofa:-) 4:16 PM
Horacio: Wait what's it called I'm near chase 4:18 PM
Horacio: Oh u said B of A 4:18 PM
Me: Dont see you. I am out front. Juice n java 599 lighthouse 4:19 PM

Number of times Norb stated that we would meet at Juice and Java: six
Number of times Norb stated that Juice and Java was to the left of Bank of America: three
Number of time Horacio went to Chase instead of BofA: 1
Total number of texts: something in the neighborhood of 60

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Boo On These Bad Websites and Marketing Emails, Part 2

My first post on this subject, "Boo On These Bad Websites and Marketing Emails", has had over 1000 hits.  Maybe more folks out there than just me are sick and tired of this kind of stuff.

Anthem Blue Cross sent me a particularly duplicitous email today.  Here it is:

This is classic corporate doublespeak, falsehoods masquerading as do-gooding.  I am sick of all the lies that I encounter every day, and this type of corporate lying is insulting.

"We want to make things easier for you, so...we're upgrading  you to paperless communications."  What a fabrication!  This company wants to save money -- that's the only reason they and other companies constantly exhort us customers to go paperless.

Don't agree to this stuff.  I ask for paper copies in every instance possible, and I've taken my business elsewhere when a company refuses to supply paper copies.  I like having my files on the computer as much as anyone else, but when I need to verify a document six years later, having paper files has proven to be essential many, many times.

I went to their website and opted out of paperless communication.  I don't believe that Anthem really has my best interests at heart here, despite what they say. 

Target Stores is pretty bad.  I placed an order on their website a few weeks ago.  I started getting a request to complete a survey, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to unsubscribe.  BAD, Target, BAD!  Even worse, they continue to send requests for customers to complete surveys if they ignore the first notices.  This is enough to convince me never to shop on Target online.

So, one email asking for a survey -- and every time I buy something now, I am asked to complete a survey?  These surveys are ridiculous -- a company should know if it is doing a good job or not.  Then I get a reminder email to complete the f***ing survey again?  I filtered out these emails, which is a task I don't like doing, but otherwise I'd be getting Target's survey requests every day or so.  Terrible.

I checked Target's website to see if there was any way to unsubscribe.  I checked their privacy policy also.  Here's what Target says:

If you do not wish to receive promotional e-mails from us, email guest.relations@target.com or call 800-440-0680 to opt-out. You also have the ability to unsubscribe from promotional e-mails via the unsubscribe link included in each promotional e-mail. You may continue to receive program-specific marketing emails through a program such as, but not limited to, A Bullseye View, or Target Photo. You can unsubscribe from program-specific emails via the unsubscribe link located at the bottom of those program-specific emails.

This opt-out does not apply to operational emails (e.g., surveys, product reviews).

Hey Target -- surveys and product review emails ARE NOT operational emails!  They are marketing emails.  They do nothing for your or your customers' operations. This is the kind of stuff that ruins email for most people. 

I strive mightily to keep my email inbox clean, using filters and unsubscribing.  I do understand that most people just hit delete and move on.  However, I conduct most of my business via email, so companies that abuse emails waste my time and affect my business dealings negatively.  Time is everyone's most valuable asset -- and with all the electronic gadgets that we carry around these days, most of us have to read and delete multiple copies of every email sent to us, every day. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Costco Sucks So Badly Sometimes, and It is Surprising

I've been a longtime Costco member, and in general, I value the membership.  Sometimes the warehouses have great deals.  I've stopped looking at any of their online deals, because every time I see a deal that I am interested in, I discover that Costco has scoped out the competition and made the deal just a bit less of a deal than what's out there.  They will add a shipping and handling charge at costco.com, for instance.

Another bummer about Costco is that they don't really look out for their members.  I'd expect as a member, for instance, that Costco would stand behind all the products in their warehouse.  I found to my surprise that if you buy a phone or phone plan in a Costco warehouse, that Costco has nothing to do with the phone vendors.  The phone vendors are entirely separate, and they will make promises (that they will then renege on) and Costco is of no help.  I bought a phone and 2-year-phone plan a few years back at the phone booth in Costco, and the vendor told me that I could return the phone and cancel the plan within two weeks with no fee or penalty whatsoever.  I tried to do so, and the phone vendor said that I'd have to pay something like $70 as a penalty.  I took my situation up with the Costco front desk, and they were no help.  I was and remain disturbed that Costco would allow outside vendors in all of their stores that do not offer the best phones and phone plans for their members.  The phones and phone plans do not represent very good deals at all, and Costco could not care less. 

For instance, check out the phone plans at puppy wireless, which sells plans on the Verizon network.  I have a phone plan from there, that works on the Verizon network, and costs me $80 per year -- only $6.67 per month!  I use it only for voice calls, but I could use the plan for data also.  For my smartphone, I use a Freedompop phone that costs me nothing for 1Gb of data per month.  I've written about this plan in the past. 

Still -- getting gas at Costco is a great deal, and their returns policy (for their Costco items, not outside vendors) is generally great.

But sometimes, Costco's really crappy attention to customer service -- which is respect for their customers -- is surprising.  I have not encountered such poor customer service at Amazon, for instance, which seems totally dedicated to good customer service.  

A few months ago, I suddenly began getting emails telling me about the lame Costco Connection magazine (ad-zine).  I tried to unsubscribe.  It was impossible to do so.  I wrote them and got a response, from "connection+canned.response@costco.com"...yes, really. Here's the email that I got in reply:

Well, yesterday I got another email -- obviously my request to unsubscribe was not honored. I guess that the person who sends out the emails from "connection+canned.response@costco.com" only sends out canned responses!  I am not surprised.  

Here's the email I received, and here are the utterly useless unsubscribe links in the email:

If you click unsubscribe -- or Update Email Preferences, here's the useless web page that you are taken to.  Yes, it is basically a blank page: 

If you click Update on that page, you will get the following utterly unhelpful email: 

Clicking the link does nothing.  

And here's perhaps the most irritating aspect of this unwanted email of all -- showing that the Costco web folks clearly don't give a crap about customer service and preferences.  If you click on "Manage your Costco Connection subscription" in the original Costco Connection email, here's the page you get: 

Note that you are not given an option to unsubscribe ANYWHERE.  The above only gives you an option to subscribe to this crappy "ad-zine."  

Hey Costco -- how about letting me unsubscribe from your crappy "magazine"?  
How about respecting your customers enough to allow them to remove themselves from spam marketing from Costco?  
How about firing the person in charge of these crappy email marketing tactics and terrible web practices?