Bank of America – What’s not to trust?

I have a “Financial Rewards” VISA card through Bank of America (BofA). I have it through them since, at the time, they were the only ones who seemed to be offering such.

In past dealings with BofA, I’ve been put off by what I interpret to be “Nickel and diming” behavior. They seem to have service fees for everything, monthly service fees for your checking account, check writing fees, you name it.

I found it amusing when I received this “Cardholder Thank You” item mixed in with the bits and pieces that accompany my monthly VISA bill.
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What was humorous to me was that this advert, in the form of a fake check, and with BofA’s logo displayed prominently at the top, had this to say in its fine print (you’ll need to click to read it):
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So, Bank of America is telling me that, even though they are sending me this advertisement in an envelope that is coming from them, with their letterhead on it, as a “Thank You” for being a possesor of their VISA card, that I can take advantage of by including the order form (on the reverse of the fake check) with my VISA payment, they have nothing to do with this offer?

I’m not sure I’m really impressed with a company using its brand to shill for “Gift Services, Inc.” and yet will neither stand by the quality nor service associated with the products.

I… think I’m going to get a new credit card from a company that I would prefer to be associated with. These “cash back” credit cards are becoming much more popular now, and no blackout dates 🙂

**Update June 30, 2006** I tried to find Gift Services, Inc. using Google. I found one company by that name based in Denver, Colorado, but the “Cardholder Thank You” document indicates that this company is using a P.O. Box in Utah. Same outfit? Perhaps.

Completed Turtle Pond

A while ago we picked up a “mini-pond” that we could easily host within our screened-in patio. We used it to replace the kiddie pool that we were using to give our turtles (red-eared sliders Zippy and Arthur) a “summer home” during the great long summer we have here.

You can see the black polyethylene (or similar) pool in the first picture below. It’s not super attractive to look at, so we built a frame for it and one of our friends offered to paint a long, attractive beachy scene on some canvas which we would then affix to the framework and then have a bright-looking enclosure.

Unfortunately, the canvas thing fell through and it took a little while to get up the momentum again but below I chronicle the update of the enclosure from a spartan frame to a painted beadboard accent piece.
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Here is the enclosure inverted so I can measure the beadboard and install the feet on it. I had to add some 2×4’s to raise it up a bit as Authur figured out how to get himself out of the pond and enclosure when it was at its original height.

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Here is the beadboard, I had them cut it at Home Depot so that all I needed to worry about was length, they were all the same width.

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After cutting the beadboard to size, painting it with KILZ, attaching the 2×4 feet and then the adjustable felt feet.

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Another angle of the above, also waiting for the application of wood putty to make up for a gap caused by the original frame and my complete inability to compensate for it when measuring and cutting the side panels. I tried twice and got the exact same gap both times, even though I could SWEAR I took extra special precautions the second time. Ah well, I suppose that’s why I spend most of my time working with computers rather than with wood…

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Now with the paint applied and drying on it. Michelle did this part. She’s much more skilled than I at painting so she did the two finishing coats.

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Arthur enjoying his new enclosure. I can see now that he can no longer see over the top of the enclosure. I need to get some nice, flat fieldstones to build up his sunning area so that he can see outside but can’t use them to “bridge” his way out of the enclosure on his own.

Starling Art

These are some of the noisiest birds you could ever want to have in your neighborhood. But it is always fun to go outside and yell “Boo!”. It’s quite a show to see them take off in unison swoop around almost as a single entity and then land back in the trees again.

I spotted this picture on Boing Boing

Baby Birds nesting on our front Porch

We have a couple of hanging ferns on our front porch that is favored by discerning parent birds as an ideal neighborhood for raising their young.

This year I decided to take some pictures to quasi chronicle the growth of the chicks. I *really* need to start taking more pictures. Whenever I do something like this I think I’m taking plenty at the time, but then I find a dearth of good pictures at the far end of the process..

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Local Area Connection icon no longer showing in the system tray

This is a little thing, but recently my Local Area Connection icon (that little icon showing two overlapping computers that each flash depending on whether you’re uploading or downloading information), has stopped showing up in my systray.

Checking the properties for “Local Area Connection” I can see that “Show icon in notification area when connected” is still selected. But I did de-select it, click OK and then come back and re-select that option to ensure that it wasn’t simply a matter of “resetting” it.

Rebooting the machine hasn’t helped either.

With all the talk about “root kit exploits” I’m a little paranoid and I like to be able to see if my computer is talking to the outside world when it’s not running anything that is *supposed* to be doing so.

Window’s XP firewall is enabled, Symantec anti-virus is installed and up-to-date and Windows defender is installed and up-to-date. But, of course, none of these can yet detect root kit exploits so I view the symptom of the disappearing network icon with some concern.

Still looking for a solution…

Canada Day Party

Since the July 1st / July 4th weekend is SO busy we’ve decided to host a small Canada Day get together with some of our Canadian friends.

In preparation for it I needed to find the Canadian National Anthem (the official lyrics for which can be found here).

It is amazing to me how many truly lackluster the renditions of the Canadian National Anthem are out there. Most of them easily transport you back to those days in grade school where the old (even then) upright pianos were clanging away the songs in the midst of a cacophony of kids’ voices shrilling out the songs imprinted on ditto paper.

I finally found a pretty good version by, of all people, Céline Dion. I’m not her hugest fan but she does a great job with the both O Canada and The Star Spangled Banner. Appropriate for this weekend. For the songs you’ll need to jump to about the 3 minute mark as there is a brief interview that preceeds her singing.

Getting Started with eBay and Paypal

Q: We are looking at a foray into EBay and Pay Pal. I know you have had some mixed experiences and was wondering if you had any advice for us.

R: Check out my website for “Paypal” .

I have a friend who buys and sells stuff on eBay all the time. He *doesn’t* use paypal at all. I use it but I would never depend on them for “protection”. If you have the option to pay directly by credit card (a lot of businesses sell through eBay and can accept the cards) go that way, otherwise paypal is OK and there is no charge to use it.

For buying / selling on eBay use the rating system. I’m sure there are ways to game the system but by and large it seems to be pretty reliable. You want to deal with somebody who has been around for a while and who has sold enough stuff to where you feel comfortable dealing with them.

Don’t hesitate to send them an email during the bidding (or before you “Buy it now”) to ask any questions – i.e. do they ship to Canada? Does it come with X?

Air to Air communications frequencies

I recall trying to find this information about a year ago and having a lot of trouble finding it. Then I saw it published in my AOPA newsletter so I’m posting it here as a reminder to myself:

Question: What frequency, if any, can be used for air-to-air communications between two aircraft?

Answer: The Federal Communications Commission designates specific frequencies for aircraft and airports to use for specific purposes. For air-to-air communications, the designated frequencies are 122.75 MHz and 122.85 MHz. These frequencies also can be used for private airports that are not open to the public. For a list of designated frequencies for unicom and multicom frequencies, view Table 4-1-2 in the Aeronautical Information Manual. Learn more about what frequency you should use at AOPA Online (requires membership to AOPA).