Cyanide and Happiness

Boy! Talk about “Edgy”. Do NOT read this comic strip if you are easily offended. But I find that the humor here absolutely tickles me.

You have been warned!

Click the image above or click here.

Posted under Amusing

This post was written by Marc
on February 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Kill A Watt EZ P4460 – DeLonghi SafeHeat radiator

When natural gas prices went through the roof I took a look at our heating system. We have a single central forced air system that supplies our entire house. This isn’t terribly unreasonable considering that we live in a single story ranch (no basement, no steps at all). But, even with a programmable electronic thermostat, I felt we could do much better energy-wise if I picked up some electric heaters and used them with timers in various rooms of the house.

I am looking at replacing the furnace / air conditioner now and will probably set up either two zones (with separate units) or set up a system that controls where the heat is being directed throughout the day so that we are not heating unused rooms unnecessarily.

I have this DeLonghi Safeheat radiator (rated for 1500W)in the master bedroom attached to an Intermatic Time-All (rated for 1750W). The timer will kick on an hour or so before we head to bed and it will turn off a couple of hours after we settle in. It again turns on an hour or so before we get up. The heater itself has its own thermostat so it won’t bother to turn on if the room is already warm enough. In this climate the morning temperature outdoors is just as likely to be 35 degrees as it is to be 50 degrees.

The DeLonghi has two switches, one supposedly rated for 600W, the other supposedly for 900W so you can have a low-med-high arrangement by using one, the other or both of them. Interestingly, when I had the unit hooked up to my Kill A Watt, I found that the 600 Watt switch was drawing about 700W and the 900W setting was drawing about 761W. So the tuning isn’t quite so fine as you might think. Also of note that both switches on consumed 1315W. Not really sure what that tells you.

RESULTS

Elapsed time: 1041 hrs (about 43 days)
Measured Minimum Consumption (Watts): 700
Measured Maximum Consumption (Watts): 1315
KWH: 123
Cost –
     Actual (for duration of test): $13.14
     Daily: $0.30
     Weekly: $2.11
     Monthly: $9.08
     Annual: $110.00 <– Take with a grain of salt. We only use the heater for about 5 months a year.

Posted under On the Home Front, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on February 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Refinancing a mortgage with SunTrust – Done

Continuing with my mortgage saga, I went in yesterday morning and *finally* got this done. There was one nasty surprise waiting for me there. ANOTHER copy of that dreaded 4506-T “Request for Transcript of Tax Return” form. As before it was completely blank. I asked the lawyer (he represents the lender, like I have a choice) if I can just remove it from the package. His response was that the package needs to be signed and initialed as-is or the mortgage can’t go through. So I said, “What if I fill in the values so this isn’t just a blank check to my entire IRS history?”. Again, he said he sympathized but no changes can be made or the mortgage has to wait.

I am Joe, ordinary citizen, and this is is typical of what we all face when borrowing from our lending institutions. For this transaction I had 34 documents on 75 pages of which all but 3 needed to be either initialed or signed.  The document letting me know that I have a right to my own lawyer was probably about number 20 in the pile…  Do the folks who legislate this crap really think it actually helps the lay person? It sure didn’t help any of the folks losing their houses to foreclosure. All I’m doing is signing away more and more rights. Even the stuff that I slowed down to read (I had to take a fair amount of the information on faith that the lawyer wasn’t trying to screw me over) was the kind of stuff that would take a good hour or so to really sink in or understand. And if I found any of it objectionable it’s not like I can NOT sign away all my rights if I want to complete the deal.

My credit rating is excellent, but that still gives me NOTHING in negotiating with these institutions. And I actually have a day job, so battling it out with them in court would be idiotically expensive and unproductive for me to say the least.

Anyway, I’m so glad it’s over. As with buying a car, you grit your teeth, hope you don’t get raped too badly and then try to recover from the disappointment, humiliation and dissatisfaction with the process and convince yourself that it wasn’t so bad so you will be able to bear it every time you make a payment without feeling you got taken to the cleaners.

Posted under Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on February 20, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Old Reminders Keep Appearing for Recurring Meetings

In Lotus Notes, a user has recurring meetings scheduled. When the reminder comes up, they acknowledge the dialog normally.

The next day, the recurring meeting will show up again along with any others that have accumulated.

In the forums and Lotus’ Technotes they indicate that you should get a handle to the user’s “CalendarSettings” profile (some refer to the “CalendarProfile” profile but you really need “CalendarSettings”) and reset the “lastAlarmDate” field to “Now”.

Using NotesPeek I could see that the user that I was dealing with had 3 CalendarSettings profiles. One for their current name, one for an early variation on their name with which they had begun their employ with us and one with the name of one of our Junior Administrators in it.

The correct profile (user’s current name) also matched the owner’s field name in the CalendarProfile but the “lastAlarmDate” field was already current. So this wasn’t going to help me. Figuring that the CalendarSettings document was likely damaged in some way, I created the following agent to blow away ALL of the calendarsettings profiles.

Get the user to exit Lotus Notes completely, then add the following agent to their mail file and run it. Don’t forget to remove it afterwards.

Then have them open Lotus Notes. They will see ALL their old reminders which they should just acknowledge. Also, some settings will need to be redone: they will go back to the week view of the calendar if they had changed it to some other view, etc.

But, compared with the annoyance of more and more accumulating meeting reminders, the reset is a minor issue.

Name:    Getcalendarsettings
Last Modification:    02/19/2009 04:05:54 PM
Comment:    [Not Assigned]
Shared Agent:    Yes
Type:    LotusScript
State:    Enabled
Trigger:    Manually From Actions Menu
Acts On:    None
LotusScript Code:
Option Public
Option Declare
Sub Initialize
    Dim sess As New notessession
    Dim coll As notesdocumentcollection
    Dim doc As NotesDocument
    Dim docdel As NotesDocument
    Set coll = sess.CurrentDatabase.GetProfileDocCollection(“Calendarsettings”)
    Set doc = coll.GetFirstDocument
    While Not doc Is Nothing
        Set docDel = doc   
        Set doc = coll.GetNextDocument(doc)
        If Not docDel Is Nothing Then
            Call docDel.Remove(True)
        End If
    Wend
End Sub

Posted under Lotus Domino, Work Portfolio

This post was written by Marc
on February 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Letter: Why didn’t flight crew mention God?

Um…

Letter: Why didn’t flight crew mention God?

The comments after the letter pretty well sum up my opinion too..

What a world view to hold.

Posted under Metaphysics, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on February 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

Mexican night!

Tonight Mich and I are having a Mexican night! Chips and Salsa, Hot Cheese Dip and Soft Tortillas, Chicken Fajitas and Margaritas!

Complete with Mexican Music!

My only question:  Where are the Hint of Lime Scoopable Chips!!!!???

So close…

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on February 16, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Ticketmaster and Mondial Assistance

I’ve never been real comfortable with “Ticketmaster”. Whenever I use the site they have service fee upon service fee heaped upon the purchase. They’re kind of like the “Bank of America” of ticket sellers.

For example, last month I purchased tickets for a local play (Footloose) for myself, Michelle and 3 friends. The original ticket price was $15. Then Ticketmaster ladles on a $4.75 “Convenience Fee” per ticket (anybody know what the heck that really means?). Then there is the “Order Processing Charge” $3.65 (seems reasonable enough) and a “Ticketfast” charge of $1.75 (cost for them to allow me to print my own tickets).
This increases the final cost of the tickets by nearly 40% of the originally stated price.

So, recognizing and finally accepting that there really is no way to pay the advertised price for Ticketmaster tickets, and that they’ve got most venues around here locked up (does anybody know how to get tickets without going through Ticketmaster? I mean besides making an extra trip down to the venue to purchase them.). I picked up tickets for a show next month that were supposed to be $39.50 each. The “Convenience Fee” for these is $6.75 per ticket. Now they have a $2.00 “Total Building Facility Charge(s)” per ticket (?). I get a break on the Order Processing Charge as it is “only” $3.60 for the order, but they easily recoup that by increasing the “Ticketfast” charge to $2.50.
So my $39.50 tickets are now $51.30 each or 30% more than the advertised price.

“Fine”, I tell myself. Michelle will really enjoy the show and I really don’t have a lot of options.

This morning I get an email from Mondial Assistance thanking me for purchasing “Event Ticket Protector Insurance”.

Mondial Event Ticket Protector Insurance

At first I figured this was just a scam but then I saw that they had information that only Ticketmaster could have provided (date of the show, number of tickets). Further, when I checked on Ticketmaster’s site they *do* acknowledge the insurance scheme

 but pretty much tell you that you need to deal with it on your own.

I know that I did *not* intentionally elect to take any insurance – 15% ($6 insurance vs. supposed original cost of ticket) is WAY too expensive for such protection and the risk that I’m going to miss a 2 hour performance is not really all that great (vs., say, the risk of missing a vacation package that spans a week or so).

But what is galling is the fact that I saw no mention at all of this insurance on Ticketmaster’s site when making the purchase. If there *was* it was not obvious and the little note at the top of the page saying “You have 2:15 to complete this form or you’ve gotta start over” would definitely impact your ability to carefully inspect your options.

As it is I haven’t seen the charge applied against my credit card yet, but this *is* the weekend. I’ve got a note on my calendar to check on Tuesday and cancel it. It’s a small amount of money but , gee whiz, don’t you just hate being taken for a ride?

*** Update February 17, 2009 ***

To their credit, Mondial’s VP of Marketing Communications contacted me after reading this blog and offered to initiate a refund of the premium for me. I had this on my “to do” list for the afternoon but I felt this was a nice gesture.

In his message he noted that:

The scenario you described was quite alarming to us and I want you to know that I have looked into it. I can assure you that we do not automatically charge people for the insurance. This type of “opt out” marketing practice is not used on Ticketmaster’s website. Each ticket purchaser is given the option to purchase or not purchase insurance.

I cannot say for sure how the option was presented to me, but I know I would not have opted in. And Ticketmaster’s reputation, being what it is, would leave me comfortable in the assumption that they were implementing an “opt out” strategy. After all, they are already selling tickets for more than the face price in the first place.

I see that the initial charge for the insurance premium has been applied against my charge card. I have already received confirmation that the insurance has been canceled. I’ll post to confirm that the reversal of charge has been applied as well.

** Updated February 22, 2009 **

I want to note that the credit for Mondial Assistance’s insurance premium showed up on my credit card account a couple of days ago. So they were true to their word on canceling and reimbursing me for the insurance.

Posted under Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on February 15, 2009 at 10:02 am