I like the AAA, I was a member of CAA when I lived in Canada and like having the safety net of having a trusted entity that can be called if I run into issues on the road.
With the purchase of my Tesla, I’m less certain the AAA will be helpful (they are still ramping up EV benefits) but there is a measure of comfort available for my wife having this resource available to her for her ICE car.
Also, there is usually some small price advantage available when booking hotels with the AAA rate.
This morning I received an alert from my credit card (you really need to set up these alerts) that AAA had charged it for the amount of my renewal. I was a bit surprised as I don’t need to renew until late next month and I ONLY renew things like AAA manually.
They’ve been trying to get me to join their auto renewal program for years with tiny incentives (“Save $4 if you set up auto-renewal!”). But I prefer taking a moment to consider if it is still worthwhile to me each year before deciding if I’m going to renew.
Well, last year, it seems they got tired of the tension and just went ahead and set me up anyway, without my knowledge or permission. Believe me, I carefully scan the checkout screen before I submit payment to prevent exactly this kind of nonsense.
I went back and checked my confirmation email from last year’s payment and, sure enough they have a blurb at the very bottom informing me that I’m now automatically renewing.
I checked on the website and the ONLY way to change this back is to now call them on the phone. I mean, who does that in today’s day and age?
I did call (wait time was exactly 10 minutes with another 12 minutes after that on the call) and intended to get them to refund my payment and disable the automatic renewal. However, I was told that:
They could not disable auto-renewal with the charge pending
If I would give them my full credit card number they would put in a request to refund the already paid fee. But could not guarantee this would work.
I can always call back later if things don’t work as expected.
So I went ahead and cancelled my membership (confirmed by email) and I will dispute the charge with my credit card company if the pending authorization does not go away.
TLDR; I moved from Quicken to Banktivity a little over 3 years ago and now I’m going back. I basically don’t trust the Banktivity registers and it takes WAY too much time manually inspecting, auditing, and repairing to be worth my effort.
I have tracked my finances in detail since my university days in the mid-80s when I created a complicated set of macros in Quattro to handle the basics required to record, track, and reconcile all of my accounts. This continued until I got my first job and decided I wanted a more polished system, whereupon I migrated over to Intuit’s Quicken product.
I continued to use Quicken for a little over 25 years when they started faltering and appeared about to go out of business. Their support had gone very much downhill, updates to the product were unspectacular and, frankly, it seemed as if Intuit regarded the Quicken product as just an advertising means to push their TurboTax product.
I was disenchanted and looked around for a native MacOS product that could handle my personal finance needs. In late 2018 I decided that Banktivity (which had *just* rebranded from “iBank”) had the comprehensive set of features that I needed, and so I migrated to this platform.
Banktivity was still a bit rough around the edges, but it had just been overhauled and they looked like they were eager to build a world-class personal finance solution so I tolerated some of the fairly glaring shortcomings and found workarounds with the assistance of their support folks.
I picked these up for a decent price from Amazon. Most of my contact sensors are Z-Wave so this was my first foray into Zigbee sensors.
I was a bit uncertain about them after reading so many reviews that said the devices would report in for a while and then kind of stop.
As of this writing I’ve had these Sengled Smart Door sensors installed for just under 2 months and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Setting them up was simple, I took to heart the warnings that the battery protector tab might leave behind some residue which caused issues for some other reviewers, and just popped out the button batteries to remove the tab instead of just tugging on it.
I then popped the battery back in, put the case back together and then set my hub to “Zigbee Discovery” mode. After pressing the reset button with a paper-clip, each one of these sensors paired immediately.
I have 2 of these installed on lesser-used hall closet doors (maybe used once a day), one on a much more used wife-primary closet door (half dozen times a day) and a final one installed on one of my most-used doors which leads to my garage / workshop (maybe 20-30 times a day). This replaced a previous sensor that was acting up. I just attached the Sengled and it worked fine. I didn’t immediately remove the old sensor bracket while I was evaluating the Sengled as you can see in the image, but I’ll clean that up next month.
None of these have ever failed to report their status IMMEDIATELY and consistently. They are all used to primarily activate lights – 3 of them activate Philips Hue bulbs, and the garage one activates a GE Enbrighten paddle switch, all via Hubitat’s Rule Machine logic.
Even without being on sale (Currently $70 for 4 sensors), these are among the least expensive Door/Window sensors I’ve found. When I bought them in December they had a 40% off sale which made them THE most cost-effective sensors I’ve purchased. Combine that with their great reliability (so far…) and these are really a great deal.
You definitely HAVE to use a hub with these. I’m using them with a Hubitat Elevation, but I know that SmartThings’ hub also works with Zigbee. So that should cover a pretty substantial portion of the hub user’s demographic out there.
I will be buying more of these both for new projects and to backfill some less reliable older sensors on my property.
McDonald’s is.. well, McDonald’s. Famous world-wide for, perhaps not the best food on the planet, but certainly among the most consistent food available.
If I’m ever traveling and have had just a *wee* bit too much local cuisine or, as I found on my honeymoon in Germany, that my high school German should not be counted upon to understand a menu and order when visiting that country, I find McDonald’s to be a reliable, familiar taste haven. More than once have I scurried to a local McD’s while abroad to erase the memory of a regretful food choice or just to reset my palate back to my bland North American expectations.
They are available almost anywhere I go. They are open just about any time I would want to eat. Their fries are “good enough”. Their hamburgers are “good enough”. This is perhaps not lofty praise, but nobody is going to fast food restaurants because they are after Michelin Star level cuisine.
McDonald’s recently started a points reward program, presumably because of the success of other fast food chain rewards. One reason to switch from dollars to tokens or points is because the math can be annoying for figuring out the best value
McDonald’s point redemption is nowhere near as flexible as that of Chick-Fil-A (See my article on Chick-Fil-A Best Redemption Value here) in that, as of this writing, you can only choose a single item to buy with points OR you can use one of their other deals. But, Chick-Fil-A almost NEVER offers any deals so that does somewhat mitigate their reward offering.
So, as of December 8, 2021, here are some of my favorite McDonald’s rewards in order from best to worst value per point.
Keep in mind that pricing can vary dramatically depending upon location. A quarter-pounder can cost as much as 30 cents more if I pick it up 15 miles North of me where I work vs near my home. But I’ll use this to guide my point purchase whenever they do not have a better deal on offer at that restaurant.
I have a love/hate relationship with Belkin’s Wemo products. When they work they work very well but when they decide to misbehave, they are miserable to get working again.
I already have 9 Wemo switches in my smart home. These took a long time to settle down but back when I first got them they were at the “bleeding edge” so, like everything else at the time, things were expected to be somewhat rough around the edges. I credit creating DNS reservations on my router for most of their current stability and improvements in device driver code for much of the rest.
When I added the first of these new smart plugs to the Wemo app it seemed to work perfectly. So I went ahead and added the other two and had them distributed throughout the house. By the next morning I found the first one was no longer responding (just flashing orange LED) and it had to be reset – after that it worked perfectly, it even integrated with IFTTT just fine.
The other two were not so good, they just kept losing connectivity, regardless of where I located them in the house.
A real deal killer for me, and something I had not initially considered was that these were not recognized by SmartThings (which is not a problem for the Wemo Smart Switches). Likewise, Hubitat Elevation – which was going to be my primary hub for these new plugs – only has a user supported device driver for Wemo switches, dimmers, etc. and these new ones apparently do something funky (respond unexpectedly or on random ports, who knows) such that they cannot be identified for use as a device with this hub.
The real kicker is that, in introducing these to the Wemo app, it started doing all sorts of interesting things both with these plugs and my existing stable of switches. Random switches / plugs would show up as disconnected at different times. Never less than two and typically no more than four even though the switches were still working just fine with my existing hubs.
So I have returned these and am going to instead use Ikea’s Tradfri Wireless Control Outlets. I have 5 of these controlling various lighting fixtures in my house already and do you know what has never given me any problems? These Tradfri outlets! They are somewhat more limited in that they do not have an on/off switch on the unit to override them if things go awry or if you just feel like manually turning something on or off. But I’ve ordered a bunch more and am unlikely to look back at the Wemos for a long long time.
Even now, days after removing these Smart Plugs from my Wemo app, one of my Smart Switches still shows as disconnected, even tough my SmartThings hub can still control it just fine.
tldr; don’t use with SmartThings or Hubitat Elevation and beware the Wemo app. If you do get these working, don’t ever, ever change your setup…
Apparently I’ve gone a bit mad for this stand. It’s called the Lamicall Tablet Holder I counted back and, since early 2019, I have ordered a dozen of these great little tablet holders. Every time I see it come on sale I think of another person or another use for these.
Quality control is impeccable, I inspect everything I receive from Amazon immediately when it arrives and every single one of these Lamicall Tablet Holders has been scratch-free and works perfectly (the hinge on the stand is neither too stiff nor too loose).
My day job is working with mobile phones and tablets so I have 4 of these stands on my office desk alone. They fit Samsung Galaxy S and Note class phones, Pixels, iPhones, and iPads (10″ & 12″ Pro and not) perfectly. It gets them up off the desk so they don’t take up as much space (especially the tablets) and can be easily canted to whatever angle makes sense for the testing I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll have an iPad in one of these holders and be demonstrating another device in a second holder using the back camera while on a teams meeting or a zoom or Webex call.
Around the house I have a couple on my kitchen island so my wife and I can keep our iPads out of any foodstuffs that may be on the counter. This keeps the screen visible to me whether I’m looking at a recipe or viewing a youtube video. I also have one I keep on a smallish end-table in my media room as there is just not enough room there to lay down a tablet (barely enough room for a phone) with the remotes, Kleenex box and dishes that are invariably already there.
Most of my devices are wireless these days, but for those that aren’t (I maintain legacy devices for backward compatibility purposes), you can feed the charge cable through the back and the gap in the actual device holder allows you to easily plug it in to your device. Also this is MUCH more attractive and less cluttered than having the cable snake its way around the phone to the bottom if you’re laying it flat on your desk but want it oriented properly toward you.
This is an inexpensive, simple and satisfying accessory that makes a great gift for people who already seem to have everything. You really don’t know you need one of these until you’ve already got one. My mother has already commented on hers several times and uses it whenever she is Facetiming with either us or her grandkids.
Oh, be sure to get the “Tablet” holder and not the smaller “Phone” version. I haven’t tried the smaller one but this works just fine for phones and why limit yourself?
So color me a bit obsessed, but I really can’t say enough good things about this tablet holder.
Oh, and I don’t get anything for linking to this product, so it doesn’t matter if you use my link or not. I just want to share something that just… works and works well.
I have been a member of AOPA since around 2004 when I did my flight training.
They are a worthwhile organization that lobbies hard for general aviation pilots and they do a lot of education and outreach.
Over the years, the cost of membership has gone steadily up and this was fine with me, the increases were in keeping with inflation and growth of AOPA generally.
I honestly cannot recall if I was notified about the price increases in the past but I know I was not about the more recent, much more aggressive increases.
One thing that will lose my trust really quickly is people changing things materially on me without the transparency of notifying me. It was one reason why I disliked Comcast – the bill was different every month.
AOPA’s member retention services seem to focus on sending me a new email every 3 days offering me this great one-time deal which is that they’ll knock the price down (for that one renewal) to what I paid last year.
I’m still trying to figure out, do people really receive the same notification over and over and eventually just fall for it?
Anyway, my trust has been eroded and I sent them the below message in response to their latest missive.
Does this really work? In the past 30 days you’ve sent me 12 exhortations offering me the EXACT. SAME. ONE TIME. “DEAL”.
I dropped my support for AOPA when, after many years of fairly reasonable price increases (5% in 2009, 13% in ’11, 9% in 2015) even a 20% hike in 2017 which was a bit galling but, whatever, fine.
But I got annoyed when, without any warning you hiked the price by a whopping 33% in 2019 and then proceeded as if nothing had happened. I have to guess many of the pilots are older people and they just don’t notice the increases.
AOPA does a *lot* of good work, but I do not trust anybody that is not transparent. When you are going to raise prices, let me know ahead of time and why (even “due to inflation”).
All I see is that you are now increasing the cost of membership because you can.
I am disappointed.
I dunno, am I wrong here? Being petty? It’s only a $20 increase but it grates when a company seems like they can act with impunity.
Obviously a pandemic like that being caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is nothing to make light of. However, that being said, the very effective “social distancing” that has been implemented in order to slow down the disease is, for me, a gift.
I had to visit The Home Depot today in order to pick up some muriatic acid so I could balance my pool chemistry. For the first time in my life I needed to wait in a line to get in to the store. At first I balked as I *hate* waiting in lines.
But this looked different, the vibe was decidedly calm and patient. There were about 20 people ahead of me. This was out in the parking lot and, even though the temperature was in the high 80’s, we were comfortable as there were shade canopies set up and they were offering cold bottled water. Everybody was requested to stand one car park space apart (see the picture). It was… comfortable, nobody breathing down my neck while I waited, imposing their impatience on me. In fact everybody was decidedly chill.
If the lines at amusement parks, concerts or other events were anything like this, I might even be tempted to go to some of them.
We also had to pick up some necessities from our local Publix (milk, some bread, etc.). The parking lot was pretty full so I was expecting it to be kind of a zoo inside. Again I was pleasantly surprised. *Everybody* in the store was pretty chill, gave each other a wide berth and were basically pleasant all around.
Last week we picked up a big bag of cat food, the pet supply store requested us to call when we got there and someone came out and just put it into the back of my car for me. A bit decadent I admit but it appealed to my sensibilities. I’m not a “browser” I know what I want, I just want to get in, buy it and get out. So this is exactly my kind of shopping experience.
At my company, a couple of years ago they drank the “collaboration workspace” Kool-Aid and laid waste to the entire idea of privacy and permanence in favor of low-walled, noise encouraging, distraction provoking work areas. They also introduced “hoteling” for our Consultants because: screw them. You could not design a more miserable work environment for introverts if you tried. As someone who takes a while to learn new people’s names I can tell you that making sure that I cannot see a name tag or figure out where someone sits from day to day just doubles down on the awkwardness of working with these “temporary” workers. By temporary, you mean “months” and “years” at a time BTW. The constant distraction of people making phone calls as they stroll up and down the aisles looking for a little privacy, to the myriad conversations going on in any language except English to the guy, and I kid you not, two cubes down who thinks it’s perfectly fine to use his speakerphone for everything from long-form conference calls, to retrieving voicemail, to just letting a call ring and ring and ring in case the recipient might answer it one day (who the hell doesn’t have voicemail these days anyway). Anyway, I rant. The point is that today, with “social distancing”, that nonsense is completely out of the picture as I am now required to work from home. My home office is awesome! I no longer have my concentration efforts shattered into an infinite number of small pieces as interruptions and distractions force me to start and restart my train of thought endlessly in a wasteland of extroversion.
As for having to stay at home generally, I *like* my home and have made it nicer to be at than ANY resort I have ever stayed at. I have a full and comfortable gym. My office is spacious and practical. I have a heated pool that I can and do use any time I choose – with no rude people or their kids getting in my way. My media room is a nice place to enjoy TV or a good movie.
And I am never, ever bored.
I have had to put some hobbies on hold in the past as my interests are far ranging and there is never enough time to do everything I want to do. I could stay heads down on my personal projects for *years* without running out of things to do.
People who get bored mystify me.
In short, social distancing is custom-made for people like me. I enjoy the company of people in small amounts, I don’t enjoy the crush of strangers, especially the ill-mannered ones that seem to dominate public sphere when I’m out.
I’m comfortable with and thrive on being on my own or just with my wife.
I earnestly hope that some of what we are doing now will stick around after the current pandemic fades. Covid-19 is awful, but the unintended side effects have proven to be life enhancing. Let’s keep the good stuff!
I emigrated from a country that has universal (more or less) health care. It’s not something that I though a lot about at the time as I was much younger.
When I saw my first few pay checks after things settled down I will admit to being absolutely astonished over how much of my earnings I actually got to keep. People in these United States who grouse about the amount of money that is claimed from them in the form of the many taxes listed on pay stubs have literally no.freaking.idea what high taxation means.
After a few years of this ongoing windfall, after some dealings with the horror-fest we call the American Health Insurance industry, it began to weigh more and more upon my consciousness that I was exactly one catastrophic accident or illness away from complete and utter financial ruin.
Here’s the thing about catastrophic anything. You don’t choose it. It “chooses” you. I don’t care how careful or pious a life you lead. Wonderful people develop debilitating illnesses. That inexperienced kid driving their dad’s sports car will over correct and smash into you just as easily as they could have smashed into the person driving 3 seconds behind you.
Of course nothing is ever perfect. Everything is a package deal. You love your job, but there are always things that could be improved. You love your spouse, but… well let’s not go there. But you get what I mean. I *love* America and what it has to offer and am one of the very few people on this planet who is fortunate (lucky?) enough to be able to live here and participate in the most amazing social, cultural and political experiments that the world has seen up until now.
However, with all the opportunity available to us as Americans, there are areas where significant improvements are still possible and needed. For me, at my stage in life and my perspective of formerly living in a country where – largely – health care is not a hulking specter but rather an every day availability, I recognize that we need to get off our collective asses and stop paying lip service to the idea that maybe it would be nice if the greatest country this world has ever seen wasn’t at the bottom of nearly every measure of health and wellness. Dammit, we should be the absolute longest-lived people on the planet! Infant mortality should not even be a concern for soon-to-be American mothers. U.S. Citizens absolutely should not need to travel abroad in order to be able to afford some kinds of major surgery (medical tourism).
There are plenty of proposals, emotions and political biases that are battling on the American health care landscape. And not one.single.one of them will be the perfect answer. We will never come up with a system that serves every American optimally all the time.
But you know what we deserve? A system that doesn’t view the patient as a nuisance to be attended to in order to extract every last possible penny from insurance, government and personal coffers.
And so, after years of voting on myriad important issues at the local, state and national levels – and regularly finding my vote completely overwhelmed by partisan politic slogan-based voting of others whose rationale can make sense of neither by logic, math nor morality – I have decided to toss my hat into the ring of single issue voters.
This is not because it’s easier (in some ways it is nicer to only have to care about the one position of a candidate) but because each candidate in each race will comprise myriad positions on a myriad of issues – some of which I may agree with, many of which I won’t – but they come as a package.
So now, Universal Health Care is my primary issue of concern. I think our country and our citizenry is deserving something other than this current travesty of inefficient and patch-worked pieces.
I’ve been wrestling back and forth with Microsoft on this for the past few weeks. I’m able to use Intune’s “Send Custom Notifications” feature to send messages to a very small number of people.
But, recently, I wanted to notify just under a couple of hundred of my users that the version of iOS they are running will no longer be supported by my system. I thought this notification feature would be a neat way to reach out directly to them so they knew that I meant *them* specifically and not *them* generically as tends to happen with email communication of this sort.
So I sent my notification to a tiny number of people (me especially) to ensure that the message being sent looks good for the target folks on the mobile platform. Works fine.
Sent the identical message to a single group of 171 people (again, including me) and… nothing. The next day I sent it again after confirming that, not only did none of my half dozen test mobile devices receive it, but NOBODY received it. And… again… nothing. This time I verified that the resulting Intune notification (bell at the top in Intune) confirmed “Success”. Sent another notification to just myself and a coworker and…. works just fine.
Well… crap. So I sent off an email instead to the users to give them their warning and opened a ticket with Microsoft regarding this.
Basically Microsoft is telling me that I must have missed the dozen or so notifications across my devices, as did all of my users. They took pains to explain to me how end users sometimes don’t notice notifications when they come up and that must be the situation… on both days.
Long and short it turns out that there is no real auditing or logging of this feature so Microsoft cannot tell the notification disposition beyond the original “Success” which apparently only means Intune has acknowledged that I’ve submitted the request.
I wanted to put this warning out to you. Not only should you not be using this feature for time-sensitive information, but also there appears to be a threshold number of people – certainly in my case – to whom it can be sent before it will give up the ghost and just not do anything.
Be absolutely certain to include yourself and some sympathetic coworkers on ANY Intune Custom notification that you send out if you want to have any assurance that it actually made it to your audience.
In my opinion Microsoft needs to update this feature so it:
Logs all sent messages,
Provides a disposition for the message as to whether or not a device has acknowledged receiving it.
I don’t imagine there is a lot more I could ask for. The end user is welcome to ignore the message after delivery. At that point my goal has been achieved.
I would be interested to know if there are any other folks who have run up against this issue.