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 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!
Back in early December (2019) I noticed that the regen on my Tesla was not what it should be.
Basically, after overnighting in my garage on a 63 degree F morning, it would take about 25 minutes of my 40+ minute commute before I had full regeneration restored.
On a cooler 37 degree night, I ended up preheating the car for *54* minutes (miscalculated departure time) and, for that 32 minute drive I NEVER regained my full regen.
I contacted Tesla to have them take a look-see, after all, not a couple of weeks earlier they had replaced my Battery Coolant Heater (coincidence?).
Regardless, in spite of what seems like an obvious connection between a battery coolant heater and my battery heater not activating properly, Tesla came back and initially informed me basically that “battery packs are big and can be slow to warm up” and, when that didn’t work they then let me know that there is a firmware bug that is preventing the battery heater from activating.
Below is the transcript of my conversation with Tesla. I’m still waiting for the “future firmware update”.
Basically I’m seeing that Tesla Model X (Premium car) has now become so niche that it basically is not getting much attention at all. And I frankly believe that Tesla service is so overwhelmed that they can’t spend the time on customers such as myself, the earlier adopters who helped to fund the whole enterprise, to ensure that our vehicles are running correctly.
Color me disappointed. I can’t wait to see where I end up on the list of HW 3 upgrade recipients.
I recently had the opportunity to try the UP Express in Toronto.
“UP” stands for “Union (Station) Pearson (International Airport)” and was apparently conceived as a premium service to shuttle people from the airport through the city of Toronto via a couple of stops taking you as far as Union Station in the heart of the city.
Fortunately the “premium“ aspect of pricing this service was recognized to be a bad idea and this service is now premium in every way except for the price which is extraordinarily reasonable.
On a recent visit to Toronto, Michelle and I took the UP Express one way from the airport to the Bloor station at a cost of CAD $5.65 each. The trip from Pearson’s Terminal 1 takes about 17 minutes.
After flying in to Pearson Terminal 3 coming in from the States, it is simply a matter of taking the terminal shuttle train over to Terminal 1 (a single stop, don’t ask about Terminal 2), making the short walk to the UP Express train station, boarding the train, and shortly there after being deposited at the Bloor station.
￼They have a great little mobile app with which you can sort out purchasing and activating tickets. Basically, you can purchase your tickets ahead of time and, just before boarding the train, activate as many as needed for the trip and, simple as that, you are on your way.
I originally purchased tickets to the wrong station (Weston), don’t ask why I thought I needed to be there instead of Bloor, and had to phone their customer service. This was an unexpectedly pleasant experience where in there was no hassle whatsoever at getting those tickets refunded so that I could purchase the correct ones.
Since I was not intending to rent a car on this trip and was staying with family, this worked out very well for everybody. Saving them a trip to the airport and saving us the hassle and expense of taxi or Uber. From the Bloor station we were picked up by our hosts, but we could just have easily have taken the TTC or GO trains to get where we needed to go.￼￼￼￼￼￼
The UP Express trains were clean, quiet and uncrowded (at least for our visit).
*Update February 13, 2020* A representative reached out to me by phone and asked me to send some confirming documentation and she’d get that to the billing folks. Three days later, she again reached out to me by phone and left a voicemail confirming that the matter had been resolved. Hearing back from somebody in this day and age AT ALL is unbelievable and I have to give Sears Home Services props for that. I’m adding a “The Good” category to this post for their efforts in resolving this issue with me. *End Update February 13, 2020*
I was initially pleased as they showed up on time and, even though they couldn’t find a definite source of the issue with my relatively new clothes dryer, they took it apart and put it back together again and, since then the issue I contacted them about has not recurred (was happening daily).
We paid them by credit card when they were here.
A month later I get a bill from them saying they were not able to process our payment (they were, according to my credit card company) and that I needed to remit payment. My beef with them is that there is no earthly way to reach them for a billing dispute. They want me to sit down and write them a letter (this is the 21st century isn’t it?) and then maybe they’ll consider if that has merit and let me know.
I need to decide if it’s easier to just dispute the original transaction and then pay them again or to sink into the 18th century and pull out a quill, blotter and wax seal and send them a missive via messenger.
So points for solving my problem. Major demerits for sending me an errant bill and then providing no means by which to follow up with them.
Edit: Finally did manage to reach them via chat (Chat on main page of their website does not work, but after searching for my order, the chat on THAT panel did work). They assured me that I can just ignore the bill.
Here is a chat that I had. If they are true to their word then it does reinstate the faith I had in Sears Home Services. Mind you I could probably do with out the upsell at the end there…
Welp, that was not the way to go. Besides Georgia Power’s ability to charge whatever they like, whenever they like (read the above article), it’s extraordinarily difficult to figure out in advance what your peak usage is going to be. Georgia Power only offers a daily electrical consumption summary if you remain on their hyper costly legacy plan. Despite having the very same smart meter and, ostensibly, the ability to report the total number of kWhs that were consumed over the past 24 hours. I shouldn’t think it would be terribly difficult to report back to you what consumption was during what time frames (since the charges vary by time of day on the plans in question) and surely the meter can show your peak consumption spike for that period as well. I understand you are charged (penalized really) based on a peak that lasts 30 minutes or more. But I have no way of measuring or monitoring that.
So, for my case, it seems that we have a base load of energy consumption (not unexpected) that would include all the electrical bits and pieces that run constantly throughout the day – furnace fan motor, fridge, lights, computers, etc. – that I have no means to measure. Then, despite my extended efforts to schedule things like pool pumps, car charging, air conditioning, oven / stove use, clothes dryer use, etc. I still managed to hit significant peaks that lead to my bills being far greater than I was/would have been paying under the Plug In EV plan.
Fortunately, to Georgia Power’s credit, it’s not terribly difficult to switch back again which I did after reviewing the past few bills.
My December bill showed as 1,280 kWh consumed with a peak consumption of 13.4 (!) kW for a total of $189.43. My November bill showed as 1,344 kWh consumed With a peak consumption of 9 kW for a total of $155.78.
Similarly my December bill from LAST year showed as 1,620 kWh consumed (686 kWh Super Off Peak and 0 on peak) for a total of $157.06. My November bill from last year showed as 1,715 kWh (771 Super Off Peak, 10 kWh On Peak) for a total of $164.25
Part of the lower consumption during the past few months was that I was able to charge my car at work more often recently. Regardless, I had already reduced my car charging consumption to around 3.5 kW. This was done on the car charging page where I can limit the amperage draw. This was part of my strategy to avoid hitting the onerous peak consumption penalty.
Just grossly speaking, it seems that I could take my total consumption for the December and November bills from this year and divide them into the cost to get an average of 13.16 cents a kWh. Doing likewise for the same months from 2018 yields about 9.63 cents a kWh or about a 40% increase in my per kWh rate.
I understand that this is not super accurate, were I to look at ONLY my November bill the average per kWh rate would be somewhat more reasonable (maybe 20 % more costly). I guess, at core, my issue is that it is much more impactful on our day-to-day living to try to avoid the Smart Usage peak use penalty and I am chafing because Georgia Power appears to be withholding a very effective tool (daily consumption email) that might make it feasible to try to keep going down this path.
The fact remains that, for me, the increase was significant enough that I decided to fall back to the Plug In EV plan.
In checking the Delta Airlines app for some details on an upcoming trip I saw that they offered an upgrade to First Class for 7,400 points per person for Full Trip.
After doing a bit of research I saw that others had upgrade offers that specified each segment.
Since both going and return segments were listed on the same page I was not sure if this really was a “Full Trip” upgrade – which could understandably be interpreted to mean the return trip since I have only a single segment each way.
Anyway, to clarify for anybody else also wondering about this, Delta’s use of Full Trip just means all the segments within the one here-to-there trip.
It’s obvious in retrospect, as many things are. But it was ambiguous to me up front. If you’re reading this, hopefully it’s no longer ambiguous to you.
So I ordered a new Fujutsu ScanSnap ix1500 printer from Amazon a couple of days ago.
I received my delivery the following day and was pretty impressed… until I opened the rather war torn box and saw an obviously used device had been sent to me.
So I posted a quick review on Amazon indicating that I’ll post an update when I get the actual new item and downrating the device in the meantime due to the sloppy mess-up.
Stuff happens, I get it, as long as they work to make it right I’m not going to be a stickler about it.
However, just a few minutes ago I received this notice that my review was rejected. They didn’t say why exactly, only that “Reviews must adhere to the following guidelines”. After which they thoughtfully posted a link which went… well… nowhere.
The new device has already arrived (Kudos to Amazon for the fast turnaround on the replacement) and was brand new and as described. So I was happy and was going to update the review. I guess I don’t have to now. Still, somewhat disappointed at being muzzled. I don’t think the review was all that terrible. Just facts.
The actual text of the review was:
I’ll adjust the rating to represent the actual scanner quality when I receive the new one I paid for. As it is, I received a torn box with the old shipping labels obviously torn off and new ones with my address slapped on to replace them. Heck, the original recipient’s address was still on one of the labels that were still attached to the box. Inside, the unit was scuffed and had obviously been used. The plastic and foam protectors were all scrunched down on the bottom. It was obvious that someone had just hurriedly packed the item to send it back to Amazon.
Summary: There is not enough information provided on your electric bill to verify if you are being charged correctly.
Cause: There are two items on the tariff sheets that are not reported and, it appears, there is no way for a normal person to know their costs.
These are: Demand Side Management Schedule is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Demand Side Management Residential Schedule, including any applicable adjustments”. and Fuel Cost Recovery is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Fuel Cost Recovery Schedules in the manner ordered by the Georgia Public Service Commission, including any applicable adjustments”.
This came up when I was reviewing my electric bill to see if the “Plug-in Electric Vehicle” rate, to which I currently subscribe, is the best option for my use patterns.
Georgia Power has 6 rate plans. Two of which (Flat Bill and PrePay) I dismissed immediately as being of no value to me. The remaining ones all had potential so I created a spreadsheet to contrast the amounts I would have paid under those plans compared with what I actually paid.
I took the last 12 months of bills and put them into a spreadsheet. Since I am already on the Plug in EV plan I already had my peak, off peak and super off peak hours broken out for me to simplify the calculations.
I also assumed that the crap fees (Environmental cost recovery, Nuclear boondoggle, Municipal Franchise fee, Tax and the monthly basic service charge) would be about the same regardless of my plan since most of these are based on my energy consumption.
When I first began my calculations I was pretty happy with the results as it looked like there was a tremendous potential for saving money by switching to a different plan. However, to my dismay, I found that the calculations for the rate plan I currently have also gave results that were significantly lower than what I’m actually paying.
I reviewed my formulas a bunch of times and had to conclude that Georgia Power was adding something into the per kilowatt charges that was not obvious on the main part of the bill. Enter the Demand Side Management Schedule and Fuel Cost Recovery items that I finally noticed in the lawyer section of the document.
By my figuring, for the past year, those two items accounted for cost increases on the power portion of the bill of from 21% (last October) up to 59% (last February) over and above the actual published rates.
In real dollars this means I paid $21.40 more on a bill totaling $124.83 up to $58.05 more on a bill totaling $157.06.
Suffice it to say I am not impressed.
So I have no way to really know how much I will pay for electricity under ANY of these plans since it appears Georgia Power can charge pretty much any amount the PSC will let them and I can have no knowledge of that.
The inability to actually calculate the costs of future bills notwithstanding, I can at least get a feel for the *relative* cost differences between the various plans.
Almost universally, the Residential plan is the worst for me.
Likewise Nights & Weekends will not do my wallet any favors although it’s much better than Residential.
Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. It took me a long time to figure out what the “Smart Usage” plan was doing. The description kept going on about needing to split up your high energy uses so as not to consume a lot of power at once. But the mechanism they were using to determine this wasn’t clear to me. Then I understood. This section here:
DETERMINATION OF BILLING DEMAND: Maximum kW: Maximum kW shall be the highest 30-minute kW measurement during the current month.
Means that you are essentially punished for the entire month for your highest amount of consumption at a single point in the month regardless of whether you are using the energy in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, or at 2 in the morning, you will pay a premium of $6.64 per kilowatt for the month for that spike.
I am able to charge my car at work many days but if I choose to charge it at home at the maximum power available to me (50 amp service at 240 volts * .8 (max sustained draw) which is 9.6 kW that means a premium on my bill of $63 even if I do it only once during the month.
But I’m able to lower the rate of consumption through my car’s charging controls. Since most of the time I don’t need the car charged *that* fast, I can simply drop it down to
So theoretically I can charge my 75 kWh battery from absolutely empty, assuming about 85% efficiency, in 18.4 hours rather than 9.2 hours and reduce my hit by about $31 from Georgia Power. Keep in mind that it’s pretty rare for me to ever get below 45% charge, so those times change from 7.8 hrs and 15.6 hrs at 40 and 20 amps respectively to about 5.2 and 10.4 hours which is very comfortable.
Of course there can be other high consumption appliances running when I’m charging my car, so I just need to set my car schedule to off hours and make sure those items don’t conflict. For me the next biggest consumer of power in the house will be my pool pump. So I will just schedule it outside of the car charging hours. Between that and ensuring that the clothes dryer isn’t running at 3 in the morning should keep things pretty simple.