Fastlane Stained Stainless Steel handle – a small miracle

After a few months of going around with Endless Pools and the folks at DesJoyaux, the DesJoyaux folks hit upon a workaround if not a solution for my issue with the handle on my Fastlane turning a black color.

As you can see from this “Before” picture the handle (and portions of the stainless steel cage below that protects the impeller) was a murky black color. I was unable to wipe it off to any meaningful degree yet enough would come off if you touched it to get on your hands or your bathing suit.

Several weeks ago, Billy Fowler from DesJoyaux said he thought he had hit upon something that might be of use and suggested two cleaning agents to try. He very generously offered to take back any chemical left if I found them to be ineffective which tells me that he is standing behind his research.

Basically I dumped some of this “StainFree” product from “Natural Chemistry” into a bucket with about a quart of water, donned some rubber gloves and used a rag to wipe the handle. After two or three swipes I saw the stainless steel shining through! It’s much more of a chemical reaction than an elbow grease effort. If I soaked the rag and basically squeezed it around a discolored portion of the handle the improvement was immediate. A bit of rubbing helped a bit but as soon as the chemical was spent there was no amount of rubbing that would improve it any more.

Here is the after picture. I cleaned the handle, pulled the top off the unit and replaced the sacrificial anode (which was designed for  outboard engines) with a much smaller one but which was purchased from Endless Pools.

Now the question remains: Is this a permanent fix that resolves a one-off issue or will I need to periodically revisit my stainless steel pieces?

Message to Elan Financial (They Manage EmigrantDirect’s Visa)

I sent the following (in two parts) to Elan Financial. Am I being unreasonable?

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction thus far with Elan Financial services who are managing my EmigrantDirect Visa card.

1) When received my first statement in January I immediately went to the Elan Financial website and signed up to have my bill paid in full each month from my bank account. According to a recent exchange I had through this messaging system I apparently should have been aware that, even after having double checked that the payment date was showing as February 6 (two weeks in the future), Elan’s system would not actually make the withdrawal since, inexplicably, this is not enough time for a financial institution in the 21st century to set up such a connection.

I saw no indication on the website that I was to ignore the listed payment date and go ahead and send in what to me would seem to be a duplicate payment via snail mail.

I am astonished that a financial company, managing the credit card portfolio for an ONLINE ONLY Banking service, is incapable of both setting up a funds transfer in under 6 weeks and is further incapable of communicating that fact on the website through which the financial arrangements are being made.

2) A few days ago I received a letter from Elan welcoming me and letting me know that I should activate my card and that my reward rate would be at 1% – no mention of the 1 1/4% that I signed up for and am ostensibly receiving. This was a bit confusing since I have actually been using the card for a month and a half now. Has Elan reneged on the original offer? Is Elan unaware that I am using the credit card?
3) Coincident with the above welcome letter I received a notice from Elan’s collection department whining about my not having paid my first bill. This in spite of the fact that I have been in contact with Elan via this secure messaging system and had clearly set up my account to fully pay my bill fully two weeks prior to the first due date. Can it really be that Elan’s various departments have no contact with each other nor do they have access to my account records?
4) My first attempt at crafting this secure message on the Elan website was lost when the website timed out after 15 minutes of “inactivity” and did not even retain a draft of the message. I again emphasize the primitiveness of a system, in 2013, that would be so unyielding as to not allow the customer a chance to either confirm that they are still using the site or to at least provide a mechanism to retain the work in progress. The page literally vanishes and is replaced with one showing that the session has expired. Also Elan’s website limits these messages to 3500 characters but does not actually tell you this until you submit and then doesn’t tell you by how many characters you have exceeded the maximum.
5) My recent communication with Elan regarding the minimum amount of points required to obtain a statement credit resulted in the unhelpful response that I should phone the rewards department during business hours. Ignoring the fact that the reward website needs to actually say what the minimum rewards amount should be rather than simply responding “You do not have enough rewards points to purchase this item”, I emphasize again that it is no longer 1980 and that email is a common and acceptable way to communicate. One of the reasons I deal with an ONLINE BANK is so that I can communicate asynchronously and not waste my time on hold waiting for a representative to get around to working with me.
I need the following from you:
1) Acknowledgment that my bill will be paid by your online system as it currently indicates that it will on March 6
2) Acknowledgement that my rewards rate is at 1 1/4% as was agreed upon with my initial application
3) Acknowledgement that I will not be fined or assessed any fees as a result of my trusting Elan Financial’s website when it indicated it would withdraw funds through a system that I, in good faith, set up weeks ahead of the payment due date.
4) Confirmation of the number of reward points required to redeem a statement credit.
I await your reply,

Zodiac iAqualink items – Response from Zodiac

As a follow on to this, Mat at Pool Tech let me know that Zodiac has since released a fix to correct the concern above so that you are able to trust “Service Mode”. I do not know if they received any other notifications other than mine (via Pool Tech and via my own mailing to Zodiac) but I’m pleased that a potential safety concern was addressed so rapidly.

Now if they could direct some effort toward my lighting issue.

I *did* receive a response from Zodiac’s customer service almost immediately that indicated they’d cursorily scanned the email and did not really take my point:

Thank you for your suggestions. Your comments have been forwarded to our engineering department.

As far as the lighting goes, we don’t have the logic for your specific lights included with our system. Unfortunately, we can’t provide functionality for every light on the market. We only have the most popular programmed in our firmware.

The reason the water temperature isn’t shown at all times is because the reading won’t be accurate. The temperature in your plumbing is going to change more quickly than the temperature in your pool water. This is why the temperature is only shown when the pump is on and the water is circulating.

Thanks again for your suggestions.

So I clarified for them:

I’m working with my suppliers to see about swapping out the lights for another one but it’s looking like the holes in my pool are not going to be compatible.

With respect to the temperature suggestion. I am not suggesting ongoing temperature readings while the pump is off, but only reporting the last accurate reading (pump was on for at least 3 minutes). For myself, knowing what the accurate water temperature was 2 hours ago is sufficient for me to make decisions about what I want or need to do. If I see it was at 76 degrees and I’m going to swim when I get home I know I’m going to activate the heater. If I see it was at 84 degrees I know immediately that I won’t be needing the heat the pool just doesn’t cool down that much over a few hours and so the readings. This ballpark just saves me the 3-5 minutes waiting for the temperature to settle down.

Thank you for responding,



Unfortunately I don’t know that it will go much further than this. I’ll post if I’m able to achieve any progress / satisfaction.

Zodiac iAqualink Concern, Issues and Suggestions

It’s pretty difficult to find a contact email address for Zodiac USA. All I can find on their site is one of those moderately useful forms. So I’m going to post this message here on my blog and then send them a link.


Dear Zodiac,

As the new owner of an iAqualink I have come across a few items that I felt should be brought to your attention.


Android Application does not reflect current conditions and ignores Service mode
The Android version of the iAqualink application does not refresh at reasonable intervals. If I log into the application hours or days after my last logon, the information from the previous login is still being displayed. Information such as which devices are on and what the temperatures are should be refreshed, certainly after a new login, but they should also be refreshed with much greater regularity than is happening now.
There is a dangerous side effect to this. Since the device does not check the current system status at reasonable intervals, it is possible to be logged into the Android iAqualink application, manually put your system into “Service” mode and continue to start and stop pumps and manipulate the system as if it was still in “Auto” mode. I recently demonstrated this to Adam of “Pool Tech” (6/5/2012) and he indicated he was going to bring this to your attention due to obvious safety concerns.


My Issues:

Can you program my lights for me?

On 5/29/2012 I spoke with Denise in your customer support area. My iAqualink was installed as part of a new pool installation and the lights that had been installed are Fiberstar’s “Pal Treo” LED lights. Unfortunately these are not among the 4 lighting systems already supported by iAqualink. I am able to get some use of my lights by selecting “Jandy LED Watercolors” which will change my lights to something other than the default color, but of course the colors in the PAL Treo system do not line up at all with the Jandy LED Watercolor system. This is something that would require a programming change on the Zodiac side to implement (or my suggestion below). Denise was to check with your developers and get back to me. It’s now 6/15/2012 and I’ve not heard back from her. I would like an answer on this.

You can choose your light color when explicitly turning on the lights but not for any programmed mode.

If you select Lights (at least as it’s set up on my system and verified by Pool Tech) as part of a “One Touch Setting” you do not have the option to select the color that comes up. Certainly for different “moods” one would like to have the option to choose a color other than the initial start up color.
Similarly, when setting the “Dusk” settings for the lights there are no provisions to select a color when choosing your light device. This needs to be corrected.



Allow a DIY lighting setting so that consumers can set up their lights themselves

My experience here is somewhat limited, but a common theme among light systems seems to be that you turn on your light switch and then you flick the switch off then on again to cycle through the offered lighting options. An interface that allows you to specify how many of these options there are, plus the colors that result from these off/on cycles might make the iAqualink system compatible with more lighting systems while reducing the overhead for keeping up with them.

Retain Pool Temperature information when the filter pump is not on

Just like on a weather page, provided you indicate the time for which the reading is current, it would be very useful to me to be able to see my temperature at a glance without needing to turn on my pump system and wait for the water to cycle long enough to get an accurate reading. The temperature will not be exact but since you can see how old it is you can decide for yourself if you need to force a more accurate reading. Since the system is on at least once a day I will always be somewhat in the ballpark and to me this is much more useful than a BLANK reading.

Allow me to change labels for Temp1 and Temp2

It took me a while to figure out that Temp2 was my pool temperature. I’d like to be able to just change the label so that this is obvious to my wife.


Yours Sincerely,

Marc Bourassa

How to stop CVS automated prescription calls

** Update December 8, 2018 **

Whelp, finally got fed up with their shenanigans and switched pharmacies. The final straw for me was their terrible app that had so much trouble letting me pick with method I wanted to pay with (hint, it just picks the first one it finds if you have more than one available). Also they kept switching my prescriptions to “autofill” so when I would actually want to refill a prescription it would be ineligible.

To the CVS management who believes that being so aggressive is the key to success. I presume your target demographic is confused elderly baby-boomers. What you are doing is not only annoying but is poor form across the board. Adiós muchachos

** End Update **

** Update March 1, 2014 **

Jeremy (in the comments below) pointed out that the second number is to opt out of that annoying reminder that your prescription is ready. Presumably you already know when it will be available and you just happen to not be able to immediately run out and pick it up. It will keep for a few days…

** End Update **

It’s a minor annoyance but when my phone rings it’s because it’s somebody I want to talk with, or there is a problem at work. I don’t want to be called because I might need a prescription refill or there is one ready and waiting for me.

For some reason there are two numbers you need to call. The first one is absolutely simple:

To opt out of the refill reminder calls dial 1-866-514-4965. It will default to opting the number you called from out but will ask to confirm this and ask for any additional numbers.

Not sure why, but the second one needs for you to speak with a person:

To opt out of the prescription ready reminders dial 1-800-746-7287, you’ll need to yell “more options” into your phone and then yell “Opt out of reminders” to be taken to a person who will remove your number(s) for you.

I suppose it’s a useful reminder for some folks but I prefer to keep track of my own stuff.


Warning regarding purchasing golf balls from

*Updated 2011.10.22*

A couple of days ago I received a package from Knetgolf with a dozen replacement balls. They arrived unannounced (except for the note from UPS regarding the impending shipment). So I had no idea what, if anything Knetgolf was going to do regarding my order.  I’m a little surprised they didn’t shoot me a quick email to tell me their intentions but I do give them kudos for making things right.

*End Update*

For myself, I’m fine with plain old white golf balls. Now that I’m a bit older I usually buy my balls new as I do see a difference between those and balls that have been sitting at the bottom of a lake for a month.

Michelle has concerns other than performance in mind for her golf balls and so I was tasked with getting her a some PURPLE golf balls.

I eventually found a place that sold reconditioned purple balls (don’t tell her they’re not new) for a reasonable price from and ordered two dozen.

The balls were delayed in getting to us by a day, UPS noted that this was because the label was unreadable.

When we received the balls the following day, I could see the issue. The label had been destroyed and the box obviously ripped open and taped shut again.

Inside, one dozen of the balls were fine. The other dozen had their little mesh bag ripped open and was actually missing one of the balls. Of those remaining 5 of them look like they had been dragged across some surface hard enough to scrape the shell down so they are smooth in a patch on one side.

Sending a note to Knetgolf’s order confirmation address with a couple of pictures had them respond by asking me to resend the pictures to their help desk. I never heard back.

About a week later they sent me an automated survey email asking how they did. To this I relayed the same story as above and never heard anything back either.

The value of the balls is not enough for me to get worked up about. But the pretense at customer service with absolutely no follow through was irksome.

So I post this warning. I’m sure the fault for this lies in UPS’ court, but it’s up to the vendor to deal with any issues with their carrier. Of course I won’t be patronizing knetgolf again and, if you are thinking of doing so, you should consider this anecdote with respect to their customer service.

Cancelled my DirecTV service

Hmmm…  Apparently the $99 I paid for my DVR back in 2005 wasn’t to actually *buy* the unit but rather is a lease price and they want it back. No doubt there were too many people who were continuing to watch all of their recorded content long after they had cancelled service and they needed a way to quell that.

Since mine is about as useful as a brick I have no objections to returning it. Looking at my bill I can see that I’ve had a $6 charge for a “leased receiver” (and a corresponding $6 credit) forever so I can’t really say they weren’t telling me that.

Who really pays attention to those line items anyway?

Now, what will life be like using Netflix, Hulu and other Internet resources for entertainment?  We’ll have to see. The adventure begins…

Who do you love to deal with, and who do you not?

When people speak about “corporate culture” it often seems like such an esoteric term.

But there is a certain reality to the way some companies deal with you that appears to be the manifestation of that esotery.

For instance, when I deal with or Sears or Wendy’s I get the sense that I’m getting something of a fair value for what I am paying and that the retailer is legitimately concerned that my experience is a satisfying one. They certainly clear a profit, but their focus seems to be much more on the transaction, satisfaction and their reputation than it is on the “making a buck” aspect of it. Hence, pretty much every time I deal with these businesses I come away satisfied that I have most likely received very good value for my money – at least as far as legitimate retail sales go.
Other business I favor include:
Affordable Electric
Roto Router
…There are many others that don’t come to mind immediately

On the other hand, there are some institutions out there who seem solely focused on separating you from as much money as possible for whatever product or service they provide. Every single transaction with them leaves me feeling … well … a little dirty if not abused. These are the companies that will send you marketing fliers advertising great promotional savings and nowhere can you find what the post-promotional price will be. Their rate increases manage to deftly outpace inflation and you can be sure are driven much more by what the market will bear than value for service. Every mailing I receive from these companies I scrutinize because I know I will find some new charge or limitation on my services that I need to be wary of.

Hence I try to avoid doing business with them as much as possible. If I’m forced to work with them I keep my eyes open for the first opportunity that I can move away to someone I trust more or someone I don’t even know at all since there is a chance they may be better.

The bad boys in this list for me include:
Ticketmaster – Not only can I never get the seats I want, but the final price I pay is always well above the actual seat price.
Comcast – They will eke every red cent they possibly can out of you for any service you have with them.
Bank of America – I briefly held a bank account and credit card with them until I realized that they LIVE to charge service fees for every possible interaction.
AT&T – Caps on internet service. Plus the fact that my worth to them as a customer dissolved when uverse was introduced.
Hooters – Seemed to pioneer the overpriced soft drink. I pay full price for a plate of tenders and fries cost extra? Really?
SprintPCS – I’m paying $10/month/phone for this mythical 4G service that I’ve seen maybe 5 times since I started with them. I have no choice due to the phone I’ve selected.
All Pizza delivery companies that charge “Delivery Fee” yet don’t give it to their delivery people – if any of the ones I deal with would drop that stupid fee, I’d use them excusively.
DirecTV – Have to keep calling them to get the price down to something reasonable, if you sign up for automatic payment, they draft the money immediately upon producing the bill and then tell you that the bill is for zero dollars. Weird.

There are, of course many, many others that hover somewhere in between which is to be expected. They walk that line between being inoffensive and just meeting expectations. I would say it’s a good thing that so many are in this middle ground. Of course there will always be exceptions where folks have bad interactions with a retailer on occasion. Maybe there was a computer glitch or maybe some manager was having a bad day, but if your day in and day out interactions are uneventful, I still score that as a win.

But there is true pleasure to be gained from dealing with a company or even an individual between whom an exchange will happen where both parties feel that they have received real value from their interaction.

Who are the good boys and the bad boys on your list? Who do you deal with where you just feel good and confident that you will get what you paid for?

Conversely, who do you deal with that always leaves you feeling kinda gross?

Great experience with Affordable Electric

Yesterday morning I awoke to the sound of my CO2 detector letting out a brief but piercing chirp that tells me that the power has gone out.

As we have a guest staying with us this week I figured it must be something where everybody was using hair driers and toasters and the like at the same time.

Mysteriously, none of the circuit breakers in the fuse panel were thrown but all the items associated with circuit #6 (Yes, I’m geeky enough to have mapped out everything in my fuse box) were without power.

Figuring that perhaps the circuit breaker had gone bad, I zipped over to Home Depot to pick up a replacement, popped open the fuse panel, swapped out the circuit breaker and… nothing.

At that point I knew I’d need to get an electrician to take a look-see. I checked out electricians in my neighborhood via Google and then cross referenced them with the Better Business Bureau.

Gritting my teeth I contacted what I thought was the strongest candidate, Affordable Electric.

Mike answered the phone and, after a few questions to narrow down the problem, he quoted me a flat rate of $199 to come and resolve the issue, all labor, time and parts included.

The price sounded reasonable for what I was sure he was in for and 30 minutes later he was at my front door.

After a bit of discussion, he walked over to the electrical panel and flipped the circuit breaker (I had left it off after the new breaker had failed to resolve the issue) and everything came back on. Uh oh.. it’s never good to have an intermittent issue.

We went through the house and he was quickly able to determine that the cause of the issue was an outlet that our guest had been using to recharge some batteries. The wiring for the receptacle had somehow come loose and, if you shook the outlet everything else on that circuit would flash like it was part of a disco tech.

So he corrected that issue, then went back to the fuse panel and he wasn’t happy with how some of the other circuit breakers were not sitting flush as they should be in there and adjusted those. We then had a discussion regarding some new trim options that can make some of my can lights look a bit more attractive (not to sell me, but just so that I was aware of the options).  He then asked if there was anything else that I wanted him to check out while I was there which I’m sure he would have addressed on the spot.

Total for the quick service and resolving that mysterious (and not very safe) issue: $199. Exactly as quoted. No muss, no fuss. He was on his way and I was confident that I didn’t have a mysterious electrical problem lurking and waiting to inconvenience me (or worse!).

This may not be the cheapest that I could have paid for this service now that I have the benefit of hindsight and knowing exactly what the issue is, but that price would have been the same had he also had to go up into the attic and work his way through the junction boxes and all the circuit wiring to resolve the problem.

Having a flat rate for service rather than an open ended per hour charge plus whatever other unknowns is very comforting to me and leaves me as a very satisfied customer.

So I heartily recommend Mike and Affordable Electric, Inc. (404-509-1799) if you are having issues in or around the Marietta, GA area.

COBRA – Nice in theory

Capitol Building CobraAbout a week ago I wrote a post detailing my family transition from a company subsidized health care plan to bearing the full cost of the plan under COBRA.

I’m astonished to report that the bureaucratic ineptness and bungling continues. As of yesterday, having invested just under $3,000 of my own money I find myself… still without any kind of coverage whatsoever. Effectively, we have been without any medical coverage since the beginning of November and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Were I to visit a physician’s office, the pharmacy, the dentist or the Emergency room all will tell me that, according to Aetna I have no medical coverage at all.

Of course some day all this will likely be reconciled but that does not eliminate the possibility of financial ruin and rejection of medical care due to lack of insurance. My credit card limits are sizable but it is doubtful that even they could handle more than a couple of days in any hospital.

The added twist comes with the new year when my new insurance company is introduced (my former company is switching from Aetna to Cigna). Who knows how it will play out when one of us visits a pharmacy or medical clinic in the next month or so?

Sadly, it appears that your best bet is… well… there doesn’t appear to be one.

The COBRA system was likely conceived in good faith by beltway individuals who may understand theories of economics but have assistants and enough notoriety that they remain effectively shielded from the “normal” experience of dealing with the systems that evolve to administer such legislation. It’s long been my opinion that things only get fixed when those responsible for them must endure them directly. This does not happen with health care and legislators, doctors or anybody with a say in how such things run.