Monday, August 8, 2016

An open letter to Citi Bank

To XXXXX Citi Card Services Best Buy
From Philip Gardocki, Card holder
Dear Sir,
                This is a letter of complaint on how an issue was handled by your company, Citi Cared Services supporting the My Best Buy Credit card.
                The short of this story is a bill payment went missing and your attempts to recover it.
                As we are still in the discovery process here, not all the details of the missing transaction are known yet.  Rest assured, the money I owe your company is forthcoming.
                As to how your company handles this problem has been horrible, and will certainly lead to a cancellation of my credit card once accounts are settled.  As this is my back up credit card, so you are not going to miss my business much.
                But I also maintain a blog on merry events like this, and this is a great opportunity to add a page of content.  For that I am appreciative.  And you will benefit as it can explain a problem manifesting itself with your company and you can have an opportunity to fix said problem.

                Down to the details.  On 12/6/2015, I made a purchase for $158.99 that was charged to the card.  Around the end of the month we received a bill for that amount.  On 1/22/2016 the bill was recorded as paid in full as a direct transfer from our bank account to you.
                 Around January 30th or so, I started receiving robocalls from your company.  The caller ID was listed as “Unavailable”.  The calls start with “We are sorry we missed you, your time is important to us…”  Ok, I get this; you are trying to be nice.  HOWEVER, since I actually answered the call, I have no opportunity to interact with anyone.  And since it was a robocall, I hung up long before your message completed. 
                You see, I get these calls all the time.  From scam artists.  They all say it is important that I contact them.  And because you refuse to identify yourself on caller ID only puts you in the scam category.  I am not going to call the number on the message.  I am going to call the number on my credit card.  Which I did.  Not your specific card, because I did not think it was the issue.  My main credit card which is also run by Citi.  And they reported no problems.
                I am doing my due diligence here.  If you had the courtesy of a person calling me, or perhaps a letter.  This issue could have been resolved last week.  But no.  You have to…
                Robo call again and again.
                Did I mention this is for $150 dollars?  What is your problem, do you need gas money for the Lamborghini?
                Eventually, on 2/3/2016, I did call the number on the message, so you could say it worked, except that now I am royally pissed off.  I gave no information other than my phone number and let them work out what the problem is.  They say I have a bill past due, and I agreed to check up on it.  Because hey, I can make a mistake.
                So today, 2/4/2016, I found the bill, with the note on it stating it was paid on 1/22/2016, because my wife is really good with these things.  And I call your card member services again.  Obviously there is a disconnect somewhere, and we have to track it down.  But I am at least acknowledging there is a problem somewhere and it is recorded in you system.  It was mentioned that your payment remittance address was changed.  And that would keep the automatic bill payment from getting through.
                So now the disconnect has been identified.  Don’t you think you are over reacting?  You change your address, knowing it will break any direct payments.  I know you know it because it is written on the bill.  So my payment, which was made in good faith, goes awry and you have the unmitigated gall to stick the hounds on me?  WTF man!  The bill is 9 days late, caused by a situation you knowingly created, and then you charge me and every other direct payment people $35 for it.  How many millions in late fees did you bill?  How much of that have you had to refund?  You wasted my time, your time, you created needless angst, ALL BECAUSE YOU COULDN’T BOTHER TO ACTUALLY PAY SOMEONE TO MAKE A PHONE CALL OR SEND A LETTER?
                Have you checked my credit rating?  Actually you did, just last year.  I’ll wait while you look it up. 
I am not someone that lets bills slide.  You think you saved money by automating this process.  Your bean counters don’t count everything.  There is a cost for pissing off your clientele.  With me, it’s not much.  You are not going to miss me.  But this will be a blog entry, forever.  I am fairly proficient at Search Engine Optimization.  I can make pages bubble to the top with the right keywords.

Like these:
Citibank sucks.  Robocalls sucks, Unfriendly billing department.  Late payments.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Caffeine by the Numbers

Like a lot of you, I have a love affair with coffee.  By monitoring my withdrawal symptoms, I know I was a caffeine addict as early as 19.   But it took about 10 years before I figured this out.
I have done cursory studies on the caffeine amount in coffee/tea/soda over the years, but was frustrated because the presented facts were always incomplete, and often contrary.  Does espresso have more caffeine, or less?  The studies said yes.  

 The coffee/tea comparison was always muddled.  How much coffee, how much tea?  It turns out that the standard cup of coffee is 5 oz, or maybe 7oz.   I don’t know about you, but my smallest coffee mug is 14oz.  Dark roast vs light?  It turns out that dark is actually lower in caffeine.
I heard an article on the subject the other day, on a “WhatYou Should Know” podcast, that did a pretty good job of explaining things, and brought to light a few things I wasn’t aware of, and has made me think on this again.  So here is Caffeine, by the Numbers.
There are a number of factors that will affect the caffeine content of coffee.   

They are:
     Bean type, Arabica or Robusta.
     Grind, from coarse to Turkish
     Extraction, perc, drip, press Turkish or espresso.
     Roast, from dark to light.

With four vectors it is almost impossible to actually make a statement of how much caffeine is in a cup, aside from actually testing that specific cup.  So all you can do is imply, less or more.
Beans Type:  There are two types of beans, Arabica and Robusta.  Arabica beans are smaller, more flavorful, but have half the caffeine as the Robusta bean.  Arabica is more expensive, Robusta beans tends to be in the discount store brands.  Most coffee shops use exclusively Arabica beans.
The Grind:  Coarser grinds yield less caffeine for a process.  All other vectors being even, Turkish will yield double the caffeine over a coarse grind.
The Extraction Process:  French press has the least.  Drip the next, followed by percolated, espresso then Turkish.
The Roast:  Dark roasts are, slightly lighter on caffeine then lighter roasts.  The roasting process changes the caffeine per weight ratio.  The net effect is if you measure your coffee grounds by volume, there is less caffeine, but if you measure by your grounds by weight, there is more caffeine.  Mostly we measure by volume so there as small drop in the caffeine content.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gaming Event June 2016

A Headless Body Production

Location:Continental Hotel, Lancaster Pa
Event:Social Daisy's 7th or 8th annual "The Weekend" Event.
Theme:  Space Babes
Players: Various
Game System: Various
Special Thanks to Otto Schmidt, who organizes this thing.

These are pictures I took of the games I played at this weekends "The Weekend" event, June 16-17 in sunny Lancaster. 

FYI, these pictures are "Clickable" and will expand to full size if you want.

Good thing we had a few copies of Military History to prop up the table.  What other event would that happen? 
The Second Battle of Manila Bay.  The first was alternate history.  It is 1905.  Theodore Roosevelt, after his attempts at peace making between the Japan and Russia was ignored, went off his meds and declared war on the empire and sends the White fleet, (painted grey) to assist the Russian Navy (painted white).  The main coaling station is in the Philippines and Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō decides to deny the coaling station to the combined American and Russian forces. 

The Japanese destroyers are attacking in 3 columns.

The Japanese heavy cruisers arrive.

The destroyers mix it up.

The Japanese main battle fleet, flag-shipped by the IJN Mikasa, arrives, approaches, and presents it's broadside.  Three ships of the Russian fleet are off in the distance.

I have an affinity to the Mikasa, as she is still around, and I have been on board her.

Alien Space Babes Attack!  Using advanced, but apparently randomized time and teleportation drive systems.  Some Princess, whose name I didn't catch, was collecting geniuses of history.  She apparently has Phineas Fogg on staff, and is trying now to capture Leonardo di Vinci.

Defending Leonardo is quite a formidable force of at least 13 cannon and two tanks of his design.

But against this force is a collection of di Vinci designed turtle tanks and teleporting steam powered golems.

These are great.  The Orange things are rocket propelled roller skates. They have a very high divination rate.  And were prone to misfire.  One went into the river, one hit a wall, one hit it's target.

This is a wonderful scratch built building. 

The decoy Leonardo surveying his defending bodyguards.

The Space Babe is commanding from her floating hover ball.

The last Game was in the Jurassic world.  Where carnivorous dinosaurs are being paid by aliens to herd herbivorous to a meat packing plant.

This is the meat packing plant, attended by a single alien worker.  Off board are two Spinasaurus's armed with Winchesters.

A herd of herbivorous facing off with the gauchos.

Alien tourists are watching the event.  They are armed with very big guns.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Solid State Disk Drives

Why you want one.

I recently went through a bout of upgrades with my families computers.  Mine because it was the oldest, Joanne’s and Alex’s because I kept getting comps from Best Buy because of mistakes made with my purchase.

One of the things I insisted on with my new computer is a SSD, or Solid State Drive.  This is not a traditional disk drive with whirling media, but just a block of transistorized flash memory.  These are not new. I first read about them a few years ago, but at the time the price point was about $500 for 32 gigabytes.  Just barely enough for the operating system.  So they were beneficial for boot up, but you were fighting the hard drive for most applications.  So both the price point and their capacity made them hard to justify.

This is no longer true.  You can pick up a 500 gigabyte SSD for $159 at Best Buy.  While a 3,000 gigabyte hard drive is just $100, for my boot drive I’ll take the SSD.  The thing is blindingly fast.  About 2 orders of magnitude faster.   From power up to operation is about 20 seconds.  There is no exaggeration here.  Shut down to reboot is 40 seconds. 

Also, there is no whirling disk that limits your data transfer.  You don’t have to worry about disk fragmentation that would limit your throughput.  Launching new programs have next to no delay.  If you really need a terabyte or three of space, get a second data drive.  

They are quiet, as they have no moving parts.  They are all sized for laptops if you wish.  Which consume less energy then a hard drive, about 2/3rds less.   Which means you laptop battery will last longer.  If you do customer facing work, this means your start-up time is minimal when you need it.  With such a short boot up time you can shut the computer down rather than sleep mode, further saving your battery.

Like a lot of things electronic, the price keeps coming down.  A terabyte sized SSD drive is now only $330, while a 480 gigabyte is only $120 and a 240 gig is only $60.  Plenty of room for the operating system and many programs.  

Thinking about upgrade rather than buy new?  As I was going through a number of computer upgrades, I bought the Geek Squad tech support package for $100 for the year.  So this year I had them clone both my wife’s and my son's hard drive to an SSD.  There computers weren’t slow before, but now they are amazingly fast.