Says Me

Why I’ll never use Comcast (unless I’m forced to)

This is not a gripe about Comcast service. I’ve never used it. Rather, it’s pointing out two simple reasons Comcast’s business practices tell me it’s not a company you can trust.

Occasionally I’ll receive a letter with no return address (or a generic one), and written on the envelope is something to the effect of, “Important. Do not fold.” Inside? A Comcast marketing offer. The envelope is designed to trick you into opening it. That’s one.

Two: You might already be aware that Comcast will throttle — that is, slow down — the Internet connections of customers who use a lot of bandwidth (and connections to companies it’s having “negotiations” with). But did you know that, when it does that, it will also deliberately speed up the connection to Speedtest.net, the most popular bandwidth-testing site? Yep. The idea is that people will wonder if they’re having a connection issue, try Speedtest, and thanks to Comcast shenanigans will get a false result — a higher speed than they actually get?

It got to the point that Netflix has launched its own speed-test service, Fast.com because Comcast customers can’t trust Speedtest.net.

What these two simple bits of information tell me is that deception is a core part of the Comcast culture. If I had Comcast and felt I was getting good service, I could never be sure — kind of like being friends with a serial liar: Most of the time it doesn’t make a difference, but in the back of your head you can never be totally comfortable.

I’ve worked for an organization where lying and deception was part of the culture: the American Chemical Society. It was horrible. There’s no way I would willingly get involved with a company that’s made it clear it believes tricking its customers (or potential customers) is an acceptable way to do business.

How a condescending Honda guy cost the company a sale

Karen and I are looking at buying a new car, and we’ve (sort of) narrowed it down to two options: A Honda Fit or a Kia Soul. Yesterday we took a drive to West Broad Honda (@WestBroadHonda) to look at the Fit. The sales guy we met was a little pushy, but I don’t begrudge him that — it’s his job. No problems there. After looking at a few cars, we decided to take the Fit for a test drive. Karen took the conn as she’s gonna be using it most.

It was parked in a sort of tight spot, but nothing too crazy — she had to make a sharp turn around a parked car to get out, which meant turn, back up a little, turn again. No big deal, right, especially with me in the passenger seat to tell her she had room to maneuver. But things went south.

First, as she’s straightening out, one guy came out and started trying to direct her. We couldn’t understand what he was saying. We thought something was wrong because it wasn’t like we were having a problem. (I.e., she had been doing this all of about 15 seconds. It wasn’t as if she was struggling at all.)

So she rolls down the window and asks, “What do you want me to do?” The guy gestures that she should cut the wheel to the left. (Which, to be honest, wasn’t necessary. I was in the passenger seat and she was fine as she was.) Karen hesitates. Then another guy, standing next to the driver’s side, repeats, “Cut the wheel to the left.”

And he reaches in the window and turns the wheel for her. Oh boy.

The first guy continues to gesture, unnecessarily, from in front. And I say aloud, “You are making a very big mistake.”

Because, see, Karen has been driving for 30 years. Including a gadzillion tight spots. This spot was no issue at all. It wasn’t like she had been trying over and over to get out; she was taking it slowly because it wasn’t her car. In fact, she spent more time trying to understand what the gesticulating man was saying than she would have just driving out of the spot. Treating her like that was a Very Bad Idea.

She gets out of the spot, stops the car, puts it in Park, and says, “We are not buying a car here.” And we left.

As she pointed out on the way to the Kia dealer, there is no way they would ever have done that — reached into the car and turned the steering wheel — for a man.

Oklahoma faces reality: Math is hard, and budgets don’t magically balance

Oklahoma, in which the geniuses that run the state convinced themselves that lower taxes would magically mean more revenue, is learning that math is math. Now the state is faced with a $1.3 budget deficit. Solution: Turn to the federal government for help — in the form of Medicaid expansion.

Despite hate-hate-hating Obamacare, the state is now considering accepting those federal Medicaid dollars to take the strain off its own budget. And with one in five (!) Oklahomans on Medicaid, that’s a sizable chunk of change.

How did the state get into this fix? By lowering taxes, of course — and then learning that (whoa!) when people pay you less money you actually get less money.

There’s still plenty of opposition, of course, most amounting to — let’s be honest here — “Let them die.” Health care, after all, is like food or a home: If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t get it.

File under “HOLY %#&@!”: Your Rx copay might be more than the cost of the meds

It’s this simple: pharmacy benefits managers — companies that handle the medication angle for health insurance companies — might require your pharmacy to collect a larger copay for a medication than the meds actually cost, and then pocket the difference. (Here’s a story on the practice.)

In other words, you would pay less if you didn’t use your insurance to “pay” for your prescription.

A med might cost $10. The pharmacist tacks on $1 for her fee. But the PBM says, “The patient’s copay is $50.” So you pay $50 and the PBM pockets $39 of it. Yes, for reals. Yes, often. You would be better off just paying $11 out of pocket, but then how would Express Scripts or Caremark or Optum or whatever other PBM make its money?

So ask your pharmacist, “How much would this medication cost without using insurance?” You might be surprised.

Simon and Phred

(via Instagram)

Getting paid for saying I’m a dad

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If I answered that I was a mom I’d only get 11 cents.

I was looking forward to Doctor Strange until…

Oh no! The awful writer who wrote the nightmare that was “Prometheus” is the guy who wrote “Doctor Strange” — Jon Spaihts. For those of you who didn’t see or hear about it, “Prometheus” was such a poorly written piece of garbage that people are still making fun of it. It was full of stupid characters making stupid decisions, useless non-sequiturs, unnecessary plot “twists” that didn’t mean a thing… ugh.

So I’m going from being really excited to being totally disappointed. Damn.

Off-off-off-off Broadway security theater

So Marga (our Dutch exchange student) was going to visit a friend after school; she needed to get off the school bus a few stops early. For this, she explains, she needs me to write her a note to give to the school authorities.

“Why not just write one yourself?” I asked.

“You have to sign it,” she explains.

“But they don’t know what my signature looks like,” I pointed out. The only reason to have a signature in a case like that is if you have something to compare it to!

If they’re trying to protect her, how does that work? She tries to get off at a different stop. The driver says, “No, you can’t get off here.” She hands a note — signed by Anna Karenina (because that’s what my signature might as well look like) — saying she can get off there. “Oh, OK,” says the driver. And that’s that.

It makes no sense! It doesn’t make anyone safer! It’s a load of garbage! Aieeee!

Get this: If I visit the school, I can’t go in until I show ID. But all they do is look at my license to see if it’s me. Huh? Is the idea that someone bent on doing harm wouldn’t have a driver’s license? They don’t even make a copy of it (like my Realtor did when we went house-shopping together years ago). They just look at it. “Yep, this guy has a license!”

The point of showing ID is so they can compare your name to a list somewhere — a watch list, a sex offender list, a list of “people allowed to enter,” or whatever. It’s to prove you are a particular person. But it’s as if they took the five-year-old’s perspective instead: “Looking at people’s licenses makes us safer!” and never thought it through.

Marga forgot to bring the note I wrote. Apparently they let her off the bus early anyway. Here’s to you, Douglas Freeman High School!

What could possibly go wrong?

U.S. biotech companies will attempt to regenerate the brains of dead people

iTunes users — Apple will delete your music from your hard drive

Yep! Check out this blog — and the conversation he had with Apple. Here’s the meat of it:

“[T]hrough the Apple Music subscription, which I had, Apple now deletes files from its users’ computers. When I signed up for Apple Music, iTunes evaluated my massive collection of Mp3s and WAV files, scanned Apple’s database for what it considered matches, then removed the original files from my internal hard drive. REMOVED them. Deleted. If Apple Music saw a file it didn’t recognize—which came up often, since I’m a freelance composer and have many music files that I created myself—it would then download it to Apple’s database, delete it from my hard drive, and serve it back to me when I wanted to listen, just like it would with my other music files it had deleted.”

And this is why I never, ever, ever put iTunes on my computer. You’ve been warned!

I think whenever someone says, “I’m a teacher” we should respond, “Wow! Thank you for your service.” They certainly deserve it as much, if not more, than military folks.

Sci-Hub FTW

Reading medical/health stories for my job, I came upon one about how “Nonprofit hospitals top the list of profitable hospitals.” Following the link I got to the paper the report is based on, published in the past few days. But reading the paper would cost me $15 for 24 hours. Seriously. I could probably request it free with journalist credentials, but I just wanted to quickly skim it for info.

So I went to Sci-Hub instead, just to see. I entered the paper’s DOI (sort of the equivalent of a URI/URL but for academic papers) and within two seconds I had the full PDF in front of me. Awesome, and I had the info I wanted (a list of the most profitable non-profit hospitals) in seconds — no waiting for e-mailing back and forth with editors.

Hang on… baby powder can cause cancer?

Wait a second… why didn’t anyone happen to mention that talcum powder may cause cancer??? Side note: This is why I avoid investing in any company related to pharmaceuticals. One news story, one lawsuit, and kablooie.

One step forward…

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Not quite the ringing endorsement it once was.

Pentel beats Pilot — a bit of pen snobbery

So I like to use nice pens. Not $200 wastes of money — I mean a good $2 or $3 pen as opposed to the 30-cent Bics or other junky ones. I like it to write smoothly. There are a lot of good pens that I’m happy to use.

Apparently Pilot G-2 pens are among the favorites of folks like me, so I bought a bunch of them a year ago. Well I don’t know what they were thinking — the G-2 is smooth, but it also tends to get ‘globby’ and leave a big ol’ ball of ink when you start writing. And two of the 12 I bought leaked. So… no thanks.

My current favorite is the Pentel EnerGel. Really smooth, dries fast, no globbing. It’s as good as the Uni-balls I usually buy, and I find I like the needle tip better. I own two, and I bought a pack of 12 refills. And then I found that the refills fit the Pilot G-2 bodies! (And the Uni-ball Signo as well!) Well cool. This means I can swap out the leaky, globby Pilot ink in the G-2s (which are still around the house) with the Pentel refills.

Yeah, yeah, it’s silly. But I found that I would reach for a pen, see a Pilot, and hesitate. (I couldn’t make myself throw them out because… um… you never know. It’s better than nothing. Or something.) Now those Pilot bodies are sporting the excellent Pentel EnerGel ink and I don’t feel nearly as bad throwing out the Pilot ink.

I need to get a life.

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