FPL – you’re funny.

Author: admin  |  Category: Business, Consumer, News, Observations, Rant, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

About a week ago I called FPL (Florida Power & Light – our electric company) about electric arcing from the wires to a palm tree in front of my house.  In my call with them they said it could take up to 21 days before someone came out to look at it.  You can imagine I wasn’t too happy considering the severity of the situation and how this was a fire hazard to my home and family.

This morning I noticed a pamphlet on my door from FPL – I looked at and was shocked at what I saw.

Wait did I read that right? Seriously, I misread it, so I took a closer look:

Yes, I was not reading it wrong. Their comments were “No current hazard, palm fronds are burned away from wires” (nice pun, by the way). So, there is no hazard because there was already a fire and it was burned away from the wires. Now, I’m no alarmist but when I saw the arcing, I was estimating it was between 6-12 inches long. That’s a lot of power – most armature Tesla coils don’t even go out that far.

Mind you, this is a company that owns and operates multiple nuclear power plants. I can see FPL now, as an online buddy of mine put it, “Oh meltdown, it’s one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus”. Can’t wait to see them use that one at Turkey Point or in Seabrook, NH.

What will FPL do next?

The economy sucks

Author: admin  |  Category: Observations, Politics, Thoughts  |  Comments (2)  |  Add Comment

I know, and after watching “The Secret” I’m supposed to keep a positive attitude, which I try to do all the time and are successful many times but I feel I need to get this off of my chest.

The economy sucks. Yes it does. But why?

People are blaming the government – while allowing companies to outsource jobs (and give them tax breaks for doing so) seems to be one of the major factors, it isn’t. The credit crunch now is hurting a lot of people from making large purchases, but most of us still have the credit cards.

The recession is caused by people not spending. Why aren’t they spending? We’re seeing less money or not an increase in money. Why is this happening? Easy – large corporations are hoarding money. I saw a news report this morning about it and I wish I saved the link. Companies are hoarding the money at the top of the chain, including (for the most part) the “stimulus” that the government GAVE to these corporations. They’re being stinger than Montgomery Burns and Ebenezer Scrooge put together. My company didn’t give out ANY pay raises last year and are not giving any out this year (plus no 401K match, and a few other benefits gone). Sure, “temporary” – we all know what that means. I know if I’m lucky I’ll see a raise sometime in 2010 (doubtful, though).

The really sad part is that Wall Street is rewarding this behavior (and why do companies stress so much on the price of their stock?). Large business A says that they are going to lay off thousands of employees – thus contributing to the bad economy and Wall St rewards them by people buying their stock (making the price go up) and making the high-ups who can afford to purchase millions of shares richer.

So, here we are, the worst the economy has been in an extremely long time, at least in my lifetime. What can we do? Unfortunately, not much. What I can suggest is find a niche, something you’re good at, and promote it. Who knows, maybe you can make some extra money with this. But don’t try blogging – I barely make enough though the ads to pay for the registration and hosting fees. J

The birth of WWIII

Author: admin  |  Category: Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

Hopefully a month from now people will say I was paranoid, a doom caller, a rabble rouser, but for now, this is how I feel things are going to go.

It should come as no surprise to most people that the US has a lot of enemies, deliberate / obvious (Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda etc..) and ones who are stealth about it or possible enemies (Saudi Arabia etc..).  Al-Qaeda has also proven that they are willing to attempt their own “regime change”, just look at the Madrid, Spain commuter train bombing (March 11, 2004).  Since it was linked to Al-Qaeda in response to Spain’s presence in Iraq, the election swung 180 degrees.  A day before the party that supported Spanish troops in Iraq was ahead in the pools by a landslide and when the link was discovered, just in time for elections, the opposition side won by a landslide.

Terrorist organizations want Democrats in power.  Republicans generally want to keep our troops in hotspots where the terrorists are working (Afghanistan etc.) but the terrorists don’t want this.  They want to be able to roam the countryside freely (like they used to under Taliban rule).  The election is still close, even though polls show Obama is in the lead, it is still very close.

So, I think Al-Qaeda’s plan is to commit an act that would swing the election away form the Republicans and strongly in the Democrat’s favor.  How?  A major attack on the US, something that would dwarf Sept 11, 2001.  They would need to time it just right, long enough before the election to have the blame pinned on them and strike anger and fear into Americans but not long enough so that we are not voting in anger.  So the most effective time for them to do this would be during the last week to week and a half during October (Oct 22 and on).

What event would strike at America during that time?  There is one huge event going on then, the baseball World Series.  Right now we know it will be in Philadelphia so that gives them time to prepare and games one and two will be in Philadelphia.  This is an event that everyone could watch unfold on live TV.  I don’t know the extent of this.  Crash a plane into it?  That’s how they did it on 9-11.  I am scared to think of the alternative.

Back in the mid to late 1990s Russia (formerly known as the Soviet Union) reported that they were “missing” several suitcase nukes.  Nuclear weapons that fit in two suitcases (the US had their own “backpack nukes”).  Even though they’re small, you don’t need much to strike fear into the US.  Just look at the movie “The Sum of All Fears”.

The really scary part is that a WMB strike during the world series would be considered a first strike so the US would have nothing restraining them from using nukes against those responsible.  You can see how this could easily escalate into a huge global conflict.

The world economy is in shambles and the last time this happened was during the 1930s into he 1940s What stopped it?  WWII.  Depression and weak economies spawn wars and this is the strongest global recession / depression that the world has seen, ever.

I do pray a month from now that I have people posting comments “Ha ha, you were wrong”.  Seriously, I do.  But I do ask people here in the US, especially in Philadelphia, Boston, and Tampa, to pay attention.  Note anything out of the ordinary, even report it if needed.

How much is 700 billion dollars?

Author: admin  |  Category: Politics, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

The number buzz now is seven hundred billion dollars. How much is that exactly?

That is $700,000,000,000.  $7 X 10-to the eleventh power.

If you were to put that in a savings account, assume 1% interest with no componding of the interest, that is $7 billion ($7,000,000,000) a year.

From now on, I’ll only deal with the interest numbers.

That’s $583,333,333 a month (yes, over $580 million) a monthi in interest alone.

It is roughly $19,178,082 a day just in interest.

A little under $800,000 in interest an hour.

$13,318 a minute.

$221 a second.

This $700 billion “buyout” can earn $221 a SECOND in interest.  That’s a var payment to some, a week’s worth of groceries to another.  A credit card payment, a student loan, even some utilities.

In a minute you could buy a lower end car, pay off an entire credit card, or even put a down payment on an inexpensive house.

In an hour you could buy a nice home in most parts of the USA, a modest home in the rest.  You could buy 10 fully loaded luxury cars (or maybe 5 if you go really high end).  You could buy 4 nice boats or one small yacht.  In one hour you could put an entire family though a nice college.  You could start a business and have a good cash reserve on hand.

In a day is more money the average American would see in their entire lifetime.  It would buy a lavish home in some of the nicest areas in the US.  One day’s worth of interest is an average lottery jackpot.

In a month the average person would be thrust into high society whose worth would be near the top 1% of the USA.  You could buy a modest company.  You could live the rest of your life, comfortably and lavishly, just off of the interest.  You could own homes in Hawaii, Italy, France, Florida, and California and hire a staff to take care of each home.  In a month you could give significant help to the average disaster in the world.  In an month you would earn more than many nations own GNP.  You could buy a nation for that much.

On the last estimate, ( http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/coin/ ) the amount of currency in circulation is roughly $792 billion.  Yes, our government is about to spend just that much alone to bail out some companies that made bad decisions

Just imagine how this will affect the value of the US dollar.  It is already weaker than wet tissue paper, but this will thrust it to lows we can’t even imagine.  The value of the US dollar will drop, that’s a given.  Since a lot of our needed supplies (oil) are foreign, then it will cost that much more, just in inflation, to get what we used to get.  We saw $4 a gallon gas earlier this year.  I think that is nothing.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see $6-$7 gas if this goes the way it is heading.  All the companies who outsourced their jobs will now be paying a lot more for the same help (maybe this is the silver lining?  They’ll be forced to hire more people in the US since we’ll have the “cheap labor”?).

Tips for auction site buyers

Author: admin  |  Category: Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

Online auctions part two: For the buyers

Auctions wouldn’t work without the buyers (hell, any kind of selling won’t work without buyers). Buyers work with sellers to reach a price that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Yesterday I posted advice and hints on how people should post their items for sale in auctions, today I’ll visit the other side.

Buyers also need to be aware of inadvertent practices that can be rude and annoy sellers. Follow a few tips and you’ll be sure not only get good buyer ratings but also respect from a seller which may give you better prices down the road.

First, low-ballers.

I’m talking about the people who see an item and bid ridiculously low prices for the item. Someone posts a new car for sale and someone bids $1. Not only will you most likely not even be considered for the auction, but sometimes it can be a slap in the face to the seller or may be a target of ridicule from the rest of the community. Be reasonable; bid the lowest you think you’ll be able to buy the item for.

Mind open reserve prices and opening bids.

If someone posts that an opening bid is $500, don’t go in and bid $200, it just shows that you’re not paying attention to the auction. This will hurt your credibility.

Ask questions!

It is a buyer beware world out there. If at any point you are unsure about an item, the quality, etc.. ask. An honest seller will answer your question truthfully. If you bid on something and it turns out to not be what you thought it was (other than false advertising and misrepresentation) you only have yourself to blame. You will lose any protest because you should always ask questions before you commit to buying the item. Ask ask ask! (And sellers, respond to questions!).

Complete your sales.

This goes for buyers and sellers. Nothing is more annoying to one side than the other side backing out after an agreement is reached. It doesn’t matter the reason, it is still annoying to the side stuck with an incomplete sale.

Don’t be a crybaby.

Don’t post on forums complaining about a price or the product. You’re not the one selling it. If you don’t like the price, then don’t bid on it. If you don’t like the quality, then don’t bid on it. Nothing annoys a whole community more than a crybaby complaining that something is too expensive or not what they want. If it is set up to be too expensive, if the demand isn’t there then the seller won’t sell it.

Payment plans are not an option.

Unless you arranged this with the seller before you started to bid on an item, do not think you’ll be able to have a monthly payment plan to buy something. Have the cash on hand to buy what you want.

Leave honest feedback.

(This also goes for buyers and sellers) After all is said and done, you paid and you got your item and it is to your satisfaction, leave appropriate feedback to the other party involved. This helps them build a reputation and chances are they’ll leave feedback for you if you leave them feedback.

Disagreements and issues

(Another item that is for both parties). Do not air disagreements out in the open. Start with private messages. Things happen, that’s part of life. You could have agreed to a sale but in the time between then and when you send your payment something could have happened, they could have gotten busy, they could be sick or injured, or worst. Starting right off the bat flaming them publicly will not produce any good results. If private messages don’t work then take it to a public forum. Be respectful and honest but do not include personal information (other than a username). Stay away from personal attacks. Again, stick with the facts, “I paid on this day and never got it”, “I sent them a private message and they didn’t respond in several days” etc..

I doubt that my little blog here will drastically improve the auction process on many sites but hopefully people read these and did learn something. ?

Tips for auction site sellers.

Author: admin  |  Category: Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

I frequent a lot of boards that feature auctions. No, not like eBay where the auction itself is moderated and rules are set up as how an auction works. I’m talking forums where they’ll have a section for auctions. People post something they want to sell and others bid on it.

Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of the people who try to sell items on these auctions don’t know much about how auctions work and in the end it really annoys a lot of the other people on the forum, especially those who are trying to buy the item that is being auctioned.

I’ve decided to write a quick blurb showing people what different terms and acronyms mean in the auction world.

First, the most over used AND misused term:

BIN

BIN stands for “Buy It Now”. It is NOT THE SAME AS AN OPENING BID or a reserve bid. A BIN is a price that you will instantly stop an auction to sell it. You’ve decided on this price and when someone says “SOLD AT BIN” or bids the bin, the auction should stop. Continuing it on is dishonest and unfair to the person who wanted buy the item at the BIN. It’s like going to a car dealership, offering to buy a car at sticker price, and as your signing the paperwork someone else walks in and says “$500 over sticker price!”. Sure, it’s great for the seller but dishonest and (IMO) unethical. You posted the BIN price, your risk if someone is willing to pay more.

“Reserve”

A reserve, my least favorite part of an auction, is a mysterious price that someone sets the lowest amount they’d sell something for. Sure, you can start bidding at $1 on that nice car, but they have a hidden reserve that they won’t tell anyone (usually a few cents below the BIN). Personally, I’d rather see and use an opening bid (below) and would never use a reserve. It’s sneaky and only dupes people into believing that they might get a bargain when bidding starts at a very low price.

Sometimes people will tell you the reserve (which then becomes an opening bid) other times they will not.

Opening Bid

An “opening bid” is an amount where you start the auction and SHOULD BE the absolute lowest that you’ll sell the item for. A low opening is often a gamble, if it is far below what the item is worth then it will spark bidding but you may not get what it is worth (if your opening bid on a diamond necklace is $5 and only one person bids on it, guess what?).

A high opening bid will guarantee you a better price but fewer people will bid on it. I’ve seen items that sat for sale since no one bid on it because the opening bid was too high but would have actually fetched more if the opening bid was lower.

Liars / exaggerators

What ever you do, do not lie or exaggerate descriptions about your item. Don’t say that baseball card is in mint condition when a tear is down the side. Don’t say the car has 10,000 miles on it when it actually has 25,000. People will catch it, even if after they buy it and leave you negative feedback, which will tarnish your reputation on the forum / site.

If people post questions, please answer them. How would you like to walk into a store and ask the sales reps a question only to have them ignore you? Not answering questions in an auction is the same.

Price ranges

I also see people “Looking for offers in the $xx range”. This means that they are looking for offers between $10 and $99. If you’re not planning to sell it for less than $100, then DON’T SAY “looking for offers in the $xx range”. Again, this is dishonest. It’s like using a BIN as an opening bid.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll not only be able to have good auctions (as long as what you’re selling is in demand) but you won’t annoy other site members.

Tomorrow (hopefully) : Tips for auction buyers!

“Life After People”, oil, global warming, and global balance.

Author: admin  |  Category: Nature, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

I don’t know if many people here caught this program on the Discovery Channel (Life After People), especially since many of you are outside the US and I don’t know if it was broadcasted out of the US.

They basically go over what would happen to the Earth if hu8mans just disappeared one day, everything would be left in tact as it is the second we all disappeared. They go over buildings corroding and collapsing, houses crumbling, cars rusting and how animals would adapt. (It’s a fascinating program, I recommend anyone to watch it).

They discussed that pretty much the only man-made item that may survive for the next generation of intelligent life to see would me mount Rushmore. The favorable conditions where it is (low erosion, cooler climate, elevation, etc..) as well as it being carved out of granite would make it the least vulnerable item in our civilization (the statues of Petra and other similar ones could last, but sandstorms would sand them down). As long as tectonics keep it in favorable conditions it could be visible that it is not natural for millions of years. (This is unlikely considering the possibility of global tectonic shift / polar reversal, but possible).

Second thought, oil. I watched another program on the History channel about oil, how it affects us and our civilization and how it is formed. First, look at the conditioned that are needed for it to be “created”.

Oil fields are nothing more than gargantuan (and that is an understatement) grave yard for prehistoric life. Marine life swam into a dead zone in the ocean (like what we’re starting to see form in today’s oceans) and it dies, then floats to the bottom. The pressure and chemicals in this dead water helps preserve the corpses and over millions of years it forms oil. These dead spots happen when the global temperatures rise and the ocean temperatures rise, like what the climate was like back in prehistoric times (when global temperatures were much higher than they are today). These corpses also capture a lot of carbon that is in the atmosphere / climate and keep it away (in the oil) thus removing carbon from the atmosphere, reversing greenhouse gasses.

Two things come to mind.

1) It is very possible that there was another civilization of intelligent life on Earth millions of years before humans came up (exactly like what the Star Trek Voyager episode called “Distant Origins” or “Displaced” was about). Any sign of them would be long gone today whether they went extinct or moved onto other planets. Throw in the Discovery program, “The Future Is Wild” and we can assume that crustations (squids specifically) are the next likely candidate to take over some 5-10 millions years from now.

2) Using oil releases all that trapped carbon into the atmosphere, thus creating a greenhouse effect and creating another climate not unlike what the climate was like when the oil was starting to form (warmer for the dead spots). We could be creating the conditions for oil to start forming in the ocean for the next intelligent species to arrive.

I’ve come to the conclusion that oil is the Earth’s way to either test it’s dominant / intelligent species or as a balance (global species / respect balance, not US vs. OPEC kind of balance)..

The Earth gives us this resource that makes our lives and routines very easy for us but at a severe cost. It could test us to see if we can harness these powers yet not damage the Earth (like what carbon emissions have the potential to do) and if we cannot, it starts the reset button that takes millions of years to reset (either driving modern life to extinction or forces us off of the planet).

Thinking of that, it makes you wonder how many of these cycles has the planet gone though? Even if each cycle takes 100 million years, the earth is over 4 billion years old which means we could be on as many as the 40th cycle, each civilization being erased from the future generation’s views. The previous generation harnessed oil from the one before them as we are harnessing the oil from them today and we’re creating the environment to create more oil for the next generation some 10 to 100 million years from now.

How to get further with customer service

Author: admin  |  Category: Consumer, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. That old saying is so cliché but so true, especially when it comes to dealing with customer service representatives. Sadly, I’ve seen so many people feel that yelling, screaming, swearing, and general baby like temper tantrum throwing will get them whatever they want.

With me and many people I know it doesn’t. In fact, I’m less willing to help someone acting like a first grader who had the ball taken away from him.

I spent over 20 years in retail environments and currently in a support position. I’ve done it all, bagger or cashier at a grocery store, management, support, customer service, sales, technical sales, IT, and so on. I’ve been yelled at. I’ve been sworn at. Insulted, threatened, harassed, chased, attacked, etc. All that ever got these people was anything from being asked to leave the store to being escorted out by the local police department in handcuffs.

How can you get customer service to work with you? That’s actually pretty easy and would go miles further than yelling and screaming.

First, be polite. This is the most important. The person you are talking to, whether over the phone or in person, is actually a person, not a computer. They have feelings and are most likely not the cause of the reason why you are talking to them. They didn’t make your computer crash nor did they make you drop that call so don’t blame them. I’ve personally driven over 20 miles out of my way (each way) to help out someone because they were respectful and polite to me.

Second, body language. Be open and non threatening. Don’t stand there and cross your arms, stare them down, grit your teeth. This will only create a tense situation. Be relaxed, make eye contact (not daggers) when you are talking to them. Be non threatening.

Next, know your facts. Nothing will blow your credibility faster than inaccurate information coming out of your mouth. It easy sets the representative you’re talking to at an advantage and they will think that if you can’t get the facts straight. Know what you are talking about and what it means.

Also, don’t lie. We hate it when people lie to us and we know when people lie to us. If you’ve had your computer in for service several times before, trust me, I will look up the previous tickets. Don’t lie about time frames, outages, and the number of times you’ve called. We have that information handy so we know. We know when you’ve been in for service, we know about outages, and we know you’ve been waiting in the store 15 minutes, not the hours you’re claiming. Also, we can tell the difference between a mistake and a lie. A mistake is getting the number of dropped calls in a day off by a few. Lying is saying you drop all calls when the records show you’ve only dropped a couple.

And, listen. Listen to what the representative is saying. Feel free to repeat what they say. It shows us that you are listening and chances are that the representative won’t have to repeat themselves (they have plenty of other people to help). Have a conversation.

Stick to the relevant stuff. Trust me; they do not want to hear how frustrated you are because of traffic or your sick dog. “Woe is me” stories will only get you yawns and a tired look. Stick to the relevant stuff, yes, you need to be very logical with this. What happened, when did it happen, etc…

Be firm but be willing to compromise. Be firm about the issues you’re having but what you think may be a good resolution may be ridiculous in their eyes. Six months of free service because your HBO was out for two days is beyond reasonable. Credit for the two days is norm, maybe you’ll also get a partial month’s credit.

Feel free to ask questions. This is a two way conversation. If you’re unsure about something, speak up. The representative will assume you understand them unless you speak up (but don’t interrupt them). When they are done, ask for clarification if you do not understand what they said. Leaving with unanswered questions will only add to your frustrations later on.

Don’t get impatient. If you are in a line or have a number, don’t get mad if you’re waiting a reasonable amount of time. The representative may be busy with someone and they want to make sure that their customer is taken care of, chances are they will do the same for you.

One thing at a time! Don’t unload several issues all at once. Let the representative know you do have a few (or several) concerns but deal with one at a time. Getting all jumbled and multidirectional will only make the situation less efficient and more frustrating for both people involved.

Remember your please’s and thank you’s. Yeah, it sounds so grade school but these representatives work hard and probably have a harder job than you do (for most people, there are some jobs more demanding than customer service, military, police, fire etc, but not an accountant or a janitor). Those simple little words can go a long way.

Know when they can’t help you and when they won’t help you. Big difference. If they won’t help you, they don’t care about the policies and don’t want to help you. If they can’t help you, they may have policies restricting them from doing what you are requesting them to do. None of them wants to get fired just to make you happy, if they can’t help you,

Don’t be afraid to ask for a manager or escalate. Be polite about it. The representatives are not superman; they cannot do anything you want them to do. Due to abuse policies are in place that don’t allow them to do everything (see above). Managers usually have more leeway with the rules, as long as they have a good reason to and their decision is a good one for the business.

Be willing to give as well as take. Sure, it’s nice to be compensated for your troubles, but if you’re looking for free service, expect to pay for something in return, maybe a discount on the service or even a contract. Like most businesses, they aren’t here to give away everything.

If you feel your representative doesn’t want to help you or isn’t competent, ask to speak to someone else or a supervisor. For all you know it could be their first day on the job and they’re still trying to learn the ropes.

Some companies have automated phone call surveys. Remember, these surveys, unless specifically asking about the policies, are asking you to rate the customer service representative, NOT the policies. If you didn’t like the policy but the representative did a good job, don’t give them a bad survey, these surveys DO go back to their supervisors generally.

The letter Y, please help us understand you

Author: admin  |  Category: Humor, Thoughts  |  Comments (0)  |  Add Comment

I never understood the concept of “and sometimes Y”. Does Y wake up some mornings and think “I want to be a vowel today!” then the next day, it’s in a bad mood and says “screw it, I’m a consonant”.

Does it switch during the day? A is a pain to Y so Y says “Screw you, A, I’m going to be a vowel now and hang out with T”.

Do you think it is upbringing? Was the old English Y (Th) mean to our modern day Y? Y didn’t want to have a lisp like the TH pair so he went out on his own against the family business and went the EE way?

Or, does the old English Y (Th) and it’s ancestors have some genetic difference causing Y to go both ways?

Y, we love you, please let us understand you. The texters love you because you can replace a whole word (like B, U “Y U L8″).

Do you just hang with the vowels to seem more popular (all words have to have a vowel, you know!) and sometimes like being in a bigger pond with the other 19 constants?Also, Y, the letter I misses you, when was the last time you two were together? You were yipping for joy.