Going to Vista

I’ve had vista as a dual boot since the day it went gold, but to be honest I’ve refrain from moving to it because I had a big project I was working on and wanted to make sure my OS didn’t slow my productivity. But today I decree Vista will be my new OS going forward, well kinda, from now I will boot to Vista and only go to XP if I have really have to. My plan is 4 weeks with Vista and then I’m blowing away XP and starting over with only Vista. More to come on this.

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Congrats to US Bank and their Web Engineers

As much grieve as I give banks and credit card companies today I experienced the easiest online system ever, bar none. I have my mortgage and my checking account with US Bank. They’ve been my mortgage company for ~6 months now and I always went into a local branch to make my payment (i.e. transfer from checking) because I was told by my closer that she had US Bank and they charge $15 for an online payment, sorry but on principal alone I wasn’t paying an extra $15. Anyways today I log into my banking and notice a “make payment” button under my mortgage. I click it, it “knows” I have a checking account and prompts to enter any additional payment amount. I click submit, it then wants a confirmation submit button clicked. BAM, I’m done. 3 clicks to make a payment. I didn’t have to create a new account, verify my account number, add my checking account as a payee account or any of the other crap that some banks make you do (Remember banks make money when your late with payments, it’s in their best interest to make the online experience a bad one). This is how it is suppose to be done. Somehow the engineers at US Bank figured out how to integrate a checking system with a mortgage system, something I know Bank of America has no clue how to do.

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Passport Headaches

So my wife and I are going to Puerto Aventuras on April 15 for a much needed 6 night all inclusive vacation away from the kids. We are staying at the Catalina Riveria Maya. Anyways because of the new passport regulations we have to have one or we blow our money. The trip is 8 weeks and 3 days away as of yesterday when I go to get our passports. I’m told by the clerk of courts in Clermont County that it’ll take 6-8 weeks to get our passports, talk about cutting it close. You can have it expedited but I decline. I ended up sending an email to the Department of State making sure I’ll get it on time. The response I get is below:

Applications are normally completed within six to eight weeks. Due to the high volume of applications this may take longer. If you need your passport sooner and did not expedite at the time of application, please call the toll free number listed below. The additional fee is $60 and can be paid by credit card over the phone.
Please re-submit periodically for a status check by completing the status form at our website at http://travel.state.gov/passport/about/npic/npic_896.html

Now I’m worried, I’m going to wait until March 7 to get it expedited.

I’m totally for homeland security and such but this thing is going to hit my wallet:

  1. $97 x 2 for regular passport
  2. $60 x 2 for expediting
  3. = $314.00 to be able to leave my country and return.

For a taxpaying citizen like myself shouldn’t this be included?

And exactly what does a Passport tell us? An official birth certificate (which in some states anyone can obtain for anyone) has the same name of a drivers license. I sure hope the department of State has other measures of verifying other data on the application.

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5 Rules of Negotiation & A Honda Element

There was one thing I was really bad at, negotiation. Point blank I had no idea how to do or what games to play, until I read sometime back Erick Sink’s blog entry about his adventure with negotiating a car deal. Unfortently I hadn’t read this when I bought my new house in the summer. My wife and I walked into that house with the builder and were straight Google Eyed (a little more her then me). It was over, we had no chance to get some real money off of the house. That guy played me like a fiddle. Lesson learned. On December 31st, my wife was in a car accident and totaled our 2001 Honda Accord. Insurance give us more then we owed so off I went looking at cars. Here is are the 5 rules of negotiation I used get a good deal.

Rule 1: Do your homework, Know your price:
I researched what type of cars I wanted, price range, what was available

Rule 2: Define a fallback plan:
I had a rental car for 45 days, plenty of time to find something. If worse came to worse, my wife and I would have to share a car for a bit.

Rule 3: Don’t get emotionally attached.
The worst words I spoke when buying our home was “I Love this house”. I kept a very open mind to all the cars I looked at and made sure I didn’t “fall in love”. When I test drove each car I made sure to say out loud. “I’m not sure I can envision myself in this car”, I did this to reaffirm to the salesman and to myself.

Rule 4: Don’t show all your cards until the right moment:
The day I went to the dealers I had 3 Honda Elements I wanted to look at, at each dealer I only mentioned the one car as a comparative, so that I had the 3rd car to eventually use at the very end of negotiations. This worked out great for me.

Rule 5: The ability to WALK AWAY:
This is the most important rule, if a salesperson thinks you are willing to walk away (meaning no sale for them AND more importantly the time they lost) then they know you have the upper hand and will be a lot more likely to make a deal more towards your numbers then theirs.

My story goes like this. On Saturday midday I go into Honda East knowing they have a 2004 Honda Element EX 4WD with 34k miles on it listed at $19,700. Salesperson approaches, and I ask what they have in stock for a used Element (Rules 1, 4). She shows me this.


It’s very nice and exactly what I am looking for but not for the price. I take it for a test drive and mention the “I’m not sure I can envision myself in this car” line (Rule 3). She gives me more features and I show some enthusiasm for the car. Lets talk price. She gives me the run down of all the options it has on it and I make it known to her about another deal at John Nolan Ford for a 2003 Honda with very similar options but priced well below hers, $16,900 (Rule 1). I shoot an offer of 16k. She comes back with 17,900. 16,900 is my counter. She hits me back at 17k and says that is as low as she can go. That’s $2500, not too bad. But too much then I want to pay. Tell her thanks but I need to go look at the other deal. I walk away (Rule 5).

At John Nolan Ford, I follow the same rules during the test drive and I mention the offer at Honda East. My initial offer is $13,500. He comes back at $14,900. I respond with $14,000 and that I saw a 2003 Honda stickered the same but with only 15k miles in Columbus and I willing to walk to go see this car. He caves, at $14,000. That’s $2,900 off. Deal.

I’m not all of the sudden a great negotiator but by following these 5 rules, I can now at least play the game.

honda1 Our Element Our Element
Our Element

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My Black Friday Experience

For the last few years I’ve laughed at the poor saps who get up on Black Friday and fight the crowds for their discounts, this year I joined them. A few weeks ago I was fishing around on the net and found some preview ads, and I was hooked. My nephew, Tyler camped out at the Best Buy in Mason and was 7th in line. He went to the store at 7 pm on 22nd! He was after $150 laptop and some other crazy tech deals. He called at 10 that night and told me what was up.

No way was I spending the night in the cold and the items I was after were non techy so my plan was a 4:30 am awake time. My goal was hit a few stores up and only buy their hot buys without standing in line for more then 10 minutes. 4:30 came and went, and with a few snooze hits, I managed to slid into my car at 5:30 and sped to the local Walmart. I had my list for the stores I planned to hit up so I was ready.

Walmart wasn’t too crowded and I was able to pick up the stuff I needed and went on to Meijer. Meijer had the best deals and I almost kept driving when I saw a line out the door. They had a $100 20 inch flat LCD so the line to the electronic section was out the door ~6a.m. The rest of the deals were nicely layed out and after a couple trips up and down the deal isles went on my way. The next stop was HH Greg, it was dead less then 25 people in the store at ~7 am. I was in and out in less then 5 mintues. On next to Target. Target’s crowds were crowded. The one item I went for was sold out but I found a nice replacement deal they had going on that wasn’t advertised. My final stop was KMart, which again wasn’t crowded. Here is the roundup I got.

- Baby Walker : was $20 got for $10
- 20 pack Hot Wheels : was $15 got for $10

- Tonka Motor Truck : was $49 got for $24.99
- Sleeping Bag : was $15 got for $8
- 3 pillows : was $30 got for $10
- 2 Nerf Hoops : was $14 got for $2

HH Greg
- RCA 512MB MP3 Player : was $50 got for $20

- Magnetics Construction Set : was $49 got for $24.99
- Craftsman retractable light : was $20 got for $10
- Griddle : was $25 got for $17

- Robe : was $18 got for $12
- Star Wars Transformers : was $35 got for $15
- 2 Hasbro board games : was $16 got for $8

If I had paid full retail for all the total would have been: $356
I ended up paying: $172

My saving was : $184

I was home by 8:30 am. 3 hours of shopping which saved me ~ $62.00 an hour. Not too bad, plus I didn’t wait in line for more then 10 minutes, plus I can now be classified as a poor sap myself.

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Bank of America Horror Story – Part 2

See Part 1

So the next day I check my online statement, no luck the thing still says I owe for July. I’m thinking maybe they have system where things aren’t reflected online in real time, or even 1 day behind. By the way, doesn’t Bank of America pride itself on its high technology? I have big problems with their online systems. That’s for another day…

So I wait for 3 days. Check online, no luck, time to give these people another call. This time I get “Maria” who speaks Spanish first and English last, but we are able to communicate just fine. I play dumb…

Me: When do I owe July’s Payment?
Maria: Sir that was due 5 days ago, Can we set up a check by phone?

Me: Ahh, No. Do you see that I called in a couple days ago?
Maria: Yes, let me read the note.

Maria: Ok, sir I’m showing you were supposed to get your fees waived.
Me: Yes, did that happen?

Maria: No, let me get that started again
Me: Thanks, now what are you showing for July’s payment?

Maria: Let me calculate……..Ok, after we reapply your payment you will owe $5 for July.
Me: That can’t be, I made more then twice my minimum for July.

Maria: Right, but you paid early and that went towards your June payment
Me: You sent me an email and said my payment was due, I made the payment….. I’ve already gone over this.

Maria: Sir, can you hold for a minute?
Me: Sure

Maria: Sir, things have been corrected, you will only be due $5 for August payment.
Me: August? where are you guys coming up with $5?

She goes on to give me, what has to be new age math, because it didn’t make sense. You could tell she was getting frustrated with me, because I kept correcting her new age math. By the end of the conversation she was yelling “You owe $5 for August, that’s it”

I could tell this was going nowhere, so I agreed $5… Two days later I placed another phone call to Bank of America determined to speak with someone who slightly understood banking.

Me: Can I speak to your manager?
Rep: Sir Can I help you?

Me: Yes, I need to speak to a manager
Rep: Sir I need to know why

Me: Nope, just a manager please.

So I finally talk to a Brian. We go over the same story again, but this time Brian has an answer. They went ahead and re-aged my account this month. So I get charded interest. He said they have no way to reapply a payment to a different month and that the reason why customer service was giving me all different answers was that they didn’t have access to the same system that he does to see re-ages.

Let me tell you Bank of America, you dropped the ball big time with me.

If you’re having problems like this with your credit card company, maybe you should look into new credit card offers. Some people find that Chase credit cards have favorable terms, while others prefer frequent flyer credit cards that offer rewards for spending.

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Bank of America Horror Story – Part 1

This is my tale of dealing with Bank of America credit card services. Bank of America’s tag line is “Higher Standards”. From an IT and customer services prospective, Bank of America must be measuring against some rather low standards.

On the 20th of every month I get the following email from Bank of America notify me that my credit card statement is ready. Normally I wait until the first of the month to deal with bills, but two months ago (July) I decided to pay right then and save a few dollars on interest.

I log onto their system and schedule a payment to come out that same day., and sure enough it comes out of my checking account. Everything is cool. On the 5th of August I am checking my other online banking accounts and accidentally login into my Bank of America account. I soon remember that I made the payment on 20th of June. However Bank of America shows that I still owe my July payment. How could this be? I dig around online and find they put my June 20th payment towards my June statement, even thought I had made that payment already. That’s odd, but banks do make mistakes and I thought a quick call to customer service can resolve the problem.

I talk to a Maria, who is very short with me, and explains that even though I got my statement on the 20th, I am not able to pay that bill until the 21st. This makes no sense, you send me a bill and say don’t pay it until tomorrow? Then why not wait until tomorrow to send me the freaking bill. I try to explain her that logic, but she doesn’t care and frankly I don’t blame her, she is a customer service rep not the IT director who thought of this brainiac idea. She goes on to tell me as “courtesy” she will have the payment applied to July’s payment. I didn’t lose my cool but I definitely told her that it wasn’t a courtesy if their system is screwed up. I was not impressed by customer service so I stayed on the line and took a survey about my experience. I was told after the survey that because my answers indicated I had an unpleasant experience I would get a call from a manager within two business days. I am still waiting on the call 2 months later.

The story doesn’t end there. Check back tomorrow when the online banking doesn’t reflect the payment being applied and a Bank of America rep tells me I owe $5 for July…

Credit cards can cause a lot of hassle and inconvenience. To avoid this, you should probably look online to compare personal and business credit card options before you apply. While you think you may be making the right choice with a low interest credit card, there may be hidden fees you aren’t aware of. Research before you apply.

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Questions Never Asked Answered

This is off topic, but some things get my goat and this is my blog so I’m going to be ranting a bit.

I found this article today by John M. Peters. His theory to phrase him is why the terrorist hate us is because of our foreign policy and pro Israel stance. Those are his answers for the two questions he posed. Below is my rebuttal.

Q:Why did so many American citizens die on American soil that day?
A: Terrorist drove 4 planes into 3 different buildings full of people and 1 plane crashed in a field because the passengers fought against the hijackers.

Yes, that is the answer jack ass (I’m referring to you John). Stop beating around the bush (no pun intended) and ask why they want to kill us.

Q: Why would people want to attack us in such a vicious and grandiose fashion?
A: I can understood how the terrorist can bomb our Navy ship, bomb our embassies; these are military and national targets. If you at war with a country these are acceptable targets. The pentagon is/was definitely fair play. However, these monsters drove 2 planes into 2 skyscrapers full of everyday business men and woman. This wasn’t a stance against the US; it was a killing, a holocaust, a mass execution. Don’t try to paint it in any other light or blame our foreign policy. You want the freaking truth John? They believe Islam is the only religion that should be practiced, convert or die. Wake up. Some of the left wing in this country are so oblivious. These people would cut your throat if you gave them a chance.

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Google Indexes SSN and Test Scores

“The Social Security numbers and test scores of 619 students at public schools in Catawba County, N.C., were available online via Google’s search engine until Friday, when the company complied with a local court order to delete all information about that county’s board of education from its servers.

According to sources, a student may have stored a username/password in a link in the form of a GET url that included a nonexpiring sessionid. The school apparently was unaware that a GET statement worked the same on their software as a POST. ”


I read a Daily WTF about this once, I laughed then, not so funny for the web programmer who did the schools application :(

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My Home Page and Mutual Funds

I’ve been trying to find a new default home page for all of my computers. There are a ton of really interesting ones out there. I am putting together a nice list but for now I plan on rolling my own for the time being. One thing I had to have was stock quotes. I found some php to do it but what about charts? Well, I was poking around Yahoo finance the other day and noticed their charts accepts querystring parameters so you can put the parameters in a img tag and bingo..I now have stock charts on my site ;)

Here are my current mutual funds I have invested.





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