Federal Scheduling Conflict

President Obama apparently wants to address the nation and a joint session of congress regarding his new economic plans. He sent Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid his request for an invitation that directly conflicts with a previously scheduled Republican debate.

It is expected that the president will ask congress to set partisanship and politics aside in the interest of the country, so I was a little surprised by Speaker Boehner’s response:

Boehner Letter

OK, fine, that wasn’t his real response. Instead, he asked him to pick a time on Thursday. Ouch.

The president, who must be invited to address a joint session of congress, chose to request his invitation during a previously scheduled Republican debate. He also chose to request his invitation on the same day the congress returns to full session. Speaker Boehner says that this presents logistical issues due to necessary security sweeps.

Does anyone see this move by the president as anything but a political game?

Three of the Republican candidates are in congress, and I think intend upon being at the debate. The president wants to set aside partisanship and reach across the aisle.The president almost certainly realizes that presidential candidates who are in congress may carry more weight within their party, and will likely need to play a significant role in any bipartisan negotiations. In short, shouldn’t the president wait until those three can attend? Isn’t it a political game to choose to address congress when it has been well known that three members will be in California at the time he requested?

If the president’s focus is on jobs, why is he asking that the first bill passed by the returning congress is not about jobs and not about the economy, but about him. Give your speech from the Oval. Congress will watch. These people barely only work like four months a year. Don’t waste that time with political games.

That is all.

Good Company: C.F. Martin & Co.

I ran out to the store a week ago this past Tuesday to pickup a set of strings for my Acoustic. I hadn’t changed them since when the Blackhawks were playing in the Stanley Cup Final, so well over a year!

I grabbed a set of Martin 80/20 Bronze Mediums from the local shop, and headed home.

Later that night, I started stringing, like I have hundreds of times before. Loosen string, remove string, wipe dust off area under string, pencil in the nut slot for lubrication, put on the new string the proper way, bring up to tension, tune, stretch up the length of the string, tune, stretch, tune. Repeat for each string. It usually goes off without a hitch.

This time, though, I was the lucky recipient of a fluke. Upon bringing the highest-tension E string– the thinnest string– up to pitch, it snapped. I would expect it to have snapped at the point where the string meets either the tuners, the nut, or the bridge. Not in this case– it appeared to snap right around the 3rd fret. Strange. It seemed like the string must have had a weak spot right there.

I emailed the company, and asked if they had any sort of guarantee on their strings, expecting them to pretty much tell me I was out of luck. To my surprise, I received an email from a nice person named Sandy, who asked for my address.

I got the mail to day to find a rather large package from Martin. Included was a replacement set of strings, a Martin calendar, a copy of their magazine, and one of their catalogs. Overall, a very nicely put together package, and definitely more than expected for a single broken string.

Thanks C.F. Martin & Co. I think the only way I could be happier is if you sent me a guitar… heh!

That is all.

Emergency Alert System

I didn’t feel the earthquake. I was in the car, having just picked Jaime for lunch. I first heard about it when we got home.

Even though the earthquake was centered over 500 miles from here, it was apparently felt in our area. In fact, we were told that it shook the historic district well enough that window blinds were banging against the windows on the seventh floor, and to temporarily evacuate the building.

It wasn’t major, obviously. But, as a historic city with an excessive amount of buildings constructed a hundred years ago or more, it is enough to make you briefly consider the integrity of the structures that surround you.

One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is that us folks on the East Coast have no idea what to do in the event of an earthquake. Do we stay put? …run outside? …stand in a doorway? …get under our desks? …duck and cover in the hall? …sit in the bathtub? …open all the windows? …run to the cellar? …stop, drop, and roll?

Most of us have no clue, myself included, and the advice I have heard seems counter intuitive. Animals throughout the animal kingdom instinctively know to increase the distance between themselves and their shelters in the event of an earthquake, but I should stay put in my house and hope that my 91 year old structure sitting on 91 year old brick stilts doesn’t fully collapse?

And finally, my main point. Where was the Emergency Alert System? Yes, it was a very minor earthquake. Should the EAS assume, however, that people on the Southeast coast do not consider a minor earthquake to be an emergency? I have even read that people in the Northeast, who obviously were subject to stronger effects of the earthquake, were not notified by the EAS until an hour after the earthquake had occurred.

As far as I can tell, the EAS exists solely to test itself, and to notify us that, were we to look out our window, we would see that the weather is bad.

No EAS alerts on 9/11. No EAS alerts when a quake hits. No EAS when the sugar factory explodes and shakes the entire city. No EAS alerts when!!!!######!##!#!#!###!#!#!#!##!#!#!#!###!#








What the hell was that? I guess that is all.

It’s my money, and I need it now!

No, this isn’t a JG Wentworth, 877-CASH-NOW commercial. It is a little story about a local bank that forgot what it is like to be a normal person.

I order a lot of stuff online. I mean a lot. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to people who know me that I often order from overseas. I build guitar pedals, and some of the parts are only available / cheaper overseas. In the last year, I have ordered from Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Latvia, Lithuania, and a few more locales in far flung corners of the globe.

Last night, I placed an order. Well, I tried to place an order. Since, however, the company where I was ordering was located in a foreign nation, my transaction was declined. Fine, I’ll try again, and it will probably go through—I have plenty of money in my account. Oh how I wish it were that simple.

It turns out that 60 days ago, my bank changed their fraud prevention policies. Now, every single purchase you make is scored. If it scores too high, it is deemed fraud. The transaction is denied, and– get this– the card is deactivated.

That sounds great, right? You have to prevent fraud, right? Wrong, for when they improperly deactivate your card, it is nearly impossible to get your card reactivated unless you meet a specific set of qualifications. Yeah, they call you and have you confirm your purchases– or in this case, my local bank had a third party in Ohio call me– but that accomplishes little.

Once you have been deactivated, and confirmed that your purchases were not fraud, your account is left in a crippled state. Practically any signature/credit purchase (as opposed to a PIN/debit purchase) will be denied.

After I was told my card was activated, I was denied at the gas station. Then I was told it was reactivated again, and I was rewarded with the pleasure of having my purchase declined at the grocery store.

I spent 7.5 hours today, fighting with my bank in person, and over the phone, to attempt to get them to restore my card to its previous glory. I talked with the local bank president, an account executive, and the region bank manager.

It took a 7 hour group effort for my local bank to figure out what the non-local company they had hired to prevent fraud had done to my card.

I really appreciate that my bank is trying to work this out, but I am really not pleased with them. They advertise all across town that they are local. That is why I bank with them. Why is it, then, that a company in Ohio has my name, address, phone number, a list of my recent purchases, and the last four digits of my Social Security Number? Why is it that a company in Ohio– which last I checked is not local to the State of Georgia– has the ability to freeze my ability to use my bank card?

Now, how do you get the fraud alert threshold back to the normal level so you can go about your business the same as before the fraud alert? You must make purchases using the card as a debit card, PIN and all. The problem is that I do not use my card as a debit card. There is only one place that I use it as a debit card: Sam’s club– they don’t accept credit card. Otherwise, I never use my card as a debit card, since you are afforded much better protection as a consumer when you put ink on paper.

So after 7+ hours, the bank has lifted the fraud alert scoring altogether. They tried to get me to accept liability if my account is subject to fraudulent transactions, but that wasn’t going to fly. I’m not giving up my federally protected debtor rights—nor do I think I am capable of giving up those rights—just so my bank can expedite my departure from their lobby. In fact, my card has the Visa logo. I’m only responsible for $50 if it is lost or stolen, and someone else uses it.

At one point, the local president of the local bank was convinced my card was activated, so we walked to a local pharmacy to test it. He was sure it would work. I was sure it would not. I was right. That $1.75 bottle of Coke was surely fraud.

Anyway, to wrap this up:

- Don’t think that your local bank is local just because they list your county’s name in their title, and their advertisements say they’re local. Chances are, they send your information out of state to companies whose privacy policies are not disclosed.
- Don’t expect good service from your bank, even though you have had excellent service for nearly the previous decade.
- Don’t expect people at your bank to know their own policies, or how to navigate the red tape they have constructed.
- Your bank is watching you, or at least paying someone to watch you. They watch every transaction to see where you were when you bought something (and how far that is from your home), and how similar it is to your previous purchases, among other creepy things.

I’m looking for a new bank. My current bank lost my business when I found out they outsourced the maintenance of my account to a third party.

That is all.