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Friday, January 30, 2015
Finding Adobe Acrobat 9 Updates
At my work, we use the full version of Adobe Acrobat 9 Professional. Unfortunately, Adobe has scrubbed their website of any updates for their software because this version is too old. Officially they ended support as of June 26, 2013. http://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/kb/end-support-acrobat-8-reader.html
Our IT department is deploying new Windows 7 Enterprise boxes and I get to go behind them and install Acrobat 9 Pro. Version 9.0.0 does have some bugs and security holes—which clearly doesn’t bother our IT guys too much or they would have a more up to date version. Anyway, users are experiencing some glitches—especially when opening PDF files in their Internet Explorer 9 web browser (I know, different blogging item).
Anyway, I figured that the best way I could help them was by updating Acrobat 9. Running the update within Acrobat 9.0.0 does not work on our network. Getting past our Active Directory group policies and out of the firewall seems like a constant hindrance to network performance. Anyway, I decided to try and find updates on the Internet while avoiding malware and phishing sites. After several searches and a few trips to Task Manager to kill IE 9 when I stumbled on suspicious websites, I found both an upgrade path and a secret Adobe file server.
While Adobe no longer links their webpages to any updates, it does still show the upgrade path to Acrobat 9.5.5—the final version of Acrobat 9.
http://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/kb/update-patch-acrobat-reader-7.html All upgrade links take you to error page for file not found.
I downloaded all files and installed them in order and was successful. Every few updates, you need to restart the computer.
Regrettably, I did not bookmark the site where I found Adobe’s FTP server. But as of this writing, it is located here.
As an experiment, I skipped a few updates. Skipping resulted in failed updating of Acrobat. If that happens restart the computer and then try the correct upgrade again. Here is the experiment that I did on a computer.
I started with a machine that had 9.0.0 installed.
I then ran updates in this order
9.1.2; 9.2.0; 9.3.0 restart
At this point Acrobat’s Update utility wanted to run. Just to see what happened I let it run. It tried to jump Acrobat to 9.5.5. After the computer restarted, I tried to run Acrobat. I got an error. Then I went to the Control Panel and opened Programs and Features. On Acrobat 9, I ran Uninstall/Change and ran Repair option. Then Acrobat self-repaired and 9.5.5 was able to run.
Based on this, try installing a few more updates and then if 9.5.5 wants to install, you can try it.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Federal Government Recognizes Gay Marriage Despite State Laws to Contrary
Crippled though it may be, I thought the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed by President Clinton was still in effect; so I was surprised to read in the 2014 tax instructions that the Federal government recognizes gay marriage even if your state does not.
Same-sex marriage. For federal tax purposes, individuals of the same sex are considered married if they were lawfully married in a state (or foreign country) whose laws authorize the marriage of two individuals of the same sex, even if the state (or foreign country) in which they now live does not recognize same-sex marriage. Form 1040 Instructions pages 12 - 13
The US Supreme Court has not issued such a ruling. Is this another Executive Order from Obama? I’m surprised there is no pushback from defenders of traditional marriage. Also, where is Congress on this issue?
Monday, January 26, 2015
CRA: Battle of Tom Hudson Part 1
This weekend, I attended a Board meeting of the California Republican Assembly. This spectacle was chaired by their president, John Briscoe. It is the first of three board meetings he has scheduled for the first three months of 2015—technically there are two on the same weekend in March, but I digress. Briscoe can’t find a way to do the business of the Board by either email; teleconference or other modern means so he has the Board make the trek to the other end of California every few weeks to handle their business. 2014 saw at least five such meetings.
The main highlights of the meeting were the endorsement of CRP officers running for reelection (their convention and elections will be held next month) and the farce that is the Nevada County Republican Assembly.
Former California senator and current head of the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte, dropped by the CRA Board meeting and gave a speech about his accomplishments as chairman. He found a way to paint a rosy picture of success by denying the Democrats 2/3 majorities in the Senate and Assembly but left a few small items on the cutting room floor.
Under Brulte’s leadership, no California counties held regular Central Committee elections last year; in fact several counties have abolished the practice altogether. Others might hold elections once every four years but whether this will actually occur in 2016 remains to be seen. This means the current leadership in many counties will remain static; their succession is no longer elected by or accountable to voters but only an internal matter determined by a small insular group. However, these Central Committees still presume to speak for all Republicans in their county without any voter input. It is rule by oligarchy.
Brulte, like many in CRA and other Republican groups, thinks that rules are only for others and not binding on them as well. He claimed that the State Party respected to endorsement decisions of Central Committees and declined endorsement in races where Central Committees had spoken. This was a bald-faced whopper but nobody on CRA’s Board seemed to care.
John Briscoe muffed the endorsement vote for Brulte. He allowed Harmeet Dhillon (CRP Vice-chair) to remain in the room as well as many others not on the Board. Such votes are supposed to be closed decisions. Brulte got two NO votes from the Board. During the endorsement votes, Briscoe never asked for abstentions and neither the current or former parliamentarian—who were both present—corrected him on the oversight. This was some sloppy meeting management by the CRA President.
Next Dhillon was also endorsed. This time she was outside the room but Brulte was present when the vote was held. Later in the day, a regional VP from the central valley was also endorsed. The Sith Lord says this guy was missing from action for most of the last election cycle but he talks a good game.
Next was the Nevada County RA.
Charter Review wanted to discipline the group since the Jeopardy Letter had not had the desired effect. They have been messing with this group for four years but Nevada RA will not follow the rules everyone else has to follow. The vote Charter Review scheduled was to suspend the group and put them in the care of the regional vice-president; in this instance Aaron Park who was not present at the meeting.
This portion of the meeting was again mishandled, this time by Charter Review Chairman, Tim Thiesen, and CRA President, John Briscoe. First, Thiesen failed to make a cogent case as to why Nevada RA was in trouble to start with. Thiesen did not lay out in a concise format what happened or when. We were given disjointed fragments of information. Had this been done via email with an executive summary and a request to vote, I think it would have been a slamdunk; however, done in real time it was a disaster.
To add to the confusion, a representative from Nevada RA appeared to speak in defense of his unit. A motion was made from the malcontent wing of the CRA to allow this man to speak for five minutes. This motion was made after Thiesen’s disjointed presentation was concluded. The motion was approved and the Nevada RA rep was granted five minutes to speak. In addition three speakers from each side were allowed two minutes each to speak. Briscoe made two critical mistakes at this juncture. First he allowed the three speakers on each side their two minutes speaches to occur first and then allowed the Nevada RA speakers five minutes at the end to wrap this up.
The old axiom of he who frames the issue wins the debate proved true here. Thiesen failed to prove why the chapter was in trouble so the Nevada RA guy muddied up the waters even more. President Briscoe did not defend his Charter Review Committee and declined to vote on the matter. This was the last straw. The vote which required a two-thirds vote could not break fifty percent. The malcontents prevailed again. Nevada RA begged to be given until the March Convention and this was granted. I don’t think the extra time will solve the issue.
The malcontent wing as I label them consists mainly of Tom Hudson, all members present from the Sacramento RA and San Joaquin president Jim Shoemaker. They view their function in the group to oppose the current leadership just to be a pain in their butts. I think their real beef is not with President Briscoe but any member with the last name of Park. Since the Park brothers support Briscoe, they must oppose him. Simple and childish but it seems to be the only explanation.
Another thing I found out about the event was that several in attendance did not pay for lunch but helped themselves anyway. While the rest of us had to shell out thirty bucks; these guy thought they could just freeload. Thiesen was in charge of the event and they took roll at the door so how did this occur? Tim clearly does not run a tight ship. I was disappointed but not surprised. Having been stuck with the bill before, I am sensitive to this particular form of theft. In my case however, Denny’s would not give out individual bills and people were left on the honor system. Instead of paying some literally left us with the bill. Sith Lord and I split the $100 tab that nobody else paid.
The last item that will certainly be back with a vengeance is the Convention committee assignments made by Briscoe. Briscoe said his criterion was that nobody from last time would be a chairman again this year and one person per committee. Tom Hudson about had an aneurism when he found out his assignment. Under previous CRA Presidents he typically was on the three or four most powerful committees and usually served as chair or vice-chair, but this time he was just “Joe Member” on one committee. He had a tantrum from the floor but was shutdown by Briscoe. Sith Lord says that following the meeting Hudson vowed to oppose every item coming from the Bylaws Committee. I think he will oppose just about everything at the convention from every committee.
Hudson is setting himself up as the alternative to Briscoe but the real question is will he run a slate at the convention to try to wrest control of the CRA from the current leadership?
Friday, December 19, 2014
Star Wars Commander Mourned
I have played several popular smart phone games over the last three or four years that use a client/server model. Typically, in exchange for some vaguely defined reason, if you log in with Facebook they will sync your saved game somewhere “in the cloud”. Every one of these games has eventually crashed and I have permanently lost all progress in the game.
This model of saving the game somewhere other than my phone is stupid. I want the game saved on my device and I want control over where to save a backup or whether it should be backed up. I also want more than one game save. I want my son to have a saved game that he plays so he can leave daddy’s game alone and vice versa. I also would rather have the backup saved on my One Drive than have to give somebody access to my Facebook account. Also, I want different saves on each of my devices. I don’t want my Windows Phone game to overwrite the one on my Surface tablet—which has happened recently with Tiny Death Star.
Today I woke up to find my last four months of effort on Star Wars Commander gone. I turned on the game today and ended up in the tutorial. I know I can play thru the tutorial and then try logging into Facebook but I know that I will either lose my Surface game or the phone game because both are not going to be backed up. This programming model is too stupid to let me have both saves.
This happened on Tiny Death Star and Ice Age Village. Push an upgrade and break the game. So, I’m done with any games from Game Loft or Disney or anybody else that requires a Facebook login to play.
For any programmers that might read this, this is also why I won’t do any in game purchases. When I can lose the entire game save with no reliable back up, why should I buy the weapon upgrade or game currency? Talk about Vaporware.
So far, only Blizzard has been able to make the client/server model work and they needs huge amounts of hard drive storage on my desktop computer to make it work. I don’t mind a few bugs in a phone or tablet application but when they result in lost games then I won’t be investing time and money in that product.
Monday, December 15, 2014
CRA another Chartering Controversy
The Board of the California Republican Assembly is voting on approval of the formation of the Sutter-Yuba Republican Assembly. While you would think that Board members in northern California would be supporters of growth in the North, this is not universally true. A few malcontents have voiced opposition because they have been denied the opportunity to stand before the Board at a formal meeting and opine about their concerns that having two tiny counties represented in one chapter would be an offense.
Sage wisdom such as this has been put forward to delay the vote:
Not only do the two counties have different elected officials, but they are also distinctive in terms of their demographics, geographies, economies, histories, and politics. – Tom Hudson
Yeah right. Yuba City is in Sutter County and Marysville is in Yuba County across the Feather River Bridge. The towns are about 1,500 feet apart during the rainy season but somehow they are different in terms of “demographics, geographies, economies, histories, and politics”. The only thing they differ on is which has a higher unemployment rate and more folks on government assistance.
Charter Review Chairman, Carl Brickey, fire off a rebuttal to Hudson that reads in part:
1. Sutter County has a population of approximately 93,500. Yuba County has a population of approximately 73,000. This combines for a total population of approximately 166,500. This makes the purposed unit population for the proposed territory is smaller than most other CRA units in the state.
2. The Sutter-Yuba Republican Assembly would be in one Assembly District, one Senate District and one Congressional District.
Hudson has had a spotty track record of interpreting the Bylaws and providing good counsel. Had he been any good at running his parts of the CRA meetings over which he presided, there would have been two or three fewer Board meetings during the last few years. In addition, there is his assertion earlier this year that CRA chapters were not required to have minutes of their meetings even though they are subject to Robert’s Rules of Order and Secretary is a required position. Such comments—which he reportedly still stands by—undermine any credibility that I would like to grant him.
Hudson also says,
I am not permanently opposed to the concept of chartering this combined Sutter-Yuba Republican Assembly. Since we have a Board meeting already scheduled, I do not see any reason to rush into a decision on chartering this new group without a discussion.
It has been discussed at two previous Board meetings where Hudson was in attendance. His objection after a Board vote was called is the first question anyone has raised with Charter Review about this chapter. Unfortunately, this type of grandstanding is typical in CRA. Also the motion on the floor is vote Yes or No not delay; Tom is out of order.
The thing you need to know about Tom is that facts are secondary to him; he gets his way by bluffing. If he can make a statement with enough assertiveness and with enough force, people tend to defer to him because he is an attorney and therefore folks assume he has a superior understanding of the rules. This is not the case. Tom picks which direction that he wishes to push a discussion and then makes assertions of fact –true or not—that move the discussion his way. He knows that he who frames the issue wins the debate.
My advice to Tom and his minions is to allow the group to grow. Anybody that wants to identify themselves as Republicans anywhere in California should be welcome. CRA has booted enough folks out of the group over the last few years why don’t we let some new ones in?
I can’t help but wonder if Tom is setting himself up as the loyal opposition to John Briscoe in preparation for a possible run at the top spot in CRA.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Verizon Disses Windows Phone
Verizon Wireless is having a promotion today to get people to switch to their company. Missing from Connection Day is the Nokia/Microsoft brand. Windows is not on the list either but Blackberry is? This is why I plan to leave Verizon. I want better pricing and more options—they offer neither.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Obama’s Next Move On Immigration
After breaking the tablets of the Law on television last night, President Obama is reportedly traveling to an undisclosed location in Texas today where he will lay his teleprompter across the Rio Grande River so his new sheep can walk into the Promised Land on dry ground. Only after kissing his ring and pledging fealty will they be granted a permanent stay.
Thursday, November 06, 2014
Where Was Darrell Fong?
The biggest disappointment to me in this last election cycle was the campaign of Darrell Fong for State Assembly. Fong was missing in action in Elk Grove. For him to cede the entire city because Jim Cooper—his opponent—is on the city council was stupid. Cooper has the highest negatives of anyone in Elk Grove and arguable the entire county. When Cooper ran for sheriff a few years ago against Scott Jones, Cooper lost every precinct in Elk Grove to Jones. Cooper has been on the Elk Grove city council since 2000 when Elk Grove was incorporated.
Fong clearly did no meaningful opposition research on Cooper. Cooper’s public record and conduct are fertile ground in the hands of any political opponent. Grand Jury reports on Cooper’s conduct are a matter of public record. Cooper’s conduct on the city council is embarrassing.
Cooper hides behind his badge and Fong could have called him on it. Cooper is a constant “no show” at community events. Cooper never prepares for meetings. Cooper is in fact a lazy slug, but others let him hide behind his badge; if Jim can’t do the job then he needs to give-up on political life and just be a cop instead of doing a half-assed job of it.
At council meetings, I have seen Cooper offer his job as the excuse for not being prepared or attending council meetings when in fact he was attending fundraisers for himself instead.
I know a classmate of Cooper’s from his days at the University of Phoenix and it’s the same story. At Phoenix, most homework is done by small groups to encourage accountability and collaboration, Cooper never was prepared or did his share of the homework and was carried by the other members of his group. He did not earn the grade he was given.
Cooper has a reputation as a bully with a badge. He also seems to have fathered children in every assembly district in the county. While this is acceptable to many in the Democrat Party; us Republicans tend to go for the old fashioned one man-one woman relationship.
If anyone in Fong’s camp had paid attention to Cooper in the sheriff’s race, they had the golden issue to spank him with…traffic cameras. During the sheriff’s race, much was being made of the cutbacks in the department as tax revenues declined as a result of the collapse of the “housing bubble” and general economic slowdown. Cooper’s solution was to entirely fund the sheriff’s department from fines that resulted from traffic cameras. This is a matter of public record. Cooper wanted to exponentially increase their use in the county; hence my phrase “Cooper Cams”.
Fong should have tied the “Cooper Cams” around Jim’s neck like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross and sunk him with this issue. At every intersection with a traffic camera, Fong should have placed a sign that said, “Smile you’re on Cooper Cam” or “Every flash increases Cooper’s cash” or similar things. Link the traffic cameras to Cooper and he would be toast.
Lastly Fong should have contrasted his opposition to using public funds to subsidize the Sacramento Kings with Cooper’s support of using public funds for soccer in Elk Grove. Had Fong advocated this opposition and said that he would let voters decide the issue instead of committing them to the liability without asking, he would have stood a high probability of winning.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Stuff that Just Ain’t Right
OK, first we had headlines about SUVs attacking people and property and now we have rebellious body parts causing problems. (With Bill Clinton visiting a nearby college today, this remark seems even more appropriate.)
Jose’s finger is reportedly resting comfortably, it is unclear if he is now considered “dismembered”. How the rest of Jose is feeling after the accident is unclear. Presumable the gun is at fault.
This license plate frame was seen yesterday. Oh, in case you were wondering, the driver was in fact a woman.
The commonality of both of these pictures seems to be public education.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Voter Fraud-Proof It’s Election Time
Hugh Hewitt wrote a book a few years ago called, If It’s Not Close They Can’t Cheat”.
Chicago has a reputation of dead guys voting. In fact I used to say, “When you die, you don’t quit voting, you just change parties”.
Well not to be out done, New York has finally found that 850 of their active, registered voters were alive when Lincoln was President.
Here’s the URL before it gets pulled down.
A single Bronx voter listed in official records as being 164 years old led Board of Elections officials to review their files — where they turned up another 849 New Yorkers who were supposedly alive when Abe Lincoln was president.
The stunning discovery came after The Post reported last week that the birth date of Luz Pabellon, a spry 73-year-old who has been living and voting in The Bronx since the 1970s, was recorded as Jan. 1, 1850.
This week, a search of the records in all five boroughs found 849 more voters with the same wacky birth date.
New York election officials promise to try to fix this after the election.
With people like this defending the integrity of the ballot box, is it any wonder that their ilk don’t have a problem when voter turnout is 120 percent of registration? Instead they say, “Nothing to see here, move along now”.
CHICAGO — Early voting in Illinois got off to a rocky start Monday, as votes being cast for Republican candidates were transformed into votes for Democrats.
Republican state representative candidate Jim Moynihan went to vote Monday at the Schaumburg Public Library.
“I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast the vote for my opponent,” Moynihan said. “You could imagine my surprise as the same thing happened with a number of races when I tried to vote for a Republican and the machine registered a vote for a Democrat.”
The conservative website Illinois Review reported that “While using a touch screen voting machine in Schaumburg, Moynihan voted for several races on the ballot, only to find that whenever he voted for a Republican candidate, the machine registered the vote for a Democrat in the same race. He notified the election judge at his polling place and demonstrated that it continued to cast a vote for the opposing candidate’s party. Moynihan was eventually allowed to vote for Republican candidates, including his own race.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Ebola is the Zombie Apocalypse
OK; actually, Ebola is The Strain meets the Zombie Apocalypse.
The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, tells the story of an employee from the Center for Disease Control, fighting against all odds to stop a plague that nobody believes can happen. One of his chief obstacles in preventing the spread of the disease is the director of the CDC—who is personally benefitting from the misery of others—and thus won’t do his job. The director’s political power is more important than doing the right thing.
Lest you think this type of ‘politics over public health’ only happens in the 2009 novel, here is Obama’s CDC Director,
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else.
My nephew works in the hospital in Dallas which seems to be ground zero for this disease in the United States. I am not happy with what is going on.
Matt Drudge sums it up well on his website
The second nurse to get Ebola called CDC several times to be sure it was OK to fly on commercial airliner
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Vinson called the agency several times before flying, saying that she had a fever with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. But because her fever wasn’t 100.4 degrees or higher, she didn’t officially fall into the group of “high risk” and was allowed to fly.
Officials in the U.S. have been trying to calm fears over the Ebola crisis, but time and again events have overtaken their assurances.
In August, before the first U.S. infection, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said: “We’re confident that we have the facilities here to isolate patients, not only at the highly advanced ones like the one at Emory, but really at virtually every major hospital in the U.S.”
What training? Nurses had none
The statement, which was played in its entirety on CNN on Wednesday morning, also reports that Ebola training at the hospital was “optional,” “nurses have been left to train each other,” and that nurses who interacted with Duncan simply continued treating other patients.
According to the statement, “there was no advanced preparedness on what to do with the patient. There was no protocol, there was no system. The nurses were asked to call the Infectious Disease Department. The Infectious Disease Department did not have clear policies to provide either.”
The union added that “advanced preparation that had been done by the hospital primarily consisted of e-mailing us about one optional lecture or seminar on Ebola. There was no mandate for nurses to attend training or what nurses had to do in the event of arrival of a patient with Ebola-like symptoms.” And “there was no hands-on training on the use of personal protective equipment for Ebola, no training on the symptoms to look for, no training on what questions to ask.”
Yeah, nurses treated the Ebola patient with no protective gear and then treated other patients. Oh, don’t forget that the hospital discharged the guy with Ebola and he returned a few days later when he was re-admitted and later died.
Memo to healthcare workings, treat this as a radiological accident (or dirty bomb attack) and your protective gear will be more in line with what you need to use.
Ok so what happens when ISIS decides to purposely shoot-up some people with this disease and dispatch them to Western countries to hang-out in shopping malls? The economic panic would be about the same as the Zombie Apocalypse. Economic chaos, government collapses, and general lawlessness. It may not result in the world of Mad Max but it could get quite far in that direction.
The end result is less personal freedom and more government control.
Oh, we are still issuing 100 Visas a day to people in the hardest hit African countries so they can travel to the United States. On the plus side, at least Aids is not the only disease with civil rights now.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Example of Why Govenment is Going Broke
When bureaucrats “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” that’s bad. When that bureaucrat is your boss it’s hell. I had that experience yesterday.
My main task at work is to do collections. This isn’t the typical “cold calling” where some guy in New York or Guatemala calls your house at dinnertime and threatens to remove your kneecaps or repo your car. My job is a lot more low keyed that that. I try to collect money from former California state employees that were over paid for a variety of reasons. Truthfully most of these screw-ups are the result of personnel specialists that don’t know what they are doing or that don’t follow-up from one month to the next resulting in an accumulation of unresolved issues. Government employees usually operate by the “squeaky wheel” method so if it doesn’t make noise then it doesn’t get fixed.
Well my department is hemorrhaging money—especially since it is financed out of the General Fund. Democrats try to defund law enforcement in any form since they believe criminals are not really bad people just socioeconomically disadvantaged. As a result, my department is making an effort to collect money owed to them.
The collection process here is anemic when compared to the private sector. In my department, employees owe millions of dollars due to overpayments. I’m tasked with trying to get about 1 ½ million from headquarters employees. (There are over thirty entities in my department with Headquarters being the largest.) Most of this money is never recovered; in part due to the restrictions placed on us by the government. We cannot go after any retirement money or disability payments—even if the employee owes tens of thousands of dollars. We also are bound by a notification statute—if you are not informed that you were overpaid within three years—the state can never go after you. Another constraint—which was removed two years ago—was that even if you owed the state money and everyone knew it, personnel was prohibited from collecting it from your final check unless you voluntarily allowed them to do so. In other words the standing policy was “bill me later”.
Last year, the collection unit for our department recovered about $120,000. It costs the department about double this amount in wages and benefits just to have my unit on the payroll. This collection recovery figure includes not just our efforts but those of the Franchise Tax Board (intercepting tax returns) and a collection agency acting on our behalf. My recollection is that FTB recovered just over four percent of the collection amount given to them while the collection agency recovered about two percent of the amount turned over to them.
Our collection efforts can only be triggered when two conditions are met: the employee has left state service—not just our department—and the first notification letter was sent within the three year statute. We then follow up with three letters sent at 30 day or longer intervals. Only after all letters are sent can we turn the people over to FTB and the collection agency. Typically this period is a two year cycle—at least on paper. The reality is that I have seen people at FTB for over seven years and similar intervals at the collection agency. Often no money is collected. Some people have been thru the collection cycle two and three times. If we don’t have records of previous collection attempts or they are incomplete then management will make us do the whole thing over again. The presumption is that if we don’t have the records then nothing was ever done. The burden is on the former employees to prove that we have already attempted collection.
Historically, management is reluctant to write-off anything once the collection process is complete. Prior to taking on the responsibility of Headquarters a few months ago, another agency that I had responsibility for had items in collections dating back to 1998—these are still actively in the collection process.
Once that first letter is made, we will periodically hound former employees. Death is not a barrier to our collection efforts. I often sent letters to dead people that read in part, “Should you return to State service, SCO will notify the Department you have reinstated with to pursue collection of your overpayment to CDCR.”
This job is not very difficult once the work is organized. I am confident that I sent more collection letters out last month than the rest of my unit put together. Let’s just say that Rush Limbaugh is not the only guy that shows up to work every day with “half his brain tied behind his back just to make it fair”.
Typically, personnel will not generate one collection letter for everything on an employee’s account but letters are generated individually or in small batches for most items. Occasionally, other items occur after the collection process has begun. We have no control over this process. 30 days after the first letters are generated and sent to the employee, responsibility falls on my unit to continue the collection process.
Yesterday, my supervisor refused to sign the collection letters for two employees because we were missing collection letters for items on their accounts. My reaction was, really? I try to do my best when generating these letters so I took a look at the accounts to see what the issue was. I was incredulous. The amounts necessary to halt collection were thirteen and fifty-nine cents respectively.
Just so you understand what my supervisor was demanding… I was expected to send emails to each personnel specialist instructing them to complete the forms for .13 and .59 cents. The forms were then to be placed in envelopes, stamped and mailed to the employees. A copy of each letter would then need to be scanned and attached in the accounting program with the original filed in the employee’s personnel file. Then I would have to wait for 30 days before continuing collections. Yeah, I know: postage and an envelope cost more than that but this is the government.
As a taxpayer and a human being, this instruction was offensive. Instead, I printed copies of the accounting items and then taped a dime, nickel and two pennies to the item for seventeen cents and the taped two quarters, a nickel and four pennies to the other document for fifty-nine cents and submitted them for deposit. Once the payment is posted I can continue collections on the employees.
I have the satisfaction that I saved the taxpayers a few dollars and denied a few bureaucrats a pyric victory by letting common sense triumph over process.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Isis 1970’s v 2014
When I was a kid, this was the face of Isis.
Today, this is the face of ISIS: Jahadi John
Who in this country thinks a few drone strikes will stop these guys?
Isn’t he wearing the same outfit that they want all women to wear?
How will Obama screw up this threat to civilization?
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Buying a New Car
Buying a new car is not something that I was looking forward to doing; however, the 22 year old daughter finally decided that depending on others to get her around town was not working. As I told the wife many years ago, “As long as mommy will drop everything to taxi her daughter around, she will not be interested in getting a license. Only when she is inconvenienced enough will she be motivated to learn to drive.” Well that day is finally upon us. The daughter is paying a professional instructor to learn to drive. The target for her to get the license was mid-September. I had told the children that they can have my Jeep Liberty whenever they get their license. It is clear the day was at hand so a week and a half before Labor Day, I set out to get a new vehicle for myself. I had not planned to blog on this but I think others can learn from my experiences.
I spent much of my time on the Kelly Blue Book http://www.kbb.com/ website. I also utilized J.D. Powers and YouTube for supplemental information.
My initial parameters were: a price near $22 K and better mileage than the Liberty which gets 13 City & 17 Highway. In addition I wanted something like my wife’s Ford Sync and navigation.
From my research I compiled the following list of vehicles to look at:
Once I had a list, I began to test drive various vehicles. This is where things began to get strange. I am listing my experiences in chronological order.
Elk Grove Ford (Wednesday)
I like my wife’s Ford C-Max both for its mileage and technology. The Ford Sync system is really great. I started at the Ford dealer where we had purchased the C-Max about a year before. I walked on the lot about 90 percent ready to buy a Fiesta or Focus with the Titanium options package. (This is the high end option package and the only one offering both Sync and navigation.) The sales guy that I got was new. You can tell by how he acted and the fact that he was on the lot a 7 p.m. on a weekday which was when I arrived. He could not locate the vehicle that I has seen online prior to visiting their lot—this occurred many times during my visits at various dealerships. The lot was poorly lit and the vehicle that I finally was allowed to sit in had no lock cylinder in the steering column; thus it was not drivable. I left the lot without ever test driving anything. The sales guy said that they had “loss leaders” in the Saturday paper so check there and I might get lucky. Had he shown me what I wanted to see and then let me drive it, I probably would have purchased it that night. I went home and spoke with my wife about the experience and that is when the above list was created.
Elk Grove Kia (Thursday)
The following day after work I went to Elk Grove Kia. The salesman there was nice and knew his product much better than the Ford guys. The test drive was good and the inside was roomy. The Kia Soul also had the options that I was looking for without having to buy their highest end options package. My wife arrived after work and was able to go on a second test drive in the vehicle. Later we looked up the J.D. Powers rating and a video review on the Internet, this car was moved to the top of my list.
Sacramento Hyundai (Friday)
The day after completing the Kia test drive we went to look at the Hyundai Veloster. But first we had to find the dealership. The map on their website was their old location—which they had left about three years ago; however, the physical address was correct and about three miles away. The fact that they couldn’t even update their website was a harbinger of things to come. On paper the Veloster vehicle looked unique and sporty. The three door feature and overall exterior seemed like it was worth a look. The Hyundai is one of several vehicles that I had trouble getting into. When seated behind the wheel, my head hit the roof. I’m only 5’ 10” and this was never an issue in the past. (It was several times during my vehicle search.) The interior dimensions were incredibly small. The manufacturing materials and design quality were poor. The car felt cheaply done. The drive was by far the worst of any vehicle. I’ve run lawnmowers with more horsepower than this car. I had trouble getting the car up to the 45 mph speed limit of the road in front of the dealership. The other turn-off we found out about Hyundai is that their navigation system is not free; it is one of several subscription services that you must have to keep things working. They have a service comparable to GM’s OnStar which also requires a subscription.
Elk Grove Honda
We fled the Hyundai dealer for another trip to the Elk Grove Auto Mall. We then visited the Honda dealership. The Fit was much smaller than Kia’s Soul. It also had a small engine and noticeably less power. Once seated in this car, I also hit my head on the roof of the car. A seat adjustment was able to correct this somewhat but one would think the sale folks would stage the car so this is not even an issue for buyers. The sales guy did a good job of demonstrating the various configurations of storage in the Fit; however, the part about the passenger seat lying flat so you could sleep in the car was a feature only unsupervised teenagers would enjoy to the fullest. (To do this the headrest was not attached but laying behind the seat.) The Honda dealer was the first of several that we encountered that would not sell us the vehicle at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. On a separate piece of paper right next to the factory label was another label with options added by the dealership. We were told that all vehicles sold by the dealer included these options. The options were not necessary and added several thousand dollars to the sales price. The entertainment/navigation system was very Apple centric and the video display was very small. The salesman was nice but their business model of additional mark-ups and Apple centric cars were a turnoff.
Elk Grove Nissan
Again, going to a dealership after sunset proved to be a surreal experience. This time my wife and I were greeted by the Wonder Twins. We were interested in seeing the Nissan Juke. We were greeted by a female who asked if we wanted sales or service. We were directed to a male sales person. The young girl that had greeted us was also trying to help us. We told them what we were interested in which was 2014 with rebate, navigation, etc. We were directed to a 2013 model Juke; there were no 2014s on the lot and 2015 models had not arrived yet. We test drove this vehicle only to find out afterwards that it was not even a front-wheel drive—which is what we asked for—but an all-wheel drive. So after doing all the research online and telling the sales folks what we were wanting to see, we were shown the wrong model year, with the wrong transmission and the wrong features. As we were experiencing this Nissan dealership, I kept whispering to my wife that this was the automobile equivalent of Hotel Hell. These folks could use the intervention of Gordon Ramsey or Mike Holmes to turn this place around. Dysfunction Junction should be the address of this dealership.
Roseville Auto Maul (Saturday)
On Saturday morning, my wife got up about 6 A.M. and for the first time in our eleven year marriage; she bought a copy of the Sacramento Bee…just to see the auto ads. Elk Grove Ford did have some “loss leader” cars as I was told, with a few offered with “one at this price” disclaimer, but none had the features that I was looking for. We decided to see what we could find at the Roseville Auto Mall. We ate breakfast and piled into the car with our nine year old and drove up to Roseville. We found the Kia dealer on the car’s map; however, trying to get into the auto mall was our first challenge. We headed down Lead Hill Rd and ended-up doing a complete circle around the whole area before finding the entrance—there is only one way in and out of the Mall.
Roseville Mitsubishi Kia
We went first to the Kia dealership to see a Soul with the features were looking for; namely, an Exclaim with sun roof and upgraded stereo package with navigation but NO leather seats. We actually test drove two different Souls. The cars on the Kia lot however were not for sale at the manufacturer’s suggested retail (sticker) price because once again there was an additional sticker next to the factory one. The additional sticker said, “Dealer markup” and added almost three thousand dollars to the vehicle price. We asked about the sticker and were told it was for rent, sales commissions and advertising. The implication was Kia was leaving them penniless without the additional money garnered from this markup which by the way Elk Grove Kia does not have on their cars.
We next went to the Nissan dealer to see the Sentra. I actually sat in three different cars at the dealership. The cars on the lot were so packed together that the first ones I looked at were not able to get to the street for a test drive. Like the Hyundai, these were cheap looking and the interiors were not well constructed. All three cars had visible defects in the plastic parts of the interior. The cars were cramped. If I recall correctly my head was hitting the roof or close to doing so. This was not my recollection of my 1980 Sentra that got 48 mpg Highway. As for features, I could duct tape my cell phone to the dash and have a better navigation experience—including screen size—than that offered by Nissan. I was disappointed.
Next we went to the Ford dealer at the Roseville Auto Mall. By the time it was over, this was by far the most miserable experience and biggest waste of time of the entire car shopping adventure. Our visit was in two parts separated by a very nice lunch at the Squeeze Inn in Roseville.
Visit #1 we had a nice sales person who was probably in his 50’s. We initially asked to look at the Focus that I had been denied test driving in Elk Grove several days before. After further examination, the sales guy had us talked into looking at a Fusion. We took the Fusion for a test drive and wow. This car had the best acceleration and smoothest ride of any car I drove. The interior was roomy to boot. It was not equipped as we wanted and did not come with the rebates we had hoped for since it was a 2015 and not a 2014. I had decided my list had been reduced to a Fusion or Soul. Since by now it was lunch time, we agreed to meet after we took a lunch break. When in Roseville, we typically eat at the Squeeze Inn; mostly because they have good food and also because they are right down the street from Fry’s Electronics.
Visit #2 started an hour and a half later with us meeting up with our salesman only to find he was with another customer that had previously made an appointment with him. He briefed another sales guy and handed us off to him. This new sales guy was a kid in his mid-20’s. All this kid had to do was find a 2014 with the features that we wanted and tell us about the great rebates that we knew Ford was offering for the Labor Day holiday and he stood a 95 percent chance of closing the sale. As we talked with him, we learned that he had played football at San Jose State. As badly as he dropped the ball on this sale, I can see why he is no longer playing football. He wandered aimlessly around the lot looking at stickers to find us a 2014 with the features that we asked for. Not once did he consult another sales person or a computer to check inventory. Previously we learned that in addition to this lot they had another one nearby with another 500 cars on it. Not finding the car we wanted, he led us inside the dealership and he and this other guy tried to flip us into considering a used car. In the course of this discussion, they asked us for a twelve thousand dollar down payment knowing full well that we had no car to trade because the old one was going to our college aged daughter. We were repeated insulted and finally walked out. Once they saw us get up to leave, they continued to ignore what we had asked for and offer us other vehicles we were not interested in. Never once did the offer us a 2014 with the features we wanted and furthermore they never offered us any rebates when I know for a fact that the rebates available totaled over $4,500. These guys were abusive and rude. If Yelp does car sales I would give them a zero.
On the way out of Roseville, we called our Kia salesman in Elk Grove. Much to our surprise and delight—in the few days since we has been there—they had received a new car shipment that included a Soul with the Exclaim package and no leather seats. We headed over to the dealer and took it for a test drive. We began filling out papers for purchasing the car. At 5 pm, our credit union’s loan approval folks were all gone and we could not get approved for 2.9 percent as we were promised. The dealer wanted us to complete paperwork for 4.9 percent with the promise that once we were approved we could have the lower rate of 2.9. We rejected the idea of completing the paperwork at the higher interest rate and said we would wait for the credit union’s approval. Shortly after 10 A.M. on Sunday, we got the call that our loan was approved at the 2.9 percent rate. That afternoon we returned to the Kia dealership and finished the paperwork. Finally, on Sunday evening I was able to drive home in a new 2015 Kia Soul.
The Kia Soul is a wonderful vehicle and fun to drive. I have yet to see anything close to the 31 mpg Highway that the EPA puts on the sticker. I’m getting about 24 mpg with the ECO feature on. Oh, Kia did give me a discount for being a veteran—something no one else ever offered me.
I hope that some readers of this blog might learn from my experience.
• Don’t pay more than the sticker price on any new car
• Know when to walk away
• Don’t be pressured or bullied by sales people or their “closers”
• Stick to your budget
• Know what interest rate that you can finance before shopping
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I know that many folks are mourning the passing of Robin Williams; frankly, I’m mystified by much of what I am hearing. From the world’s point of view, he had it all: money, fame, possessions, privilege, and a lifestyle that few people in the world ever achieve. All of this was smoke and mirrors. Williams was a hollow man. He had a God shaped hole in his soul that he tried to fill with transitory junk.
In high school, I remember listening to some of his early material that others snuck into the senior Lounge. To be polite in describing it, Williams was a vile, potty mouthed person that used profanity excessively and like to talk about bodily fluids. It was disgusting.
Then he got a gig doing the Mork and Mindy show. Williams was presented as something he was not. The media tried to make him out as Michael Landon with a sense of humor. In subsequent years, Williams did many film and television appearances but he always struck me as the kind of guy that had a crappy childhood and tried to mask the pain by being a smartass.
That Williams took his life is no surprise. It is tragic but not because pop-culture lost an icon of comedy; no, it’s tragic because Williams gained the whole world and lost his soul.
Suicide is a selfish act and in the old days Roman Catholics called it a Mortal Sin. Williams may be experiencing his eternal reward but based on the life he led, I don’t think anyone can say he is at peace.