Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blowing off Steam

Last summer: I was looking through my purse, and realized I had "lost" my bank card. I knew it was in the house somewhere. I remembered using it when I was writing out my bills. I tore the place apart, but I just couldn't find it. (It was under the computer keyboard.) This had happened a few times, and I was getting tired of it. So I decided to create a backup. When I called to order a new card, I told Iowa State Bank not to cancel the old card. Instead, I asked them to take the limit down to $1. After a few weeks, the new card came and, of course, I found the old one. I then called Iowa State and told them to raise the limit back up on the old one, because I'd found it. There was a bit of resistance by customer service, but I explained that I was putting it in a safe deposit box to use if I ever lost the new one. Smart, right? They acquiesced and life went on.

Last Friday: I'm making a deposit on the Coralville strip at UI Credit Union, and the envelope won't slide in right. I futz around with it too long, and the machine eats my card. Dammit. Saturday morning I go to the Credit Union. They say Iowa State Bank needs contact them with a special form in order to have the card returned. Otherwise it will be destroyed. So I go to Iowa State, go up to Teller Guy and explain the situation: I'm leaving town for Arkansas, and I need to have the card mailed to my work address in Iowa City. I'll use my backup card in the interim. There's a bit of paperwork involved, but I'm told it should be no problem. I can use the old card, and the new one will be mailed to me and waiting when I get back. Teller Guy gives me the name and extension for the Girl Upstairs who is to re-acquire my card, in case I need to contact her. I leave town a few hours later.

Monday: I use my backup card online to buy a song or two from Itunes. It works fine.

Last night: I attempt to use my backup card at a store, and it comes up cancelled. Fortunately, Don foots the bill for me.

This morning: I call Iowa State Bank. Customer Service Guy answers. I explain there's been a mix-up and I need my card reactivated. He puts me on hold for several minutes. When he returns, he tells me they have a policy against having two cards for the same person for the same account. I try to keep my temper - it's not his fault - and explain that there's a very good reason why I have a backup card. In fact, I have a backup card for an occasion JUST LIKE THIS ONE. I go over the conversation I had with Teller Guy on Saturday. I explain to Customer Service Guy that I'm in Arkansas, as I told Teller Guy last Saturday that I would be, and I'd really like to get back next weekend so I can go to a hearing I have scheduled Tuesday. I need a card NOW. There's another interminable hold as he confers with the powers "upstairs." Then he tells me that the cancellation is not reversible, but he's got a plan. I can just go to the bank that ate my second card and get it from them. He got special permission and everything. I take a very deep breath and explain to Customer Service Guy that I'd love to do that, but as I told them last Saturday, IT'S IN IOWA. I'm in ARKANSAS. How I'm supposed to achieve this feat of teleportation is not exactly clear to me. Customer Service Guy has taken my number and will get back to me.

Point #1: I made it clear on Saturday I was leaving town and would use the old card. What genius in decided it would be a hoot to cancel the card I TOLD THEM I was using and strand me eight hours away? I'd really love to know.

Point #2: If a card has been stolen or lost somewhere other than the user's bedroom, I can see why an irreversible cancel could be advisable. But you're going to cancel the card without any notice to me based on a policy decision, and make that irreversible? Excuse me?

Point #3: Is the air "upstairs" a little thin these days?

I'm going a tad postal at the moment. I'm taking it out here instead of on poor Customer Service Guy, who just happened to answer my call.


Customer Service Guy calls back to tell me that they are working on making a new ATM and fed-exing it to me. He doesn't know if it will be able to be a check card or just a debit card.
(Minor issue, that, as debit cards don't always work so good out of state. I've got one with the Credit Union on a backup savings account - which unfortunately only has about $50 at the moment or I'd be in less of a panic. About 50% of the time I use that card down here, the machine can't seem to find my account and/or money.)
He goes on to explain the reason he's not sure what kind of card they can get: because only two people can make them in-house and neither are present at the moment. He then says he'll call me back again. I then suggest that he contact the person "upstairs" who was responsible for retrieving my new card from the Credit Union, giving him the name. If Upstairs Girl has gotten it back, they could simply fed ex that one to me instead of dinking around with making a whole new card. Customer Service Guy thinks that's a fine idea. PS: I'm told that when the current crisis is over, they'll order me a second check card for a backup. Customer Service Guy has gotten me an exception to policy on that one. No word yet as to whether the Upstairs People expect me to pay for it, or the fedexing. Or, for that matter, whether some other genius will try to cancel the backup in the future if the same thing happens all over again.

Situation pending.



Well, Customer Service Guy must've noted the tension in my voice, because he drove over to the Credit Union and got my card from them personally. He is Fed-Exing it to me; I should get it tomorrow. I'll have to call to confirm I got it, but then it should be sufficiently functional to get me back to Iowa. He's ordered my new backup card, which should be at the office within 10 days. Then I'll just need to adjust the PIN to coincide with my current card, and I should be back to square one. *Sigh*

I'll keep an eye on the account via internet and see if I'm charged for any of this. And, of course, if I ever have to use a backup again I'll be sure a note is attached to the account to flag it, hopefully protecting me from any moron who might find it funny to strand me without funds.

Note to Iowa State Bank: I think customer service guy should be promoted "upstairs" to replace whoever screwed this up in the first place. (I'd guess that it was Upstairs Girl, as she's the person who was to retrieve my card and so the most likely to see that I was using the backup. But I can't be sure.) He obviously has enough brains to recognize a good solution for a difficult problem. And I appreciate the field trip.



So the Fed-Ex guy brings the card at 10:00 am. And was back in the truck before I could get to the door. So much for "it's going to require a signature." It would have been loads of fun if I hadn't heard the door and somebody off the street decided to appropriate the envelope. Regardless, I called Customer Service Guy and told him I got it. He said they'd make sure it was activated, and it would take about an hour before it would work properly.

To give it time, I waited about seven hours. At 5:00 I tried to use the card on a minor purchase at a nearby convenience store - I had just enough cash to cover if it didn't work. Sure enough: sale declined.

I'll try it at an ATM tomorrow, then call the bank.

The saga continues.



8:30 - My online statement indicates that I've been charged for the new backup card. I'm heading out to the ATM now to see whether or not the card I've got is worth more than the plastic it is printed on. This is going to get interesting.

9:00 - No dice. $20 is "over my daily limit." I called Customer Service Guy - he's not available. I then called the general number and got someone else. As soon as I mentioned Arkansas, he knew who I was. Apparently I'm something of a topic of conversation. I explained that I have two problems: 1) I'm down to $1 and my card doesn't work. 2) I don't think I should be charged for replacing a card that I didn't ask to be deactivated. So Customer Service Guy #2 (CSG2) is going to track down where the snafu is and call me back. He may get CSG1 involved, if he's available later. He's also going to speak to their supervisor on Tuesday (apparently she's out today) about reversing the charges on the new card. Meanwhile, I've got $1. If my UICCU card works (as I said, ATM's are hit and miss down here) I've got access to another $50 to get food for the weekend. Lucky I have a separate bank for an emergency fund. But even if I let Don pay for everything, I'd still not have enough to get back - it takes about $35 to fill the tank once these days, and the trip requires two fill-ups. I'm not a happy camper.

9:45 - I'm told it works now. I'll make another test and keep you posted.



I finally got the card to work, and made it back to Iowa today. I'm going to follow up on reversing the charges on the new card once I receive it. So I may be almost back to square one.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Odd Holiday Alert

I was aware Towel Day is this Friday, May 25th. But I wasn't expecting this from Anywhere But Here this morning:
May I be the first to wish you all a very happy Eliza Doolittle Day?

So what do I wear now?

Do It Yourselfers:

As reported in the Register, the Iowa Supreme Court has finally posted online forms if you want to do your own divorce, and all you have to fight about is who gets the couch or tv (in other words, there are no kids involved). The forms are available online here.

This has been needed for a long time. There are so many situations in which a couple splits after two, five or ten years with no kids, no expensive retirement accounts or real assets, and a prearranged agreement about who gets what stuff, and yet find themselves facing thousands of dollars in attorney bills just because they don't know what forms to file or how to file them.

Yes, having a lawyer will ensure that you know exactly what you're entitled to - how much of your partner's retirement account could be considered joint property, etc. But in many of these cases, the money spent getting two attorneys (one lawyer can't represent two sides) won't offset that last little bit of funds that the two of you might have forgotten to fight over. On the other hand, it's not always that simple. If you think they've got a secret swiss bank account, or if they've never paid taxes during your marriage so the IRS might be considering you both a 'person of interest'. . . you may want to hire an expert to protect yourself. I'm just saying.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Just 'Cause I'm Like That

I've been asked to bump the spider pictures for something less disgusting. How's this?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There Is a Limit

I'm generally pretty flexible. I think I could move just about anywhere. But I saw these on Gradual Dazzle, and I can tell you now that I'm NOT moving wherever this is:

I can't deal. There isn't a shoe big enough in the world. It would require napalm.


The IC Press Citizen has a "What I'm Into" today featuring the awesome Nancy Mayfield.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


You may recall this excerpt from my former blog:
Computer Analysis
This article in Wired News indicates that Dartmouth College has a developed a statistical analysis algorithm that allows a computer to tell the identity of a work's true artist. I hope it works better than the Gender Genie, another test based on a scientific algorithm, which when fed excerpts from my blog back in September, decided I was male:

Female Score: 2363
Male Score: 4600

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Am I right? The author of this passage is actually:



Hmm - twice as male as I am female?? I politely correct the genie, and receive this comment:

That is one butch chick.

According to Koppel and Argamon, the algorithm should predict the gender of the author approximately 80% of the time.

Well, gender genie still believes I'm a boy. I've tried three written posts (not just link roundups or quizzes) of the requisite length (500+ words) that are recent enough to be still on the front page, and all of them tested decidedly male.

But . . .

I ran across the He/She Ratio. It's supposed to assess a site's preference by simply counting the number of times it uses the word "he" as versus "she". The results?

Usage of "he" vs "she" on (25%/ 75%)
Ha! Take that, "Gender Genie." If the long hair, silky skirts, and strappy heels didn't tip you off, the He/She Ratio proves it: I's a girl.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

They're Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse

Reading Gizmodo, I ran across this article regarding a sub-issue in the recent net radio fee hikes:
Amidst the uproar over the egregious royalty rate hike for internet radio stations, engineered by RIAA-spinoff SoundExchange and handed down by the Copyright Royalty Board, we missed a detail we should have noticed. Some commenters suggested simply listening to music under non-restrictive licenses. But apparently that won't work.
"The recent U.S. Copyright Office ruling regarding webcasting designated SoundExchange to collect and distribute to all nonmembers as well as its members. The Librarian of Congress issued his decision with rates and terms to govern the compulsory license for webcasters (Internet-only radio) and simulcastors (retransmissions)."
(The latter is a direct quote from the SoundExchange FAQ).

In other words, it appears that even if artists wish to opt out and offer their works under non-restrictive licenses, SoundExchange collects for them anyway against their wishes. And how would these artists go about getting these royalties? Why, by becoming a member of SoundExchange, of course. For only a "small administrative fee" sufficient to cover the costs of collection. Otherwise, SoundExchange gets to keep the cash.

Daily Kos has lots more.

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Pirate?

This from The Smoking Gun:
Stacy Snyder charges that Millersville University brass accused her of promoting underage drinking after they discovered her MySpace photo, which was captioned "Drunken Pirate." . . . A university official told her that the photo was "unprofessional" and could have offended her students if they accessed her MySpace page. At the time the "Drunken Pirate" photo was taken, Snyder was of legal age to drink, though her lawsuit notes that the photo "does not show the cup's contents." . . . Despite good grades and solid performance evaluations, Snyder claims that school officials improperly denied her a bachelor of science in education degree and a teaching certificate.
The offending photo (also from TSG website):

TSG also has an excerpt from the lawsuit, which notes that the school had no policy about posting pictures to personal websites at the time the cause of action accrued. Unfortunately, it cuts off before fully describing the school's code of conduct and corresponding sanctions for infractions, so I can't do an adequate analysis of the suit. But going simply on the face of it, this seems rather disproportionately harsh to me. So I'm throwing it open for comments: is this pretty standard in the teaching field, or is the University going overboard?