Category: Miscellaneous

Equations: The Card Game

We came up with a new card game today — something to practice adding and subtracting (and mathematical thinking). Deal x cards (we’ve had five and seven to start). The remaining cards are the ‘draw’ pile. Flip one card over. Try to come up with an equation using the cards in your hand that combine with the flipped card to make an equation. Aces are 1, jacks are 11, queens are 12, and kings are 13.

There’s a King up — you’ve got 2, 5, 8, 9, and Q. 12(Q) + 9 – 8 = 13(K). You select one of the cards in your equation to place on the top of the face-up pile. The next person then tries to create an equation using the card you laid down.

Zero is a little special — there’s a some card up, x. If you have two cards of the same value, y. X plus Y minus Y equals X … and you can discard one of the cards you used in your equation.

If you cannot form an equation, you draw a card. The game ends when the face-down pile is exhausted. Add the values of the cards in your hand, and the person with the lowest value hand wins. This means you probably want to discard the highest value card in your equation (unless there’s a strategy to having the card — if I have an equation with 5 and 10, but have another 10 in my hand … I might want to hold on to the ten because the two tens are a 0 and are a guaranteed play).

Insurance, pt 2

We finally got around to calling Progressive about the difference in my quoted price v/s their renewal price … ugh! The first person we spoke to started out with ‘just cancel the old policy & open the new one’. Which, great — except it’s a pain. And we lose the ‘perks’ that come with being a long time customer. Including some 250$ off the deductible. Start a new policy, have the bad luck to get in an accident, and saving 150$ just cost me 250$. Not a great deal, that. Plus our home insurance is tied in with the car insurance. And the only reason I didn’t just buy insurance from GEICO (who had the lowest quoted price) is that I didn’t want to screw with the home insurance right now.

Luckily, she transferred us to an insurance agent for help. He checked and there was no way they could price the policy we had at the price quoted under my name. He was able to move the reduced deductible over to the new policy (although it’s still a pain that they have no provision for just swapping the names … and it’s even more of a pain that the person listed first makes such a difference in pricing!). Final price was 164$ for more coverage than the policy they wanted 321$ !?!?! Only took an hour and a half to get there! And I’ve got a really bad feeling the same thing can be done with the homeowners insurance. 🙁

Insurance and Actuarial Tables

The six-month price for our car insurance renewal went up. Again … which strikes me as odd since the car is older and its value has diminished. With the risks being similar – same drivers, same credit, same very small amount of driving – that coverage should go down year-to-year as the insurance company will be paying out a little less if the car gets destroyed. But, no, the price sneaks up every six months. And now they want 354$ (really 321$ because we don’t do installment billing).

I usually just renew the policy, but this year I decided to get quotes from a few other companies. I was wondering if “churn” (losing customers — basically the idea that there’s a fixed cost to acquire a customer, so the longer they stay with you … the more profitable the relationship becomes) just isn’t a concern in the insurance industry. So I got a few quotes — all of which were about half of what we’re paying. The best price was GEICO at 155$. For increased coverage, since one of our coverage selections was available only with a higher payout limit. That was puzzling since I cannot imagine the actuarial algorithms are that different between companies. And both Progressive and GEICO are paying for a LOT of advertising.

For convenience, I used my SSN to get the quotes and added Scott as the other driver. I wondered how this change would impact the price from Progressive. Now, logically — the risk calculation for Scott and I driving 2500 miles a year in this area with a car with a specific set of safety features and parked in our garage is the same as the risk calculation for I and Scott driving 2500 miles a year in this area with a car with a specific set of safety features and parked in our garage. Yes, I expect a slight difference based on our differing credit scores. But our scores are not that different (and when we bought the house, Scott has the slightly higher score). Got the quote back, and Progressive was willing to sell us a policy for just over half our current cost: 170$. Based simply on switching the account holder and ‘other driver’ people.

They will absolutely deny that it’s because men are charged more for insurance. There’s a lawsuit in there otherwise! But, realistically, there’s nothing that changes by swapping the two names which would impact the price so significantly. And this has been happening for the past six or seven years since we got married and bought joint insurance! That’s like two grand we’ve forked over to Progressive because they put Scott’s name down first!?!

Scam Calls

Someone calls you, call them back. It’s easy enough to spoof an outgoing number (make my caller ID look like someone else’s), but intercepting calls to the 800 # on the back of my credit card or the local number on the Waterloo, MI PD’s website is near impossible.

When someone calls from “from my bank”, “about my credit card”, or “about my nephew who is in lockup for a DUI and needs money for bail and the impound lot”, I get the name of the company and call them at their Internet-published number. Real Bank of America can look up my account and figure out why they were calling me (they weren’t). Fake Bank of America? They push me not to waste time calling back in. It’s my time, and I’m happy to waste it. I assume the fake police and fake nephew are the same. And, yeah, fake nephew only gets this one phone call. *I* have unlimited calls, so we’re good.

At the last Trustee meeting, Chief Centner talked about fraudulent calls & said Township residents can ring up Hinckley PD for assistance if you get a call saying a relative is in jail. That is a great service to residents (and I’m having my parents check if their local PD would help too). I’ve never been sure if privacy restrictions would prevent the police from disclosing info about a family member’s arrest and bail. Luckily my nephew was like 2 when I got such a call. And I was pretty sure DUI wouldn’t have been the charge if my nephew had *actually* been arrested two time zones away from home.

This is the end

With contestants who think lying about harassment is a good game strategy, and a guy finally removed for unwanted touching … I wonder if this is the end of Survivor. Will next season feature an alliance that outright lies to eliminate competition at key moments in the game? Gain a majority by eliminating a player on the other side.

Did I miss something?!

I’ll admit that I was only halfway paying attention to Survivor tonight, but it sounds like some women lied about someone’s physical contact making them uncomfortable (exaggerated their discomfort?) and then lied about their lying. They discuss the harassment, bond over the shared (miserable) experience. And then I hear “You tell her how uncomfortable you are … like, you have a very open mom/daughter moment about how uncomfortable you are. Right now, that’s our only play.” Our only play?!?

After someone else got voted off the island, Janet explains to Dan why she “turned” on him. Reasonable move, and if (as the show claims) they had a group meeting about respecting personal boundaries and an individual meeting with Dan that included a warning about his behavior … I’m not sure how it’s news to the dude why people were voting for him. Dan talks to Missy and Elizabeth and is told that Janet is lying to him. I mean, I know that the narrative gets built in editing and all … but it’s not like they’re selectively including the three times someone mentioned it to make it seem like something that’s a constant topic of conversation and the person says “I mentioned it once or twice, but I wasn’t making a huge deal about it”. If you never said that … there wouldn’t be footage to include. I was glad that Janet got all four of them together instead of allowing the other women to tell different stories to different people, but the ultimate resolution of their discussion seemed to be “well, Janet, you misunderstood and it got blown out of proportion”. Not “yes, I lied about this”.

Now, I’d understand if they decided that, yeah, dude makes them uncomfortable. But they were going to suck it up to retain their position in the game. I don’t want my alliance to think I’m untrustworthy, so I cannot vote out “one of us”. That would have been a rare bit of actual reality in “reality tv”. I’ve endured uncomfortable situations because I wanted to keep getting a paycheque. But the discomfort was truth. And I didn’t band together with a group of women, agreeing to discuss the problem with HR, only to tell HR that I never saw anything inappropriate. Tthe entire situation was disgusting – gee, why are people hesitant to believe someone who claims to be harassed – and I have a bad feeling that the “drama” is meant to be a hook for the show.

The ethos (or lack there-of) in Survivor has been part of the game since the second episode. Once contestants realized how the game worked, they figured out how to work the game. While lying with integrity is difficult to conceptualize, there are different types of lies told during the game … there’s a significant difference between maintaining multiple alliances or telling someone they’re not mentioned for the vote tonight and claiming that someone is harassing you and then telling that person you never said it. Working the game seems to rely on other players not becoming privy to the information we, as viewers, have. And I wonder what impact it would have on the ethics of the game if the endgame was tweaked. Once the final contestants were selected, and the members of the jury are known … take a few days break before the vote. Allow the production team to do some rough editing for broadcast footage. And then allow the jury to watch the show. Sure, content editing creates a story for each person and it’s a skewed view of the individual. But the final vote would more-or-less be cast with the same information viewers have. The jury thinks it is a shrewd move to use sexual harassment as a ‘play’ in the game and still votes for one of those women? That’s a lot different than jurors thinking Janet blew it out of proportion and only one contestant had complained about the guy.

Amazon Music

TL;DR: Lots of content, but UI/UX fail.

The user interface for Amazon Music is terrible and lacks basic functionality (and there’s a disparity of what functionality exists across platforms). The general usability is poor — it is difficult to navigate content, tool tips were not consistently displayed on mouseOver, and there’s no easy way to select a genre and see various artists/albums/releases.

There is no simple way to find and queue music. There is no way to sort albums by release date to identify the latest albums from an artist. There is minimal information about the album displayed when you ‘View album’. You cannot play music to other devices — the search/queue function on the web platform is far better than the functionality in the FireTV app, but I am then stuck streaming to my laptop.

Removing an item from ‘My Music” required too many clicks – the quick actions on the album say ‘Add to My Music’. To remove it required clicking the hamburger button, selecting ‘view album’, clicking another hamburger button, then selecting ‘Remove from My Music’.

We experienced many bugs on the web app when adding an album to ‘my music’ (the album did not appear at all. Or the album did not appear *but* the item count was incremented — so it said there were 6 albums but only five albums displayed. Or the album did not appear, the item count incremented, and one of the already-added albums was listed twice).

When searching for an artist, selecting them in the “artist” section does not list albums from the artist. You have to scroll *past* the ‘artists’ listing and select the artist under “Albums” to view their albums.

I have not been able to find a way to “train” the suggestion algorithm. While I expect the algorithm is trained as we listen to music and possibly skip songs, I would like to be able to select genres or bands that I do not like. There’s no reason to show me four different country music channels if I do not listen to country music.

On the FireTV app, a video history of Biggie Smalls was promoted. We could not find a “Video” section to see what other video content is available.

Force majeure and the Township Solid Waste District

We attended a “Candidates Night” event last night where the two individuals on the ballot for a Trustee position spoke and took questions. Where most local elections don’t have much in the way of issues, this particular election may be a proxy vote for the single-hauler solid waste district because the incumbent was involved in the entire process and voted to establish a Solid Waste District that allows only one trash hauler. And indicated that she didn’t see anything wrong with the way the decision was approached.

There were two justifications provided for this decision — both financial. Individuals who have rubbish service will pay less for their service because the Township is essentially facilitating a bulk-purchase agreement. The company is going to drive the same number of miles but 100% of the houses will be their customer. The other stated motivation is reducing road repair costs. Not because the Trustees provided any evidence that rubbish trucks cause a significant amount of damage to roads (although I’ve been told it’s common sense that big trucks cause a lot of damage … there are four, I think, companies that collect rubbish in the area. Commercial rubbish collection is out of scope, so those companies are still going to be driving on some of the roads. What percentage of road damage is done by three rubbish trucks a week compared to vehicle traffic, delivery trucks, snow plows, freeze/thaw cycles? And that’s assuming the single hauler doesn’t need to increase the number of trucks/trips to collect all residential waste — which I doubt is true. We’re more likely to net remove one or two large trucks a week from the roads.). But when I asked what metrics would be provided to show that this cost savings would be realized, the incumbent candidate replied “I don’t think residents want to fund an expensive study about what roads needed repairs and how much it costs”. Which is a senseless non-answer — they’ve got a projected service department budget for next year. And hopefully the year after that. They’ve got historic actual numbers for decades. Take next year’s actual and compare it to the budget. How’s that compare to, say, the difference between last year’s actual and forecasted budgets?

But the oddest part of the night was when a resident asked about people whose existing contracts are a problem — either their current rubbish service will stop collecting trash a month before this single-hauler contract begins, their annual contract is up a month or three before the single-hauler contract begins and they’re not going to be able to renew, or their contract extends beyond the single-hauler start date. The first two scenarios are answered easily enough — the company that’s been chosen as the rubbish collector has agreed to start collecting “early” at rack-rate. So you “get” to buy service from the company you didn’t want at the price you didn’t want. The incumbent indicated that people whose contracts extend beyond the single-hauler start date won’t have to pay early termination penalties because of force majeure. Now maybe she’s actually seen residential contracts from each of the rubbish collectors that operate in this Township. We haven’t had rubbish service for years because we compost & recycle. The remaining trash (generally Styrofoam), we can drop off once a year at the county dump for like 1.50$. But in the contract we did have, force majeure was specifically protection for the trash hauler — they are not in breach for failing to collect rubbish in the middle of a hurricane, during a strike, etc. Courts tend to interpret force majeure clauses narrowly. If the hauler wants to push the issue … I doubt there’s a clause about government action freeing the resident from fulfilling their contractual duties. You’d be making an argument under common law contract doctrine.

But there’s no need to put yourself in a defensive position. The hauler will elect either to cease operation in the Township or incur penalties for continued residential rubbish collection. As a customer, you aren’t the one seeking to breach the contract. The hauler’s failure to act on their contractual duties may fall under a specific item within a force majeure clause. Or they may consider their duty voided under “frustration of purpose”. Call it “impracticability” because of the fines. It’s not like a resident needs to fight to compel their old hauler to continue their contractually-obligated duties that the hauler needs to defend their withdraw as a specifically permitted action. A resident needs the hauler to be the one who withdraws from the contract.

Drawing a rectangle/square (or ellipse/circle) in Gimp

I finally installed the larger hard drive to my laptop (1TB SSD!!), and I now have enough space for a Windows partition, a Linux partition, and a data partition that is used by both systems. I’ve always had a handful of items on my “Linux misses” list, and image editing is one of them. I use Gimp in both Linux & Windows when I want to do “fancy” image editing — especially blurring out text when composing documentation — but I love the simplicity of MS Paint for adding text and shapes to images (my red “click this one” and purple “look at this section” rectangles). And there’s no readily obvious way to just draw a rectangle in Gimp. At one point, I had a whatever-it-is plugin/macro/function that allowed me to draw all sorts of complex shapes. But, really, I just want to put a red rectangle on a screen print. Found it!

Use the selection tool to draw a rectangle or ellipse; from the “Edit” menu, select “Stroke Selection”. This adds a pencil/paintbrush stroke along the selection boundary.