Friday, May 29, 2009

The WIPO is getting sick

What kind of jackass would try and prevent blind people from getting books?

Turns out, the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization. See, copyright owners seem to think that blind people don't want electronic books to be available to them. So the whole Kindle "text to speech" system? Nope - some filthy dirty pirate might want to use that to (gasp!) get the book in audio format and spread it over the Internets! Oh, noes! Or what if someone develops a Braille based electronic reader, or a program that can translate normal text into Braille - well, they'd better get permission from the book's publisher first.

Of course, someone actually advocating that would have to be a pretty fracking horrible, awful person to suggest that. I mean, if you buy a book, you should be able to read it. So why would any publisher of a book want to restrict the ability to translate text to speech or Braille? What, they think a non-blind person will go "Man, this computer voice is so *awesome* compared to an actual human being - I'm never buying books on tape again!"

Next thing, they'll have to outlaw people reading the books out loud to their kids. Cause, you know, those stinking kids can just go buy the audio versions themselves for their bedtime stories. The little bastards.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I get mad at the "We shouldn't have torture investigations, it happened in thepast"

ChrisBlumen: Cool, let us waste our tax money on things that already happened that we can't change!

johnhummel: Yeah! So like when somebody's charged with murder - fuck prosecuting them, it occurred in the past!

And how about if someone robs a bank. If they still have the money, arrest the fuckers. But if they spent it all - well, you can't get it back now, so you'll have to let them go free.

Ryuzaki356647: @ john: Yea, and wrap up the courts with appeals and everything else under the sun. They have the money to do so and you know they won't take the verdict. Think of it this way, even if anyone is found guilty, they're going to fight it, and it will become the biggest partisan circus in the history of the US. Frankly, I think this is their way of distracting us with all of the other problems we should focus on. I say clean house in 2010.

johnhummel: @Ryuzaki356647 - Exactly! I'm with you! I mean, suppose a rich person is charged with murder. Whatever we do, we shouldn't try to prosecute them. Their lawyers will tie it up in courts for ages, and it'll take a long time. Justice is boring and shit - if a crime happens, we shouldn't do anything that would be considered hard.

Just let people who do bad things get away with it. Because that's the American way. Like when Nixon got caught breaking the law. I guess Congress could have tried investigating him, and forcing him out of office if he faced impeachment. But no - they left him in there!

Remember that Truman nutcase, who wanted to investigate war profiteering? Good thing *that* never happened, because hey, there was a war on, and rich people deserved to make a lot of money at the expense of our troops!

So I'm with you, Ryuzaki356647! Let's not do anything hard to people who may have committed crimes. Just sweep it under the rug, ignore murder, torture, false confessions, lying, manipulation of the public into war that cost thousands of lives.

Fuck it. People will just have to get over it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Great Moments in Car Buying II: The Revenge. Xtreme.

With the first purchase of a car in some 6 years, I was feeling pretty good. My wife had a car she liked, it was safe, enough room for everybody - now we just had to wait for that first payment voucher to come in and we'd go from there.

What I didn't know is come Thursday morning, a Stupid Sun would rise, and all that its rays touch would burn with Dumb.

First, the dealership called me. Turns out they wanted me to sign some more papers. That wouldn't be a problem, right? And they'd even fill up my car with gas - what a deal for driving 40 minutes out of my way! Just some things to clear up the credit application. Oh, and could I send some pay stubs (which I had already brought them, but evidently they *eat* pay stubs for sustenance so I had to bring more), proof of residency, 3 more references and their relationship to me, a baby seal, proof of circumcision (and if not, a doctor's note that I would have the procedure done), and proof that I was *not* involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Then I asked the wrong question: which car should I drive? Should I drive down the Honda, in case there was a problem and I had to return the car, or my Beetle, if this was all just routine? And did I *really* need to drive down there - could someone just fax me the important documents?

The response: Well, of course you have to drive the Honda so we can fill up the tank with gas!

The Stupid. It Burns.

I sent this:
Right. OK, let me ask this another way.

I'm under instructions from My Lovely Wife (MLW) that if the interest rate needs to increase by any amount greater than .01%, I am to return the Odyssey and get our old car back.

If I'm just there to sign papers and the like, then I'll just drive my humble VW Beetle, since My Lovely Wife (MLW) is taking the children to a birthday party, and it would be difficult to fit 5 people into my small car.

I'm far less worried about the gas as being utterly exhausted after spending the entire night walking at a cancer benefit and having to inconvenience my wife. So - should I bring in the Odyssey just in case, or do you just need my physical presence for non-repudiation purposes on signature?

I thought this laid it out. And besides, I was going to the Relay for Life walk on Friday night (hey - did you donate $5 to help beat cancer?), so I'd be pretty damn tired after walking all night long - the last thing I wanted to do was drive another 40 miles just to dicker with car finance people. I let them know I'd be there at 2 PM on Saturday once they filled in that critical piece of data.

I waited for an answer.

And - I waited.

I left voice mail messages.

I walked for cancer. And then I called.

And, finally, at 1:30, I decided to take a nap, thinking that this must not be very important or else someone would have contacted me. Naturally, they did - at 2:10.

Finally, I learned The Truth: when I drove off the dealership almost a week earlier after putting $2000 down and my trade-in, signed the paperwork for an auto loan - turns out, I wasn't *really* approved.

That was the moment I offered to drive the car back and return it.

Oh, no, Mr. Hummel - we can make something work by Monday, really! And in the meantime, could I check with *my* bank to see if they could swing a loan deal? Please? Pretty please?

What wound up happening me is me taking Monday off of work - using 8 hours of vacation time I was saving up for, you know, a vacation, and futzing around with banks, calling dealerships to figure out what they were doing (which seemed to involve something about crazy glue and getting fingers stuck to their noses). My bank was trying to work with me - and by the way, GTE Federal Credit Union rocks.

But I didn't know that *more* stupid loomed over the horizon. Turns out the bank needed to do employment verification. This is usually pretty easy. It goes like this:
Bank: Hello, is this the HR department of the company I'm checking into?

HR: Yup.

Bank: Great. Does John Hummel really work there?

HR: Yup.

Bank: Thanks!

HR: Yup

This is it. Not exactly rocket science. However, it turns out the company I work for has elevated stupid to an art form. See, they *pay* some other company to do this job for them. That's right - employing someone to work $6 an hour with benefits to answer a phone and say "Yes, they work here, and they do make that much money" or say "No, they don't work here" is too difficult.

Instead, let's hire an outside company! Not only that, but let's make it if you do employment verification, you have to *register* with this outside company - so now some other company may have to run by legal "Hey, is it OK if we go register with this company and deal with the possibility that they'll spam us into oblivion".

No, you can't just call up the Outside Company and say "Does this person work there?" You need to register. And get a Super Secret Code for income verification. And hey, while you're at it, there's this former general from Nigeria who has a *great* offer if you can just help him out!

I finally got my boss to take a call from the bank and say "Yup."

Finally, I got the bank to take up the deal (at a lower interest rate if I agreed to automatic payment). I have papers fed ex'ed to me I need to sign from the dealership saying that I'm aware I missed out on their *awesome* imaginary offer.

And my wife has a car. Officially. Finally.

Now, where's my Macbook Pro I was promised?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Great Moments in Car Buying

Got a call from our car salesman this morning. I should mention, we've now had the car for a whole 5 days.

Salesman: Hey, John, I'm calling because we need some more stuff for the auto loan!

Me: You mean the auto loan for a car I've now been driving for almost a week?

Salesman: Yeah! See, I need some pay stubs.

Me: Um - yeah. Remember those things I brought down to you on Sunday? The pieces of paper that were the printouts of my work giving me money in exchange for services rendered? Those were - pay stubs.

Salesman: Oh, well, we need some more.

Me: OK - fine. What else.

Salesman: Proof of residency. Water bill, something like that.

Me: Naturally - I fully realize that having my name on the checking, savings, credit card, pay stubs, and the like doesn't *really* mean I live here. What else?

Salesman: References.

Me: I left some.

Salesman: We need more.

Me: Annnnd?

Salesman: Proof of circumcision.

Me: What?

Salesman: Yes - I don't know if you need to take the picture, or your wife, or a medical doctor, but we need some proof that you had the Captain Happy Cape sliced off.

Me: You've got to be -

Salesman: After that, of course, we're going to need a complete anal probe. We can't risk you croaking before you paid off your loan. We can set up an appointment with a proctologist. Great guy, and he uses a very pleasant probe lube that tingles.

Me: Are you certain that this is all you need?

Salesman: I know it's a 40 minute drive from you to the dealership, but could you drive all of it down?

Me: Why can't I email it to you?

Salesman: Do you really want pictures of your wang floating around the Internet?

Me: Um, not really.

Anyway. I guess I need to go find the camera.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Buying A Car Experience

For the last month or so, My Lovely Wife (MLW) and I were considering buying a car. Finally, last week it came to a head as our mechanic actually *recommended* she swap out her 11 year old Ford Windstar because the next several repairs would likely be more expensive than just buying one that worked better.

Like so many other things, from politics to music to news, the Internet has pretty much ruined the game. The first thing I did was look online at the price of the car MLW wanted. According to - $29200.

We visited a few dealerships, and I had a very, very simple question: how much is the car? This is a very simple question. 3 dealerships *couldn't tell me*. They *could* tell me they could get me into the car at $600 a month for 72 months after a $4500 down payment plus my trade-in value?

Which prompted me to ask "What's my trade-in value?" The response: Well, it's enough that your monthly payment would be $600 a month for 72 months, of course! Which means that a $29k car winds up costing about $48k.

"But how much is the price of the car, and what's my trade in?" I was not asking a hard question, this was not some trick. Price of the car, value of the trade in, interest rate on the loan.

I mean, think about going in to buy a TV set from Best Buy, and they won't tell you how much the TV is. You'd never come back. And yet, somehow, this is considered to be OK in the car world.

I finally decided that I just couldn't go to the dealerships any more. By the time the salespeople went to shook my hand and attach their lamprey like teeth to my abdomen to suck the life out of me, I was already in an Urge to Kill mood.

4th dealership - Honda Cars of Bradenton - had already called me after I put in an online request, so I called them.

"What's the price of the Honda Odyssey EX-L with dark grey outside and leather grey insides?"

Saleperson's response was instant - "$29900, which I know is $700 more than the Internet quote, but that's because it also includes A, B, C, D" (which was the stuff that MLW wanted anyway).

I was then transferred to his finance guy. I had already filled in the data he needed online. He got me the rate, the time, and we dickered for about 5 minutes - done.

Back to the salesman. "Here's the deal," I said. "If you and your finance guy are accurate, I'll be there in 30 minutes, and you'll have sold a car."

2 hours later (filling out paperwork and title transfers and such), we had a car. And the whole time our salesman was grinning. "Ever since we started telling people the price of the car off the Internet, we've started beating the other dealerships in the area."

Really. I can't imagine why.

Now my wife has her Mother's Day/Birthday President. Now, if I can just get her to agree that I need my laptop....