Under Design

…hates to admit he might have a blog.

F@*k You too, Modern Healthcare!

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affordable-healthcare-act

I’m having a terrible day, all thanks to my national Health Insurance Provider.

I went to refill my prescription at the pharmacy attached to my doctors office, only to be told when I arrive that they no longer take my insurance: a well-known National Health Insurance Provider based in Philadelphia. Having just walked 30 minutes (for my health!), and after having recieved a robocall from this same pharmacy not 10 minutes earlier, I was aghast at the ineptitude.

F@*k you, Modern Healthcare.

Fine. This pharmacy will never again get my business. The fact that there’s no link between their patient database and currently accepted insurance providers bothers me, especially for a multi-million dollar corporation.

The lanky counter person suggested an alternative three-lettered pharmacy might take my insurance, but I prefer yet another pharmacy. A especially helpful mobile website helped me dial my local Pharmacist for quick instructions on moving my prescription orders.

The super-friendly Pharmacist even followed up with a few calls to sort out my insurance. Alas, her final call came with bad news; according to their records, the Pharmacist told me, my insurance had been cut off on April 30th. Did I have a new ID Number? Perhaps a new card?

WTF?

I promised I’d call her back once I settled this issue – it must be a mistake. I’d signed up early, directly with the provider (bypassing the terrible Obamacare website), and had coverage since January 1st of this year. I setup automatic payments to be withdrawn on the 2nd of every month. I (like most men) rarely visited my doctor, or cost my insurance company too much. Why would they suddenly drop my coverage?

I checked my bank account records for evidence of my payments. I noted there was no charge in May… Another ominous clue.

I hit the Health Insurance Provider website. There should be an obvious warning, a signal of an account error, right? Nope. The poorly organized (and skinned a half-dozen different ways) website leads consumers into a loop of useless information (that you can update!) and webpages that request you call a 1-800 number.

F@*k You, Health Insurance Provider website.

I despise calling 1-800 numbers unless I have to. I’ve been repeated been left on hold for hours and been (not) helped by operators who promise that ‘they are here to help me to ensure we settle your dispute today.’

The first two operators made me recite my 12-digit member number before they quickly diagnosed that they were helpless, and could only offer to advance me up the chain of empowered employees at this behemoth bureaucracy. Wait time for each: 20 minutes.

I hate being on hold; the shmoozy jazz music just too quiet to hear on speakerphone, the oft-repeated message of the recorded female operator blanally apologising for the long wait time, with a suggestion to ‘settle billing issues right away’.

The third operator expressed her concerned dismay at my problem, but acknowledged that the supervisors required were already busy. She willingly accepted my phone number and a promise to call back with a settlement before 5:15pm.

After a total of 55 minutes on the phone, I was glad to hang up.

F@*k you, Health Insurance Provider phone support.

As one might expect, at 5:14pm, I got a call back. ‘We fixed it’ the helpful operator quipped, ‘We don’t know why it was cancalled, but we turned it back on. Next time you try to refill your prescription, it’ll just work’.

The non-helpful answer didn’t quell my fears. I muttered in annoyance, “So what about my billing, are they going to invoice me for May, or do I expect I have to setup a new auto-pay?”

The helpful operator didn’t sound so helpful. I’d be keeping her late. The clock ticked to 5:15pm. She gave me the now-standard ‘that’s not my department’ speech all operators are told to memorize before offering to ‘stay with you until I can connect you to a billing representative.’

She put me on hold; that jazz again. I fumed.

After a surprizingly short 4-minute wait, the last operator reverted back to their unhelpful state: She claimed the Health Insurance Provider billing system was updated a full 48 hours after the coverage system, and that even though my account is now back on, they can’t do anything on my dormant account. I’d have to call back in 2 days, once Health Insurance Provider’s huge computer network was all updated to the most recent data.

While that seemed to be an inept answer to poor IT practices, especially one of the size and manpower of this national Health Insurance Provider, I knew there was going to be no satisfaction today.

F@*k You, Health Insurance Provider billing.

F@*k You, Health Insurance Provider database administrators.

F@*k You, Health Insurance Provider.

I still don’t have my prescription, and I’m considering stopping it altogether. I have been repeatedly abused and disapointed my modern healthcare. From doctor’s who make you wait an hour and a half, to convoluted phone systems designed to thwart even the most die-hard people, I think my time and money are far better spent doing preventative maintenence, and avoiding the medical system altogether.

The blood-pressure lowering medication I take seems part of a larger conspiricy to ‘fix it with a pill’ that the modern American medical system seems to love; recent evidence of a normal increase in blood pressure in all older adults points that doctor’s ‘standard’ expectations and evaluations are probably wrong.

F@*k You, Modern Healthcare.

P.S. This is a modifed version of the original rant, which I wrote in May 2014. All business names have been removed, and curse words turned to unsearchable garbage. Thankfully, my cooler head prevailed, but still needed to vent about this ineptitude and bureacracy that is rampant in big corporations.

Written by Under

February 6, 2015 at 4:20pm

Posted in Commentary

Super-Important and Powerful Google URL’s for Everyone!

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google-logo

Here are 10 important links tucked away inside your Google Account dashboard, and they may reveal interesting details about you that are known to Google.

  1. Create a new Google Account using your existing email address.

    The regular sign-up process uses your @gmail.com address as your Google account username but with this special URL, you can use any other email address as your username.

    https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail

  2. Review Google’s Advertising Profile of You:

    Google creates a profile of yourself based on the sites you visit, your Google+ account and other signals. They try to guess your age, gender and interests and then use this data to serve you more relevant ads. Use this URL to know how Google sees you on the web.

    https://www.google.com/ads/preferences/

  3. Get your Google backup.

    Google lets you export all your data out of the Google ecosystem. You can download your photos, contacts, Gmail messages and even your YouTube videos.

    https://www.google.com/takeout

  4. Raise a DCMA Complaint with Google

    If you ever find your content appearing on another website that is using one or more Google products – say Blogger, AdSense, Google+ or YouTube – you can raise a DMCA complaint with Google against that site to get that content removed. This wizard can also be used to remove websites from Google search results that are scraping your content.

    https://support.google.com/legal

  5. Have Google Tell You Where You’ve Been

    Your Android device may be reporting your recent location data and velocity (are you moving and if yes, how fast are you moving) back to Google servers. Head over to the Google Maps website to see your entire location history and you also have the option to export this data as KML files that can be viewed inside Google Earth or even Google Drive.

    https://maps.google.com/locationhistory

  6. I Searched for What?

    Google records every search term that you’ve ever typed into their search boxes. They even keep a log of every Google ad that you have clicked on various websites and if you are a Google Now user, you can also see a log of all your audio search queries.

    https://history.google.com

  7. Keep Inactive accounts active longer…

    You need to login to your Gmail account at least once every 9 months else Google may terminate your account according to their program policies. This can be an issue if you have multiple Gmail accounts so as a workaround, you can setup your main Gmail account as the trusted content for your secondary accounts. Thus Google will keep sending you reminders every few months to login to your other accounts. Not available for Google Apps.

    https://www.google.com/settings/account/inactive

  8. Locate your previous devices/locations.

    Worried that someone else is using your Google account. Go to the activity report to see a log of every device that has recently been used to log into your Google account. You also get to know the I.P. Address and their approximate geographic location. Unfortunately, you can’t remotely log out of a Google session.

    https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity

  9. Who else gets to Know About Me?

    This is a complete list of web apps, browser extensions, scripts and mobile apps that have any read or write access to your Google data. If the permission level says ‘access to basic account info’, it basically means that you have used your Google account to sign-in to that app.

    https://security.google.com/settings/security/permissions

  10. Reset your Admin Password in case of attack

    This is important URL for Google Apps users. If your Google Account ever gets hacked, use this secret link to reset your admin password. You’ll be asked to verify your domain name by creating a CNAME record in your DNS.

    https://admin.google.com/domain.com/VerifyAdminAccountPasswordReset

    (replace domain.com in the above URL with your own web domain name)

Written by Under

January 26, 2015 at 4:20pm

Posted in Commentary, Hacking

Recovering a (decades old) Windows 2000 Server for Virtualization

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tumblr_ng6jdrPxNr1qb2wfro1_1280

I hate to admit, but much of my business runs on 20-year-old code. In the years since, I’ve been negligent to upgrade the code, the hosting machine, or anything else for that matter. It simply worked. Until it didn’t.

I’ve had a self-hosted web server in my office forever. From my first T1 connection to the most recently discontinued DSL line, we’ve had static IP addresses, and hosted a web server, DNS server, and more in the last few decades. It was our last internet provider switch that finally disallowed having more than one IP address, and I’ve since moved all my hosting to Amazon S3 static hosting. The code base and server moved inside the firewall and happily churned away for another 6 months without any hiccups. Until last December, when it simply died one day when the power supply finally failed.

virtualbox

Since my ancient code also held my customer database and other vital info, this had to be recovered quickly. You’ll have to install the open-source and free VirtualBox from Oracle. It supports a ton of old OS formats, and is exactly what this is for. When you install VirtualBox, it will also install some command-line utilities we’ll be using to convert our old disk into an easily duplicated disk image.

We pulled the ancient 4U rack-mount server and opened it up; the dusty contents above is what we met. After a careful removal of the old boot IDE hard drive, I reinstalled it into a new USB hard drive case and attached it to my Mac.

Hopefully, you can simply mount the drive. Thankfully, it was not the hard drive that failed in my old web server, so the old boot drive simply showed up when I plugged it into my desktop computer. You’ll need to figure out the BSD drive number (in my case, it was disk1), by opening the Terminal window and typing this code:

diskutil list

You’ll get a list of all disks attached to your computer, their partitions sizes and names. Drive numbers are assigned by the OS on a first come, first serve basis. The drive will have a name like ‘diskN‘ (with the N being a number). Generate a .vdi image using this terminal code:

sudo cat /dev/disk1 | VBoxManage convertfromraw stdin ~/DiskImage.vdi 15879634944

It requires administrator authentication (type your password!), but once it’s done, it’ll place a file ‘DiskImage.vdi’ in my home directory. This took a while with my old IDE drive (understandably slow), but when it was done, I had a bootable Windows 2000 clone of my old web server. Since I could run it virtually, I could load it on any available machine and with some tweaking, have it return to acting as a web server and run my ancient code. There are some port-forwarding settings you need to make with VirtualBox, but now I have an older Mac Mini running a virtual Windows 2000 web host with all of my ancient customer data from as far back as 1995! Now I can also backup my entire operating system onto a USB key and know confidently that I have all my recent, updated data with me.

While I lose out on the fact that my old machine is no longer permanently networked, it’s acceptable in this day and age of always-on internet. I’m also looking into putting this disk image on a networked virtualization machine, so I can continue to serve up 20-year-old web pages! Big thanks to this forum on VirtualBox.org for advice which I found worked for me!.

Written by Under

January 19, 2015 at 4:20pm

Posted in DIY, Hacking

What are you doing this Friday in Philadelphia? Come see me DJ at Cafe Chimosa January 16, 2015

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Chismosa Taquiza Flyer v7g1 HIRES

Join me in one of my rare DJ appearances at Cafe Chimosa for a Happy Hour Taquiza on Friday, January 16th 5—8pm

My good friend Jugo opened this place a few years back, and I’ve recently been attending these once-a-month gatherings where you B.Y.O.B. for in-house margarita mixes and delicious tacos, tostadas and tamales (Oh my!) They asked me to DJ at an upcoming one, so this week it’s lots of digging through my old crates of vinyl for some classics! I’ll be DJing alongside Dr Juice aka DJ Jugo while he takes a moments break from the kitchen. Happy hour reservations can be made by calling 267-273-1448 – this place gets packed!

See you Friday at the corner of 4th & Poplar in NoLibs at 5pm!

Written by Under

January 12, 2015 at 4:20pm

Posted in City Life

Homemade Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe

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cooking

I love spaghetti, and all sorts of italian meals; Instead of buying a store-bought bottle of boring tomato sauce, I started making my own. This recipe is very easy to make, and the results are far better tasting, it’s cheaper than store-bought jars, and a perfect base for a whole host of meals. I often double this recipe to make tons of sauce – it’s infinitely useful.

An important first step to note when making this sauce is to bring the olive oil up to temperature very slowly with the garlic, herbs, and spices, and cook for about five minutes to brown the garlic. This slow heat-up process allows the oil to be infused with the seasonings providing a really delicious base to your sauce.

The above picture has poorly taken mobile photos of my last batch. Top left is the oil and herbs warming, then I added peppers and onions and fried them a bit (not in this recipe, feel free to add meat or other veggies to thicken your sauce). I added canned crushed tomatoes (bottom left) and let it simmer for an hour and a half (bottom right).

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano, divided, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, divided, or 1/2 tablespoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped mint, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes or two quarts of freshly canned garden tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, on a burner with no flame, pour in olive oil and add red pepper flakes, garlic, onion, most of the oregano, basil and mint (save a little bit of each for the end), sugar salt and pepper. Turn on the burner and slowly bring up to hot. When the onions and garlic start to cook, stir and heat for five minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the burner and place a heat diffuser over the burner. Place the pot over the heat diffuser and add the tomatoes. Turn burner to medium high and stir until they start to boil. Then reduce to simmer, partially cover and simmer 90 minutes.
  3. After 90 minutes, remove from heat and add the reserved herbs and Parmesan cheese. Add the butter to round out the flavors. Stir again and serve and/or bottle for freezer or fridge.

bottled

I like to bottle up this sauce into pint glasses, as they can put in the freezer for long-term storage, and can be heated right in the microwave. This sauce goes well with just about any pasta you might have in your cupboard. The sauce ages very well, and will taste even better the next time you reheat it. It gives the flavors a chance to blend and mellow out.

Written by Under

January 5, 2015 at 4:20pm

Posted in City Life, DIY

78rpm Vinyl Record Sleeves from the Early 1900’s

From a recent Vinyl to CD conversion submission from a valued customer of my plentiful Digital Conversion services, these are only the outer paper sleeves with the label art and logos on them; the real information is available on the center imprints of these old 78’s. Our conversion process gets the best audio out of these old dubplates and singles, using a custom 78 rpm needle and a exclusive multi-step post-processing to recover the audio of the past!

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You can click on these images to zoom-in. Enjoy these classic promotional images for vinyl albums.

Written by Under

December 12, 2014 at 4:20pm

Oh So Perfect License Plates – Even More Pictures of the Funniest Vanity Car License Plates ever!

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As a continuation from my first huge post and then my followup post with 40+ more pictures of some of the funniest vanity license plates found!

Have You Two Met?

How About You Two?

Hate to Be Behind These People!

Sticker
Bumper Sticker Madness

Very Specific to Tesla Cars

What Sound Does a Virginia Bear Make?

Screwing with the Meter Maids and Red Light Cameras

Pretty Crude!

Do you have your own clever Vanity Plate? You must have some ego! Leave a comment, link, or more!

Written by Under

November 7, 2014 at 4:20pm

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