The Budcast: Fopydo Scanning Stand

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything like a podcast. True, this isn’t much like much of anything, but I wanted to get it out as soon as possible, without a lot of fuss. So, in my usual, casual, unedited and sloppy style, here it is.

The folks at Fopydo have developed some low-cost stands for general photo taking and document digitizing with an iPhone, tablet, or digital camera. After expressing some interest in these, I was able to test some of their offerings. The latest is a stand that Fopydo has designed specifically with the needs of blind and visually impaired OCR users in mind. At a projected selling price of $10, this is going to be a hard one to beat. In this latest Budcast, I describe the stand and put it briefly through its paces.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the stand, or about a projected availability date, drop Fopydo an Email as directed on their web site. Tomek is definitely interested in our needs and in making a product that will be of benefit to us.

One thing I forgot to mention in the recording is that there are holes in the back of the stand to assist with raising the stand to capture larger documents. These guide holes help to ensure that both sides of the stand are level and the height is predictable. The guide holes are on both sides where the L-shaped base wires fit in the back of the stand.

Fora slow news day: Verizon Continues to Give Me the Shaft

Update: Verizon just called to tell me that, miraculously, they’ve finally worked out that, yes, the phone arrived, and yes, they were able to finally authorize my credit. Of course, I only got apologies for the delay and assurances that, yes, I was correct, there really was no excuse for it taking this long. *Whew*

I just sent the following Email to our local NBC affiliate. Feel free to share with whoever you like.

Perhaps for a slow news day, though I’m at my wit’s end with this. Verizon has not resolved this problem after nearly three months. To save time, here’s what I originally wrote on the matter, admittedly in some heated language, on my personal blog:

[Blog post deleted, but you can read it by visiting this page.]

That was posted on 29th October.

After that, I received a query for more information from Verizon’s Facebook page, and they assured me that they would look into the matter. They also sent yet a third round of shipping labels. Between the three mailings that were supposedly ordered, I got one plastic bag with instructions to use the label provided with my replacement phone (which had already been used, of course), and, finally, a shipping label I could use. As I was out of town for part of the beginning of November, the phone was shipped out November 10th, and received, according to USPS tracking, on November 14th. To date, Verizon has not credited me yet, they still claim that the matter is “under internal investigation”, and, while they claim to have put a hold on any collections proceedings and marked the amount as not due, I’ve received calls and texts from the financial services department at Verizon Wireless asking for payment, in order to “avoid an interruption of service”.

Here is a full transcript of messages between me and Verizon wireless on Facebook:

As requested, I’m sending a private message. The details of this are posted already, so I need not belabor them. My Verizon mobile number, so you can look at whatever you need to, is (814) 431-0962.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the message, Buddy. Yes, I can see the previous posts and I am aware of the issue regarding your iPhone. I’m very eager to review your account. However, it’s protected by a billing system password (not the same one used at My Verizon Online). Please share so I can review further. – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Right. Hi Dion, Andrea, Jennifer, Alan, and all the ships at sea. It’s [redacted]
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for greeting all of us, Buddy. It’ll just me me this time around. I’m having a look at the equipment history on your account to find the replacement device that you’ve advised was issued through Apple’s inventory.

I’ve found that there was a replacement device activated on your line in November 2013. What I don’t show is the origin of the device (as being a warranty model). Does that date jibe with your records or was it at some other time? Do you happen to have any documentation from Apple left over from the exchange? – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That’s the one, yes. It was definitely under warranty (after all, the 5S was only released in September of last year), and it was replaced under Apple’s expedited replacement. They only charged $29 for the cross shipment. This was handled over the phone with Apple’s support department, and I didn’t have AppleCare, so definitely standard warranty replacement. I don’t think I have anything from Apple on this, but if I do, it’s on another computer.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
I could come up with a payment confirmation from Paypal, but I’m not confident I can come up with any more than that.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Pay dirt!
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for all of these details, Buddy. Just in case, what Apple Store did you visit in order to have your original device replaced? – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
None. There isn’t one here. I called Apple.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan

AppleCare

Dear Clyde Brannan, Repair ID:
D108330606

We have shipped the replacement IPHONE 5S you requested. Please allow two business days for delivery.

Courier: FedEx
Tracking number (active within 24 hours): 582783491141

Shipping address:
1114 W 30TH ST
ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA 16508-1540
UNITED STATES

To protect your shipment, Apple’s courier won’t deliver your package without obtaining your signature. If you’re not present for the delivery, the courier will return the next business day.

Identification Numbers of the Original Product
Serial Number: F17LG13LFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989051615436
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905161543

Identification Numbers of the Replacement Product
Serial Number: F17LF2NUFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989054813012
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905481301

Please retain this email as a record that your product’s identification numbers have changed as a result of this service request.

The replacement product will come with instructions for returning the original to Apple. To avoid being charged a non-return fee, you must return the original so that Apple receives it by 2013-11-29.

Visit Repair Status to view the current details of your service request.

Regards,
The AppleCare Team

Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That was November 15, 2013.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Sorry. I was on a call (work, tech support, just finished). The Email from Apple should have everything you need in it?
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for this information, Buddy. I attempted to reach out to you to provide you these details, but you weren’t available to take my call. I will be submitting a request for escalation regarding the serial number for this device, in order to have it updated in our database. Once I receive confirmation, I will reach out to you to make sure this is all taken care of. Thank you once again. We look forward to getting this resolved for you. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Great, thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t take your call, I was on another call myself.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
No worries, Buddy. I most definitely understand! The last email excerpt definitely includes all the details I will need for this. Once I hear back/have a resolution I will reach back out to you. Should hopefully be no more than Five business days. Thank you once again, Buddy. May you have a great evening. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
OK, thanks. Meantime, if I ever get shipping materials, it’s going back post haste. With tracking.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, that’s a great idea. We will be speaking with you soon. Have a great night. – Katie
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Thanks Katie. And you’re #6. Have a good evening.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Do you know, this is now officially beyond stupid. Apparently yesterday we received an envelope from Verizon, one presumes that this is what passes for “return shipping materials”. It included a plastic bag to put the phone in, and instructions to use the box that my new phone came in, along with the shipping label included with my new phone. This, of course, is impossible, since that shipping label went back to you when I shipped this phone back the first time and it was returned to me. With no return label. Which the replacement “shipping materials” should have included if anyone had any sense. If I was angry at Verizon Wireless’s corporate incompetence before, rest assured I’m far beyond that now.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Lets clear the air, Buddy! Just to confirm, we did not include a shipping label in the return packaging? I am truly concerned as one should have been sent to you. If not, we can request for another to be shipped out. – Lena
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
I’m not sure which batch of return shipping materials this is, as yours would be the third ordfer for them, and this was the first that was received. In the envelope was a letter, as outlined, a plastic bag, and nothing else.
As this has been ongoing for over a month, from my first return of the iPhone 5S to today, you can well understand why I am, to put it mildly, disgusted. And angry. And have zero confidence in a smooth resolution.
I believe I asked this on the phone before, but I can’t just take this phone and turn it in at a Verizon store?
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, we want to restore your confidence in us and resolve this equipment matter right away. You will need to ship that device back to us in the shipping materials that you were provided with. Please retain the tracking number for your records. Once the device is recieved, we will submit an escalated request to ensure that your Edge trade in is accepted. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Seriously. You gotta be kididng me. Have you in fact read this whole exchange? Have you reviewed what’s transpired to this point? You must not have if you sent an inane reply like this. Seriously. Read through the history. This response did absolutely nothing to restore any confidence.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I apologize for my confusion. After reviewing your account, I see that was a follow up placed by a previous representative to ensure that your issue is resolved. However, the notes are very vague. I’d like to take ownership of this matter and further assist you from here. Can I contact you by phone? Do you have a moment to speak with me this afternoon? – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Yes, but before you do, you’d better read this, so that we’re not covering already covered ground: http://buddy.brannan.name/blog/2014/10/dear-verizon-piss-off/

[Lasina then called, we discussed the issue, she summarizes.]

Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. As we discussed, I’ve submitted a request to send you the shipping materials again. It will take 7-10 business days to reach you via U.S. Postal mail. Make sure that you retain the tracking number once you ship the device back to us. I will contact you on November 11, 2014 to follow up with you and submit that request to dissolve that equipment charge on your account.

Again, I truly apologize for these inconveniences. We take full ownership/responsibility of this matter and look forward to getting this resolved for you soon. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Thank you. I’ll be happy once this is all behind us.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, no worries! I got you covered. I’ve already submitted an escalated request to accept the device once it is recieved. I will be submitting another request once I’ve verified that it’s been accepted in our warehouse. Additionally, your account has been noted to ensure that everyone on our end knows exactly what’s going on.

Please feel free to reach out to us anytime between if you have additional concerns. – Lasina
Oct 31

[No contact from Lasina on the previously agreed November 11]

Buddy Brannan
For Losana: Looks like Verizon received my phone a few days ago. I got the label before I left for a long weekend on the 6th, the phone went out on the 10th, y’all received it Friday the 14th according to the postal service.
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Umm. Make that last for Lasina. Oh dear. I really butchered that, sorry.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the reply and the update Buddy! Lasina is not in the office yet. Can I assume that all of your wireless concerns has been addressed now that your phone has been received? If you have any additional questions then please share as we are here to help. – Arnett
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Hi…No, you really can’t. It was received last time, too. Please pass on to her, she’ll understand what to do with it. Once I receive my credit properly for the returned phone, then we’ll be resolved, but not before.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Understood. The issue is currently under review. We appreciate your patience. – Yosef
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
For Lasina:
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Ahem. Yes. For Lasina: we have a problem. Verizon has, according to the postal service, received the iPhone 5S I shipped back on 14th November. I not only have no acknowledgement of this from Verizon, and not only does my account show a past due amount, but I just got a call from Verizon financial services requesting payment. As I have fulfilled my end of the Edge contract not once but twice, faithfully, and as requested, and Verizon has dropped the ball in processing this *several* times,, beginning with not recognizing a warranty phone replacement, I clearly do not owe the balance of the contract at around $374. Not owing this amount, I also do not intend on paying it. Moreover, any marks on my credit report will be disputed and should be removed, if indeed they such has been filed. I have fulfilled my end of these transactions in good faith and have received hassle and bother in return. While all of the actual people I’ve spoken to have been nothing if not unfailingly polite and helpful, the process has been anything but.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you so much for the details. I can understand your concern. We would love to check into this information for you ASAP. Do you by chance have the tracking number for the package that you sent back? If so, can you please provide that number to us. Please keep us posted. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
9202090107859993927533

USPS says:
delivered
removed class name to show expected date on closed state
Expected Delivery Day: Thursday, November 13, 2014 tooltip widget/added Sept27’14Release/JR

Product & Tracking Information
Postal Product:
First-Class Mail®
Features:
Return Service

DATE & TIME
STATUS OF ITEM
LOCATION
November 14, 2014 , 5:28 am

Delivered

FORT WORTH, TX 76190
New Status Summary Panel

Your item was delivered at 5:28 am on November 14, 2014 in FORT WORTH, TX 76190.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Thank you so much for those details. I did place in a ticket for our warehouse to review this information so we can get these chargers cleared for you. Your ticket number is: 183630. As soon as I hear something back I will make sure to inform you. I have reached out to our financial services department for you as well to place a hold on the account due to the investigation. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
No doubt you’ve seen the previous action on this issue. Thanks.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
You’re welcome! We will normally hear something back with in 48 to 72 busines hours. But, with the holiday in the mix it may be a little later. Looking forward to getting this taken care of for you. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Again for Lasina: Verizon has had the iPhone 5S sent in as part of my Edge upgrade, for the second time, since November 14th. As it hasn’t come back to me a second time, I assume this means it’s in process; however, I have received no confirmation of this, and I have also not received an appropriate credit for it on my bill. Instead, I have received a request for payment of a past due amount, followed by a threat (today) of service interruption if the past due amount is not paid. I reiterate: I am not paying the amount you claim I owe on this phone upgrade, as I have fulfilled my end of the contract. Twice. You have not. This ball has been dropped more times than I care to count. This issue has gone unresolved for what is now going over two months. I get apologies. I get assurances. I get no resolution, and I get lots of hassle and inconvenience. I have been very patient. I’m through being patient. Were I as slow to resolve a problem you had with me, I can assure you that Verizon would not be nearly this patient with me, and it would demand immediate resolution. When the shoe’s on the other foot, however, I’m expected to patiently wait for your incompetent systems to work their “magic”. This needs to be resolved. Immediately.
Dec 6

[Lindsey called me, assured me that a block was again put on the amount that isn’t really past due, and I shouldn’t receive any further communications from financial services. Except I did, about five minutes later, if not less.]

Buddy Brannan
You will fix this problem immediately. Now. If you an’t, you will escalate it to someone who can. I just got a call from financial services, not five minutes after you assured me I wouldn’t get any such calls. Now, please.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I do apologize about the phone call form Financial Services. The system was not updated for the hold on the account before that call went out. We did make sure that the hold is in place going forward. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. – Kevin
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
I’ve had apologies. I’ve had assurances. I’ve had excuses. I’m done with it. The only thing I want to hear from you is that this problem has been resolved, and that my account is in good standing. That’s it. Make it so. I’m done with everything else.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you for speaking with me. Have a wonderful rest of your day. – Lindsey
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
On this coming Sunday, verizon will have my second-time returned phone for one month. A week after that will mark three months of this particular nightmare’s duration. This has gone far beyond ridiculous. Let me draw you a picture. For this to be properly resolved, do I need to file a complaint with the PUC? Do I need to take it to the media? I note here that, even though it is completely irrelevant, I am fairly certain the media would just love a story of “blind mobile phone customer being jerked around by the big mobile phone company”, and, irrelevant as that detail is, the fact of my disability would likely get a lot more attention than it deserves. I can see absolutely no resaon that this problem has gone on as long as it has. This needs to be addressed today. Further payment will be held until this problem is resolved. I’m sure you can understand my position on this.
Dec 12 at 8:27am

Verizon Wireless
Hello again, Buddy. I know that you’ve really been pushed well beyond your limits on this matter. I wish I had more information to share with you, but we are still trying to resolve this matter internally. The investigation remains open at this time. – Dion
Dec 12 at 11:54am

Buddy Brannan
Please do not bother to explain the following text, just received:
To avoid interruption of your Verizon Wireless service, please click http://mobile.vzw.com/paybill to make a payment or dial #PMT from your handset.VZW FreeMsg.
Instead, escalate this issue right now.
20 minutes ago

—End—

Thanks,

What is wrong with us?!

I seem to be asking myself this question an awful lot. Really, what’s wrong with us?!

I’m put in mind of this question, again, after hearing about this story on the news this morning. Well, the little snippet on the morning top of the hour news only mentioned the case, but it was enough. Why can’t we just do the right thing, even if not doing the right thing is legal? In fact, why must there be laws forcing people to do the right thing?

Sure. I understand that what “the right thing is” isn’t always the same from one person to another. Right for whom? Right for the investors? Right for the bottom line? Right for the workers or families of workers? I guess it all depends on your values.

I guess I don’t understand why our corporations, and maybe our society in general, has the skewed values it has. Is it a byproduct of our throw away society? Things are so disposable. It’s kind of like A Brave New World. Actually, it’s really disturbing how much of that novel we’re actually seeing in our society. Think about it. Throw stuff away rather than fixing broken things. Just get a new one. (Sure, sometimes you just can’t, what with, for instance, electronics, being so miniaturized that they can’t be fixed.) Is that also how we handle people? Just throw them away, we can get new ones. They’re just parts, they’re replaceable, one’s about as good as another. Do we value each other so little? Do we value saving a penny, never mind a buck, so much that we can’t modify duties for a pregnant UPS driver? I see that UPS has announced that it’s going to implement a policy that mandates accommodating pregnant employees such as should have been done in this case, yet they maintain that their stance was still legally correct. What about morally correct? Are we so wedded to being right that we can’t unconditionally admit when we were wrong and then make things right?

I don’t suppose that this UPS driver got, or ever would get, an apology. Maybe someone sees this change in policy as an apology of sorts, but there’s really nothing worse than a conditional apology, or an apology with a defense. “I’m sorry, but I was still right” strikes me as something like that. It reminds me of this time when I had an argument with my mother. I was still living at home, though I was by then over 18. I came home late…well, I came home later than expected, at any rate. I walked in the door and I got both barrels. I was selfish. I didn’t care about anyone but myself. If I really had any consideration for anybody else’s feelings, I would have called. (It wasn’t even 10 at night, and it was a weekend!) I was pretty upset. I went back to my room. Some time later, mom came into my room, brought me a sandwich, and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Nope…that didn’t help. I didn’t consider that an apology at all. Oh sure, it used the right words, or it started to anyway, but it fell short. I think you can see how.

It seems to me that we’d live in a much nicer world if we lived by these rules:

  • If you can do something for someone else, do so cheerfully. Everything we do comes back to us, good or bad.
  • If you wrong someone, apologize sincerely, completely, with feeling, and without reservation.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, and do what you can to make it right.
  • Say thank you, and by god, mean it.

Is that really a lot to expect?

On Identity, Being Trapped, And Freedom

Yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, I made this observation:

Do you know, I haven’t felt this free in ages! I really do have a new beginning.

I elaborated this morning:

The thing is, I didn’t know I was trapped until I wasn’t, if that makes any sense. Now I just see all kinds of possibility.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

First, I want to thank all of my friends, and all of the wonderful people who have been so supportive during this change in my life. Truly, I am blessed, and I won’t ever forget that.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. I really out of nowhere had this epiphany last night. It’s not anything I’d ever thought of in that way before, but it all emerged over the next bunch of hours, starting with the feeling I mentioned of freedom and lightness. It was amazing, and it was something I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I could be anything, I could do anything, I had no chains or walls to bind me.

And that was odd, because I never thought I had any chains or walls before.

I never knew I had them until I didn’t have them anymore.

That realization hit me like the very cliche ton of bricks. How could I not have seen the walls that imprisoned me, especially when I built them all by myself?

I’ve always thought of myself as a technology guy. It was what I did. I’d always done it. I’d always do it. Even during the times that I was doing things like manning the phone and opening the back door for the nurses who went to pollute their lungs at the VA (irony, no?), I still thought of myself as someone who worked in technology, and it really is what I’ve done most of my adult life. But even when I didn’t, it’s how I thought of myself.

Some people say it’s a guy thing, that guys have their identities all tied up in their work. Who are you?, someone might ask, and who I was invariably had something to do with what I did. I don’t know, and don’t care to argue, whether this is an especially male outlook. But it was mine, for good or ill.

And then, gradually, I started to become restless with my identity. And one fine day, I thought to myself, “You know, you’ve spent your entire adult life, for all intents and purposes, doing stuff with technology. With computers. With machines in some way. And how do you feel about that?”

I was tired of it. I was drained. I was burned out on it. More and more, the work that I had basically devoted my life to became less satisfying. I began more quickly losing patience with the griping and the complaining and the bugs and the “We should have this” and the “It should do that”.

So what was I going to do about it?

I was going to do something else, that’s what. In the back of my mind was a notion developing that I’d really like to work with animals. I’d like to train dogs. I’d like to work closely with animals, and less closely with computers that were possessed by demons. So I started to make a plan. The plan started to come together.

Then, the plan got a kick in the ass.

Ready or not, with one thing and another, I left my tech support duties at Serotek. This was a relief in some ways, and really scary in a lot of others. But one thing it did was showed me a world of opportunity.

That evening, as I thought, “What are you going to do with yourself now?”, Melanie suggested that I call our vet to see if they needed any volunteer help. What a brilliant idea!

I’d thought about checking the shelters. But before I started my plan, I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

Somehow, amidst all of the confusion, and relief, and dread, and “OMG what have you done?”, and “Smartest thing you’ve ever done”, and all the other things, I cast off my identity as “a tech guy”.

And saw that the only person who meant anything that was putting me in that box was me, myself. Oh sure. Some people thought of me that way, and maybe that reinforced the idea, but I’m the only one who can decide who or what I am. And I had put myself in that box. No one did it for me. All I had to do was to take myself out of the box I had slowly, even unwittingly, put myself into.

Who I am doesn’t have to be tied up in what I do. What I do is just a thing I do. It may be a thing I do passionately, or with gusto, or routinely, but what I do is not, after all, who I am. I can be anything I want, but always, always, I am myself. Not the tech support guy. Not the computer guy. Not the animal guy even. Those are things I do. Those things can change. Being just myself, without the labels or definitions, leaves the world open in front of me. Just being myself means I can redefine my role as much as I want to. Still me under there.

This isn’t coming out the way I see it in my head. Doesn’t matter much though. My point is, I can be, or do, anything I want. And so can you. You know how people talk about getting out of your own way? Yeah, doing that. Allowing yourself out of the walls you’ve built for yourself.

Anyway, I’ve got a long ways to go on this journey. I’ve always heard that people go to find themselves a lot earlier than this. Guess I’m getting a late start, but I’m at least getting a start, anyway.

The best is yet to come.

An Open Letter To Tim Cook

In response to this article, I dropped the below Email to what seems to be Tim Cook’s Email.

Howdy Mr. Cook,

As a fellow but different minority (I suppose several, though a blind person first), I stand with you.

Specifically, two paragraphs really stood out for me:

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”

Sir, my hat, if I wore one, is off to you, and I agree with you completely. I, too, see my blindness as a gift, and in much the same way as you do. Would that those minorities who face discrimination, misunderstanding, bigotry, and societal limitations all felt the same; it surprises me still that so many perpetrate the same kinds of attitudes upon others that they themselves face daily.

I, like you, look forward to the day that your announcement would not be news. In fact, I’ve often wondered why it *is* news, or anyway, why some feel the need to “come out publicly” in the first place. After all, if it isn’t a big deal, why make it one? I think you have clarified this issue for me somewhat. I thank you for that, and for handling this issue with such grace and class.

You have had some mighty big shoes to fill, and you haven’t filled them. Instead, you have made your own way, certainly building on the foundations that Steve Jobs and others have laid, but putting your own stamp on Apple. There are things you’ve done that would have never been done before your tenure. But make no mistake, I think you’re heading in the right direction, you’re doing the right things, and Apple is well and truly in good hands.

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for all that you do, not only for what you’re doing with Apple and the technology that makes my life easier, but for what you do to further equality, acceptance, and justice. Yep. I’m a Tim Cook fan.

All the best,

Dear Verizon: Piss off…

It’s so nice to know that the edge Plan from Verizon Wireless is so customer friendly. Except not really. Maybe I’m just special.

To begin, in November, I noticed my iPhone 5S had a manufacturing defect, so I called apple to have it replaced. This Apple did, with no trouble or fuss, even having the phone active on my Verizon account without me having to do anything to make it work, apart from restoring from my iCloud backup.

Fast forward to iPhone 6 time. I was able to upgrade on the Edge plan, except I got a warning that my phone wasn’t the one that they’d sent me. I explained to the sales agent that this was true, and it was true because the phone had been replaced by Apple. That didn’t seem to be a problem with anyone, and the sales guy put my order through, and I received my iPhone 6 on release day, as expected.

When I received it, I very carefully packaged the iPhone 5S and sent it back to Verizon, as directed, with the provided label. I received the new iPhone 6 on a Friday, and the 5S went into Monday’s mail. I can’t really think how it could have been done in a more timely fashion.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received An Email like the following Email on Sunday, 29th September. Twice:

verizon
Please return your previous device.
View Online

Shop Support My Verizon

Please return your device.

For wireless number ending in 0962

Hi CLYDE,

You were recently sent a new device as part of the Edge Up program. When performing an Edge Up, you must return your existing device in good working condition.

Since we haven’t received your existing device, a fee equal to the remaining balance due under your Verizon Edge Retail Installment Sale Agreement has been applied to your account.

If you return your existing device immediately, we will credit the amount of the fee to your account.

View Return Instructions

Please disregard this message if you’ve already returned your previous device. You will receive confirmation of your return within 2 days of receipt at Verizon Wireless.
Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

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Of course, I ignored it as instructed.

A couple days later, the post office’s web site showed that Verizon received my phone, and I thought everything was taken care of. Until I got a package a week later. The package contained an iPhone 5S. It contained my iPhone 5S. It still had the glass screen protector, but not the SIM card anymore, and Voiceover was still on.

I called customer service to ask what the deal was. Valerie didn’t know. There didn’t seem to be any record. I was able to read the slip in the box though, and, as I’d feared, the problem was that the phone’s ID didn’t match the one they shipped me when I started my plan. I explained the situation again. Valerie said she’d research and get back with me on that Friday, that would be the 10th of October. This she did, and again said that the ID’s didn’t match.

After about an hour with her on the previous Wednesday, after which I thought things should be resolved, I was starting to get angry. I told Valerie that I did what I was supposed to have, that I wouldn’t have been able to have used this phone if it wasn’t registered to Verizon’s network, and the fact that they didn’t have a record of this phone that was used on their network for the past 10 months sounded like poor record keeping. It was, in short, their problem, not mine, and they needed to fix it. Valerie assured me that they’d work it out, and she ordered the materials to ship the phone back.

Great!

Then I received the same “We didn’t receive your phone” Email on the 11th. OK, ignored, I’ve done my part.

Two weeks later, the 24th, I still hadn’t received envelope or label from Verizon, so I called again. Jolene was sympathetic. Jolene ordered new shipping materials to be sent, and she’d follow up with me on Wednesday, today.

She did. I didn’t. That is, she ordered more stuff. I didn’t receive it.

But I did receive, just now, the Email that they didn’t receive my phone. Again. This time, with no notice that they’d remove the charge if they received my phone, but both Jolene and Valerie said that they’d be sure I had it removed once this was resolved. Given the third round of “We didn’t receive your phone” Emails, I’m very, very skeptical.

I responded to Verizon’s Email thus:

Per discussions with Verizon customer service, I have returned the iPhone 5S in my possession. It was returned to me as not being the same device, which it isn’t, because it was replaced through Apple. That this replacement device isn’t properly documented isn’t my problem, it’s yours. That you haven’t received my device is, also, not my problem, it’s yours. Again, per discussions with customer service, I was supposed to have received shipping materials to ship (a second time) this iPhone back to you. I have not yet received these shipping materials. Not after two requests and nearly 21 days. Be assured that I will not be paying the balance applied to my account for the iPhone 5S that I have already attempted to return. I have fulfilled my end of this process. I intend to do so a second time. Picking up your end is not my problem, it’s yours.

Jolene says she’ll call me again Friday to see if I’ve gotten the shipping materials again. Whether I have or whether I haven’t, I’m not paying them a dime of the $374 and change they say I owe them. I’ve held up my end. They need to hold up theirs.

Rebuttal to Things Guys Always Lie About

I got this article off Twitter: “Things Guys Always Lie About”. Well, the title should have tipped me off, because when something says “Always” or “Never”, it’s usually just a thing to draw you in. I guess it works, because, even knowing this, I clicked the link anyway. Predictably, I have issues. Here are my reactions as I read them; I already have issues with the first three.

15) Strippers don’t do anything for me. Well…OK, so why would you go see them then? I actually think she’s got a point on this one. Except, well, strippers really don’t do anything for me. Mostly because, well, you can look but you can’t touch. Ah well. Next?

14) The dreaded question: Does this make me look fat? That this question is on the list at all is totally, completely unfair. As the author rightly points out, we can’t win on this one. Because if it does and we say so, we get in trouble. If it does and we lie, well, we’re lying. If it doesn’t and we say so, we’re suspected of lying. Don’t ask this one. ever. For the record, I’ll just probably say, “Hell if I know.” So I’m safe. But still. Don’t ask. Ever.

13) I never view adult web sites. Well, I actually don’t. Would I if I could? Maybe. Do I read the occasional steamy story? Damn skippy! But mostly to laugh at them, although, admittedly, not always.

12) I’m an integral member of my company. I can’t even bullshit a resume, so the likelihood I’d try to impress anyone with what I do for a living, or how much sway/importance/clout I have at my place of employ is pretty low. I don’t know how common this really is, but I can tell you right off that it’s not my thing at all.

11) I love you too. See, the biggest problem I have with this kind of article is this right here. They make guys all look like massive dicks. True, some are. Maybe a lot are. Maybe a lot just say that to get into a woman’s panties, or because they want to avoid conflict (and I suspect many if not most women would expect the former more than the latter). But it’s not always so, and I’m really kind of offended at the assertion that men always lie about this. It’s another one of those things that we just can’t win on. You know, men supposedly don’t express emotions well. True, some don’t. But if one of us does, he’s lying because, you know, men only want one thing. Right? No. Not right at all. Next?

10) I’m 6’2”. See, I just don’t understand this one. Lying about your physical appearance, either by adding height or subtracting weight or whatever just seems kinda stupid to me. If you never plan on meeting the person, I guess you can keep up the charade, but if you ever do meet, the jig is up, and you’re exposed for being a schmuck. This is what you do when you’re 14. This is not what you do when you’re a grown up. It’s also not the exclusive purview of males. Sorry, just sayin’.

9) I swear that’s the number of people I’ve been with. Yeah, what she says here. But really, why would you ask that in the first place? What, do you want a list? You wanna compare notes? I don’t get it.

8) Of course I don’t think (of insert your friend’s name) like that. Can’t win, but seriously, first, why are you asking? Are you really that insecure? Also though, I think maybe there’s a way for him to express that he find someone else attractive, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to A) do something about that, or B) that it really matters anyway, because he’s with you and not the person about whom you’re inquiring. Well, unless he is, but then you’ve got bigger problems.

7) I have so many interests. Again, offensive to the max. Are you saying that men are just super one-dimensional beings who just are interested in TV and farting? Maybe some are, but some aren’t. It will become pretty clear whether a guy’s interests go beyond TV and farting, but to assume he’s lying if he says that they do is kind of crappy on your part. Why bother then? Now excuse me, because there’s this TV show I need to watch. Oh man, that was a good one. I wonder what would happen if I lit it?

6) I swear I’m 23. Yep. Not just limited to the guys. I’m just a freak of nature I guess, because I have no problem with my age. Hell, I worked hard to get here, and I earned every year, every gray hair, all of it. Would I want to be young again? Hell no! I already did that once. It was a pain in the ass some ways…why repeat it?

5) Oh honey, I’m huge. Umm. Why? Seriously, it’s like the height thing. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

4) Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine. Again, not exclusive to the guys. I’ve been on the receiving end of that a time or two in my life, as well as being on the other end. Sometimes, though, it isn’t that we don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that right then isn’t a great time. Sometimes I really don’t know what’s wrong, or how to express it, or especially how to express it in 25 words or less. Maybe we should all learn to say “I’ll talk to you about it later”, “Now isn’t a great time”, “I really don’t know”, or something more appropriate? But this really isn’t just the guys, and we all know that 68.5% of statistics are made-up on the spot anyway.

3) I can’t wait to visit your parents this weekend. I really can’t imagine saying this. That is all.

2) I love working out. Umm. Yeah. And also sitting on the sofa with the TV and farting. Yes. Well. Which is it? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or the…whatever it is that people eat that isn’t pudding. I was about to say, “What, are we 15?”, but I know that there awesome women who emphatically would answer “Yes!” to this question.

1) We’ll talk about it later. See the one a couple of paragraphs ago. So maybe some people would say that this is tied to that. The thing is, if I say “We’ll talk about it later”, I probably mean that at the time. “Later” may just not come because I’ll forget. I have a pretty short attention span. But if I say “Later”, I, at least, generally mean that and not “Screw you, go away, I don’t want to talk about it.” If I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll generally say that.

I’d like to see the companion “Things Women Always Lie About” piece.

The Budcast: Chromebook Accessibility

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I figured it was about time.

In this episode of the Budcast, which is un-numbered because I can’t count that high, we look at the initial setup of the Chromebook and the state of its accessibility. Google has asked several people in the blind/VI community to assist with accessibility testing, and I was lucky enough to be one of those.

While there are a couple rough edges, and a show stopper or two (which we don’t get to in this episode), Google has a great start on making the Chromebook accessible. We do see a couple of those “rough edges” in this podcast, and I’m sure we’ll find more. Hopefully though, as time goes on and more of us have our hands on this stuff, things will improve.

As ever, you can contact me via Email or Twitter with any comments or questions.

Enjoy!

So, who’s going to be that someone who does something?

I just posted the following on Facebook:

We are very sad. We found out Andre, the boy we wanted to adopt, still hasn’t been adopted. We still would love to find a family to adopt this 11 YO Ukrainian blind child; we still grieve that we can’t.

Two people liked my status.

I’m not sure what that means. The Facebook “like” button is strange. It could mean “I like this”, or it could mean “This is interesting”, or it could mean “Yeah, I agree”, or “I want to see this later”. Putting that aside for the moment though, it puts me in mind of something, maybe a challenge. Maybe a challenge for everyone, including me.

All the time, whenever we see something awful, or heart wrenching, or unjust, someone is bound to say, “Someone should do something about that.” It might be, “There ought to be a law”, or “How sad, why doesn’t someone step in”, or words to that effect, but it boils down to “Someone should do something about that”.

In our case, it’s adoption. Don’t get me started. Well, except this is my space, and I’ll get started if I damn well please. Generally speaking, when someone or some couple wants to adopt, and I’ve seen this time and time and time again, they want to adopt healthy babies. The younger and healthier, the better. In the case of international adoptions, Ukraine in particular since that’s where my experience is, people want kids as close to 18 month old as possible (because Ukraine doesn’t adopt them out any younger), and with “minor, correctable conditions”. “Minor correctable” basically means that they don’t want the kids with any sort of significant disability, so the kids with missing limbs, CP, kids who need wheelchairs or have seizures, no one wants those. Kids that are older, no one wants those either. Kids who are older and have some sort of disability? Forget about it.

But those kids need families, too. Moreover, they need families because once they age out of the system, they will not have the opportunities that the “healthy” kids have. You think it’s bad for people with disabilities here? We’ve got it pretty good.

Our adoption facilitator told us once that he didn’t like it when adopting parents talked about going over to “save” some child. He said, “They aren’t saving that child at all.” And, in the main, he may have a point. But the kids that most people don’t want really would be saved if they could just find homes with loving families. Our Alena, for instance, would, we were told, be dead by now had we not adopted her. She would be dead because the orphanages couldn’t keep her meds up. This is what they said before they knew of her seizure disorder, while they had her on prednazone from the age of two months old. Yeah, if they dropped her off that cold turkey, between that and the seizures, she probably would be dead. A world without Alena hardly bears thinking about.

There’s a place, a terrible, awful place, where kids that are severely disabled, are sent. Conditions there are described as being very like a concentration camp, with beds only 18 inches apart, where non-ambulatory children and young adults are left to sit (or lie) in their own waste. And that’s just the start. See a video (in Russian) here and see photos here.

These are, of course, the worst examples. We are fortunate that Alena was in a great facility when she was a toddler, and the one she got transferred to was also good, if a bit grim in atmosphere. Andre was in the same baby home as Alena, and he apparently is now at some school for blind and visually impaired children, although we aren’t sure what that really means.

All that to say this. Whenever we mention these kids to people, it’s of course the whole “Someone should do something” deal. Yet, when people look at adoption, they don’t give any thought to the kids with disabilities, or the older kids; “someone” is, apparently, “someone else”. Nope, not my family, not in my house, but someone really should do something.

So, who is someone, and what is something?

Sure, we’d love to find a home for Andre in particular, and in Buddy’s ideal world, all kids, no matter how old and with what disabilities, would have loving homes and families. I get that we don’t live in Buddy’s ideal world. Some people really can’t adopt these kids, because they’ve raised families already, or don’t have room for kids, or they’ve got a whole passle of kids already (or have all they can handle, anyway). Some people don’t think they can handle kids, or won’t have the patience or wherewithal or time or skill or resources to handle any sort of disability. Some people don’t want to take on the emotional baggage or damage that comes with an older kid. Yeah, I’ve heard horror stories, too, and I’m not saying that these aren’t real issues, because they are.

So if you can’t adopt, what can you do to make a difference? What thing can you, being someone, do?

Check places like His Kids, Too and other charitable organizations. His Kids has several aid programs that they administer, not just for kids in orphanages, but feeding the elderly, Bible camp in the summer, and so on. The director travels several times a year to distribute medical supplies, clothing, food, and other necessities. Anyway, check them out. There are no doubt other such organizations, but teresa and her crew are the ones who helped us through our adoption.

So, will you be someone who does something? Could be about this, could be about some other thing. But next time you say, “Someone should do something”, why not give some thought to how you can be someone?