business, complaints, money

Green again! But not “in the green” with USAA!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Take heed.

Yesterday’s post didn’t get any hits until the evening, when I posted an appeal to my Facebook friends to tell me if they’d seen the post. I was actually concerned that people weren’t finding yesterday’s rantings, because I usually get at least one or two hits on every post, even if it’s a “repost”. The reposts don’t typically get a lot of hits, unless they happen to be about a hot topic. For instance, I continue to get many hits on my reposts about Erin McCay George, as well as certain book reviews. But when I repost something quirky from the old blog that I just find funny or potentially useful, a lot of times, it gets ignored.

Lately, a couple of fresh posts have been pretty much ignored. The one I wrote called “Just lie back and enjoy it”, about Michigan GOP candidate, Robert Regan, has a grand total of two hits on it a week after it went live. I don’t know why that one hasn’t attracted any interest, since it’s about a seemingly misogynistic political candidate who actually said those words. But anyway, when I didn’t get any hits on yesterday’s post, either, I was wondering if people simply couldn’t see the posts on Facebook. A couple of friends confirmed that the post is visible. One even commented. Thanks, Karen! I guess sometimes I’m just not very interesting. 😉

I thought I’d offer a quick update on yesterday’s angsty morning. I called PenFed to ask about the status of my attempt to open a checking account. For some reason, they were still getting an “error” when they tried to open that for me. So they said they would have the IT department take a look and get back to me. I’m not holding my breath. I think we will look into opening a local account, since it appears we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

There haven’t been any more “weird” charges on the USAA account, since that card is blocked and I’m waiting for a new one to arrive. I did do some scary reading about UberEats and Uber and issues with fraudulent charges yesterday. That caused me to do some deep scans of my machines, to make sure there weren’t any viruses or security breaches causing issues on my end. Nothing was found, so I guess one of the online purveyors I used had a security breach, which is bound to happen sometimes.

In the midst of all of that, Apple decided to do an update, so I spent a couple of hours updating all of my devices. That resulted in my preferred screensaver being messed up, and I can’t seem to fix it. It’s now only showing pictures that are several years old, instead of the whole library. This morning, I’ve spent an hour inputting and updating passwords and fucking with the two-factor authentication systems. That was a major pain in the ass. I think I’ve mostly got it secured, though.

Good to know… And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

And finally, I’m back to “green” status on my Corona Warn app. Yep… it’s been two weeks since my “exposure” to COVID in Stuttgart, which caused the “tile” on the app to turn red. As far as I know, I didn’t get infected. If I did, it was a very minor illness. I didn’t go out anywhere, anyway, so no need to worry. I lead a very solitary lifestyle. It’s nice to see the green tile, especially since today is St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m surprisingly chill about the security breach on my bank account. When USAA shuts down my account for no legitimate reason, I have historically gotten very upset. But yesterday, when they didn’t shut down my account when I finally did get fraudulent charges, I wasn’t even that angry about it. I’m not sure what that’s about. I should be really angry, shouldn’t I? For some reason, I’m not super peeved, even though I just checked my account and see that one of the fraudulent charges has gone through. I mean, yes, I’m pissed off that there are lowlife thieves out there who rip people off. And yes, it irritates me that the one time I really needed USAA to secure my account, they didn’t deliver. But I’m not nearly as annoyed about this as I have been when I’ve had to call them to unblock my card because they decided that one of my legitimate charges was fraudulent. Go figure.

Anyway, I just had a chat with a USAA customer service dude named Tyler. It was my first time using the chat function on USAA.com, and I must say, it was pretty convenient. I definitely preferred chatting to calling them, if only because when I use the chat, I don’t have to listen to their fucking hold music. I asked Tyler about the fraudulent charges being posted. Tyler says the charges would go through until they finish doing their investigation. He explained why, and his explanation made sense. And as long as no other charges can go through, I guess it’s okay for now. At least I have the money to cover them. What else can I do? He did seem to lack situational awareness, though. USAA’s service has really gotten crappy lately. What a shame.

Speaking of hold music, PenFed’s hold music is especially bad. They play the same sad “dentist office” music over and over again. It’s really loud and a bit of an earworm. I was on hold with them for several minutes yesterday, and I kept thinking about how the music was bringing me down. What they were playing was the musical equivalent of a consolation… like, sorry you’re doing business with us. Or sorry you have to call us because there’s a problem. Except, I didn’t have a problem, per se, with PenFed. I was just wondering when I was going to be able to open a checking account with them, so I can move my account from USAA. Now, it looks like that might not work out, either. Perhaps it’s time to find another credit union. SIGH… I’ve had a PenFed account since I graduated from college. My sister gave it to me as a graduation gift.

Seems like customer service is universally sucking lately. I just now got a sweater I bought in early February. I ordered two pretty sweaters from Celtic & Co, a clothing retailer in the United Kingdom. It was my first time ordering from them, which I did because they have such nice (but expensive) stuff. I didn’t know the sweaters I chose were backordered for five weeks. So I waited a couple of weeks for the sweaters to show up… not that I’m going a lot of places lately. Finally, I emailed them, and they told me of the backorder status, which for some reason, I didn’t notice when I placed the order. I think it’s because they didn’t notate it on their Web site.

I just tried on the sweater, and it is indeed very nice quality. It’s also a little big on me, which is always a good thing. I am basically pleased with the product. However, I don’t think I’m going to order anything else from them, because they’re located in England, and that means dealing with customs and slower delivery times, even though they have a German Web site. And it would have been nice to get my sweater(s) when it was still winter. Spring starts in a few days. I’m still waiting for the other sweater I ordered to ship. Remember, I purchased on February 7!

Well… my guitar is calling me to practice, so I guess I’ll wrap this up and get busy. Gotta vacuum the house, too. I wish I had a riding vacuum cleaner. That would be a great invention, in my view. Or maybe a better robot version of a Roomba that can go up and down stairs.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all. Hope it’s a fun day. And to all the haters out there, see today’s featured photo. 😉

Standard
complaints, money, rants

Look what I got!

Yesterday was a somewhat exasperating day. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, I had to call USAA because of their heavy handed fraud alert system. I think it was triggered on Sunday night, when I decided to buy some underwear from Amazon. I use Amazon a lot, but because I had been traveling and had set a travel alert, I guess USAA’s bots figured I shouldn’t be ordering underwear. I’m wondering what would have happened if I’d tried to use my debit card in France.

I didn’t realize I had tripped the fraud alert until I went to order some brandy from my favorite Armenian brandy retailer, another vendor I use pretty often. I went to pay for my order, which included a bottle of apricot brandy for a local friend, when I realized the payment didn’t go through. Then I saw an urgent automated email from USAA telling me that they’d “tried to contact me” and I hadn’t answered. I didn’t answer, because I wasn’t wearing my Apple Watch and didn’t have my phone with me. I didn’t realize I’d need those items for buying underwear from a vendor I use all the time.

I got really pissed. Why? Because this happens ALL THE TIME. Several months ago, when I was trying to book hotels for our trip to Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia, I got the same annoying fraud alerts from both USAA and PenFed. And because I live several hours ahead of USAA and PenFed, and it was the weekend, I had to wait hours before I could call them and straighten out the situation. It used to be that USAA would send me an email or text asking me to verify things. And I did notice that they sent texts this time. But again, I didn’t have my phone with me, because it was just underwear.

You can’t send USAA an email, so I complained on their Facebook chat. “Jason” responded with apologies, but I never heard from him again. Thanks for nothing, Jason. I can see that I did the same thing in October, when they blocked my card as I was trying to book lodging. I complained then, too, and even spoke to someone who called me while we were traveling. Fat lot of good that did.

Yesterday morning, as I was composing my blog post, I got an automated call from USAA. I answered it and verified the charges. The automated voice on the other end of the line said that my card was open and I didn’t need to do anything else. Wonderful. So I went back to the Armenian brandy purveyor and successfully completed an order… which tripped the fucking fraud alert system again. But again, I didn’t know I had tripped the fraud system, so I downloaded a couple of albums.

A couple of hours later, I was walking the dogs, and I got another fraud alert on my phone/watch. I tried to answer the watch while juggling my dogs. I had to give up, though, because it was impossible to walk the dogs and answer the phone. I checked my iPad and noticed that Apple had sent me a message that my card was declined. So I called up USAA and spoke to a very pleasant representative. Really, she was very nice… much like the representatives used to be, when USAA was still customer service oriented. I expressed my frustration at having to make international phone calls every time I need to unblock my card(s). I told her that I was strongly considering changing banks because of this issue.

I do have an account with PenFed. I used to have a checking account with them, but closed it because they charged a fee if the minimum balance wasn’t high enough. Last night, I started an application for another checking account with them, just so I have an alternative to USAA. But really, I think it may be time to migrate our business elsewhere. PenFed is also a bit of a pain in the butt about fraud alerts and shutting down access to things. I’ll have to call them later today to verify my identity because of the checking account request I made last night.

USAA really has gone downhill… and not just because of these customer service issues, but also because I suspect it’s a very culty kind of a place. I remember when Bill was looking for a job in 2014. He spoke to people at a USAA job fair and they asked him if he knew anyone who worked at USAA. He said he didn’t, and it became very clear that not knowing someone there was the “kiss of death”. It didn’t matter that he’s a retired veteran with about 30 years of service, or that he’s been a member of USAA since 1984, or that I’ve been a member for 27 years. I remember writing about that incident on my original OH blog, and USAA’s public relations goons stalked that post for months. If it had been up to me alone, I would have ditched them years ago.

Another thing I noticed last night was that, unbeknownst to me, Amazon put my underwear order on my credit card when the debit card was declined. That isn’t a huge deal, since the order was for less than $100, and I have a huge credit line. I’m just very particular about what I charge on my credit cards. I usually only use them for large purchases or travel. I did make a big payment this morning to cover our trip to France, though. I guess I need to remove that card from Amazon so they don’t do that again.

And then, after I straightened out the USAA blocking issue, I got an alert from Corona Warn, which is a German app where one can upload vaccine certificates and monitor the COVID situation in Germany. I also have a German app called CovPass, which is what I used exclusively when we traveled. We had to show our vaccine certifications at our hotel and in restaurants. The Germans and the French have different procedures. In Germany, we had to wear FFP2 masks and show the QR code, as well as our IDs. In France, surgical masks were okay, and after we showed our vaccine certifications, we were allowed to unmask.

So anyway, even though I didn’t use Corona Warn when I showed my vaccine certs, it was monitoring my location. And yesterday afternoon, I got a message from them, letting me know that I was exposed to COVID-19 sometime on March 2, 2022. It was either at a McDonald’s I went to when I needed to pee, or it was at the restaurant in Stuttgart where we had lunch. Either way, the exposure was five days ago, and we have been in France for most of those days.

Now… I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 at all, and I pretty much lead an isolated existence as a general rule. I don’t use public transportation, and once we got home from our trip, I have stayed at home, with the exception of a very short walk I took with the dogs yesterday as I was trying to deal with USAA. But when I got the “red tile”, as they call it, I went to the app to find out what I’m supposed to do now. I found information that was posted in December 2021. According to that info, I’m supposed to go home, check for symptoms, call the health department or my “doctor” (which I don’t have), get tested for COVID (supposedly free of charge), and if I have a positive result, isolate and share my test result.

I should mention that Bill doesn’t have Corona Warn on his phone, so he did not get an alert. However, since we were together the whole time, I guess he would get a “red tile”, too, if he had Corona Warn, which was silently monitoring me based on my cell phone’s location and bluetooth technology. While I understand how this works, it’s a little creepy that this app was monitoring me, even though I wasn’t using it when I showed my certifications.

The instructions on what to do are kind of confusing, depending on a person’s vaccination status. Because I am fully vaccinated, it’s supposedly not compulsory for me to quarantine. But the exposure happened six days ago, anyway. And if I hadn’t had it on my phone, I would never have gotten this alert at all, tardy as it is. I had to make a separate Apple account for the German store to even get these apps, since they weren’t available in the US store last summer, when I downloaded them. That was a bit of a pain, too. I have heard that CovPass, at least, is now in the American Apple store. I’m not sure about Corona Warn.

The tile will turn green again on March 16th. Fortunately, I don’t think we have any big weekend plans… Bill says he’s going to do the taxes. I’ll probably work on my latest jigsaw puzzle… or maybe we’ll clean up the backyard and bring up the furniture for the forthcoming warmer weather. And maybe we’ll enjoy some of the Ukrainian vodka I just ordered. My German friend says she knows a lot of people who get the “red tile” and never get sick with COVID. It’s just a very sensitive app that lights up if you’re even in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive and shared that information with the app. Obviously, not everyone does that, though, so really, I could have been getting red tiles for months.

Standard
book reviews

A review of Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

I’m not exactly sure what made me download Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book Small Fry. It’s true that I became an Apple convert about eight years ago and all of my computers and devices were made by Apple. I didn’t know that much about Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ father, the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who died in 2011 at age 56. He’d had a form of pancreatic cancer. I do remember that after his death, a lot was written about how eccentric he was, particularly regarding his diet. But aside from that, I didn’t really have a particular interest in Apple beyond my Apple products.

I just finished reading Brennan-Jobs’ book, which was published in September 2018. I found it surprisingly interesting and engaging reading. Brennan-Jobs is the product of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan. They had met in 1972, when they were students at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California. Chrisann was an artist, and Jobs was enchanted by her. Back then, he was kind of a “bum”. He had attended Reed College in Oregon for a short spell, but dropped out of school, and he and Chrisann had an on again, off again relationship. Lisa was born on a farm on May 17, 1978. Her parents took her into a field and named her together, but then Lisa temporarily lost her dad when he claimed he wasn’t her father.

For several years after her birth, Steve Jobs denied paternity. Even though Lisa looked a lot like her dad, and he had even helped name her, it took a legal case and a blood test to finally prove to Jobs that he had a daughter. This was happening during the earliest days of Apple, so there was a lot of press about it. Once the blood test proved Lisa was Jobs’ daughter, he started to take an interest in her… although she mostly grew up with her much poorer mom.

In heartbreaking detail, Brennan-Jobs describes what it was like to grow up the daughter of such a brilliant but eccentric man. She explains his complicated family life; he had been the product of a Muslim Syrian man and his German-Swiss girlfriend. The girlfriend’s parents objected to her marrying a Muslim, so she gave Steve up for adoption. He was raised by Paul and Clara Jobs, who were working class white folks. Steve’s adoptive mom was the daughter of ethnic Armenians who had immigrated. Paul and Clara Jobs also adopted a daughter named Patty, to whom Steve was never close. Steve also had a biological sister, the novelist Mona Simpson. After he met his biological mother, Steve and Mona began a brother-sister relationship and Mona was part of Lisa’s life. When Steve and Chrisann were dating as teens, Steve’s adoptive mom confided in Chrisann that for the first six months of his life, she had been afraid to get close to him because his bio mom wanted him back and she was afraid she was going to lose him. At the time, Chrisann didn’t know why Mrs. Jobs was telling her that, but as Jobs came of age, it became clear. He turned into a very strange person who had stormy relationships.

One might assume Lisa Brennan-Jobs would have had the coolest upbringing ever. Her dad helped found Apple, and NeXT. He was a multi-millionaire who lived in big, empty houses and shopped at Armani. But Lisa always seemed to teeter on the brink of his life. He chose when he wanted to acknowledge her, and seemed to kick her out and pull her back into his life whenever it suited him. When she did something he didn’t like, he would accuse her of not trying to be part of the family. More than once, he cut her off financially for doing something against his wishes, or he would simply act like he didn’t care about her at all. Still, somehow, she stayed in his life until he died. Sometimes, he was okay and even approached being loving somehow. But then he’d spoil the loving moments by being shitty. His first computer was called the Lisa, but he later claimed he’d named it after an ex-girlfriend. Lisa’s mom rightfully called bullshit on that one.

I am very impressed by Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ writing. It’s clear and easy to understand. I thought Small Fry was well-edited, especially considering the complex nature of Brennan-Jobs’ relationship with her dad. I am astonished that Brennan-Jobs seems to be so together, particularly since her mother appears to also be a bit eccentric. Chrisann Brennan’s mom was schizophrenic and cruel; consequently, she spent years living with her father and his second wife. With parents like Lisa’s, it would seem she’d seem less wise than she does in her book. But then, she is a first born/only child (Jobs had three more children with his wife, Laurene Powell), and first born/only children often grow up fast and are very responsible. Lisa was very motivated and managed to accomplish a lot on her own, a quality I admire very much. She even graduated from Harvard, although she basically namedropped her dad’s name to score acceptance.

In some ways, Small Fry reminds me a bit of Tara Westover’s Educated, which I read and reviewed on my old blog. I don’t think Brennan-Jobs’ upbringing was quite as chaotic or shocking as Westover’s was, but when you consider who her dad was, it does seem crazy. Poor Lisa attended a birthday party for one of her father’s other children. There was a display depicting the family– Steve, Laurene, Reed, Erin, and Eve. Lisa wasn’t on the display, and her little sister announced to her friends that Lisa was “Daddy’s mistake”. Ouch. (Actually, when I was a kid, my mom referred to me as a “mistake”, too, so I kind of know how it feels.) I just got the feeling that Lisa never really felt secure with her place in the family, since Jobs was constantly accusing her of not trying hard enough to fit in. And Jobs was also often verbally abusive to people, particularly regarding food. Jobs was notoriously obsessed with his diet and would yell at people who either didn’t serve him the food he wanted exactly how he wanted it, or he would berate people who didn’t eat the way he felt they should. He once screamed at Lisa’s cousin on her mom’s side for eating a hamburger, which he considered “dead food”.

To be honest… Steve Jobs may have given us Apple, but he sounds like he was a major league asshole. A brilliant asshole, yes, but an asshole just the same. I felt great empathy for Lisa. It’s tough growing up with a parent like that, especially when your friends have parents who are caring , supportive, and kind. Anyway… I’m glad she at least got a gorgeously written book out of the experience, and it’s one of which she should be very proud. I highly recommend it to those who like a good memoir.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard