UPS seems to have lost my wine and doesn’t want to tell me

So last week (Sept 11th) a quarterly care package of wine was due to be delivered from Russian River Vineyards. It’s liquor, which means UPS will not leave it under any circumstances unless an adult signs for it in person. It has to be an adult at my address, no neighbors, no pre-sign online, none of that. Normally I had these shipped to my office mail room, but I changed jobs and have been working from home. I now have an office it can be sent to again as of last week, but it was too late to update in time for this package.

It was due to arrive last Wednesday the 13th, which would have been a problem for me but before I could log on and change the delivery date to a better time where I could actually be home, I got another notice it had been conveniently rescheduled to Friday the 15th due to unforeseen circumstances. I work from home on Fridays, so that’s perfect. Except, midway through Friday I was notified again that it was not going to make it on Friday after all, again due to unforseen circumstances, and come in later, either Monday or Tuesday.

That wouldn’t work for me, so begrudgingly I paid their silly $8 fee to re-schedule my package for the following Friday the 21st… today (as of this writing). It was the only time I could know for sure I would be home to sign for it. I also paid a few dollars extra to narrow down the delivery window to a 4 hour window instead of anytime that day. I got an email an hour later confirming my request was accepted and to expect it around 4 pm today, give or take 2 hours.

Fast forward to today (Friday the 21st)… it’s 7 pm, and no package. I just realized this, so I hopped online to look at the tracking info.. guess what? That info hasn’t updated at all since last Friday the 15th. Not a bit. Doesn’t even show it failing to deliver, being delayed, or out for delivery again, just that I requested a change and to come back later for more info. In a different view however, and also on my calendar view, it does show it due today on the 21st though, as does my email confirmation from the change.

So I called the 1-800 number for UPS. Agent #1 says they can’t see any info more than I do on tracking, and that this is indeed weird and that I should sit tight while they transfer me to someone with better info access. I get transferred, and Agent #2 is equally stumped. They have no idea what’s happened to the package since last week even though they are digging deeper in the system, and eventually offer to transfer me to an entirely different department that has way more info.

Person #3 first is equally confused, but then after a bit says “well, if you just sit tight, I can promise you it will be delivered today. If it hasn’t shown up in about an hour and a half, then you can call us back and I’ll see what I can do.” I ask if I can just have it re-routed to my office because clearly it is not arriving today, and if it gets routed there someone can sign for it. He, however, insists he cannot make this change himself, and that I can only make the change by logging in and paying the fee to do it myself.. yeah right, that’s not happening.

“Look”, I say.. “it’s 7:30 PM on a Friday. I have plans.. never in my life did I expect I would have to be here this late to sign for a package. I need to leave the house around 8 pm tonight, and I don’t want to be late. There’s no reason I should have to stay around for a package that was due a week ago. This is ridiculous and unfair to me. It’s 7:35 pm… I don’t see a realistic scenario where everything suddenly gets better in 20 minutes, when right now at this moment you can’t actually tell me you know what’s going on or can guarantee me it’s on it’s way here, you just said you don’t know where it is.”

He then proceeds to swear he knows for a fact it’s on the truck, out for delivery, and will be here by 8 pm (wow that hour and a half sure changed quick) and that if it’s not, to feel free to call back at 8 at that time… but he can promise me I won’t have to, and it will be definitely be here if I just wait… Now.. as I post this at 7:58 PM… why is it I don’t believe him?

UPDATE 1: So 8:05 pm arrives and I called in, and this time I get transferred once more to a different department with “more info” right off the bat once they look up my package. The nice woman right away says “I can tell from your package history and what I can additionally see that this is 100% not on a truck for delivery today. I have no idea where it is, and do not know what it’s status is, but I can promise you that if it was out for delivery I would know that much. You’ll need to call back once another 24 hours have passed, at which point we can open an investigation.” Great… I’m so glad I stayed to work from home two different Fridays, and paid change fees to acomodate their mistake for them to lose this thing…

UPDATE 2: UPS saw my tweet about this article and reached out to me early Saturday AM. They asked for my tracking number and contact info and said someone would contact me within the hour… 3 hours later I asked them again about an update and heart nothing. The following day on Sunday I asked once more, and was given an apology and told they are closed on Sundays and will be in touch with me Monday. Fair enough.. on the Sunday part.. but I’m miffed about the blow off on Saturday.

Monday the 24th rolls around and I wake up to an email saying my package is out for delivery today. Great and all that they seemingly have found it, except this doesn’t help anything. I am not home today, the package is still flagged as adult signature required, and I was never given the option to address this issue with anyone in person as promised and do what I intended: arrange for either another Friday delivery on the 28th or a re-direct to my office. I replied to the twitter DM thread with these frustrations, and they apologized once more for the lack of the promised followup(s). They said someone would be in touch with me by 11:15 am… it is now 11:30 am and I have heard nothing.

For those keeping score, that is 2 failed deliveries, 4 promised phone calls that never happened,  and 2 blatant lies by customer service agents on the phone trying to get me off the call. At this point the USPS is starting to look like less of a shit show than UPS and that’s saying something. You know, as a Louisville native, we used to take great pride in the UPS brand and all it has done for that city… 🙁

UPDATE 3: Got a nice guy on the phone calling me back at noon on Monday. He said sorry for the mix-up and the package will be held and NOT delivered today, and will be sent back out Friday as planned.

UPDATE 4: Oh this just gets better. At 3:45PM i get a text saying they tried to deliver my package and failed, and that it will be re-delivered Monday. Now…I live in a secured building. You have to punch in a pin pad that rings my phone to get in.. and then if you need a signature from me you need to knock on my unit door that I am sitting 20 feet from with a clear view and earshot of. Neither of those things happened. Additionally, there was no slip left behind saying sorry we missed you.

I called UPS, they said a local office manager will call me back within the hour. An hour and a half later a nice lady calls me, I relay my story to her.. she said its unlikely the driver will be willing to do a redelivery on a Friday night but that she will call and ask just in case, and that one way or another, she will call me back in 10 minutes and go over options with me.

UPDATE 5: An hour and a half later she has not called my back, and when I try to call the number on my caller ID it says the number does not accept inbound calls. On a whim, I refresh my tracking info, and what do you know? It shows that a second delivery attempt was made 20 minutes ago, and that I was not home and note was left.

I look outside… no note. My phone? Never rang. My door-box? Never rang. Oh.. did I mention that I left my unit door cracked open about a foot, wide open to the hallway, so that if anyone walked past my unit at ALL I know would know?

I call customer service, and re-explain my saga to a supervisor, she types away and says “well, according to the notes here, the manager spoke to the driver and he informed her he would not be able to make a second delivery attempt” Really!?!! Then why on earth does the tracking say one was made and now show two deliveries?

She tells me shes updating the notes and requesting that a “senior manager contact me within the hour.” I politely reminded her I’ve been told I would be contacted “within the hour” 5 times before, and I am 5 for 5 on it never actually happening. She promises one will, however, and that the package is now confirmed for a delivery tomorrow on Saturday, but she cannot give me any kind of guarantee on the time frame.. so I guess I’m spending my Saturday at home now.

UPDATE 6: Naturally no Sr Manager ever called me last night.I woke up to a 9am phone call however from the same nice lady in the local office as before that that my package is out for delivery today. (Yay). I asked if they could give me a more narrow window than “by end of day at 5pm” but she said she could not, however she would be happy to make a call asking if she was able to get a better window, and call me back within the hour. Naturally of course, 4 hours later, I haven’t heard from her.. but I am not surprised at this point. Additionally, I tried to ask about the clearly fake failed delivery attempts, the package being lost, all the stuff that led up to this, but she dodged around all of it and wouldn’t get into it with me and I didn’t want to push, she was the only nice person I’ve dealt with so far. So here I am.. waiting.

I did get curious though and look up my tracking around noon to see if it was indeed out for delivery, and it was! I also noticed something else.. here’s a side by side comparison to the tracking info from last night.. see if you can notice the difference.

it would seem, they have deleted the first delivery attempt last night from my tracking history. Now the second one, I know 100% without a doubt never happened. The first I *know* they didn’t as well, but the second one is even easier, if you read above, to prove never happened than the fist. Yet.. *poof*… gone is the first one. Shady as heck if you ask me.

At this point, I don’t even care about the package anymore… I’ve lost well over the $200 of it’s value in time, patience, work, and stress. At this point, it’s about the fact they are treating me with such utter disrespect, dismissiveness, and lack of empathy that I am just absolutely at the end of my rope with how they have treated me… and the worst part is.. .they know and don’t care one bit because they know there is nothing I can do about it. I’m just a line item on a spreadsheet to someone with a revenue value.

UPDATE 7: I’m in the bathroom. I think I might hear a single, loud, solo knock at the door across the house. I get my pants decent as fast as I humanly can and run like hell to the front door…

And there is a sorry we missed you slip on it. It must have taken me less than 20 seconds to get there… I run down 3 flights of stairs as fast as I humanly can, and I see the truck driving off down the block…

I give up.

UPDATE 8: I just got off the phone with UPS. I refused to end the call until I had the package re-routed somewhere else, and for ONCE they didn’t say no.. on top of that he even went to a few different supervisors to try and get the fees waived so I wouldn’t have to pay them… and now it’s due to be delivered at my office on the 2nd. I won’t be there as I’ll be out of town starting that morning, but that’s fine, they can at least sign for it for me and hold it till I come back on the 4th.

*sigh*

I really hope this saga is over. Never in my life will I willingly give UPS another penny by choice. I just became a FedEx fan for life.

UPDATE 9: Hang on to your hats boys and girls… it’s not over yet!

That’s right.. here we are Monday the 1st at 3pm and I just got a failed to delivery notification at my HOME address… including a nice reminder this is the last attempt and the package will now be sent back to the shipper.

So as I’m updating this I call and I just got a hold of a supervisor, and they are telling me there is no record of the address change from last night, or the managers over ride of the charges. In fact, there are extensive notes from most of my calls, but no record at all of my call last night. I am at a loss for words. I’m being told the system will not allow the package to be shipped elsewhere, or be picked up in person, because it is locked out in the system by the shipper. My only option now is to just let it go back to Russian River Vineyards. *sigh*

I am going to go out of my way at all costs to not voluntarily give UPS another penny as long as I live.

UPDATE 10: Final update. The package is on its way back to the vineyard and that is that. That said, I shared this page on twitter.. and I even tagged UPS in it. Not only that, but  I have a 20 tweet long DM convo back and fourth with their support team over the last week. They responded via DM once more after linking this comedy of horrors. Their response to me?

Sir, I truly apologize for the inconvenience, but unfortunately, we are unable to reroute your shipment to a different address due to contents inside the package. I suggest contact the shipper for alternative options.

That’s it. It’s not even about the package… it hasn’t been about the pages in days. It’s about their total lack of effort to deliver any kind of reasonable customer service. Zero follow throughs on countless “someone will call you within the hour” promises, or falsified delivery notices, or the multiple outright lies to me by people on the phone. Nope they don’t address of even acknowledge any of that one bit. Of course not.. why would they? That requires empathy.

FINAL UPDATE: It’s here! The wonderfully nice lady at Russian River Vineyards contacted UPS for me and had them redirect the box to my office, and it finally arrived. And… I think I now know why everything went south.

This is NOT the box the wine was sent in. This is not the official packaging Russian River uses. It also has a label that was CLEARLY removed from another box and added to this one. The interior bottles were packaged in a weird, aftermarket styrofoam contraption that left them boxed up cork down (good) fully exposed with no protection against the bottom of the box (BAAAAAAD)! (WTF?!) after being individually sealed in bags. The original paperwork is heavily liquid damaged, and the box was haphazardly constructed by shelling two ends of two boxes together with this waterlogged ad-hoc MacGyver contraption inside.

It’s pretty evident that during the very first “unforeseen circumstances” or the subsequent “week of missing in action” something went horribly wrong with my box and UPS tried to hide it.

J’s EDC

So, due to the new job (Oh… uh… I should make a post about that shouldn’t I?) I am very much more-so a Digital Nomad now. As a result, I have refined my Everyday Carry items down to a science… and I figured I would share it as I know several of my friends are nerds about this kind of stuff.

I’ve roughly broken it down into 3 sections… my daily laptop bag and it’s contents. The “Travel Mode” items that get swapped out/added when flying (which is almost weekly these days) and finally there are the “pocket items”… things that are on me personally, most of the time. (Truth be told they could be with the first group, but to be totally honest I forgot to include them until after I took the pics and packed everything back up…)

First up, we have the “pocket items”:

Nothing too fancy here, just my day to day pocket items.. though the keys are often attached to an inside pocket of the bag via a carabiner.

  1. Decadent Minimalist Wallet
    A piece of machined aluminum, it fits 8 cards that slide out easily as needed and snap back into place securely with an extremely satisfying “click”. In the event I ever end up with some RFID cards in my set, I can always pop in special signal blocking cards on either side as well.
  2. Key ring with a Keyport MOCA 10-1 tool
    The MOCA tool has been ridiculously handy in the 2 months I’ve had it. The scoring blade has opened countless packaging tape on boxes, and it’s easily opened it’s fair share of bottle caps as well. 😉 (oh yeah, and it’s TSA compliant!)
  3. My Mazda3 Key-fob
    Oh yeah, and the key-fob has a cute lego brick with my name on it, courtesy of the Girlfriend.
  4. Apple Watch Series 2
    It tells the time… and a few extra things… like hatching Pokemon eggs! 😉

Next up, we have “The Bag”:

  1. 5.11 Tactical RUSH Delivery Mike Messenger bag
    HOLY CRAP does this thing pack a LOT in a small space. I simply cannot suggest this bag enough to anyone! It comes in several sizes, but mine is the smallest of them. It barely snugly fits the MBP, but that’s okay because it’s so small and compact it’s perfect for me for all uses, even when I don’t want to carry a computer at all.
  2. Macbook Pro 15″
    Usual run-of-the-mill 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s my work laptop, and squeezes in a bit of gaming when needed as well!
  3. iPad Pro 9″
    Slim and exceptionally powerful for it’s form factor… acts as a great computer when I don’t want to dig out the laptop.
  4. Kindle Oasis
    Slick little guy, small (fits perfectly in an outer pocket the same shape as it), water resistant, big screen, and carries everything I ever want to read on a seemingly-forever charge.
  5. Apple USB-c charger and cable
  6. Anker 26,800 mAh battery
    This thing has STUPID capacity, it can fully recharge everything in this bag and then some, and snuggles down in the outer side pocket perfectly out of sight.
  7. Hedgehog Zootility Tool
    This little guys is awesome, it’s a beard comb, phone kickstand, wrench, screwdriver, ruler, and several other things in one.. all the size of a business card.
  8. iPhone USB cable
  9. Sandisk USB 3.1/c hybrid 128gb thumb drive
    128gb of storage with, a slider switch that extends a 3.1 USB plug on one side, and a USB-c on the other!
  10. iPad stylus, Nexus Minimal Fountain Pen, fine tipped marker, and roller-ball pen
    The stylus is self explanatory. The fountain pen is my sexy, single-piece, machined aluminum go-to writing tool but I don’t trust strangers with the nib, hence the roller-ball. The extra fine marker comes in quite handy from time to time, sometimes interchanged with a fine sharpie.
  11. Samsung Galaxy S9 (Work Phone)
  12. iPhone 8 Plus (Personal phone)
  13. Apple AirPods
  14. Business card holder
    Kind of self explanatory, eh?
  15. Satechi USB-c Hub
    HDMI, 3 Usb 3.1 ports, ethernet, memory card readers, though power USB-c,  all in a portable hub, I love this thing!
  16. Leatherman Wave Multiool
    LOVE. THIS. TOOL! It lives in a MOLLE pouch on the outer side of the bag, though I take it out when flying. Seriously, if you don’t own a multitool, you want this one. I won’t list all it’s features here, just click the link to see for yourself and then buy one.
  17. Sony RX100 Mk 5
    I churned hard out of photography and I greatly regret it, but my hope is that by carrying this BEAST of a point and shoot, I will be encouraged to shoot more and get back into it. Thanks to it’s small portability, powerful sensor and optics, and wifi communications to my phone… so far it’s working! He lives in a little MOLLE pouch on the opposite side of the bag from the Multitool.
  18. GlocalMe Pocket WiFi
    This guy is great. He has his own cloud services with comparable daily rates to other big named WiFi devices for when I’m traveling, but it *also* also has a Dual-SIM card slot. This way I can keep a Verizon sim in him to share in my phones domestic data plan, as well as popping in a foreign SIM when I am going to be out of the country for more than a day or two (cheaper than using the service usually). As a professional road warrior, he’s a must-have.

 

All packed up, it makes for a snug but awesome fit in the bag:

Lastly we have the “Modular” stuff:

These are things that are added or swapped out for stuff in the bag when I am on the road traveling away from home:

  1. PDP Nintendo Switch Case
    This is probably the slimmest, most nondescript Switch case I could find, love it. I’m looking however for something slightly smaller and thinner that has MOLLE straps that I can affix to the outer flap of the bag when traveling.
  2. Limited edition Zelda 3DS
    I rarely use this anymore, the Switch has almost entirely replaced it, but I do like my Pokemon and have many more street pass regions to unlock! Considering replacing it with one of the new 2DS XLS, specifically the Japan-only matte black with green trim one.
  3. Nintendo Switch
    Nuff said. Oh and go buy Golf Story and Octopath Traveler.
  4. 2017 12″ Macbook Retina
    This thing is a shockingly powerful laptop for its size. It’s as thin as the iPad and nearly half the size & bulk of the Macbook Pro. When I don’t need the MBP for work reasons (ie. a Big Scren for demos)… he’s my go-to instead. My daily driver due to it’s lightweight portability with a decent punch, he’s served me well.
  5. Sony Noise Canceling headphones.
    Moderately priced with active noise canceling, a airline 2-prong adapter, and the ability to collapse down into a small package, this is great for alllllll those flights I take!And there you have it! This is what gets me through the days. Nothing too fancy, but I had a little fun documenting it all on a quiet evening.

Holy crap… I’m building a makerspace!

Okay… to step back a bit, it’s not QUITE that complex. I’m building a private, small (size and scale) maker space. It’s going to be a bit of an ongoing experiment to lay the groundwork for *actually* building a large scale, public space in a better location down the road and hopefully making it open to public membership.

I just secured a current location in Santa Monica in a great area that’s close to the expo line and down town SM. It’s only about 350 sq feet, but its bigger than you’d think and more importantly, the lease is exceptionally well priced for our needs, includes power and internet in the cost, and has its own entrance/exit with 24/7 access that I can apply some smart automation to.

We’re going to start off small… I and a few Rioters are going to be moving some 3D Printers, tools, accessories and other related stuff there. Though, no major power tools, no CNCs, nothing that would disrupt the 9-5 lives of our fellow tenants in their tech offices out of both politeness and necessity. My hope is that my fellow Rioters and friends can make good use of a shared creative space for 3D Printing, Cosplay making, prop fabrication, circuitry noodling and other stuff in a relatively small but shareable space via evening creative sessions and fun group weekend collaborations. I’m not going to ask for a specific fixed dollar amount from folks in order to partake in the space to fully offset the cost, but hopefully people will contribute enough in their own way that I’m not fully out of pocket entirely, and it can be self sustaining.

It’s a month to month lease so we can experiment as long as its working for us, and either sunset things if they don’t or use it as a springboard to securing a bigger, more appropriate long term space and turning it into a public venture. Additionally the monthly cost is reasonable enough that I am comfortable shouldering it myself as part of the experiment, worst case.


I have no idea what I’m doing and this is probably a stupid idea I’ll regret down the road, but I’m incredibly excited and highly motivated right now!

On a related note, if anyone is interested in investing into an *actual* Makerspace on the Westside of LA with me, that changes things greatly and offsets the challenge of bootstrapping an idea from scratch. Let’s talk.. You know how to find me.!

Accepting Trump is President does not mean you have to ignore that he is a terrible person.

Here’s the thing… yes I have a lot of negativity about Trump being president, but I do accept that Trump is the president. I do… but just because I accept he is the president, it does not mean he represents me. He may represent America on the international stage, and our government at the highest level, but he does not represent my moral values or the ethics my family instilled upon me growing up. He does not represent my ideological values that I have gained from a lifetime of growth and development.

I condemn his open bigotry. I condemn his hateful comments about Muslims. I condemn his hateful comments about Hispanics. I condemn his hateful comments about Women. I condemn him for mocking a disabled man. I condemn him for pandering to white supremacists purely for the sake of votes, for welcoming them directly into his administration, and even having one write his inauguration speech. I condemn him for running a campaign based on openly and unabashedly lying to Americans. I condemn him because he instructs his staff to brazenly lie to people over and over again until the entire point is lost and people move on. I condemn him for basing his campaign around dividing the American people against one another to his own advantage. I condemn his inability to admit personal fault in even the slightest way as a form of personal growth. At the core, I condemn him as a human being who does not represent even a sliver of a percent of the best of what an American can, and should, be.

Accepting that he is my President doesn’t mean I have to root for his success. If he somehow made America a better place, I would be thrilled… however Trump’s concept of “better” is directly the opposite of mine and anyone I hold dear to me. I don’t want him to succeed in banning Muslims or Hispanics from the country. I don’t want him to succeed in building a titanic wall along the border. I don’t want him to succeed in unwinding key parts of healthcare reform that protects people against bullshit “pre-existing conditions” clauses or 5000% drug price increases based purely for profit. I don’t want him to succeed in filling his administration with opportunists who are looking for personal gain over the best interests of Americans. I want him to fail at these things, because I think America will be a far, far worse for the wear if he succeeds at all of this.

The 4 month saga to the perfect gift

So, back in the late spring/early summer a new regular popped up in the League of Legends subreddit. His name was /u/Xplo85 aka ThatJewelryDesigner (more properly known as Christopher) and he was doing a kick ass job designing jewelry based on champions from League of Legends (and now other games too).

I thought about it a bit, and realized this was my chance to finally one-up my girlfriend, Victoria (@Aoitsukihime), on all the PAX presents she has gotten for me each year and put myself in the black on the balance for a long time to come. 😉
So, I reached out to Christopher and we started a dialogue about what I had in mind. In short, I wanted something Sona inspired, with blue sapphires (blue being her favorite color and appropriate for the design).

Sona, for those who don't play LoL

He got to work on some initial ideas, and came back with some amazing renders. I opted to go the route of white-gold, given that she is most prone to wearing that over yellow gold, even though the yellow is more in line with Sona’s color scheme. (This, by the way, explains why for months now people on Reddit have been begging him for a Sona inspired design, but he keeps deferring the requests for “reasons”… he didn’t want to spoil the surprise!)

perspectivex2

I gave him some feedback and he noodled over the design a bit more, and after a while he came back with an excellent rendering of the ring that I was totally sold on: The crown is covered in filigree that represents Sona’s etwahl (her instrument that doubles as her weapon). The outer edges of the band is covered in similar designs that match her instrument as well as her clothing. The interior of the band itself is covered in a chain of her iconic hair pieces that hold her pigtails, and while the outer band in the original design had a row of Tears (Fully stacked Tears of the Goddess!) they were omitted from the final for practical reasons. Lastly, the gems… the original design called for yellow-gold with blue sapphires, to evoke her gold and blue color palette of both her and her etwahl, but as I said I opted to change the gold to white-gold for practicality, as my girlfriend does not really wear yellow-gold.  (As some have pointed out, Blue, Purple, and Green gems to represent her key abilities would also have been neat.. but as I was going for an every day piece to wear I wanted to keep it simple to her favorite color and gem.)

At the time, he was working at a jewelry store back in GA not far from where I used to live in Atalanta, so I quickly commissioned them through him to make it a reality!

detailsx4

They made an initial run of the materials, and came back with a casting that was not ideal, but a great first attempt to help them find some of the flaws in the design. This allowed him to refine things a bit and retool it for maximum awesomeness. After some changes, they were subject to yet another processing run. About this time, Chris moved on to freelance on his own to take his new found passion of gaming-inspired designs to the next level, but he was absolutely amazing in making sure this was not lost in the transition and worked tirelessly to keep tabs on the project with the store long after he left.. a true dedication to the craft.  From there, I continued working with the owner of the store, Angie, directly.

second_runx4

After the subsequent run, some of the issues still remained and it became clear the design had some inherent flaws. Namely, there was just too much filigree and wire-work and not enough substance to hold the structure soundly or the gems in place. This was not really Chris’s fault and I can’t blame him. He was a burgeoning designer and as a 3D printing Maker myself, you learn quickly that a lot of the limitations when designs become reality are not inherently obvious and you only learn how to anticipate them from trial and error over time based on pure experience. Angie, the owner, was great about resolving this and enlisted the service of a master craftsman the shop has used for decades to retool the design into something a little more amenable to the laws of physics. Sadly it meant losing some of the pure filigree and converting it to a decorative surface on a solid materials, but none of the sexy lines or slimness of the design was lost! They sent over some gorgeous re-designs, (seen below), and I was happy to approve them for what was hopefully going to be the final casting.

finalsx4

The result? Well… it made her cry so that’s a good start! I think it’s gorgeous and so does she. (The video doesn’t show it cause she hid from the camera squealing, but she began flapping her arms like a happy little penguin, and orbiting around me while simultaneously twirling in place like a cute little moon, giggling nonstop. It was adorable.)

2016-10-10-13-09-30-1

The only problem?

I really painted myself into a corner with how high I set the bar for a future engagement ring…

The DMV should not be this hard to deal with in 2016

You might think that by the year 2016 some of the more backwards and bureaucratic aspects of dealing with the CA DMV would have evolved. You would be wrong.
So the first week of April I got a notice in the mail (at my current address.. I updated it when I moved) from the CA DMV that my drivers license expires in June and the instructions on how to renew it online. I then thought to myself “my car registration is due in May as well, might as well do both at once!” This is a rare instance of being a proactive adult in my life and I’m rather proud of it.
 
I hop online, renew my ID and my registration both in one transaction, and pay all the various associated fees. A few weeks later the shiny new ID card shows up, in the mail, but no sign of my registration paperwork or new sticker. After a more than a month goes by and now its the renewal date for my registration, I call in to find out just what exactly is up. I’m told there is a 2 hour hold time, and naturally opt for the “Call me back later” option.
 
I get the call back, and after giving my info the agent on the phone, she informs me that the renewal was sent to the wrong address, not the one I just gave her “Weird” I say “I updated it at the same time I updated my ID back when I moved in February, all at once”. I’m told it apparently didn’t “take” for the registration part, and am advised to do it again online, and that once it’s in the system to call back and they will resend me my sticker and paperwork. I ask if I can just change it with her over the phone and she says the system does not allow for that.
 

I hop off the phone and go online and do so..  but it took a few days and another phone call to the DMV get it done. When you update the car’s registered address, you have to include not only the license plate number and VIN, but also the “Effective of” date of your current registration. Since I had paid my renewal in April and we were now past my renewal date of May 20th, it was now in the system as a given day sometime in May 2016, not the 2015 on my old paperwork that I was mistakenly referencing. I didn’t think about that at first and it wasn’t until i began to randomly try various dates in a week long window around the date stamp on my email receipt for my renewal that I finally got it to accept the update submission.

I then decided to wait a week or two, because lord knows government systems are probably slow to share info among themselves…  and call back in today. After putting my number in the queue and getting a call back, I explain my situation to someone and ask to have the sticker resent to me. He asks for my my address again, which I give. I’m then asked for a possible previous address I may have had… oh boy.. here we go.  I give my previous address, but I’m told that’s not on file either. I then offer up my address before THAT, my first one in LA and where I lived when I bought the car in 2014. He says THAT is the one on file.

Flabbergasted, I ask how this can be. I updated my contact info when I moved in Nov 2014, and again in Feb 2016. Clearly it worked because my ID contact info was mailed to the right place! He informs me that online updates do not work for leased vehicles. What?!? I ask why is it the system behaves as though it works then, and why it does not give me any error telling me this.. (also for the record, you online profile for the CA DMV does not reference your address to verify what’s on file. This is by design, I’ve been told.)

He then tells me I can *only* update the address by coming into a local DMV branch in person, (if you live in CA you know what THAT entails, if not, just look at the pic below!) and that I have to fill out a change of address form by hand to do so. After which, I’ll have to fill out another form for a duplicate registration copy, which requires a $50 fee.
customers_waiting_outside_dmv_LA_CA

Seriously… I did everything they told me to do in the way in which they told me to do it (proactively I might add!) and now I have to pay a fee for a second copy because *they* gave me bad instructions.

In 2016, I can’t believe dealing with the DMV is still this convoluted and archaic. The only relief is the fact that my registration IS up to date, I just don’t have the piece of paper to go in my car and a shiny new sticker to go with it.

UPDATE! @ 4:50pm 6/9/16

Whomever said complaining about something on twitter doesn’t fix it clearly underestimates the CA DMV!

So I emailed the address in question with my email and phone number. Just now, about 15 minutes ago, and *exceptionally* nice lady called me and asked to hear my story. I ran her through the whole shebang, and she was super apologetic and asked if I would be willing to fill out the PDF of the change of address form and email it to her. Once I did, she would process it within the next business day and have the new registration in my mailbox within the next 7 business days.

Wow! The CA DMV is NOT whom I expected this kind of personal touch from! The systems and processes may still be a little convoluted and janky, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

Adventures In Number Porting, or how Verizon’s customer service out-crapped AT&Ts

Let me share the absolute customer service NIGHTMARE I have experience trying to buy an iPhone 5 and switch from AT&T to Verizon.

So I started off with buying an iPhone 5 on apple.com on tuesday night. Their new system allows you to try to buy a phone between 10pm and 3am, and set it for in-store pickup the very next day IF the store you pick has any allotted that have not yet been claimed. I do so, and set my pickup for the only store in the bay that showed available, the Palo Alto one.

I drive down and pickup my phone. The Apple guru had me click a few things on his gizmo to accept the transaction, and tells me the number should be ported over and activated on my new phone within the next hour, or up to 4 hours in an extreme case.

4 hours later it’s still not activated, so I decide screw it, and walk a block to the nearby VZW store. I ask for help, explain it’s not yet activated, and tell my story. They poke around in their computer and finally tell me that there is nothing on file with them for my number, and that all of my support needs to be done with Apple because apple has not passed it on to them yet and they seem far to eager to usher me out the store. I head to the nearby S.F. Apple store, where they tell me that once they push the big green button on their tablets, everything is turned over to Verizon and only they can help me…and usher me out of their store.

At this point I rant on twitter, and VZW’s twitter account jumps in and gives me the number to their Number Porting call center for help saying this has nothing to do with Apple and is all on them, so I go home and call. After finally getting through to someone and explaining my situation, I get multiple excuses before they finally suddenly know whats wrong, and pass me on to a supervisor to fix things for me. The supervisor pokes around and finally tells me it’s not activated because I “got the phone much sooner than they expected, they were planning for me to have it on 10/18 and so were not going to activate my number port until that time”. WTF?! She finally sorts things out and tells me they need to hand me off to someone who can manually kick through the account setup, and so I am asked to wait on hold while she calls another department to work with the two of us on this. After 20 minutes on hold, a checkin from her, and then 5 more minutes on hold, she tells me she can’t wait with me any further and tells me what to tell the next person, and dumps me alone in the queue. 10 minutes later when someone answers and I start to fill him in, I can sense he’s trying to do everything he can to dodge helping me because I should not be talking to him, another agent should and he’s not happy with the breach of protocol. Perseverance prevails and eventually he pokes around in the system and after 20 minutes finds my account request. He proceeds to read back to me all the information, and make a SECOND account request for me, and takes down all of my info. He runs it through and it fails, so he deletes my pending request from before that was “completed but tied to a blank account for some unknown reason” and does a lot of other stuff I won’t go into detail on, and eventually takes all of my info AGAIN, making a 3rd account request and says it should work in the next 5-10 minutes. I thank him, get off the phone, and make a test call with the new phone which goes through just fine for me. Satisfied I then have someone call me as a test and the old AT&T phone rings. I’m told sometimes you get dual service during the cross over of the port so think “ok fine, so what.”

2 hours later I am still getting calls on the AT&T phone so I make another call, and come to find out my caller ID is showing up with an area code of 505 and not 502… that’s right, they assigned me the wrong number… they ported a New Mexico number from someone else to my phone.. not my own Kentucky one.

I call back, and after 20 minutes of hold time I get through to someone, get about 20 seconds into explaining my situation to a “Brice” and suddenly the call is ended. Not dropped, ended. (The phones react different to the two scenarios so I can tell)

So I call back AGAIN, re-explain my situation to a “Jeremy”. Now I’m told a NEW port has been requested which will take 24-48 hours, at that point they will call me when it’s done and we can try to activate the new phone. I had to take the initiative to bring up the fact this phone’s SIM had already been used for the “bad” number before he said anything however, and replies “oh yeah, you are right you will need a new SIM”. The problem is I learned from my local VZW store today however that NO Verizon stores in the city have spare micro sims at this time…. I ask what we will do about it, and after a long time on hold he comes back to tell me that he can’t help with that and I will have to just keep in touch with the local store and wait for SIMS to come in for someone to activate my phone as they do not have any cards readily available to ship to me either.

After more grumbling he finally put me on hold again and transferred to a “reggie” who told me we COULD reuse the SIM, and proceeded to call me on another phone while he reprogrammed my iPhone, but then part way through put me on hold to talk to his own internal support team for an unknown reason. He comes back and has me power cycle the phone, but it still has the old number. He then asks me to power it off, remove the SIM, replace it, then turn it on…still no dice. At this point he admits we’ve reached the end of his scripted notes and puts me back on hold to once again try to get ahold of his internal support team. He comes back, STILL on hold with them, and says some things updated on his side and would I please check my phone again. Sure enough NOW it has the right number in the “my number” but still no ability to make/receive calls. One more power cycle with a sim remove/insert and BAM it works.

Jesus… this took WAY too much work…
Seriously Verizon? Seriously? Right now you are worse than AT&T, Bank of America, and Comcast combined with the CS experience I have had today over the last 8 hours.

UPDATE 10/09/12 –

Today I decided to convert my iPad 3 (which was already a Verizon model) off of the 30$ a month pre-paid plan and add it to my Verizon account, which would allow me to share the phone’s data pool for $10 a month more. I called Verizon and was told I needed to get a new sim from the store to do this, so I walked around the corner to the nearby store. The were happy to help, and started to swap out my SIM card. I had to watch though as they scratched up the iPad a bit though, as they tried to use a bent paperclip to open the SIM. I asked why they didn’t just use a SIM removal tool like the ones that come with every iPad, but I was told they aren’t given those and they just have to order special paperclips that are of just the right size to fit. After digging around with a few wrong sizes (and scratching my iPad) they finally found one the right size and popped it out. They put in a new one and sent me on my way… after charging me a 35$ setup fee. That’s right, taking my iPad that was already setup with them, and adding it to an existing account cost me an extra $35. *sigh*. As the iPad came back online however, it stuck in 3G mode and would not go into LTE. The nice girl helping me said she was not ok with me leaving the store till it was working in LTE mode, so we tried a few trouble shooting options to no avail. A manager came over, and tried to tell us that this was normal, and that rolling into LTE mode could take 2-6 hours because the system was slammed from all the iPhone activations going on. I knew better and called him on the BS, both on the fact that there is NOT an insurmountable level of iPhones being activated at that exact moment, but also on the fact their activation system is all or nothing. Either it would not activate at ALL, or it would activate entirely, no in betweens. He tried to talk down to me about how 3G and LTE are different things, and I responded that I knew all too well how they work and referenced the spectrum frequencies and details on how Verizon’s radios worked, as well as how their activation systems work, having intimate knowledge of it from my phone calls 2 weeks prior regarding the iPhone. I more or less politely but stubbornly called him on his BS and made it clear I was not satisfied with his “get me out of the store quickly” brush off answer, to which he responded “Well, since you know so much about how it works then you should know how to fix it yourself, so there you go.” He then shoved my iPad in my hands and walked into the back room slamming the door. The agent helping me looked at me shocked and just offered me her card, saying come back in 2 hours if it wasn’t working and that she was terribly sorry for the problem.

3 hours later it was still in 3G mode, so I called Verizon support and they told me what I already knew, it should have worked in LTE mode within minutes and the fact it was not was a clear sign the SIM card was provisioned incorrectly and they needed to fix it in the store. I returned, explained my ordeal, and the new agent spent about 10 minutes poking and prodding in the computer before saying she gives up on that sim, opened a new one, ran it through the computer, put it into my iPad, and it worked like a charm on the first try.

I’m seriously beginning to regret switching to Verizon. I’ve already sent a complaint via email requesting my $70 setup fee (35$ for each device) be removed from my bill, but I won’t hold my breath. At this point I feel like I have done more work than they have to get things up and running and they should, if anything, owe ME money!

Just Re-discovered iTunes-U

I have to admit, I am emphatically floored by not only the iTunes U app on my iPad, but also the way in which schools like Stanford have embraced it. Previously, iTunes U modules were simply videos, usually in a bundled series, that were lumped into your standard video player app. Recently however Apple has moved it all into its own standalone app, and some schools are taking it far beyond “a few videos” and doing something awesome.

A great example is one school right here in my back yard, Standord. They have started to provide a decent number of courses, for free, some of them I find quite interesting. For example, their CS106A, CS106B, and CS107 courses are listed. CS106A is “Programming Methodology”, their introductory CS course. 106B is the more advanced course building off of that, and CS107 is their general Object Oriented Programming primer.

 

With each of these courses, they don’t just give you a bundle of lecture videos and turn you loose, they actual provide the entire course module as they would to any other student. There is a fairly handy UI involved that breaks each course down to its various sections, and within each section you are walked through it as you would be if you were in the class. It starts off with a video presentation of the lecture, and from there you are walked through a series of PDF docs and various on hands exercises. At the end, in lieu of having the ability  to turn in your work for review, an answer sheet helps guide you through your work to determine how accurate it really is.

 

I can definitely see where a lot of my free time is about to go now, considering between those 3 classes and their iOS development course that builds off of them, I can essentially take the entire suite of CS courses Stanford offers for iOS development, for free. I haven’t even gotten into some of the Astronomy and Quantum Mechanics classes I have found either… A worthy investment of my free time if you ask me!

Game Development Sepearation Depression

I’ve encountered an unusual phenomenon. The last year and a half at EA I’ve been on a team that is considered a “shared resource”. We are basically utilized by just about every single development studio at EARS as well as a few remote ones. When you need our support, you get a project lead (myself) and a decent sized team of people under me. We tend to drop in around Alpha, and bounce just as soon as the title gets approved by First Party for release. Generally speaking, we jump into a project for the last 4-6 months of development, and then move on to the next. Also, us leads are generally on multiple projects at once, the bulk of our interaction with the team is email and weekly meetings as we do all of this from our own work space where we all sit together. This has led to a very “clinical” approach to the teams I have worked with on my part.

With Dead Space 2 though it has been an entirely different situation. Due to the scope and focus of this title no expense was spared, that meant that the team put forward by my group was dedicated to DS2 and nothing else. This also meant we tried a new experimental plan where I packed up everything in the building I was in and moved into the Visceral studio for 9 months. I sat with, crunched, ate lunch, stayed late, and partied with the Dead Space 2 team. My entire focus was this game and little else. I was treated like part of the group and given a lot of the perks of it as well. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, but more importantly it allowed me to really get involved with the project more than usual and help make it the rock star success that it is. I went from an abstract paper pusher and project manager to an involved and valued member of the Dev Team.

Now I find myself with a conundrum however. The title has shipped, the team is moving on to their next project, and they are without need of my services for quite a long time. Today I pack up my things from my cube in their studio and move back over the building where my primary team is. I need to reintegrate myself to the style of working on a project where I’m not embedded with the team, and back to a life where I am just some guy who makes the dev team’s life harder than usual with most of my emails and no one really knows or cares to know me since I’m not “one of them”. I’ve come to realize it’s possible I was a bit spoiled, but at the same time thats how my job SHOULD be in a way. Now, I’m not so sure how much I like my job anymore if I have to go back to the way things were on future projects. The Visceral guys were really great to work with, they gave every single member of their team equal respect in ways most other groups apparently don’t. Above all though, they were simply awesome guys who were so much fun to be around. No matter how rough things got, or how crazy a day was, I went home happy and came in to work excited. It’s amazing what you will gladly put up with if the environment is right. The future now is not nearly as exciting it seems….