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03/02/11

Permalink 01:07:28 am, by Paul ROBINSON, 533 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

Documents and Paperwork

When you've been a Notary Public, as I have (still am; I don't use it much but I still have commissions from Maryland and Virginia), you handle a lot of paperwork. I used to do mobile notary back when I could walk, during the height of the mortgage refinancing craze. You have a package of documents, typically about 75 to 125 pages depending on the mortgage company.

There are two ways they can handle paperwork. They can generate a PDF file, and e-mail it to the notary or have the notary retrieve it from a website, or they can print the document themselves and ship it to the notary. I've done it both ways. The obviously least expensive way to do this is to pay the notary to print it out because they save as much as $30 figuring they don't have to pay the cost of printing and shipping it.

Which brings me to the subject of shipping documents. The Postal Service talks about their "low flat rate" charge for document shipping, at $4.95 for Priority Mail. Yeah, if you can wait 2 days, that is probably the simplest answer. But most mortgage documents get generated within a day or less of when they're needed; more than once I had one where they were generating the documents right up to a couple hours before I had to leave to go to the signing. When you're doing documents electronically that makes sense.

For ordinary documents Priority Mail makes basically no sense at all. Let's say I've got a 30 page document. You can get about 6 pages per ounce, so that is about 5 ounces. The longest possible shipment, let's say Miami to Anchorage, Priority mail is the "low, low rate" of about $4.95. First class mail - the exact same thing - is $1.56. Oh yeah, Priority mail is a really low price.

It's when you get to heavier documents where it gets interesting. Let's say you have 200 page document, which would weigh about 34 ounces. If it's a manuscript like a book , you can send it Media Mail. Otherwise (business you can either send it priority mail, or put it in a box and ship it as a package as parcel post if you're really cheap, and don't mind waiting up to a week.

Priority Mail in an envelope is $13.20 but if you can fit it in a flat-rate envelope then it's still $4.95. So that document is going to cost $9 to ship plus at least $10 to print, or $18. On the other hand, if you can e-mail the whole document as a PDF, then the recipient, say, only has to return two pages: the signature page signed twice (so the recipient can return the document countersigned), the cost drops to 98c (two pages printed at 5c plus 44c to mail two pages to the sender and 44c to mail the one countersigned page back.) Or maybe not even mail anything back by sending a presigned document and the recipient signing it and mailing that one page.

E-mail, PDFs and faxes are killing the Post Office. UPS and Fedex handle a lot of packages, and it's only because bills still go by mail that the post office is doing that. Which brings up yet another article.

01/12/11

Permalink 02:58:56 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 445 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

I hadn't thought of it before

Most subscription TV services, if you take more than the basic plan, have some sort of Muzak-equivalent.

Dish Network used Sirius; DirecTV used XM. Now that they've merged they're probably more-or-less the same.

Comcast uses Music Choice, which is what I have. I'm listening to hits from the 1970s, and they play one I happen to like, "Stuck in the Middle With You," by Steeler's Wheel.

I've heard that song probably hundreds of times. Then it hit me:

I'm afraid I guess I'll fall off my chair
And I'm wonderin' how I'll get down the stairs

I never even thought of that line. Now you have to understand something, when you get disabled and end up in a wheelchair, you're not used to it. If any of you saw my video where I transfer from my wheelchair to my easy chair, you're seeing someone who has more than a year of daily practice. I'll put a window to that video at the end of this article.

When you're first in a wheelchair you make mistakes. You do fall out. You lean too far forward, or you misjudge the distance when transferring, and you end up on the floor. Normal-sized people, you either pull yourself up or someone helps you. Morbidly obese people get 3-4 firefighters from the fire department to pick them up. I probably missed about 6 times in the first couple of months.

If I fall indoors I'll call the fire department or police on the non-emergency number; I don't want to disturb the neighbors and I'm not injured. If I'm outside I sometimes get stuck because my wheelchair hit a patch of mud or something where I can't get traction. I'll call 9-1-1 because it does qualify as an emergency; if it's cold or hot the difference in time could cause me to get in trouble. (Yes, I actually did ask a fire department once; a wheelchair user stuck outside does qualify as an emergency.)

Other than times where I have to get off a chair I don't miss anymore, I probably haven't had an accidental fall off a chair in three years. And I transfer off chairs at least twice a day. I did have to do an intentional fall out last month; I was sitting on the couch at my sister's place and my sister moved my wheelchair too far to reach and it was either go down to the floor and do my business there or #2 on her couch! Which she probably would have carved me up with a butcher knife if I had.

And stairs? Forget it.

I'd forgotten how significant that line is now. Oh yes, here's my video:

01/10/11

Permalink 07:20:26 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 580 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

I am stupid, and it has cost me

If you read below you'll read the article about using Auslogics duplicate file finder. Well I have another story involving my external hard drive and the files on it, only this one doesn't turn out so good.

I was working on my new computer, which, because I have lots of data files on my previous computer, I have both plugged in and the old one runs headless. By having them networked I can use SMB (Windows networking) to share files from one computer to another, I can basically use my previous computer as a file server.

I have two external hard drives, one which is a 250 GB and the other is a 1 TB. The 250 is about 1/2 full as I moved my music collection over to it because the 160 GB drive in my old main computer was running low on space.

A few weeks ago, while moving things around, El Stupido (yours truly) moves his computer without removing the external hard drives, which were sitting on top. They both slide off and fall on the floor, about 2-3 feet. But it was enough.

They don't work anymore. I plug them in, one makes noise and the other just clicks. I wasn't really using the terabyte drive, but my entire music collection was on the 250GB. Did I have a backup? Well, yes and no; I had an older backup on DVD but that was in the folder that got lost when I was evicted. El Stupido didn't have a backup and kept the drive where it could get damaged if he wasn't careful.

I have no idea how many files I lost; I can estimate my entire music collection, probably 3,000 mp3s, WAVs, and OGGs, maybe 40 GB of files. [Update 1/18/2011] About a month ago I ran a duplicate file finder and dropped over 12,000 files. So I have to admit it's more like 15,000 lost files. [End Update] As the drive is essentially suffering from physical damage, it would have to be fixed in a recovery facility, probably by disassembling in a clean room. Cost: about $1100.00.

I had deleted the current files off my other computer because I needed the space. I have - or I hope I have - some of the original files on my other computer in the closet.

I can't believe I was this stupid. You know, it's funny; it's pointed out that the typical value of a hard drive is only a fraction of the value of the data. Or the cost of the recovery if lost.

All I can say is, make sure you have a backup, or that you have two. A 1 terabyte USB hard drive used to be about $100; if you look carefully you can now find 2 terabyte drives for that. If you don't need that much space, external USB hard drive prices are as low as 10c per gigabyte, which makes hard drive and DVD pricing close, with DVDs at 4c/GB, the only problem being DVDs being small compared to the tremendous amounts of data we typically have around. Small discs have an advantage that they are easier to store than hard drives, so that can be solved with larger discs. Blu-Ray burners can be gotten for about $120 or so; 25GB Blu-Ray discs sell for about $20 in 10-pack spindles.

Like Jacob Morley in "A Christmas Carol" I carry a ponderous chain of lost data, and I can only offer my example in a hope that you will not repeat it. "Otherwise you cannot hope to escape my fate."

01/04/11

Permalink 10:37:37 am, by Paul ROBINSON, 36 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

An honest portrayal

NewsChannel 8 in cable had a report about the opening of the second casino in Maryland, and the honest comment of the reporter. "34,000 square feet of space and 300 new slot machines for you to lose your money."

12/06/10

Permalink 05:49:45 pm, by Paul ROBINSON, 488 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [A]

My friend Andrea

I have a friend, her name is Andrea Anders. She lives in Lakewood, Colorado. I have known her about 14 years. We never met, but we communicated by mail, by phone, by e-mail, and back around 2000, I was able to video with her - she didn't have a web cam - over a standard dial-up phone line.

When she'd tell people how I and her did video back then, they didn't believe it, but we did it, over an ordinary 56K modem via AOL's Internet service and a program created by IBM called Bambaphone.

We spoke of everything and talked about out lives.

Today Andrea's sort-of boyfriend, Tom, (long story I may get to eventually) called me to tell me Andrea had passed away. I think about all the things I felt about her. We loved each other; we told each other we did.

I have spent the last few hours bawling like a baby over the unconsolable grief I feel over this loss. I will never hear her talk about her life again, I can never talk to my best friend, who I know that I loved more than my own life.

I'll never hear her "Paulie-olly-olly" again, except I do have a couple of messages I captured from voice mail, at least I do have that.

They say there are friends, there are close friends whom you'd help move, and those for whom you'd give them a kidney. And I proudly admit I had decided that she was of the last class more than a year ago. One of only two people I cared about that much, the other being my brother Bill.

I will cry for a while, and then I will go on. I am going to set up a memorial website - I've had the name Andreaanders.com for a while which we never got around to using - and I will remember her.

I know I will probably write a book because of all the things I want to remember about her, the funny stories and private moments we shared. The time the fire department banged on her door because I thought something was wrong. How she got arrested for helping an accident victim. Her medical problems. And so many other things which keep flooding back in my memory.

I want to remember the best person in my life, who at times irritated me, and amused me, and more than anything else was the best thing that ever happened to me. Of all the things I have done or failed to do the regret I will always have is I never went to meet her in person.

But I can say again what I have admitted before.

To my friend Andrea, as I said several years ago, I have been, am, and always will be, primus inter pares, your friend. I love you, I will always remember you fondly with love, and I will miss you forever.

Paulie

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Welcome to My blog! This is where I store my thoughts so that I can come back to them at some point in the future. This allows me a place like a journal to keep what I'm thinking about. But anyone else is welcome to visit; I make this place public so that other people can hear what I'm thinking.

This is where I make comments on any subject I find of interest. My political comments are in the Politics section, and technical items are in the Computers section. Note, if you want to make a comment, e-mail it to me at paul@paul-robinson.us. I am sorry that I had to disable comments, but after I had deleted the 300th worthless piece of spam comment on this blog and receiving exactly zero valid comments, I decided to stop allowing spammers to excrement all over me and my blog. If you have *anything* at all to say, send it to me in e-mail; if it is even the slightest bit relevant - even if I don't agree with it, I will post it. (As soon as I find a way to stop spammers from posting junk I'll allow direct comments.) Note that if you are a visitor and post a comment, it defaults to "draft" meaning I have to approve it before it is visible, so if you're posting spam, don't bother, nobody will see it.

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