Thursday, 20 February 2014

By on February 20th, 2014 in science kits

07:29 – There was an article in the paper this morning about the collapse of USPS here since the winter storm. Incredibly, some people still did not receive delivery on Tuesday. Heads should roll over this, starting with the postmaster. Meanwhile, I’m still not able to print postage labels. I’ll try again today. If it still won’t let me print postage labels, I’ll try to create a new account and use it.

At least we’re getting inventory built up.

10:17 – I called USPS tech support again. They said the problem was a “system error” and that I should hear back from them by the end of business today. Not that the problem would be fixed by then, mind you, just that they’d contact me. So I tried creating a new account in Barbara’s name. Everything apparently went normally until I tried to pay for and print postage labels, at which point I got the same error. This is beyond unacceptable.

29 Comments and discussion on "Thursday, 20 February 2014"

  1. pcb_duffer says:

    If your loving & patient wife has a credit card with a separate account in her name (especially w/ a different billing address), would it help to use that one to set one up an account with USPS? Maybe for some reason their system is offended by RBT, but she would be in the clear.

  2. OFD says:

    “…Maybe for some reason their system is offended by RBT…”

    NAW! No WAY!

    Though I’d start to worry if I began to discover various things turned off, like bank accounts, credit cards, utilities, etc. I saw that movie.

  3. OFD says:

    “Documents obtained by The Washington Times show the Pentagon was warned before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that the iterations of the M4 carbine were flawed and might jam or fail, especially in the harsh desert conditions that both wars inflicted.”

    Saw this movie, too. Last I heard, Delta and Marine LRRPs were using .308s and .45 ACPs, on their own hook but tacitly approved by “management.”

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    That’s what I did. Nothing I can do about billing address, but I set up the account in her name, her email address, her credit card number, etc. Everything worked fine until I tried to pay for and print labels, at which point it blew up just as it had with my account.

  5. Lynn McGuire says:

    The USPS is crashing and burning. The organization has dropped from 650,000 people to 450,000 people over the last five years. I am sure that they are spending needful amounts on their infrastructure such as servers, hardware maintenance, software maintenance and highly trained and competent IT people. After all, in the midst of rapidly crashing spending budgets, one never cuts needful maintenance on perfectly running equipment. Sarcasm off.

    I have no solution for your shipping woes other than suggest a trip to Post Office with your umpteen boxes. Sarcasm on, I am sure that you can handle that along with your cane. Of course, the minute after you go, they will get the payment system back online.

    Went and saw the Eagles last night here in Dallas with 25,000 new friends. Totally awesome concert by a bunch of guys on Medicare (all 4 primary are). If you like their music. Half of the songs that they played were from the early 1970s such as “Doolin-Dalton”. They played for 3.5 hours with two breaks.

    Also rode the new heavy rail commuter train from North Carrollton into downtown Dallas (25 miles each way). Heavy rail is the way to go and is actually elevated over much of the route so the cars are underneath. Very easy to use and highly advised. Got to watch the massive parking jam from the train windows as we left.

  6. OFD says:

    I sincerely hope this country brings back the rail systems, especially the regional infrastructures. Before it’s too late. Up here they keep sinking money into Amtrak which hasn’t seemed to help much.

    I have an Eagles concert on a hard drive that they did several years ago in Oz; they are a very tight and disciplined band, I’ll say that for them; I like some of their stuff and picking up Joe Walsh years ago was a good move. The Stones are another extremely tight and disciplined rock band; not much left to chance; Keef still refers to Ronnie Wood as “the new guy.” Mrs. OFD met him many years ago up in Montreal and says he’s a real nice down-to-earth guy.

    My rock star claims to fame are meeting the E-Street Band (without Bruce) many years ago in Boston, and Eddie Money. And at sixteen I almost got clocked in the head by Robert Plant’s swinging microphone at the Carousel Tent Theater in Framingham, MA, just a few blocks from our house.

  7. Ray Thompson says:

    Went and saw the Eagles last night here in Dallas with 25,000 new friends.

    Where have I seen that before?

    I sincerely hope this country brings back the rail systems

    There are a lot of places that can benefit from rail systems. But like most places, any city or county where the rail line even touches wants some sort of revenue, ie, tax on the tickets. Of course by the time they all put their hand in bucket the ticket prices would be too expensive.

    Washington State put the bus lines under their umbrella along with the ferry system. It is amazing that you can travel from Seattle to La Push for less than $5.00. It will take you the better part of the day but it is possible. In other places, such as TN, to travel such a distance would cost you $50.00 on public transportation, if you could even do it.

    Southwest Airlines got their start by flying commuter planes between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. When I worked for EDS in San Antonio in the very early 80’s I had a ticket book. When I needed to go to Dallas I just went to the airport, presented a coupon, and hopped on a plane. Same thing when returning. Planes turned around in 30 minutes and the flight was only an hour. More than once I stopped at the office in San Antonio, picked up some stuff, headed to Dallas, and was back in the office before closing time.

    Seems that the same triangle would work well for rail service. The trip would take more time but not much more with the travel regulations currently in place by the TSA. You could even take luggage and a bottle of water.

    I would also think that in TN that a train line between Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga with connections to Atlanta would be nice. I often fly out of Nashville or Atlanta because the airfare is many times 50% cheaper. Put in a train that would get me to Atlanta from Knoxville in 4 hours and I would do that in a heartbeat.

  8. rick says:

    Back around 1960, a young Judy Collins and her son lived in the same apartment building in Chicago as we did. My mother babysat for her and she did some jamming with my step father. I don’t remember it, as I was eight in 1960.

    Rick in Portland

  9. MrAtoz says:

    “You could even take luggage and a bottle of water.”

    You must be smoking medical marijuana Mr Ray. As long as the TSA exists, it will try to muck up every form of transportation to expand it’s empire. Soon they will have booths at every bridge crossing and tunnel entrance. You know, to make sure some old geezer close to dementia from Tennessee is not a terrorist.

  10. Ray Thompson says:

    As long as the TSA exists, it will try to muck up every form of transportation to expand it’s empire.

    I stand corrected.

    to make sure some old geezer close to dementia from Tennessee is not a terrorist.

    Well crap, there goes one of my retirement fun things to do.

  11. rick says:

    We came home from China last Sunday. They have already done this in Beijing. You cannot get onto a subway without running your bag through an x-ray machine and going through a metal detector. Much of it is security theater as I wouldn’t swear that the x-ray machines actually work and they ignore most of the alarms set off by the metal detectors. We took subways extensively during our eight days there. Rarely was there any follow up when people set off metal detectors. There was similar security at many public venues, including museums, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Lots of make work. The security people were uniformly polite. None of them spoke English, as far as I could determine. There were rarely delays at the checkpoints.

    Customs and immigration in Hong Kong and China were much less intrusive than in the U.S. Hong Kong does not require a visa. When we landed, there were separate lines for Hong Kong residents and others. The “others” line was very short and we breezed through. We had China visas, so entering China was pretty much as fast. In both cases they had a “nothing to declare” lane for customs and we just walked right through.

    Coming back, U.S. customs and immigration were almost as easy. We cleared U.S. customers and immigration in Vancouver. Immigration asked for our passports and boarding passes and asked us a few questions about the purpose of our trip. All we had to do for customs was identify pictures of our suitcases. We never actually had to handle them in Vancouver, they were checked through to Portland. I don’t think they opened out suitcases. If they had, they would have a found a few souvenirs and a bunch of dirty clothes. They did not inspect my carry on which had my laptop, tablet, two phones and camera. I have experienced more trouble driving from Canada to the U.S. We did have to go through the normal TSA security theater in Vancouver, but the TSA people were very polite. I think they hire Canadians for the job in Vancouver. The security to board the plane in Beijing was more thorough than in the U.S., but we got to keep our shoes on.

    Pictures from our China trip can be seen at
    Rick, back in Portland

  12. OFD says:

    “…When I worked for EDS in San Antonio in the very early 80′s…”

    EDS Wireless Division, Waltham, MA, 1995-98, “infrastructure analyst,” for VAX/VMS, OpenVMS, UNIX and Windows NT all rolled into one. Also helped set up their very first firewall on an NT box. (I had Bob’s NT book with me, too.)

    Divorced in ’96, met current wife in ’97, remarried in ’98, and moved up here to VT. The organization was phased out/moved to the old DEC HQ at The Mill in Maynard, MA and then the remainder was gobbled up by HP.

    It was a good job, with a good team, sorry to have left it when I did, but Love beckons, as we all know, sometimes. Also getting outta Megalopolis after years of miserable commutes and work shifts. Rest of my family is still down there with zero intention of ever leaving; even if the males wanted to the females would crush that idea in a nanosecond. Give up all that wonderful shopping and driving and malls and buying shit and the local cable and broadcast tee-vee?

  13. Ray Thompson says:

    When I worked for EDS it was run by Ross. I liked the way the company worked. Yes, there was a dress code. So what? I had a dress code in the military but EDS paid much better.

    I met Ross a couple of times and talked with him. Once he was on the Southwest flight from Dallas to San Antonio and I sat next to him. He was an arrogant, annoying little man. Knew the answer to everything even it had not been invented.

    Back then if you bid a project to a client of say $100,000, and the project came in at $80,000, the employees on the project split half of the amount that was saved.

    Part of the reason the San Antonio office collapsed was because of such incentives. A group of 10 were working on a project for a hospital (St. Joseph I think) in Dallas. Large project for the San Antonio group. The worked hard and long hours. At some point they all declared the project done. They all got their bonus and went on a trip to some island.

    While they were gone the system collapsed. Meltdown. Myself and a couple of others were tasked to get it back working. Little documentation, IBM-something of which I was unfamiliar and some VTAM, CICS, RACF or some combination of letters that made no sense. With the help of some people from Dallas we got it working.

    To fix the problems required a major rework of a large chunk of the code. Frank, the office manager was clueless about what happened or why. Ross was on his way from Dallas to fire Frank and close the office when I met him on the plane. Apparently the repairs to the project exceeded what EDS was paid by about 150%. I did not know that was his purpose at the time.

    Thus I found employment elsewhere.

  14. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    (I had Bob’s NT book with me, too.)

    Believe it or not, that book still produces royalties. A buck or two per month, but still. I’d never have guessed that a technical title would still be in print after 15 years.

  15. OFD says:

    A buck is a buck; twelve to twenty-four bucks a year, enough for a case of soda at Costco. It’s a good book and NT is still out there in a bunch of places; it was developed by Dave Cutler, formerly of DEC, who was lured to M$ personally by Gates. And Windows systems since then have all and still contain elements of the original VAX/VMS C code.

    “Yes, there was a dress code. So what?”

    Not so much up in libtard Maffachufetts; none of that white-shirt-with-red-tie business except when nabobs arrived from Plano for one of their rare visits. I was told to wear a tie for that day so I did; an old-fashioned Western string tie, complete with Wild Bill Hickok hair, Western shirt, and cowboy boots. The local potentates made sure I was busy and outta sight when those guys showed up.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    So what are you saying? All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to hold their fire?

  17. OFD says:

    Something like that, if the time comes and we get right down to it. If the regime intends making brutal examples of some of our fellow citizens when they get riled about being constantly porked by said regime, then that time will be upon us.

  18. ech says:

    My first job after college was at a company formed by ex-EDSers. I heard a lot of “Ross” stories. I’m very, very glad his political career went nowhere.

  19. ech says:

    For our host: a possible workaround for the USPS problem. Be sure the package value field is filled out, even though you are not buying insurance. Put $1 in if nothing else. This was suggested by the USPS on facebook. (Apparently they just “upgraded” their system. It won’t work on some older versions of IE, for example.)

  20. Ray Thompson says:

    Not so much up in libtard Maffachufetts; none of that white-shirt-with-red-tie business except when nabobs arrived from Plano for one of their rare visits.

    I have heard they relaxed a lot of the rules after they got bought by GM, then sold by GM.

    In my tenure of one year the dress code was strict. White or light pastel shirts, tie always, shoes black or brown lace up with 4 or 5 sets of holes, socks must match the shoes, no facial hair except for a mustache that cannot extend beyond the edge of the mouth, hair neat and trimmed at all times (men natural color, women colors that appear in nature, no purple), women must wear business suits or a dress and some other rules for women that I did not concern myself with, three piece suit in neutral colors (gray, black or dark brown).

    Almost as strict as the Air Force except in the USAF the only choice of color was blue or Khaki as the USAF was in the process on transitioning from the brown to the blue so both could still be worn. Choice of shoes was also very limited. Facial hair about the same.

    The philosophy was simple, don’t like the dress code, don’t work for EDS.

    EDS Plano was cool to visit. Golf course on the property where much business with clients was conducted, indoor fitness center with full size pool, really cheap food for lunch as you could eat for a dollar and change, some walking paths where business was also conducted. It was not uncommon for major contracts where negotiated on the golf course or walking paths.

  21. OFD says:

    EDS was owned by GM when I got there but they got out from under during my time with them; we had a series of loser CEOs. As for us low-level, bottom-feeding drones; we were getting off-site training regularly and $1,000 bonuses for a while, but with the latter we soon noticed that the taxes were taken out of our checks before we got them, ending up with maybe half that amount net. Managers got $2,500 and $5,000 bonuses and the company issued them checks in large enough amounts so that the taxes would be taken care of and they’d get their full bonuses. Real cute, we thought. And LOTS of corporate buzz-words and PC speech issued constantly from HQ. All that stopped just before I left to get remarried and moved to Vermont. It’s been fourteen years now but I remain in sporadic touch with several former colleagues, either via email or Linked-In.

    It hit 44 here today with mostly sunny skies and no wind. Might hit 50 tomorrow; another mid-winter thaw, soon to be smothered again by another cold wave and more snow and ice. Mud Season is still a few weeks off.

  22. Lynn McGuire says:

    I failed the wand test at the Eagles concert and had to show my smartphone to a security dude. I am still wondering at that.

  23. Lynn McGuire says:

    “We are from the government and here to help you”:

    “This exceptionally cold and snowy winter has shown that government climate scientists were dead wrong when it came to predicting just how cold this winter would be, while the 197-year old Farmers’ Almanac predicted this winter would be “bitterly cold”.”

    “Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) predicted temperatures would be “above normal from November through January across much of the lower 48 states.””

    I love the smell of politics in weather prediction. Makes one wonder what else government scientists can screw up by following the political line.

  24. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    For our host: a possible workaround for the USPS problem. Be sure the package value field is filled out, even though you are not buying insurance. Put $1 in if nothing else. This was suggested by the USPS on facebook. (Apparently they just “upgraded” their system. It won’t work on some older versions of IE, for example.)

    Thanks. I’m not sure what they’re talking about. Entering the package value used to be optional unless you wanted to buy insurance. It’s now required. You can’t continue until you’ve entered a package value.

    I started getting the warning about old versions of IE, but thought nothing of it since I’m using Chrome (and Firefox as backup). I was able to create postage labels for a week or more before this started happening.

  25. OFD says:

    I remember reading something not that long ago about how a lot of organizations, especially web-facing commercial sites, were forced for various reasons to never upgrade beyond IE 6. I wonder if the USPS got going with an upgrade before fixing whatever it was that kept them back there, if indeed that was what was happening.

  26. Chuck W says:

    I heard a lot of “Ross” stories. I’m very, very glad his political career went nowhere.

    Don’t ‘cha think a tour with Ross would have been better than what we got now? I REALLY wanted to see him live out his Presidency in Texas and never touch the White House.

  27. brad says:

    Any, and I mean *any* top level executive like that is an a**hole. To get to that level, you have to be willing to climb over a lot of dead bodies. I have the misfortune just now to be interfacing with a CIO of a large company on a consulting project, and he’s the kind of guy who just reflexively sticks knives in people’s backs.

    That said, Perot as president would have shaken things up. Someone from outside the little elite circle-jerk that is the current political landscape, who wouldn’t have had any interest in “who’s turn” it is to get the next plum ambassadorship – it would have been a breathe of fresh air.

  28. OFD says:

    Doubtful. One, he had/has the standard-issue, little-guy, Napoleon Syndrome in spades. Two, once he got the job, he would be told how things are gonna go by the people who actually run things here and he would put on a show for the mob outside like Barry has done, and Bush before him, while doing what he’s told.

    Eventually people here will realize that the President is simpy a figurehead, a puppet, whose strings are pulled behind the scenes, and that Party factions mean exactly nothing and elections are just cynical charades. It will be a great day when that happens.

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