Anachostic

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Category Archives: Rant

May The Odds Be Forever In Your Favor

I ran across a letter recently that was addressed to the participants of a company’s retirement plan.  From what I gathered, it seemed like a pension plan.  You know, those old-fashioned things where you work X number of years and they will pay you Y dollars for the rest of your life?  Well, if you haven’t paid attention to that, (and if you haven’t, that’s excusable, because pensions are pretty rare anymore) you would find that companies are doing anything they can to avoid having to pay out those Y dollars.

I read a book a while ago that explained the multiple schemes that were being performed to avoid any sort of pension plan funding.  That book is Retirement Heist.  It’s a good book and you should read it.  This letter to pensioners was just an illustration of those exact cons, and the letter was selling it like it was the greatest thing ever.

Here’s the gist of the letter.  Because of two laws, and I need to write these laws out because they are totally insane, the Moving Ahead For Progress In The 21st Century Act and the Highway And Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (blahhhh), pension plans are allowed to calculate their numbers differently.  Differently in that they can make the badness go away.

So, in this example, before the laws, in 2016, the pension plan was short $8.3M dollars to cover the costs of the members’ retirement.  After the laws?  $0.  Percent funded before the law?  86%  After the law? 104%  The law completely fixed the problem of not having enough money!  Amazing!!!

How was this done?  The projection of how much money would be needed was based on interest rates for the last two years.  Why are they looking at interest rates?  Because that’s how the fund stays solvent while money is being withdrawn, through investments with interest.  If the plan doesn’t make enough money in interest, the corporation has to pitch in extra money to keep it going.  Hmmmmmm.

If you have a savings account in the last couple of years, you know that you’re not making any money off of it.  And a pension fund wouldn’t be making any money either.  So because the fund is not sustaining itself from its investments, that means the corporation would have to supplement it with additional money.  Corporations everywhere collectively said, “Fuck that” and instead spent the money on lobbyists to change the laws. 

They succeeded.  Now, instead of considering that interest rates in the future will be the average of two years, now it’s going to be the average of 25 years.  25 fucking years.  Fortunately that range includes the late 90’s and early 00’s, where interest rates were around 5%, instead of 0.1%

So, do you get it?  They refuse to accommodate current market conditions and instead want to pretend the future is going to be as great as the past.  But here’s the thing, if these corporations would just fucking suck it up and pay into their pension funds now, like they are supposed to, when things get awesome in the future like they CHANGED THE LAW to reflect, they wouldn’t have to pay anything then, because the funds would be fully funded or even overfunded.

Now the infuriating part.  This letter says all of this.  It doesn’t hide anything.  They can tell the truth because a) lots of people won’t understand what just happened, and b) it’s the law; it’s all perfectly legal now.

Much Fun With Finance Institutions

A Libertarian view of the world is that government interferes with life too much.  Also, that government regulation costs businesses so much money to remain legal that the business can’t make any money. On one hand, I agree.  On the other hand, I say, you made this bed, now look at the fucking mess it is.

Here’s the thing.  New laws and new regulations don’t just appear out of thin air.  They are created in response to a case of abuse to prevent the abuse from happening in the future.  That’s it.  You look at every law and regulation and tell yourself, “That law exists to prevent someone from doing it.”

So now I’m in the process of refinancing my mortgage.  The last time I dealt with a mortgage was when I bought my home, 11 years ago.  You have heard the stories from that era, where you only needed a pulse to qualify for a mortgage.  That’s not the case any more.  So here’s what I have experienced with the new, modern, regulated mortgage industry. 

I initially spoke to a “mortgage consultant” who took my information, ran my credit and locked me in on a mortgage term and interest rate.  Then, I was handed off to a “mortgage processor”.  This person was unable to do the tasks of the consultant, and isn’t actually involved with the mortgage approval process.  They collect the documentation for the “mortgage underwriter”.  One of the documents is the house appraisal.  But the processor can’t call an appraiser directly.  They place an order with a company who will dispatch an appraiser.  After the documents are collected, they are submitted to someone in “pre-underwriting review” before they are submitted to the underwriter.  The pre-underwriting team can request additional documents for the processor to collect.

So, after you get through the mortgage consultant stage, you are charged a pretty significant application fee, which also includes the appraisal fee.  Then you have to fight your way through three boss levels to succeed in your goal of a mortgage.  And each one is going to be pickier than the rest.  I thought I was being proactive in providing a scan of the cleared check proving that I bought out my ex’s share of the property.  Nope.  That just raised red flags.  “Where did you get that money from?”  Are you fucking serious?  That’s pretty much none of your business.

But you know what?  It is their business.  And you know why?  Scammers.  God damn scammers.  Why would they ask that?  Well, what if I cashed out equity in another property to cut that check?  What if I cashed out my 401k for that money?  To you and me, that doesn’t matter.  It’s my money and I’ll use it however I want.  It doesn’t matter if that money came from equity (it’s my money), a 401k (it’s my money), or from saving from my paycheck (it’s my goddamn money).  But to them, the source of the money can be a liability.  And actually, the money is nothing more than a reduction in my net worth, which is something that is very important to them.  No bank wants an over-extended client struggling to pay his mortgage.

How did this come about?  Because scammers.  Because people scammed the system and got away with it.  And now everyone has to suffer and prove that they are not a scammer, too.  Because their actions resulted in a lot of regulation forcing a separation of concerns.  There is absolutely no way for collusion in this structure.  No one talks to the underwriter.  No one talks to the appraiser.  It’s like offering sacrifices to some pagan god and hoping for acceptance.

SpamBastard–1aauto.com

I had an application idea at one time and actually finished writing it, but ended up never doing anything with it once it was live.  It was spambastard.com and its purpose was to catch companies that would sell, lose, or otherwise mishandle your email address info.  The concept was simple.  You sign up for their site using their domain name @spambastard.com and if any email comes in with a mismatch between the FROM domain name and the TO domain name (as the username, before the @), the email address would be considered compromised.

That domain and application is long dead, but I’ve been able to replicate the same concept with my personal email domain.  That eliminates the hassle of creating a second account for every site I sign up for (one with my real email and one with a spambastard email).  To date, I’ve only had a few cases where I’ve had to take action.  Those cases are:

  • albumartexchange.com – There are many people including myself who posted on their forum and complained that they received PayPal phishing emails to their unique email address.  The website did not respond.
  • lakelandlelectric.com – That debacle was chronicled already.  The utility company did follow up with an explanation of how it happened and how the process was unfortunately legal.  They said they would push for tougher laws on keeping customer information private.  This prompted a follow-up email from the spammer who was incredulous that government would try to reduce transparency.  See, transparency is only good when it works in your favor.
  • paypal.com – This got compromised after only nine people knew of its existence.  Whether it was sold or stolen, I don’t know for sure, but I am pretty confident that some eBay seller has a compromised account and a spammer is looting their customer list.

Now we can add to the list – 1aauto.com.  I placed an order with their site in January (remember when the punks broke the mirror off my car?).  Today, I get a political email from John Kasich’s New Day For America to that email.  So I immediately send a message to 1aauto.com saying they’ve either sold or given away my info or their customer database has been hacked.  So which is it?  I got a pretty quick response.

Hello and thank you for your email.

I do apologize that you received a spam email to your account. I can assure you that your information is secure and we have not experienced any kind of hacking. We do keep our customer information confidential and secure and have several measures put in place to prevent against fraud and stolen identity.

Thank you for notifying us. We will keep tabs on this and look into what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future.

So, I guess the answer is the owner sold out his customers to promote his choice of political candidate.  The fact that this happened at all negates the statement “We do keep our customer information confidential“.  As far as what they can do to prevent it from happening in the future, that’s simple.  Don’t do what you did again.

Thanks to spam law requirements, the spam email footer confirms the email address that it was sent to.  It tells me that I was added to the list on 2/24/16 via opt-in (gee, I don’t remember that), and gives me ways to unsubscribe.

There’s no sense in unsubscribing.  The email address is out in the wild and is now worthless.  Do I want to spend my life unsubscribing from every email campaign that gets that email or do I want to kill off the email?  The choice is pretty simple.

This scenario makes me pity people who only have a single email address, like @gmail.com or @outlook.com or @yahoo.com.  They don’t have the option of closing their account or changing their address.  Consider how easy it is for me, every email (except my personal email) is known to exactly one company.  Email gets compromised, only one place to change it.

You’re Welcome

Every time I read something from Ayn Rand, I get really irritated.  Yet at the same time, whenever I try to do something just for the benefit of others, I also find myself irritated.  It seems you can’t do anything for anyone without hitting some issue.

I like writing software.  It’s a great profession and it gives me plenty of opportunity to experiment, create, and solve problems.  It’s not always work for me.  So there are plenty of times I will create a small utility to fix something or make a task easier for me and I think maybe someone else would find some use from it.  So, I put it out on the Internet.  The idea is nothing new and is pretty well known as open-source software.

I’d been hesitant to do any promotion of my latest creation because I feared a backlash of people that are, in modern vernacular, “haters”.  They contribute nothing but criticism and have no intention of ever offering help.  You know, “I’d love to contribute to your project, but your coding style sucks.”  “Too bad it’s in VB.NET, I could really add some features.” “If I helped out, I’d end up rewriting all of it.”  None of these statements have happened, but they are very likely coming from the elitists out there.

A few days ago, I tentatively responded to a couple of forum messages suggesting they try my utility to solve their problems.  On one forum, someone replied and said they got an error message.  So, I responded with some troubleshooting suggestions and gave a link to my blog for more information.  When I submitted the message, the forum told me my message was marked for review.

Later that night, I got a private message from a forum moderator saying that I was receiving a warning for posting a link to my own blog.  This was not allowed because it was considered “self-promotion”.  Then the message gave an excerpt of the community rules and a message that I was expected to follow them.  As a final insult, the moderator requested a “Read Receipt”, which basically says, “I want you to tell me you’ve seen this so you can’t argue this in the future.”

That completely spoiled my day.  Here I made something to help people, and I have information to share, but I’m not allowed to post it.  The moderator took the time to verify my link when to my personal website, but didn’t seem to notice there was no spam, advertisements, or solicitations on it.  If I had replied as a different person and posted the same link, it would have been fine, because it wasn’t “self-promotion.”  Posting information about another person is fine; posting information about yourself is bad.

I don’t even know where to go from here.  The urge to be extremely childish is really, really strong right now.  But how do you even talk sense into people with a viewpoint like that?  The best course of action is to just walk away, and the assholes win again.  As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

How Staples Is Enticing Me

I get emails from Staples because sometimes they’re pretty good with coupons and whatnot.  They show up just about every day.  What isn’t very good about them (aside from the frequency) – and this is a rapidly deteriorating condition – is their subject lines.  I have a pretty deep-seated hatred for click-bait headlines, and running close behind that is a distaste for pointless headlines.  Here’s a bunch of recent examples:

  • ⌛ You hit it big! Open asap for a COUPON!
  • We need your attention! 20% off toner
  • Access: GRANTED.  Buy 1, get the 2nd 50% off!
  • Don’t waste this ☞ You’re first in line to get this COUPON for 20% off…
  • We dare you to miss out: Your sneak peek is here.
  • You’ve unlocked it! It’s official, you’re in. >>Save 60%<<
  • You were chosen: Last-minute gifts inside.
  • You checked your inbox just in time: Get up to $280 off.
  • Let’s see you resist this: COUPONS inside! You hit it big.
  • You rock! You checked your inbox just in time: Get up to $300 off laptops!
  • 🙂 Yes, it’s true! What are you waiting for?

This goes on and on.  Each time I think I have enough examples, they just keep coming…  Who the hell is writing this garbage?  Are they speaking to children?  Is anyone going to be fooled into thinking that they are getting some sort of exclusive offers?  So many questions.

You know when this started?  10/16/2015.  And it was identifiable by the first emoji ever used in the subject line of their emails.  This suggests that the marketing person is young and hip.  Young and hip doesn’t always mean smart.  Just as the younger generation is failing to learn proper composition in its many forms, they are woefully ignorant about business communications.  Staples is a business supply company and primarily communicates with professionals.

Regardless of the target audience, which is being completely ignored here, there are some simple rules with regard to correspondence, whether electronic or physical.  The rule being shat upon here is: “The subject line identifies the context of the letter”, as in “This letter is regarding…”  This is not achieved with “You were chosen” or “We dare you to miss out”.  Seriously, you, a company, are extending a challenge to me, a potential customer, to not purchase something from you.  I don’t think you realize just how easy that is to do.

Ok, I’ll admit, I don’t know if the marketing person/people are “young”.  But they definitely seem to be “young” in experience.  To be honest, the subjects really seem like they were written “offshore” by spam/scam professionals.  I can say that Staples trying to portray itself in this fashion is definitely a turn-off.  If I want to shop at a goofy store, I’ll go to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.  Not even Big Lots has such corny emails.

Their Missed Opportunity

It’s pretty ridiculous that I have to convince myself that I should be outraged about what happened and that I am justified in my outrage.  It’s a sad state of affairs that the level of service for just about everything has dropped to non-existent and when you experience non-service, it’s just a matter of, oh, that’s just how it is.

As I previously mentioned, someone broke the side mirror off my car, and I now have the replacements.  I want to get them painted, but who should I call?  In my former car incident, I had my bumper repaired and I was very pleased with the repainting job that was done.  So I emailed my contact at Progressive and asked who did the work so I could go back there.  They gave me the info, no problem, and were happy that I was pleased enough to ask for a referral.  That’s the high point of this event.

Yesterday, I headed to the body shop’s location after work.  Their business is in the heart of the downtown area.  Not the best area of town, and some of the worst traffic around.  Something like 30 minutes for 12 miles of travel (with no side mirror to help me change lanes).  So I’m a little frazzled by the time I get there.

I go into the office and a woman behind the desk is on the phone.  She tells the person on the phone to hold on a minute and asks me what I need.  I explain I want to discuss getting some mirrors painted.  She then says I need to speak to Carlos, who is not there right now (maybe at a dealership?).  She asks if I can come back tomorrow.  I reply, “Well, I’m in the area today…” hoping to get some help now.  She didn’t have any response, so I said (with a hint of sarcasm), “I’ll be back later” and left.  Fuck them.

There are so many ways this could have ended up differently, and a lot of them are just simple timing.  But, here’s the thing that I keep thinking:  There’s only one person in your entire business who can take care of my request and he’s not here, so effectively, your business is closed to new customers.  You have a shitty business.  Yeah, I’m sure they’re doing fine since they have partnerships with insurance companies and dealerships and so they don’t need me.  Well, I don’t need them either.

The other thing that gets me is, this receptionist has no interest in her employer’s business or in any potential customer’s needs.  First of all, the person she was talking to on the phone was either not important enough to give her full attention to or was more important than me.  Or, I’m just interrupting her phone call.  I could have waited a while to get her full attention, but she decided that wasn’t going to happen.  Next, she was completely useless for me.  She told me who I need to talk to and that was it.  She had nothing to say about the company, the service (ha!), what kind of information I would need, nothing.  She didn’t offer to let me talk to anyone else who might have more information for me.  And how about this?  She didn’t ask for my name or number so they could contact me.  No, I have to come back to them.  Her entire interaction with me said, “Talk to Carlos.  That’s not my job.”

The last time I got irked like that was many years ago when I was shopping for car tires (hmmm, an industry issue?).  I had stopped at a place and asked what tire models they had for my car.  The guy rattled off a few and I asked if he had some paper to write them down.  What I expected was for him to write the options down, but instead, he got a pen and some paper and pushed it towards me.  I was a little stunned by that.  As I’m recounting this, I’m thinking, why was I offended?  And it’s probably more than just the courtesy of him doing it for me, it’s the lack of efficiency involved.  This guy knows the tires and the prices and can jot them down quickly.  Now he’s made more work for both of us, because I have to ask him to repeat himself and maybe ask for spellings while I transcribe.  And he’ll probably be annoyed he has to slowly list these things.  I’ve never seen a case where laziness beat out “it’d be faster to do it myself.”

I Love You Too, World.

I thought I was over that whole ordeal.  You know, the one where a random person slammed into the back of my car while we’re all going full speed on the interstate and just took off.  I spent quite a while both angry at the world and a little fearful about when it was going to happen to me again.  Eventually, I relaxed and accepted that driving in traffic is nothing more than travelling through a large sewer pipe with pieces of shit flowing all around you.  I got back to feeling sorry that these pathetics were stressing themselves out over nothing.  I had moved on.

But, people are going to be people.  I came out of the mall the other day and saw someone had been messing with my car.  The passenger-side mirror was rotated inward partially.  However, that wasn’t the first thing that I noticed.  The first thing I noticed was the driver-side mirror was rotated right the fuck off the door and was dangling by its power cable.

My rage passed through me pretty quickly.  I briefly considered kicking in the door of the truck beside me, since their door could have broken off my mirror, but reconsidered for a few reasons.  First, it’s unlikely someone would bust off the mirror of the car beside them and continue to stick around.  Second, it didn’t look like there was damage on their door consistent with the scenario.  Finally, what good would it do?  Seeing that the other mirror was fucked around with made it more likely it was just a roving gang of teen punks.  You just can’t have anything nice anymore.  Respect for others’ property?  Ha!

What can you do in a case like that?  After I cut off the mirror and was carrying it to the trunk like a cephalophore (your word for the day), the guy who owned the truck next to me – who fortunately did not have his door kicked in by an angry child – showed up.  He had just gotten there about five minutes before, but didn’t notice anything amiss.  Probably just unobservant.  He suggested going back to the mall and asking for security cam footage.  Yeah, that’ll help.  “Oh we know those guys!  We have them in our address book.  We’ll send the cops to their house again now.”  Another victimless crime for them, another mild annoyance for the rich guy with the nice car.

On the positive side (if there is one), it’s not going to cost me as much as I was expecting.  A new set of mirrors is like $90.  Might as well get both to ensure they are perfectly matched.  Not sure how much it will be to paint them, but it shouldn’t be much.  The mirrors did need repainted anyway since they had lots of chips from road gravel and whatnot.  At least this is something I don’t have to get insurance involved with.

“Hi, Progressive.  Yeah, it’s me again.  Haha, yeah, yeah, I know.  Hey, guess what happened this time?  You won’t believe it”

Door-To-Door Windshield Replacement

Yup, that’s right.  I had two people in my neighborhood going door to door telling people they would replace their windshield for free by submitting claims to their insurance.  Oh, this is right up my alley.  First, a story from my past.

Somewhere around 5 years ago, when I had my Acura, I had a small crack develop on my windshield.  Here where I live, there’s some deal that insurance companies have to fix cracked windshields for free.  So, I call my insurance company and say I need my windshield fixed because there is a crack.  They say no problem and send a company out for the repair.

The repair company looks at my car and calls me outside.  They say I need to replace my windshield.  The Acura is at least 8 years old and has like 150k miles on it.  I say, you can patch that, the technology will handle this.  They say they’ll check it again and I go back inside.  They call me back and say that I need my windshield replaced.  I tell them I want a second opinion and I’ll call my insurance company again.  They weren’t happy, but what could they do?

I call the insurance company and explain to them that I felt they were being ripped off by the company they sent first and I wanted someone who would come out and patch my windshield.  They obliged me and when I went out to meet the new repair people, I went to show them the small crack I wanted patched.  The crack wasn’t small anymore.  The previous company had pressed on the crack and expanded it before I dismissed them.  I was furious.

Despite that, the new company was able to patch the larger crack and it never grew for as long as I had the car.  So you can say I am a fan of patching whenever possible.

Jump forward to today and I have this hyper dude telling me that yeah, I have some chips in my windshield and they can replace it for free just by getting my insurance information.  I start my objection by saying I am a fan of patching, not replacing.  He makes some claim that if you have more than 6 chips (and he’s sure there’s at least that many), your insurance will recommend you replace.  I think that’s bullshit, so I just say that replacement is unnecessary.

He says that I don’t pay for anything.  The insurance company pays for it.  I hold up my finger like the educated man I am and reply, “Ah, but I do.  The cost of replacements is reflected in everyone’s insurance cost.”  Deftly countering that argument he says, “You realize you’ve paid for this many times over already, right?”  So I don’t have to pay for this but I’ve already paid for it many times over.  This guy is an uber-salesman.  I just shrug and say, “Hey, I’m just doing my part to keep costs down for everyone.”

I explained to him my glass has already been replaced once and I like the one I have because it’s a little more tinted than the factory glass.  Somehow he still thinks he has a sale, so he says he can put a tint strip along the top.  That’s fucking ugly.  He throws out another option.  No.  Not interested.  So that starts a whole new argument about how this isn’t the right windshield for my car.  What?  Then he says the manufacturer of my glass isn’t that good of quality.  He will guarantee his glass with a lifetime warranty.  Eye-roll.

So I educate him that the car is 5 years old, has been through a flood, is on its second engine, has 190k miles, and just got repaired from a rear-end accident.  The windshield is really the least of my concerns.  At this point he is laughing at me.  Not the kind of laugh that I’m out-arguing him, but more of a mocking laugh.  Fuck this guy.

He shakes my hand and thanks me for my time.  I decided to give him an honest offer that I would call them if I did choose to have my windshield replaced.  I asked for a business card.

“I don’t have any cards.  All I have are invoices.  Invoices for people who are getting windshield replacements.”  Well then.  You can go fuck yourself and your fly-by-night scam business.  Boy, I wish I paid more attention when he talked about his company so I could report them for fraud.

I Guess It Was My Turn.

The last couple days have been pretty hard for me.  Not difficult, just hard.  I’ve been having a hard time getting along with the human race, specifically on the roadways.  My outlook changed last Saturday when I was driving home on the interstate, cruising along with the other cars and I glance in my rear view mirror and see someone right on my ass.  I mean, right there.

“Surely they realize how close they are and how unsafe that is.  They’ll slow down now.” is the thought I had in my mind when the impact occurred.  Everything in the car went flying. drinks spilled, shifter thrown into neutral, GF screaming.  Even though we were surrounded by cars, it’s surprising how quickly openings appear when cars collide.  I was able to quickly get over to the right hand median.  But my assailant didn’t.  Nor did he have any intention of doing anything of the sort.

Still in shock, I hadn’t realized yet that the car was in neutral, so trying to take chase of the other car was delayed by a few precious seconds while I wondered why the car wouldn’t move.  Did I take so much damage that my tires were pinned?  Nope.  I got back in drive and took off in pursuit.

Unfortunately, traffic worked hard against me, blocking me in lane after lane.  And I was disadvantaged because I’m clearly not as reckless as the one who hit me.  My hopes of catching the assaulter fell quickly.  One of the cars I caught up to and tried to get around started gesturing at me.  They kept pointing to the right hand side of the road even though we were in the left lane.  Eventually, we both pulled off to the left side.

I immediately went and looked at my damaged bumper.  Honestly, it wasn’t bad.  The other people got out of their car and explained that the car I wanted just got off on the exit we just passed together.  Well, that’s lost.  But, they said they got the plate number, so hooray!  We traded info in case I needed a witness (tip: highway patrol and insurance really want a witness).

So, to speed the story up a bit, the police were unable to find a matching car with that plate number.  I have to pay my insurance deductible because no one can find the hit-and-run bastard.  But, I’m grateful things didn’t turn out much worse.  Getting hit at 75mph, I could have swerved, flipped, gotten t-boned, hit a pole, and maybe even taken out other cars (and who would then be responsible for that?!).  Things aren’t that bad.

But they are.  I had been slowly getting more and more frustrated by the behavior of other drivers on the highway.  Insanely unsafe driving with no regard for others.  I’ve recently had to keep my composure when delayed by accidents.  It takes a lot for me to not get to the accident site and yell out the window, “You motherfuckers!  Do you see what you’ve done?!”

When I see a car coming up behind me now, my first thought is, “Are you going to hit me, too?  Why don’t you?”  Every time I see someone weave through traffic, I think, “Are you going to run away?  Do you even know what risk you’re taking?  Do you even fucking care?”  I know the answer.  They don’t.  I used to not let that worry me, because these self-centered assholes never affected me.  But now they have, and I want to wage war.

Right now, I’m debating on buying a dash cam.  I feel I need to document this insanity.  I’m also giving thought to creating a website exposing these ridiculous drivers.  I will probably need to get some council to determine if such a thing is legal, and I really hope it is.  To have a searchable database of license plates with user-submitted video proof of the owner’s dangerous driving habits, that may make a difference.

And if it doesn’t, or if such a thing can’t be done, well, I guess I just have to suck it up and pay the deductible.  The assholes win again. 

Journalism Is Dead

Every day, I read a lot of articles.  And every day, I get more and more saddened by the decline in journalistic standards.  It’s near impossible to find an article that does not clearly express the author’s biases and preferences.

The promotion or derision of any product, service, or company is done both by what is said and what is not said.  An author may compare only features or facts that are superior to competitors, or vice versa if that’s the author’s goal.  An author will state opinions as facts. as in, “no one likes or will use this feature.”  Even if an author tries to defend his or her bias with “everyone I asked agrees that…”, it is still a flawed sample, since like-minded people tend to attract each other.  This is the echo chamber where clusters of people come to believe something as truth when it is simply an exaggerated – or even made-up – opinion.

Spelling and grammar are obsolete.  The argument, “you still understood what I meant,” seems to have grown beyond common comments into the articles themselves.  Editors are either non-existent, with many articles being published by a person whose title is “Editor”, or if they are, they are ineffective.  I just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal (now corrected) where the editor’s review comment was left in the article body.  This is what passes for quality?

And it’s not just print media that has died.  I don’t watch TV anymore, so when I do by happenstance, I am astounded at the behavior of news anchors.  The tone and inflection in their delivery takes ordinary news to tabloid levels.  You would never see an exclamation point in a real news story, but these talking heads are trying their hardest to indicate what emotion you need to be feeling about the story at hand.

The emotional aspect comes back to the print media as well, where “news” is essentially an opinion piece with a few facts mixed in.  Product reviews are not objective, but instead are a litany of praise or condemnation as to how the product suited the reviewer’s needs.  And this is pretty much standard now.  The best way to get a review is to find a reviewer who has the same wants and needs as you do.  Reviewers don’t simply explain features, they explain how you should feel about features.  For example, “the product has a hinge that allows it to open up 45 degrees” versus “the product has a hinge that allows it to only open to 45 degrees, limiting its usefulness.”

And a rant on article comments should be forthcoming…