Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why You Should Avoid Meetup and WePay

June 21, 2019

I have been a member of Meetup for almost 10 years. I have run a Meetup group that has scheduled almost 500 events, about one a week.

Meetup has a great idea (creating topical groups [hiking, dancing, meditation, music, etc] and then help people locate and attend events in order to enjoy themselves and meet people). What they have lacked, for almost a decade, is a technical and support staff that functions. They have literally the worst app and worst web site I have ever encountered. They have failed to fix bugs for year after year. For example, their initial delivery of their app lacked the messaging feature that all of us relied upon. They are clueless in almost every regard. They never fail to disappoint me.

In an attempt to help monetize their web site, they coordinated with the WePay service. A group organizer can specify that group members must pay (say) $5 per year to support the group. That helps cover the $180/year that Meetup takes from the group organizers. Meetup ensure that the fees are collected, and WePay manages moving the money from the members to Meetup. And, of course, both Meetup and WePay take a cut.

The Meetup/WePay system worked well for a year or so, with a few quirks, but inevitably something went wrong. One of my members (who never attended any events) paid $5 for his first year, and then was automatically billed $5 for his second year. I imagine that he did not want to pay the second $5. Had he contacted me and asked for a refund, I could have, and would have, arranged for that. But he did not do anything that polite or reasonable. Instead, he went to his bank and disputed the charge.

Now, the charge was valid. He signed up and agreed to the charge. When I was notified of the disputed charge, I assumed that he would get his $5 back (fine with me) but that I would not be charged the $15 penalty. Wrong. Neither his bank nor WePay nor Meetup were willing to listen to reason. So, I lost $15 (to his bank) for doing nothing wrong. The bank stole $15 from me.

I have contacted WePay and Meetup since this incident, and they do not see what the problem is. I made a constructive suggestion: that Meetup require that a member ask for a refund before they are allowed to file a dispute over a charge. Meetup wanted nothing to do with this recommended improvement.

The bottom line is this. If you use Meeup and WePay, you can, at any moment, be charged fees that you did not agree to and that are not fair. And you cannot expect either Meetup or WePay to care at all.

Proceed at your own risk.

Credit Card Disputes

June 13, 2017

I recently disputed a large (almost $4K) credit card charge, for a 3D printer.  I had gone back and forth with the manufacturer, and eventually returned it when it failed to work properly.

After I disputed the charge, the manufacturer was given an opportunity to respond to my dispute.  They did so, with 35 pages containing all of the emails that we had traded back and forth.  They also said that they agreed to refund my money.

The credit card company (Citi Bank’s AT&T Universal MasterCard) then reversed the credit that they had given me.  They did this after their “investigators” had “investigated”.  I guess their investigators cannot read English.

The credit card company claims that if a merchant responds to a disputed charge at all, that the credit card company is required, BY LAW, to reverse the credit.

This is beyond my belief.  I can understanding a reversal of credit if there are facts in dispute, but in this case, the merchant agrees with me: give me the credit.

Perhaps the people at Citi Bank were lying to me.  Or perhaps some legislators created this unwise and bizarre situation.

In any event, at this point I want the refund, the merchant has agreed to the refund, and Citi Bank is sitting in the middle, denying me the refund.

Salty Ear Buds Make Samsung Phones Go Crazy

June 7, 2017

I took my Etymotic ear buds and Samsung S6 phone out with me while I cut brush.  It was a warm day, and I was sweating quite a bit.  When I got home, the audio volume started to increase and decrease erratically.  Spontaneous clicks in various places caused applications to start spontaneously.  The phone was almost impossible to use.

I moved the ear buds to another similar phone, but that phone also went crazy.  Rebooting the phones did not help. But swapping to a different set of ear buds fixed the problem.

I’m only writing this up because I could find nothing about this problem when I did a Google search.  I hope this helps someone else who finds themselves with “broken” phones and no idea what is going wrong.

The Dayton Audio Epique (CBT24K) Linear Array Speaker System Kit from Parts Express

May 29, 2017

I purchased the Eqique speaker kit from Dayton Audio.  The kit arrived in two boxes.  The larger box (16″ by 19″ by 67″) contains the speaker cabinet, stand, wiring harness, and miscellaneous parts; the smaller box contains the 48 drivers.

The packaging was spectacular: the larger box contained a second box which contained the speaker cabinets themselves.  The outer box had a hole in it, as did the inner box, but the speaker cabinets were perfect.  They each come wrapped in a cloth bag.  I felt as if an enormous amount of care was taken to ensure a quality product arrived at my home.

The speaker cabinets are made from MDF.  The joints were perfect.  MDF can be a challenging surface to finish, and there were some spots that needed attention before a primer could be applied.  I put on two coats of primer.

Finishing the speaker cabinet was challenging.  I chose a Rust-Oleum hammered paint using a small roller.  The instructions on the can are insufficient to allow you to get good results.  If you try to apply a second coat at the recommended 30 minutes, you may dissolve  some of the first coat, leaving white patches.  Better to wait 4 hours before applying the next coat.  Also, you need to apply a LOT of paint, and then work with it quickly: if you come back a few minutes later, the roller will leave stringy hairs of paint as the paint thickens. The way around this is to finish each section and then move on, or to use the roller very slowly if you need to return later.  I needed 3 or more coats before it looked uniform.

The assembled cabinet has a floor stand, and there are gaps between the speaker and the stand.  You may wish to assemble the speaker to the stand, fill in the gaps, and then finish the entire structure, in order to eliminate the gaps.  If you choose to finish the cabinet and stand separately, be sure to finish inside the stand, since it will show via the gap.


The wiring harness and drivers are polarized, which eliminates many potential problems. Good attention to detail.


A word about the hex drivers (Allen wrench) used to mount the drivers.  You will be screwing in a LOT of screws (almost 200).  If you allow the hex driver to spin in the screws, you will round off the tip of the driver.  Best practice seems to be to use an electric drill or electric screw driver to get the hex head screws in about 80% of the way, and then tighten them by hand later.  This minimizes the chance that you will round off the driver and/or round off the hex sockets.  I used an electric drill on low speed.

Note that the hex screws are not uniform, and some of the hex sockets will not work.  Out of the 200 or so that I used, I found about 4 that were unusable because the sockets were too large.  You are better off discarding those screws than trying to make them work.

When you remove the drivers from their boxes, do so a few inches over a flat surface.  The plastic bag around one of the speakers was attached to the label on the box, and the driver did not fall out of the box as expected.

The following procedure may serve you better than the instructions from the manufacturer

  1. After finishing the speaker cabinet and mounting the cabinet to the base, place it on a 20″ stand.  Do NOT install the rear connection cup yet; it is easier to connect the wiring harness to the cup before you mount the cup to the speaker cabinet.
  2. Drop the wiring harness in through the top driver hole and pull all of the numbered driver wires out of each driver hole.  I did not need to tape the driver wires to the side of the cabinet.  Be sure to put driver 24 at the top of the cabinet (that is, feed the wires for driver #1 in first).
  3. Pull the two input wires out the back of the cabinet and attach to the rear connection cup.  Then attach the rear connection cup to the cabinet using screws from the big packet of speaker mounting screws.
  4. The instructions say to install the drivers with the cabinet on its back, but I installed the drivers with the cabinet vertically.  Push one of the polyfill damping pads into the #2 driver hole, and distribute it behind drivers #1, #2, and #3.  Then connect the bottom 3 drivers to the wiring harness and mount them to the cabinet, from the bottom up.  Be careful to ensure that the spade connections are made properly: if the spade slips between the connector and the enclosing plastic insulator, it can feel as if it is properly inserted, but it is not.  Only tighten the screws 80% of the way, using an electric drill or screw driver. Be careful to support the cabinet with one hand while you screw with the other: the stand is not designed for pressure from a screw driver (which may be why the manufacturer recommended that the drivers be installed with the cabinet on its back).  The drivers are a tight press fit into the cabinet, so you could install all of the screws after the drivers are in place
  5. Work up from the bottom of the cabinet toward the top, three drivers at a time; they are boxed in rows of 3, which is convenient.  If you do this, it is impossible to drop a screw into the cabinet.  When finished with the first 12 drivers, go back and tighten all of the screws by hand.
  6. When you get half way up the speaker cabinet, place the speaker cabinet on the floor and continue with the remainder of the drivers

Here are some pictures of the speakers during the build process.

Wiring harness installed and ready for batting and drivers


Drivers partially installed


Drivers installed


From the side


GEICO is ridiculous

April 24, 2016

I sold a car, and called my auto insurance company, GEICO so that I could remove that car from my policy.  After that was completed, the agent asked if I wanted a quote for an umbrella liability policy.  This kind of sales tactic is called an “up-sell”.  I was a bit annoyed, but amused, so I said that I would listen.  I was then passed over to the liability insurance sales woman.  As my first GEICO employee passed me off, he said “She will help you with the insurance that you need”; and the new employee said “How can I help you get the insurance that you need?”.

Of course, I did not “need” any insurance.  This is all part of trying to sell, trying to make the customer believe that they have additional needs, needs that they were not even aware of when they placed the call.

I answered a series of questions, after which the woman said that she was sorry, but I was not eligible for insurance because I was a “politician”.

I serve on my local Select Board, a kind of town council that is common in New England.  I get to go to a meeting every other week, and deal with other matters in between, all for a stunning $600 a year.  I think of myself more as an administrator and a public servant than as a politician.  But, whatever.

It irritates me that GEICO sees public service as making me an undesirable insurance customer.  Are that many politicians being sued these days?

Shame on you, Geico.  You turned a neutral call from me into an opportunity to get pissed off at you.  Way to go.

Penton Destroys Windows Secrets

February 4, 2016

I have been a loyal reader of the Windows Secrets newsletter for over 15 years. Each week, I could expect to receive an informative newsletter in my email. I could read it right there, although links were provided to additional content.

Penton purchased WS recently, and they turned a convenient information service into an annoying attempt to force people to their web sites to sell ads.  They now send out teasers and force the reader to go to their site, log in, and read the content there.

If I wanted to go to the web, I would have used Google in the first place, and bypassed WS entirely.  And that is what I am now doing.  The WS content was appreciated when it was convenient and easy to access.  Once Penton made it difficult, the WS content has no value to me.

I respect Penton’s right to make their content less available and more annoying, so I simply unsubscribed.  And this is where I got really pissed off.

Repeated attempts to unsubscribe and contact customer service have failed to garner a response, and the unwanted spam emails continue from Penton, now at the rate of 2 or 3 each week.  I imagine that Penton’s actions are actually illegal, given that I have unsubscribed repeatedly.

Not much you can do if a company like Penton will not listen to your communications.  I guess they want to keep their readership numbers up, even while people are abandoning WS in droves.  Good luck with bad customer service, Penton…

Credit Card Fraud

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas.

I woke up this morning to be informed that 4 fraudulent transactions had taken place on my card on Christmas day before I even woke up.  My card has been canceled: I will get another in under a week.

This is not the first time this has happened.  The most recent time was less than a year ago.  And while the credit card companies brag about how we do not have to pay for fraudulent transactions, nor for replacement cards, the impact on me is significant.  I know that it will take months before I stop receiving  notices about bounced charges.  I already have a list of vendors to notify.  This is becoming routine.

If the rate at which cards need to be canceled increases, we may get to the point where we have not recovered from the last cancellation before the next occurs.

Something needs to be done.  The credit card companies need to increase their security.  Krebs On Security has noted that patterns of fraud are not acted on quickly and effectively; the credit card companies do not seem to care.  Why should they?  The “losses” that are incurred due to fraud are covered by the fees we pay for each transaction.  ATM scanners exist around the country, and using your credit card in a major chain store risks fraud and termination of your current credit card number.

All I get from the credit card company is apologies.  We need more than that.  We need effective action.

$1B spent, and we are still unsafe?!?

September 15, 2014

This article explains how we spent $1B on technology that did not work, and this fact was not revealed until after the technology was obsolete.  If the folks who keep the secrets in our government can’t do a better job, then we need to change something.  This is scary, and embarrassing.  And it is not protecting us.  Why would they approve technology that does not protect us?  Is this all about Big Business selling crap to make money?  The cynic in me tries to find a different explanation, and fails.

Peter Bacon Hales

August 28, 2014

A good friend from college days died on Tuesday.

Peter was an extraordinary person: historian, raconteur, musician.  His ability to assemble enormous amounts of historical information, and connect all of the pieces, was always beyond my ability to digest.  His stories, always entertaining.  But it was as a musician that we connected the most.

While I have dabbled with music most of my life, Peter created bands and played gigs for much of his life.  He was as proficient on acoustic guitar as electric, and played a mean pedal steel, but it was as a slide guitar player that he really shined.  He brought not only his versatility to our band, but also his organization, broad recollections of styles and pieces, and good taste.  We are fortunate in that we played together just 2 weeks ago.  It is hard to imagine our band continuing on without him.  It certainly will be savagely altered.

Peter traveled the country, photographing and experiencing the US in a way that few of my other friends seem to have done.  And he did not just let those experiences wash over him: he correlated and integrated and synthesized. He offered his observations for others to consider.  He was actively engaged in life, on many levels.

A chain smoker in college, he abandoned that in his 20s and started bicycling competitively.  He thought nothing of a 1 or 2 hour bike ride, just about every day, and was strong and fit.  It is ironic that he was killed when a car hit him from behind.  He never made it to the hospital.

He had just retired, had purchased some land with his wife, and was in the middle of creating a long-term sustainable farm.  This is a stunning loss to us all, but most of all to Mo, his wife.  They had decades of happy living ahead of them.  What a crushing blow.

I am at the age where it is clear that I will either start to lose friends, or they will lose me.  That reality seemed distant until yesterday morning.  Words cannot express how sad and devastated I feel.  Moments like this focus one on the fact that life is precious, that each person is unique and irreplaceable, and that one must live life now, and not defer it to some vague moment in the future.

I will remember Peter, fondly and with great admiration, as long as I live.


Classic Peter, with guitar, white tee, and ripped jeans


Peter smiling nicely for the camera, while I try to act the curmudgeon.

I play those guitars, too…

July 12, 2014

Those of you who have checked out my web site ( know that I have built some guitars over the years.  I got together with friends from college and we played a dance last month.  You can check it out here: