Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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:


April 1, 2014

One of the best discussions I’ve heard about BitCoin:

Ralph Lemnah’s Alpha Stirling

April 1, 2014

Ralph Lemnah and I worked on some Gamma Stirling engines a while back.  They would run on my wood stove, on a gas kitchen stove, or on an alcohol burner.  We used a Coleman “globe” for the displacer chamber, so that one can watch the displacer motion.  I used foam core for the propeller blades, making them much safer than engines with metal blades.  This is what they looked like:

Gamma One From Angle

Gamma One From Left

We also built a few Ringboms:

Coleman One From Back

Coleman Two From Angle

Tuning the Ringboms for performance required attention to the spring that keeps the displacer piston hanging in a neutral position.

We put all of the design information onto a CD, which is available at a nominal cost for people who wish to expand on our designs.

My interests turned to other things (3D printing) but Ralph has now come up with an Alpha Stirling that works quite well:




Features include adjustable displacer and piston throws and an optional gravity fed water cooling system for the cold end.  Ralph hopes to display this at the Champlain Maker Fair in October of 2014

End of a Personal Era

November 16, 2013

My father died on Monday, October 14, 2013. This is the obituary that my sister and I came up with:


Doctor Philip Kramer Bondy, research endocrinologist at Yale University for 37 years, died on October 14, 2013 after a short illness; he was 95. Born in New York City, to Eugene Lyons Bondy and Irene Kramer Bondy on December 15, 1917, Bondy was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia University. He graduated from Harvard College Medical School in 1942, having been elected to the AOA and Sigma Xi honor societies. He interned at Peter Bent Brigham hospital and, after serving briefly in the Army during World War II as a physician, became chief resident and assistant professor at Emory University. He married Sarah (Sally) Ernst on March 18, 1949. They moved to Yale University in 1952, where he worked until his retirement, excepting a five-year stint from 1971 to 1976 at the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research in London. At Yale, Bondy specialized in endocrinology, metabolism, and internal medicine and served as Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine for seven years. He published numerous papers that advanced the understanding of diabetes, adrenocortical function, endocrine effects on cancer, and the role of polyamines on cell differentiation. Bondy edited widely-used medical reference books (Duncan’s Diseases of Metabolism, Genetics and Metabolism, the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy), and scientific journals, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Bondy’s involvement in the YJBM, a journal run jointly by Yale faculty and students, typified his passion for medical education and mentorship. Bondy completed his career as the Chief of Staff of the West Haven Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Upon retirement, he and his wife, Sally, worked for over a decade with the Home and School Association of Southbury Training School, and were on the board of the Southbury Training School Foundation. Scientist by vocation, Bondy’s avocations tended toward the arts and humanities. Amateur photographer with his own darkroom, painter, writer, and voracious reader, he consumed all manner of literature including all seven volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He was an avid lifelong cellist, from his undergraduate days as Manager of Columbia University’s orchestra to his participation as principal cellist in the Hamden Symphony Orchestra through his late eighties. He loved stinky cheese and once was forced to store his cheese in a train’s baggage car so it would not offend his fellow passengers. Bondy was also a sailing enthusiast who enjoyed strapping his Sailfish on top of his car and heading out to sail it in lakes all over New England. An unpretentious man with a dry wit, his greatest joy was sharing ideas. His intellectual clarity and generosity of spirit were an inspiration to friends, family, and generations of physicians in training. He is survived by his wife Sarah Ernst Bondy of North Branford; his son Jonathan Bondy of Fletcher, VT; his daughter Jessica Bondy of Denver, CO and her husband Thornton Roby and their children Courtney and Evan; and his son, Steven of Hamden, CT.


I suppose that everyone thinks of their dad as being “special” or “great”, in a personal way. If you look at my father’s achievements (Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Chairman of the Department of Medicine), you might think of him as “great” in a manner that is more factual and less subjective.

But even this description does not really capture the depth and breadth of the man. While his main focus was that of a professional research and academic scientist and physician, he also had a deep fascination with many cultural and artistic aspects of life.

He played the cello all of this life, playing chamber music when I was a child, and in an orchestra after he retired, as first cellist. He enjoyed museums of all kinds, from art to historical, and was knowledgeable about a broad range of issues. I recall saying that I found Picasso’s cubist paintings to be unfathomable (I just might have said “stupid”), and he explained how one needed to know Picasso’s history, and the development of his style, to understand his art: he had read all about that. He read the entire collection of seven volumes of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He was a voracious reader, right up until about a year before his death, reading numerous magazines and 1-2 books a week.

He loved photography. The first images of me were taken by him, and developed and printed by him in his darkroom. He continued to take photographs into the digital age, displaying some of his work around his apartment. He took great joy in life through those images.

And he loved to sail. He sailed when he was a kid, as an adult at the Yale Yacht Club (a bit of a misnomer, since the boats we sailed in were probably 15 feet long), and at our summer house, up until about 8 years ago. He and my mother used to drag their SunFish all over New England.

He enjoyed gardening: I recall him digging up all of the iris and day lily bulbs so that he could replant them. He mowed his own lawn and plowed his own driveway (with a snow blower) as long as he lived in his home, before moving to a retirement community. He split wood for exercise, even though he suffered from emphysema. In fact, he predicted his death as being imminent about 20 years ago. Fortunately, his lung function stabilized for two decades.

His love of food was similarly broad. He traveled to the middle east on business when I was young, he brought back the recipe for hummus, after which we made hummus regularly. He was a thoughtful and precise griller of steak, and used his knowledge of anatomy to dismantle lobsters with a thoroughness that had everyone funneling their carcasses to him for final disassembly. He loved potato pancakes, and made them with skill. He also loved stinky cheeses like Liederkranz as well as bologna and liverwurst. And rare or even raw beef (steak tartar). No vegetarian, he, and yet he lived to be 95.

He was an accomplished and brilliant man who did not need to impress those around him. He was generous with his explanations of history and art, but also helped those around him understand medical issues as we encountered them. Many people turned to him when confronted with difficult times.

He wrote a history of his life up until he met his wife, from about 1920 until about 1950. It gave all of us a window back into a past that seems almost surreal now. A time when there were no useful weather forecasts, and a hurricane could arrive without notice, devastating everything in sight. A time when health was not something to take for granted. His devotion to medicine may have originated with health problems that he encountered as a child.

I recall bringing a science project in to class at one point. The subject was osmosis, and he explained the phenomenon to to me so clearly that I believed that I understood it. My teacher was not so sure that I had “done” the project, but his clarity of thought and prose enabled me to grasp what my teacher thought was beyond me.

He provided the intellectual model on which I have lived my life, with logic, rational thought, and science as the center piece. He demonstrated the power of knowledge and logic through the ways that he explained phenomena, life, science, and even social and historical events. All of this without losing touch with his love of music, food, and other subjects less amenable to scientific definition. Those around me benefit from the fabric of his being.

And he was articulate and well spoken. My ability to write and speak is due, in large part, to the example that he provided every day as I grew up with him.

He was accepting of me as adult, even when I did stupid things. I took it for granted that all parents were thoughtful and kind with their kids. Later, I learned from friends how lucky I was that he gave me the space to make mistakes, even as an adult, while also providing support, but only as needed. He rarely passed judgment on me or on my acts, or even offered opinions, unless asked. There is a subtlety about this that amazes me.

When my mother began to be confused, he remained patient with her, answering the same question over and over again, ignoring her annoyance when he could not speak loudly enough for her, or when his requests were confusing to her. I asked him once why he did not snap at her when she asked the same question for the 10th time. He explained that getting angry would not help. While this is true, many people would not be as thoughtful and disciplined as he was. His love and devotion to her manifested in many ways, some of which were subtle.

He was thoughtful and organized to the end. Just 2 weeks before he died, and just a few days before he moved into a health care facility, he transferred money into his joint account, so that I was able to take care of my mother after he died. And he left a 4 page list of accounts, insurance policies, and pensions, so that I was not left in the dark. His mind was sharp right to the very end. His lungs? Not so much, unfortunately.

My Poor Man’s Media Center

June 22, 2013

I bought a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 a few months ago.  They’re about $270 now, but you can find refurbs and used ones for $200,  which is what I did.  While the ads that Amazon pushes at you when you first start the device are annoying, the display quality is wonderful, it is thin and light, and the battery lasts long enough to be useful.  I’ve been using it mostly to read Kindle books.

When I decided that spending $1000/year for satellite TV was becoming absurd, I killed the satellite TV connection.  That left me with no easy way to feed a TV signal to my TV (watching YouTube on my PC remained easy to do).  For under $10 I purchased a special HDMI cable that connects my Kindle to my HD TV.  I can now watch YouTube videos on my TV easily, direct from my Kindle, either streamed or from files.

I usually download the YouTube videos, rather than streaming them, both so that I can watch them again later, but also to ensure high quality playback.  I can download the videos onto my PC and then stream those downloaded files directly to the Kindle over WiFi.  I walk the Kindle over to the TV, plug into the TV, and away I go.  The cable is long enough that I can run the TV with the Kindle on my lap.

You can try to stream current TV shows on the Kindle, but Hulu is only licensed to stream to a PC, not an Android device, for many shows; some networks also restrict streaming to phones and Android devices.  There are plugins for the FireFox browser which allow you to tell Hulu that you are running on a PC, even though you are running on a Kindle (one is called “Phony” for example).  That should allow me to stream more TV content straight to the Kindle, and then to my TV