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Right now am trying out the Clear Hub Express modem from CLEAR 4G Internet provider. I had a cable modem, but they increased prices far too much - funny how cable companies like to charge long-time existing customers a lot, and provide deep discounts to new customers!
CLEAR 4G has good prices - and very bad reviews on the web, including an ongoing class-action suit related to cutting off service for heavy usage even though they claim "unlimited data and no overage fees". My hope is that they are improving on this front now and are therefore worth a try. End result - mixed feelings about them. Mainly because their software is deficient and has bugs so it requires contacting customer support and that quality continues to be abysmal. Cable modem devices have much better software quality compared to CLEAR devices.
The report below is based on the 1.5Mbps download plan for $35/month as of March 2013. They prefer to have people buy the $50/month plan with 6Mbps service but the lower plan is good enough for most uses, including HQ level YouTube videos. If you want to watch 720p or higher HD resolutions, then something greater than 2Mbps is necessary. And at $50/month cost, it is not competitive with Cable Modems which usually offer $60/month plans for 20Mbps or higher. The YouTube wikipedia page has a table showing rates of different video resolutions.
Summary: remember to turn off all roaming - not just data-roaming - to avoid excessive phone company charges.
When traveling with your phone, everyone now seems to be aware of the excessive and unexpected costs that show up on the phone bill after your travel.
Phone companies very sneakily gouge customers on roaming charges. So when you search for this topic on the web, there are numerous pages that explain how to turn off roaming.
That help is misleading, since it is for data roaming only, and that is not sufficient. Data is the big problem of course, but there is also the problem of voice and text - sending and receiving phone calls and text messages.
And at least on the Android phones, there is no indication of this happening too. You take your phone from US to say Canada or Europe, and think you are all good - you've turned off data roaming, which was easy to do in the Settings. But then your phone rings - you are surprised, hey, US phone works in this country? You pick up the phone, you talk, and BAM! you are now liable for multiple dollars per minute of charges. And there is no help in the Android menus to indicate you are being billed roaming charges. You did not receive any warning, and if you continue to use your phone and make calls, you'll get hit with large bills when you get back home.
Sadly, there is no easy way to turn off voice and text roaming on a Android smartphone.
This is too bad - it lays a trap for unwary customers.
A multi-step workaround: Go into Settings, More... button, and turn on Airplane mode.
But this turns off WiFi too, which is not desirable. Go back into Settings and turn on WiFi.
This is better! Took a few steps, but now you won't have any phone company surprises.
And GPS still continues to work, at least in one of the phones I tried.
Lahey Clinic is a large hospital organization, just outside Boston.
They have a cozy relationship with the insurance companies. With insurance, consumers can reap advantages - the rates billed are quite low and certainly reasonable.
But Lahey Clinic completely turns a deaf ear when the patient is paying out of their own pocket. Outrageous bills are presented, and they refuse to offer any consideration at all when it is the lone patient asking them to be reasonable.
If the insurance company called, they would slash their rates by a lot. When a patient calls, they say no reduction is possible - and the patient has to pay the highly inflated, outrages list prices. This is a perverted system - there is no way any consumer can make a dent in the way medical system billing occurs in the US.
This is why a single payer system makes far more sense - medical service is not like purchasing cars or furniture - there is no way for the consumer to make any dent in the transactions involving such huge medical enterprises.
And surely if single payer is not acceptable, we can design a system where everyone gets to pay what insurance companies pay for medical treatment? Right now the hospitals soak the people who are not insured - essentially, robbing the self-insured and the uninsured to pay for the insured. Of course, they are also robbing the taxpayers in this system.
The US medical system continues to confuse and confound - this time my strange tale is regarding the worst aspect of this system - the pricing and the billing.
Some conservatives loudly trumpet that consumers must be made aware of medical costs and that such comparison shopping will reduce the cost of medical care in the US medical system.
Bah, humbug, I say! The system is geared towards making that not work at all. The people who wish to self-insure and pay out of their pocket end up getting a raw deal.
The biggest problem with "comparison shopping" for medical care is that it is not possible. When you are in the doctor's office, and he or she tells you to get a bunch of tests done or a bunch of exams from other specialists - it is impossible to start asking questions and inquire about costs. Then we are told that before getting such exams done, the consumers should call up the insurance company and the doctor to make sure the costs involved are understood. This fails too - it is difficult to get a reasonable answer from them - since they can't know the cost until they examine the patient. And there are so many rules and exceptions that it is really not possible to get any idea of the cost involved before the treatment.
Even after all that, when the time comes to bill the consumer - the self-insured consumer who wants to pay from their own pocket gets completely shafted by the system.
In this story, my mistake was assuming that when my insurance said things like: "we cover preventive care", "we don't cover dental", and "we don't cover eye-glasses", it meant that they would cover preventive eye exams. That was completely wrong. They did not cover preventive eye care.
After years of always buying Levi's 505 jeans, curiosity got the better of me and this year I ended up with two different blue jeans:
One is just under $200. Brand name does not matter, but there are many brands in this range: AG Jeans, 7 For All Mankind, Brooks Brothers Levi's, Citizens of Humanity, Hudson Jeans, Fidelity Denim, True Religion Brand Jeans, etc.
The other is $25 - way less cost, newly found at Target and made by Levi's: denizen jeans and sold in a few countries only: denizen USA.
Now all that matters about pants is that they feel comfortable and in the end blue jeans are just blue jeans! Given that the denizen jeans look pretty good, and I frankly can't find the difference between many of the jeans under $50 and the ones over $150. Maybe this year I'll find out if there is any difference, now that I have one of each. I doubt it, will update this post if things change and the cheaper jean just falls apart or zipper just fails or something. Otherwise, for now, I think the inexpensive jeans are just as good as the expensive ones :-)
This is about an interior fence in Arlington that is so revered by the Russell Place Condo Board, that they can think of absolutely no change that can be done to it, whether small or large.
Is this a border or boundary fence, you might ask? No, it isn't.
Is this a structural fence, you might ask? No, it isn't.
Is this protecting an important section, guiding peoples' passage, you might ask? No, it doesn't.
It ends up a pretty funny story and shows the absurd logic of the Board in defending their "No" answers regarding any change to the wooden fence.
The web is filled with the stories about crazy things that Condo Board of Trustees do. Most stories are nightmares, such as the Home Sweet Hell news report, and an entire blog devoted to Condos Nightmares And Other Enigmas.
The links above have quotes like "... That meant they controlled what condo fees everyone in the three-unit building paid, what would or wouldn’t get done to the property’s common areas..." and a description of what happens to normal people when they have to deal with a board of trustees - you enter the world of Rights-Deprived Citizens in America!
The articles above suggest that very small condo associations are a problem because a small number of people can gang up and completely control what goes on in the entire condo complex.
And that larger groups are much better, because no one small group can dictate their terms over all.
It sort-of makes sense, but turns out that does not turn out like that in practice.
2012 July update: After months of not using Reliance, I tried it again for a few times this month and it seemed to work fine for a couple of times. But then, it failed again - after 5 minutes into the call, the audio got cut-off, but the connection was still alive. So this is still not usable, all that has changed is it takes longer for the audio to cut out.
Starting in the middle of 2011, the calling card from Reliance GlobalCall has been a disaster to use. Every time I connect from the US to some number in India using their local access numbers, the audio abruptly cuts out. And there is just silence on the call at my end, and lot of static at the other end. This happens anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes into the call. At peak times on weekends it is really bad and cuts off in under 10-30 seconds.
For years, using Reliance to call India from US worked fine. Starting sometime in 2011, it has been touch-and-go, most of the time the conversation gets cut off even though the line is still connected.
So Craigslist is making it hard to post ads for real posters who care about their privacy (Craigslist Wants Your Phone Number) and simultaneously letting very easy-to-spot scam postings totally fill their vacation rental pages!
New York, and London - just look at the vacation rental pages on craigslist. So easy to spot the scams - when you see the same pattern of ad repeated many times, it is a scam. In addition to scams, craigslist is now filled with useless Airbnb postings which are just noise and do not provide a contact email address or phone number. The Airbnb automated postings are for Airbnb members only - craigslist should not allow them, they are just ads for Airbnb.
There are many sites with information on scams: Rental Scams, and here's a guide to craigslist scams. And important to note that while it is easy to spot the scammers that are from out-of-town, there are also scams involving local people, as shown in NY Times - Renters Get Swindled and Scammed article.
The easy signs of a scam are poor English in the posting and in subsequent communication, too many postings that look the same with different rentals and different email addresses, "contract" does not contain dates (they want you to fill in dates which means they don't really care), you can change dates a lot and apartment will still be available, and sometimes - low prices (no way a NYC midtown 2-bedroom apartment is available for $200/day). And if you ask to see the apartment and the renting agent immediately (even just as a bait - ask this even if you are not in that town), they will make up a reason why that is not possible, and that indicates a scam.
[This posting applies to MA residential property only.]
Tax abatement for residential property is one of those topics where there are a large number of misunderstandings - some owners think they are paying too much (but they aren't) others think they may be paying too less (but in fact they may be paying more than necessary).
The most important thing to remember is the assessment - "Total Real Estate Value" on the MA Real Estate Tax form - has absolutely no relation to the market price of the property. It is simply a number used to calculate your property tax.
It does reflect the amounts assigned to similar properties - so all properties in your town that are largely similar to yours, will (should) have similar "Total Real Estate Value" amounts.
This makes sense since the goal is to spread the tax fairly, and as long as similar houses are valued the same, applying the percentage property tax means everyone is taxed fairly.
But - this is where things can get out of sync. The Board of Assessors in the town Tax Collector's office only has the actual real estate sales figures to go by. And it is very difficult to figure out what other "similar houses" exist in the area. So the assessment is made on recent sales, corrected for any information the assessors may have regarding similar property.
This system has a tendency to inflate property taxes for recent purchasers of property. Their house values are higher than the other similar houses that were bought way in the past. There are other reasons too why these values can drift apart, for both recent and past purchasers. This is where the tax abatement process comes in. Property owners can file for tax abatement - and as long as they provide concrete data regarding relative values of comparable properties - it becomes easy for the Board of Assessors to update the value of your property.
I had not used for craigslist to post classifieds for a long time and had never run into this problem. But looks like now any posting to craigslist requires a phone number where they send a code which has to be entered into the phone authentication page.
They now want a phone number for posting a $10 ad about selling old chairs? Why on earth?
If this is supposed to filter spam, it certainly won't - spammers will find it worth their time to provide a phone number. And it has not cut down on spam at all - the electronics section is so full of spam - it is mostly spam - with text not matching the title and a big image on the page displaying a web site to go to for "deals". And vacation section pages are full of people posting from other cities and completely useless for actually finding a place in the local city.
So, craigslist has just made life difficult for ordinary citizens, who no longer have a phone or don't want craigslist to know their phone number. Another site gone to the dark side, what happened to all the free speech principles that founder Craig Newmark seemed to have started off with in the early days of craigslist. Now all gone by the wayside ostensibly for spam prevention but probably more of a corporate strategy to get more information about the posters. So sad.
craigslist is now completely useless for posting any ads. Need to find other online classified site that can use automated means to weed out spammers, and don't penalize real users of the site by asking for unnecessary information such as private phone numbers.