There’s been a lot of talk lately about vaccine passports – namely the ethicality of requiring people to be vaccinated to enter a place of business. And admittedly I was on the fence about them for a while, however the more I think about it and the more I read the comments from people who are so vehemently opposing of them … ironically I think that’s swayed me to want to support them after all.

As a side note, our idiot used car salesman/governor here in Florida just recently declared that vaccine passports wouldn’t be allowed in our state, however the same people who support his Executive Order for this were against local ordinances putting the other COVID restrictions into place, so…

Anyways, here’s my thought process with these things:

  • We’re not talking about requiring proof of vaccination to go to the grocery store or the mall, or probably not even to eat in restaurants, although increasing the current limits and reducing social distancing concerns me.
  • Vaccine passports would be most effective for large gatherings like events, theme parks, cruise ships, etc…
  • Speaking of cruise ships, Royal Caribbean has stated that they will require all crew and passengers to be vaccinated once they resume sailing, while Disney Cruise Line has stated they will not.
  • As far as vaccine distribution is concerned, right now we’re doing great here in the United States – in fact, we just celebrated a record day of 4 million doses given, which is awesome! I believe the goal I saw was 90% of adults vaccinated by this summer if we keep up this rate, however that’s only doable as long as you’ve still got people who are willing to get vaccinated.

And frankly what scares me is that polls have shown a not insignificant number of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, most of whom I’ve got to assume are the ones who are most against vaccine passports to resume their normal lives, too.

Right now it’s not a huge problem for me personally because we only go to the store and take the kids to school, both of which are still requiring masks. But you won’t catch me going to a theme park, or on a cruise ship, or even attending large family gatherings at this point because there’s no guarantee that the adults have been vaccinated and at this point there’s no protection for our kids whatsoever.

It would be one thing if vaccination numbers were surging and COVID cases were WAY down, but so far that’s not exactly the case. The numbers are looking better, but when you consider the massive surge that we had around the winter holidays, we’re still in the neighborhood of what we saw last summer and that’s with 18% of our population fully vaccinated…

So ultimately my take is this – I’m ok with standing in a room, without masks and without knowing that everyone is vaccinated, once the numbers drop so dramatically that it’s clear we’re finally on the other side of this pandemic. That doesn’t necessarily mean no new cases, but I would expect very, very low.

Until then, I’m going to expect the places where I go to have adequate protections in place to make me and my family feel safe.

  • For basic stores, that’s requiring masks and social distancing.
  • For restaurants, I’m honestly not there yet with the kids so we’ll continue to stick to takeout, but part of that is just because kids are horrible in restaurants in general! 😉
  • For larger gatherings, I want to know that everyone present has been vaccinated. End of story.

A few weeks ago when we went on vacation, you might recall that we didn’t actually visit any of Disney’s theme parks and instead stuck to our resort. Last year Sara and I were supposed to go on a cruise for our anniversary and we agreed (until it got canceled) that because it was just the two of us, we would still go as long as masks were required and worst case scenario we’d lounge on our balcony the entire trip.

Again, I think a bigger part of what continues to make me nervous about all of it is that while I’d be ok to go on a vacation right now where everyone is taking precautions, what I’m not eager to do is get on a cruise ship filled with COVID deniers who think this is all “the government trying to control everybody” and who will be the first to shirk off any possible precaution whenever anybody’s not looking.

It’s the same reason why whenever I do finally travel back to my hometown in Michigan again, I won’t be visiting the new barbecue place downtown that’s been fighting the health department over COVID rules this whole time … if I can’t trust you to follow basic guidelines for the general health of your community during a global emergency, how do I know that you’re following other health standards in your day to day operations?

So that’s it. If the numbers prove that we don’t need precautions anymore, then I’m good. Otherwise I’d like some proof that you’re actually taking this thing seriously. Because I certainly am.

When Amazon Doesn’t Work Smoothly…

December 22, 2020 1:03pm
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Don’t get me wrong – I love Amazon.

We literally order from them a hundred times a year and if they had better access to groceries, I’d probably never leave the house. The extent to which they’ve streamlined the purchasing process means that for most items I honestly don’t even shop around anymore – I just hit the button and a day or two later, it’s here!

Unless … it isn’t.

I would say that 97% of our orders come through with no problems, and Amazon’s return process makes it super easy to exchange something that arrives damaged, shipping out replacements almost immediately and giving prepaid labels to return broken merchandise.

That said, one thing I’ve found that Amazon isn’t good at dealing with is replacing items when they sent the wrong item or if the description of an item is incorrect.

Two examples…

Sara ordered this set of Beyond123 learning books that was supposed to come with a cardboard slipcase to keep them all in – trouble is, apparently the sets on Amazon’s shelves just have the books loose, without the case. And I say set(s) because over the last two months we’ve received three of them trying to get one complete with the case, but every single one was missing it.

Next, and unfortunately a bit more timely, is this SmartGames train that Matthew was supposed to get for Christmas. Instead, we got this bunny game, so we very quickly processed a return and requested a replacement that arrived yesterday … in the form of another bunny because somebody mislabeled them when they arrived at Amazon’s warehouse so all of the bunnies are mislabeled as trains!

And the problem in both of these scenarios is that while Amazon is extraordinarily efficient at moving stuff around the world and even refunding your money when they mess up, they don’t seem to be equipped to deal with these problems when you don’t want a refund, you just want the correct item that you tried to order!

Back in my former life when I worked in an auto parts warehouse, occasionally we’d find ourselves hunting around for a part either because it got put in the wrong place on the shelf or somebody just wanted to make extra sure that they could actually get what they were looking for that day. Human errors happened from time to time because somebody was going to fast or maybe transposed some numbers, but we also audited our inventory pretty regularly to make sure that the computer matched what we had on our shelves and everything was nice and organized.

Amazon doesn’t have time for that because of their scale, so instead of having distinct sections for BOOKS and VIDEO GAMES and AIR CONDITIONER FILTERS, everything is just mixed together on the shelves in their massive warehouses by even more massive algorithms to maximize speed, and the people walking the floor are there strictly to pull items off the shelves or put them back, all using barcode scanners so instead of saying, “Grab this train game from the game section,” they’re told, “Grab the game from Shelf B, Bin 7” without having to pay attention to what game was actually ordered.

In theory, their scanner will buzz if they grab the wrong thing … unless the label itself is wrong!

There’s nobody to call to “go take a look at an item” to make sure it contains all of the pieces or to review the inventory to make sure that the items labeled as TRAINS are actually trains and not BUNNIES instead. And because the Customer Service rep that you’re chatting with isn’t even in the same country as the warehouses that your order came from, they’re limited with how they can help – either ship another item and hope for the best or offer a refund instead.

Unfortunately in both of these cases, we ultimately ended up just throwing in the towel. For the book set, they said they’d give a partial credit for the missing case but I didn’t feel like sitting through another 10 minute chat for a $5 credit; for the toy train, I took a refund and ordered from another site … that sadly won’t have it here now until after Christmas.

It’s too bad because in theory neither of these scenarios should be too difficult to solve. They’ve got to have leads or quality people at each warehouse at some level, so Amazon just needs to be able to flag an order for their review before it gets shipped. And granted, that would impact shipping times to some extent, but after receiving multiple incorrect items, I for one would be fine waiting an extra day or two at this point for these specific orders to try and get them right!

From afar, Amazon is an impressive monster of a fulfillment company and the vast majority of the time, the end result that they deliver for us has been pretty fantastic. Still, as customers I don’t think it’s too much to expect that they have better channels for fixing mistakes when they do arise, and the solutions they have in place today could still use some work.

If Trump Gets Re-Elected Tomorrow…

November 2, 2020 11:58pm
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…I won’t go so far as to say I’m moving to Canada or anything – namely because Canada is very cold and I’m pretty sure we’re not allowed in right now due to COVID anyways – but I’ll certainly be disappointed, to say the very least.

Amid all of the craziness that’s plagued our daily lives for the last four years of America’s reality TV president, the easiest way for me to sum it up is that Donald Trump is an asshole and we deserve to be represented by somebody who isn’t.

It comes down to basic human decency because as far as I’m concerned, all of the other issues that we face as a society don’t mean much if our country can’t maintain a basic standard for how we treat each other within our borders, and Trump has done nothing but tear down our values since before he took office. When sexism and racism and bigotry and xenophobia rain down from the highest office in the land, it encourages other people to be assholes, too, because hell, “If the President said it, that must be presidential now!”

Yes, I want a president who cares about a strong economy and military showing, but I also want one who’s looked at throughout the international community as a leader instead of a bully.

It’s ok to be frustrated by how the press covers you, but to claim that our free press “is the enemy of the people” is not ok. Just like it’s not ok to label anything that you don’t agree with as “fake news.”

I want a president who doesn’t pick fights with people all. of. the. time. – whether they’re professional athletes or war veterans or kids who are passionate about climate change. The term unpresidential doesn’t even begin to describe Trump’s behavior on Twitter and in front of his favorite hosts on Fox News. He’s turned the office into a three ring circus and we’re all tired of cringing every time we wake up to see what he’s managed to sully the American image with today.

I know a lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they wanted someone who wasn’t a politician for a change, but this was a mistake. Instead of a politician in the White House, we got a cruel-hearted con man who reduces every problem we have to dollar signs and who’s biggest trait is being able to pull the ugliest out of the fans who vigorously chant his name.

Unlike President Obama and so many that came before him, I can’t let my kids watch him speak because I don’t know who he’s going to dig at next and it’s a damn shame that we live in a time when the President of the United States isn’t fit to even be a role model for our nation’s youth.

We need a leader who will speak kindly and rationally, who will look at our problems honestly and listen to our experts because they’re our experts. 

We need someone committed to bringing us together and representing all of us, not tearing us apart and pitting Americans against each other whether they’re red or blue, rich or poor, black or white.

Ultimately, I fear that if Donald Trump gets re-elected tomorrow, it will be like letting the bully win … reaffirming the asshole … and giving him carte blanche to reap even more havoc upon our nation in his second term that will only serve to set us back even further.

The economy is important. Healthcare, and welfare, and infrastructure, and international discourse are all important. Lots of things that our federal government does are important, but first and foremost, we need a leader who isn’t a complete asshole in the White House.

Without that basic level of respect – for the office, for the American people, for our international neighbors and for everyone who we inhabit this tiny blue dot with – without respect, none of the rest of it even matters.

*fingers crossed*

It’s ok to fear things that can kill you.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid any more than there is crying or being anxious or any other emotion. For a disease that’s killed 215,000 Americans in the last seven months and literally put our nation’s leader in the hospital, it was disappointing that this was his message the moment he got out.

Not urging people to take necessary precautions. Not compassion for all of the people before him who struggled with COVID-19 but didn’t have access to the best medical treatment in the world.

Instead, it was just more pandering to his base to minimize the affects of COVID and make the people who are taking it more seriously … like his opponent in the election … look weak by comparison.

…and he’s not even done being sick yet…


One of my pet peeves lately has been watching company layoffs when I feel like businesses could really be doing more to support their own employees. The most significant of these examples is Disney.

Last week Disney announced that it would be laying off 28,000 employees from its theme parks division, presumably mostly because Disneyland hasn’t yet reopened, although the parks here in Florida are also seeing heavy reductions.

This bothers me because unlike a lot of other businesses struggling with the effects of COVID-19, The Walt Disney Company has an astonishing $23 BILLION in cash on hand right now.

To put that in context, Disney could pay every one of the 28,000 people they’re laying off $825,535.71 … or more realistically because they’ve said that the majority are part-timers, they could spend a mere 10% of their cash reserves and still have an excess of $80,000 to help support each employee who directly plays a hand in creating Disney’s highly coveted Disney magic…

Now I know that companies don’t normally operate this way, but if you want to talk about actually maintaining a culture of family and inclusion, why not? Think of the incredible goodwill that Disney could gain by financially supporting their people instead of turning them loose on unemployment benefits and food pantries to survive, not to mention the press from doing the right thing.

Shareholders might not be as crazy about Disney spending its cash on its own employees instead of new attractions that can further boost earnings per guest, but … I just don’t have the energy for that argument right now because without their staff, who’s going to sell their tickets and load their rides and keep their parks flowing for millions of paying guests every year???


In general, it really makes me uncomfortable to see more and more people relaxing their concerns about this virus and trying to push us “back to normal,” as if COVID will understand that “We’re all tired of it…” and move on to greener pastures to infect.

It certainly didn’t help with Florida’s governor being the first to relax our restrictions, at least as much as he could, by not only removing capacity restrictions for businesses but also by trying to pull the rug out from underneath local mask mandates by telling counties that they can’t assess fines for people not following them anymore.

For the most part, businesses are keeping their rules in place. Maybe not so much for restaurants, but honestly we’re not eating out anytime soon anyways. What’s tough is that it opens the doors for more people to challenge these businesses, and each other, and start fights over whether they still have to wear a mask or not. I know that we had a handful of questions that turned aggressive on the kids’ school Facebook groups when parents asked if the kids still had to wear masks to school after the governor’s announcement.

As a side note, so far our kids’ schools have had four cases between the two schools, although only the first case prompted one of them to close.

Just this morning I read a story out of New York about two old guys who got in a fight at a bar over wearing masks and one pushed the other, who ended up hitting his head and dying.


And lastly, admittedly I haven’t really looked at our stats in a while, so it was interesting to see that Florida’s cases have gone down by about a third over the last month…

…however nationally they’ve been slowly trending back up again.

Curiously, if you look at the number of tests being done each day, Florida is doing dramatically less than we were this summer – 25k down from 65k – however nationally we’re almost double – nearly 1M today up from 500-600k over the summer!

Particularly here in Florida, I worry that we seem to be preparing for the perfect storm with the next wave between less testing and less restrictions coupled with more people being frustrated and wanting to fight things like mask rules. Right now the majority still seems to be wearing masks and keeping their distance, however I think that’s going to become more of a struggle as that anti-mask group grows more vocal and especially if people start getting self-conscious about taking precautions if not as many people are doing them.

The other day I noticed a stark contrast just between going to Walmart and Target – our local Walmart stopped putting its sign about masks out front by the doors and the greeter doesn’t challenge anyone, as displayed by a couple without masks walking right in without a word, whereas at Target there are signs front and center, plus several employees inside to monitor the door, and they even had an announcement reminding everyone of their safety procedures while we were shopping.

I don’t care what happens with government rules – at least for right now, I won’t shop at someplace that doesn’t actively take COVID-19 procedures seriously and that includes requiring masks for anyone and everyone.

I’m afraid of this disease that’s killed at least 4-8x more people than the flu did last year because our risk of contracting it is greatly diminished simply by following a few basic precautions. My family’s lives, and the lives of our friends and neighbors and people we’ve never met, are worth those minor inconveniences.

I’ve tried to take in as many different perspectives on America’s COVID-19 experience as I can because I know that there are a lot of variations to how individuals are going through this.

For example, at 10:30pm last night one of the schools that my kids attend announced that they were switching to virtual school immediately because a staff member had tested positive for COVID. We’re still waiting for more information, but understandably a lot of parents are frustrated and upset because they have to work outside of the home during the day and can’t stay home to supervise kids in virtual school.

My wife and I are very lucky in this regard because I can work from home and she only works part-time on the weekends.

That said, when I look across the measures that we’re still taking to prevent the spread of the virus – everything from masks to some businesses being closed to quarantines – I can’t help but think that the reason why we’re still having to endure these invasive measures is because, quite frankly, we didn’t do a very good job of facing this virus as a whole from the very beginning.

  • Medical personnel spent the first month struggling to get their hands on basic safety equipment for their staff.
  • Political leaders shrugged off the seriousness of the pandemic and downplayed its potential instead of making critical early steps.
  • The financial support offered by Congress was rife with abuse and often went to people and corporations who didn’t need it, and archaic unemployment systems left even more Americans begging for relief.
  • Some Americans fought tooth and nail against restrictions aimed at keeping people safe, and even today chatter about the virus being a hoax is common.
  • Testing never really went mainstream by being too confusing, unreliable, and an undue burden to establish a regular testing cycle needed to truly monitor the population.
  • Speaking of monitoring, contact tracing never really took off here, either, because vocal Americans determined that privacy was more important than safety. Case in point – for my son’s school, we don’t know if the employee ever had contact with Christopher or not, which makes it difficult for us to manage his potential exposure here at home.
  • Despite the importance stressed on opening schools, many were never given safety equipment that they needed, with some schools here in the Tampa Bay Area giving each teacher only “a rag and a spray bottle” to keep their classrooms clean.

I know it feels like we’ve all been through a lot in the last six months, and we have, but it’s hard to not ask ourselves if we really did everything that we could when you look at other countries that experienced a curve back in the spring and basically have it more or less stabilized at this point.

If America is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, or the richest, or whatever, why are we struggling with this so much?

Last night the President of the United States hypothesized on live television to an audience of 10+ million people that the scientific community should explore injecting ultraviolet light into the body to combat Coronavirus. And also injecting disinfectant into the lungs.

Which … look … I don’t have a problem with the president spitballing random ideas that pop into his head for members of his cabinet to then research.

I mean, I’d rather he let the experts come to him with ideas that they’re researching using actual scientific methods and principals, but in the bigger scope of things, what bothers me when Trump goes off on his little brainstorming sessions like this is that believe it or not, lots of people in this country look up to him as a role model and actually follow through on the random things that come out of his mouth.

Like the elderly couple who poured themselves glasses of aquarium cleaner after hearing the President talk about how maybe hydroxychloroquine might be a wonder drug for COVID-19. One died and the other ended up in intensive care.

Note that a month later, one study of the drug was cut short after patients began exhibiting irregular heartbeats and nearly two dozen died.

Of course, in classic Trump form today he’s claiming that his off the cuff comments were made as a joke to dig at the liberal media in the room – because who doesn’t like a good joke when 50,000 Americans and counting have died from the disease that two months ago the leader of their country was denouncing as little more than a hoax and a political jab at his re-election.

So last night I rewatched Idiocracy – a movie that I honestly didn’t even really like when I first saw it – but I’ll be damned if it didn’t hit way too close to home! How did we get to this place where not only are people proud to deny science in favor of their own whims, but now they’re very much willing to risk their own lives by parading through the streets without masks in protest of their rights to act like the responsible adults that they’re not in the middle of a global pandemic?!

I read a few comments earlier in response to Michigan’s governor removing many restrictions as her citizens had demanded, but also in turn requiring people to wear masks when they’re out in public…

“They can’t make us wear them!” 

“As far as I know, this is still a free country!”

And my favorite – “My husband didn’t risk his life so that I could be told what to wear to the grocery store…”

I … don’t know how to talk to people with this kind of mentality anymore because if they’re this hellbent on doing things their way, they’re perpetually going to be a part of that percentage that’s part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Despite a public health risk not only to themselves, but more importantly to others in their community, these are the same people who refuse to get vaccinated, who go to work and send their kids to school even when they’re sick, and are basically just selfish assholes. And all we can do as their neighbors and friends is do our best to stay away from them in hopes that in the end they only hurt themselves and not the people around them.

It’s a sad perspective to have to take, but when the President tells somebody to jump off a bridge and they actually do it, what else is there for the rest of us to do except for to view that person at best as a cautionary tale?

Well, that and we also need to get ourselves a President who stops telling people to jump off of bridges.

Coronavirus, Day 25 – But The Flu…

April 10, 2020 3:15pm
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One of the most common arguments against all of the measures being taken against COVID-19 is citing how many deaths we see from the flu every single year.

And I’ll admit that a number like 35,000 Americans dying from the flu gives me pause because that sounds awful. Of course, 2.8 million people dying each year in general sounds awful, but let’s talk about the flu because I’ve given it a lot of thought trying to rationalize the real difference between fighting this Coronavirus today and the seasonal flu…

Duration of Impact
For starters, let’s consider that flu season is typically 4-6 months long, whereas right now we’ve been facing COVID-19 in the States for a little over three weeks.

Just at a glance, this sounds like a huge factor in why our medical system can handle the seasonal flu without having a run on ventilators like we’re seeing today simply because the regular flu is spread out over a much longer timeframe. If we compare stats, we’ve already seen 18,000 deaths in three weeks compared to those 35,000 in four to six months.

Conservatively speaking, that’s an average of 857 deaths per day for COVID-19 and 291 deaths per day for a four-month flu season. Wow!

Vaccines and the Lack Thereof
Next, let’s consider the impact of vaccines specifically on the front lines to protect doctors and nurses from also contracting and spreading diseases … which has been a problem particularly in NYC where we’re seeing caregivers catching the virus from the same people that they’re trying to help.

We don’t really see this with the regular flu because at my wife’s hospital, for example, come flu season every employee in the hospital is either required to get a flu shot or wear a mask for the entirety of flu season!

That’s a level of protection lacking for the doctors and nurses facing Coronavirus today because we simply don’t have a vaccine ready yet.

Stacking Numbers
And another point, along the lines of protection, is the devastating PPE shortage that hospitals have been fighting because sure, they might normally stock enough masks and gowns and whatnot to manage the seasonal flu, but the regular flu didn’t just go away when Coronavirus came to town.

So the result is a system that’s already supporting a regular flu season then also thrust into a brand new and very different flu pandemic, and the lack of adequate supplies to protect workers and even family members and other patients becomes painfully and quite dangerously clear.

Other Considerations
Couple these with other factors that Coronavirus has shown us including a longer incubation period, carriers with mild to no symptoms, and just being something new that the medical field isn’t used to dealing with I think puts it on a much different level than the regular, old flu.

One terrifying story described a patient’s lung tissue literally being torn away by the virus … something that the flu doesn’t do! So there’s a lot to be said for simply dealing with the unknown in the middle of all of these other factors.

So no, we don’t shut down the economy and close schools and workplaces and see this dramatic response to the seasonal flu … because it seems to reason that what we’re facing with Coronavirus is an entirely different beast altogether.

Is the fact that we vaccinate for the flu enough to counter the need for the drastic social distancing being exercised today? Probably not entirely, but all of these pieces of the puzzle together make for a compelling argument as to why it’s not wise to be so quick to quantify COVID-19 with the flu that we face every year like clockwork.

FML – Gardening Edition

July 15, 2019 2:35am
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Have I mentioned that I hate working on my yard???

So we got a letter or two from our HOA earlier this year about the garden in front of our house being unkempt, and so like any other parent of three working two jobs with barely any free time to catch my breath, I put it off as long as humanly possible until I finally got that last letter which basically says, “Come on, buddy – you don’t want to know what happens next if you keep ignoring us…”

And so back in March or April or something, I busted my butt sweating it out in temperatures that were only a fraction of the fiery ones we’re seeing now. I probably raked up three or four bags of leaves and acorns and old mulch (?) from that stupid garden, only to then spend another sweaty afternoon spreading ten or so bags of mulch across the reasonably barren garden that I’m forced to keep on my tiny, suburban plot.

It sucked, but once it was behind me I didn’t think much of it until a couple of weeks ago when I got not one, but two copies of the same letter from the HOA’s attorney!

WHA???

This pissed me off because as far as I knew, we were done back in April when I spent more physical activity than I put in all year long slaving away in that garden, yet here was the same complaint as before – only now with the added fun of legal damages, should the HOA choose to either have someone do the work for me (I wish!) or just take me to court for further scolding and to threaten to put a lien on my house over some fucking weeds in the fucking garden.

You see, the sneaky thing about weeds is that they’re plants, so even when you do pull them, they have a tendency to just grow right back!

So to speed this story along so that I can go to bed, I’ve been fighting with this stupid garden some more in whatever hours I can find, which are pretty limited between jobs and kids and the heat and the rain and nighttime. I actually went back out tonight because it had just been too damn hot when I tried earlier, and I thought I was making some progress as I was digging a whole for one of the miscellaneous shrubberies to go into when after fighting with a root for far too long, I took a closer inspection in said dark and instead came to find out…

I CUT THE SPRINKLER LINE WITH MY SHOVEL.

Tomorrow I have a call with this lawyer to answer the questions I have about this boilerplate legal threat that they sent on behalf of my HOA.

really hope that he’s nice. Or at least that he knows a thing or two about how to repair a broken sprinkler pipe.

Come on, Honeywell…

February 25, 2019 2:39am
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So you may have heard that recently I had to blow a bunch of money on a new air conditioner.

One of the very small silver linings that I was looking forward to, or so I thought, was the idea that with my entire system being replaced, I could finally get one of those cool smart thermostats that you can control from your phone and whatnot. I talked about it with the people who replaced my AC and although apparently they’re not big fans of the super-popular Nest thermostat, they instead had a Honeywell model that was said to have most of the same features and was a little bit cheaper to boot…

I say that with some frustration because two weeks later, I can’t actually use any of the smart features of my new smart thermostat.

Why?

Because Honeywell opted to not follow the security standards for connecting their thermostats to wifi!

More specifically, the thermostat uses WPA2 encryption … the most common form of wifi encryption in use right now … except that whereas normally WPA2 allows for a passphrase of 64 characters, Honeywell for some reason limits WPA2 passphrases in their thermostats to only 32 characters.

And guess whose wifi password is 58 characters long?! Mine!

So I reached out to Honeywell via their website, thinking that either A) maybe there was a firmware update that I could apply to fix this … though not sure how I would download it, or more likely B) maybe this was just a problem with older models of their thermostats and they could recommend a different one that my guy could swap this one out for…

No. Such. Luck.

It kind of shocks me that a company as big as Honeywell would take such a lackadaisical approach towards security. I mean, as the Internet of Things (I still hate that name!) grows by leaps and bounds, we’re always hearing of new compromises where thousands of devices at a time get added to gigantic botnets. And really, it’s a standard … so why would they expect users to just make shorter passwords because they didn’t feel like following it???

I suppose the easy solution would be for me to follow the rep above’s instructions and shorten my wifi password, but I’m not going to do that. For starters, it would be a huge pain in the ass to update the passwords for every device around the house connected to my wifi, and also, I shouldn’t have to do that to add a new IOT device that’s supposed to be making my life easier!

I guess I could also go back to my AC installer and try to explain to him why his preferred thermostat doesn’t work for me, and when I contacted Honeywell that was actually going to be my plan, but unfortunately knowing that this is an issue that plagues every thermostat that Honeywell makes, I know that he’s not going to have anything to change it out with anyways, and he hates Nest so if I twist his arm to give me one of those, it’s just going to make troubleshooting issues down the road a nightmare.

Ultimately I think what I’ve decided to do is just leave unconnected thermostats lie for the time being.

Eventually I want to upgrade the wifi in our house to a Ubiquiti router and access points, and from what I can tell those support setting up multiple SSIDs … at that point, I can actually make a completely separate VLAN just for IOT devices to keep them away from my servers and everything else … so I suppose my plan will be to do that, and just for this stupid Honeywell thermostat, I’ll create one SSID with a less secure passphrase that’s only 32 characters long so that the thermostat can actually use it.

Until then, I’ve got this swell red alert light that won’t turn off unless I disable it altogether to remind me that my new smart thermostat isn’t nearly as smart as it claims to be… 🙁

If anyone is curious for reference, the thermostat I have is a Honeywell Wi-Fi VisionPRO 8000 – part #TH8321WF1001.

And if anyone from Honeywell happens to stumble across this blog post, please for the love of god ask your developers why they aren’t following security standards for something as simple as this! If I were you, it’d make me wonder what other corners they’ve been cutting, too… 😯

Your advertising is making me hate you.

January 28, 2019 3:01pm
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Nobody ever really liked commercials when we watched live TV, but we dealt with them because after a couple we’d get to go back to our show.

But here on the Internet, the advertising never stops!

It’s on every single page – every article, every YouTube video – and often times you’ve got more than one ad. Or the ad pops-up in front of what you’re trying to read and blocks your view, even though I thought we’d already decided that pop-ups were awful like a decade ago. Or the ad follows you down the screen so that between product ads and publisher ads, you’re only left with about two inches of screen real estate when you’re just trying to read a stupid blog post on your phone while you’re using the toilet.

On one hand, Internet advertising is somewhat revolutionary because it’s the first time that advertisers have had access to actual data to determine the effectiveness of their ads.

On the other hand, though, I think it’s also helped them to understand that the giant money pit they used to dump into for print and TV advertising wasn’t nearly as effective as their billions had thought, and so not only do publishers get much less for online advertising than other mediums ever saw, but they’re more prone to excessive advertising to boot.

My prime example right now is YouTube – where you can see ads every couple of minutes for the exact same thing, to the point where frankly it decreases my interest in a brand when I keep getting interrupted to see the same thing over and over.

TV ads were predictable and always followed the same time slots, so if we didn’t want to sit through them we could go get a snack or something to avoid them.

Print ads were easy enough to gloss over, although we all know the feeling of flipping through a magazine and realizing that it’s more ads than actual content! My wife gets a few parenting magazines like that where it’s pretty clear the reason they’re FREE is because they’re basically just 95% ads for diapers and baby meds and whatnot.

Personally, I know that I would much rather see an ad once that’s either funny, informative, or interesting, and if it’s a regular advertiser on a show that I watch, then so be it. But when I’m watching 5-10 minute YouTube videos and I see the same ads for Wix and Grammarly and the local ambulance chasing law firm every minute and a half, it doesn’t make me want to use their services.

In fact, I’ve purposefully avoided what are probably perfectly good services and products just because their advertising was absolutely obnoxious.

The sad part is, I know the reason they do it is because it works, just like spammers fill my inbox with scams because a fraction of a percent fall for them. And maybe that’s a strategy that works when you’re casting a huge net and need mass market appeal. It’s probably why I wouldn’t do well in marketing because I’d be much more interested in the quality of a customer rather than just plastering people with ads so that a couple of them will remember our obnoxious jingle when they’re at the store and throw a box of our miscellaneous product into their carts.

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