Technology

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

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Rather, they have been here all along and top administration officials in previous Executive branch positions have either ignored them and benefited from it, or allowed them and benefited from it. Either way, the evidence that the Russians are playing freely on American soil and in American cyberspace appears to be mounting – and this isn’t just a Trump issue, this is an issue that was prevalent long before him.

The interesting thing is this all took place during James Comey’s FBI. Another big questions is, if this was going on while he was the head of the FBI, why was this issue not raised during the past administration, like screamed from a mountain top! Or why wasn’t it raised during the presidential election when a Clinton was running and clearly benefitted from the arrangement outlined in the article?

There are a lot of things the need to be questioned here AND why isn’t this all over the media?

See the article and link below:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Source: FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow | TheHill

And an UPDATE:

Senate Judiciary opens probe into Obama-era Russian nuclear bribery case

 

Transitioning from the classroom

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Over a year ago I stepped out of the classroom as a high school teacher (after 15 years) and began a new career in software support. I am still in education, technically, since I work for an educational service district and I am supporting the school information systems used by a large number of school districts in my state. It has been a good move and I don’t regret it at all – except that I miss “my kids” and the conversations about history and current events.

Anyway, my last post on this format was about a “branching out” of sorts. Not really in the sense of something completely new, but in the sense that it gave me an outlet to share some of the fun memories I gathered over the years, and it also helped me keep a “promise” (to publish) to “my kids” by getting their words out there for them to enjoy again.

There are, however, still two areas from my teaching career that I am trying to figure out what to do with. And by figure out, I mean how or what do I do with some of the resources I created over those years? Lots of work and time went into them so it would be nice to get something from them. So, now I have links to them here on the blog (over there in the margin on the right) with the hopes that at some point they may get some traffic and generate…something.

The first thing is what to do with all those teaching materials I created over the years. A few years back I found a website called Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), where teachers can post their work and make a little extra money while saving fellow teaScreen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.34.47 PMchers time and money. I started posting my teaching materials on the website and lo-and-behold, people started buying it! I have continued to post materials up there over the last year and I am starting to see a nice return (it could always be more!) on my work. I don’t think it will ever make me rich, but it is something and at some point may produce a little extra spending money. As of now, I think I have solved this dilemma.

The other thing that I created a couple of years ago was a “classroom website.” I got to the point in my class that I was tired of trying to keep track of all the places on the internet I would like my students to go and all the materials I needed them to have (even when they were absent). So, over the summer a few years ago I spent my hours designing and creating a website so that it could be used as a supplement to my classroom instruction. It worked out far better than I could have imagined and the students appreciated having access to the materials (really, I promise) even when they were not at school. Since leaving teaching, I have kept the website (though I have done little updating to this point) but I am not sure what to do with it at this point. I think it may still be useful to some degree so I don’t want to give it up quite yet until I explore some possibilities, but I am just now sure on what to do. Suggestions? I am looking for some hints or helpful tips that might make the work I did in the past and how I can use that to my advantage going into the future. Leave a suggestion in the comments if you have any advice at all. Note: Some pages are password protected because there is material there that is copyrighted.

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If you are interested, you can visit the two sites by clicking on the links (TPT or Grenz History) or over there on the right side of the page. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. If you know someone who is a history teacher (specifically US/American history, Civics, American Government, Contemporary Issues, Current World Issues), I would appreciate a recommendation for at least a look. Again, some feedback would be nice.

Branching out, er, expanding?

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Just a quick note to have you take a look at the new page on the blog. You’ll find it up there in the top next two “Home,” “About,” and “Contact.” If you can’t figure it out from all the hints, try looking for “Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes.” There is an explanation about what it is and where to look as well.

Happy viewing, and I hope you will be intrigued enough to join me on Instagram as well!

America’s Failed Spelling Test

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America, you have some work to do in the spelling department. Some of you, more so than others!

Wisconsin…I don’t think there is a single excuse for you…too much cheese maybe?

Most of these words are middle school level and should have been learned a long time ago, while others are at worst twelfth grade level.

If you know these words without looking them up in Google, A+ for you!

 

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

THIS IS IT!!

My life has been affected by adoption. I have two beautiful, amazing, and strong Korean born sisters. They came to this country so long ago (when they were 13 months and 6 months old) that it is hard to imagine that they were not originally part of the family. I was 12 when my first sister arrived and I was excited for the new change in my life. I was going to have a little sister! When my second sister arrived, I was just as excited to have another little sister. My parents made the choice to adopt two little girls out of a Christian run orphanage in Seoul, South Korea. I AM SO GLAD THEY DID! I am immensely proud to call them my sisters and love them dearly.

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

That is where the Van Notric family comes in. You see, they too have a desire and a dream to adopt a little girl. Not just a little girl, but a special needs little girl. What a challenge that God has lain on their hearts! They are an amazing family and they need help to make this dream come true. For them it is a mission, a calling, if you will.

They have been working on this adoption for a long time and have faced many a challenge along the way. Doors have opened and doors have closed. It would appear as though another door is close to opening but they have some final hurdles to get over still. Why adoption has to be so expensive is anyone’s guess. I mean, if you are doing good in this world, why would the cost of adoption stand in the way of that?

If Ever There Was a Good Cause

Typically, I get a little annoyed with the “GoFundMe” campaigns that I get invited to view or that randomly appear on my Facebook feed. However, this is NOT one of those times. This is one of those time that you just feel compelled to do something. I don’t have a ton of funds to offer, but what I do have (though limited, admittedly) is a platform in which I can spread the word and maybe help this family on their journey to making the world a better place.

Please visit their GoFundMe site and read their story. I think you will be impressed and I think you will want to help them.

http://www.gofundme.com/waitingforchloe

Afterall, who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? Even if we have to do it one person at a time, it is worth it. You can help that happen. And, even if you can’t afford to help financially, maybe you know someone who can or someone that has a passion for adoption or someone that likes making dreams come true or someone that can share their story too. All the help they can get is appreciated, I know. I know them personally and they would be very grateful.

Thank you. Thank you for helping in one way or another. Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for help a special little girl have a permanent home and family.

Thank you.

I am not an Idiot: Celebrity Endorsements

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Dear Capitol One (or any other advertiser),

I am NOT a idiot, though you keep insisting that I am.

Why do you keep running ads with a celebrity endorsement that you had to pay too much money for? Do you think I am that weak minded enough to run out and get your product just because a celebrity holds it in their hands?

Just recently I saw your ad, “Musical Chairs,” with the likes of Jennifer Garner praising the merits of your travel miles credit card. Why, oh why, do you think this would compel me to get your credit card? She isn’t going to sell it to me any better than Samuel L. Jackson, or Alec Baldwin. I didn’t get your credit card then, so what makes you think I am going to do it now? Really? Like those two are gonna sell anything to respectable adults.

How much money do you have to pay these celebrities to hock your wares? Does Jennifer’s husband, Ben Affleck, not make enough money so she is out earning a living again?

Why don’t we make a deal? How about we agree to leave each other alone? You stay off my television/computer, stop clogging up my online shows with your stupid commercials (and my mailbox for that matter) and in return, should I need a credit card, I’ll seek you out. I’m sure I know where to look if I need you. Deal?

And to you celebrities, knock it off! Has your shine worn off enough that you prostitute yourself to any company that will pay you? It doesn’t matter the product, or even if it is a charity. I DON’T CARE! Entertain me. That is all. That is what I pay for. Not your opinions or your endorsements. You only show how desperate you are to stay in the limelight that faded long ago.  Stop. Please.

Please, Capital One, if you are going to run lame commercials, don’t employ B-list (or any other list) celebrities.

Not so sincerely,

Smartus Assimus

Social Media Faux Pas

I admitted it.

I apologized for it.

I promptly deleted it.

It’s slightly embarrassing since I have been known to rail against it in the past.

The other day I made a mistake by falling for a news story from a satirical “news” website. The article was titled, Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle. Man, oh man, did I blow it on this one!

Being a history teacher, and a Christian, I was excited to see a story like this. What could be better than historians proving what I already believe to be true? However, I was skeptical so I went to the website’s home page and looked at other stories they had posted. Seemed fine (granted this wasn’t extensive). I even went to the “About” tab, seemed legit. What I failed to notice was the tab labeled “Disclaimer” to the right of all the others. Yeah, there was proof. How did I miss it? I really don’t know.

I normally don’t like to “share” stuff on my social media site because I am often bombarded by massive amounts of stuff my friends have shared, much of it not worth looking at. For that reason, when I do share stuff I tend to make sure that it is accurate, worth reading/viewing, and has a purpose. This particular post managed to make it past my own filters.

Time to recalibrate.

Have you ever fallen for a FAKE news story and what made you believe it? What was the story about?

1st Blogiversary in the Blogosphere

Happy anniversary to me!! Not really one that is a big deal, but still kind of cool nonetheless.

Yesterday was my ONE YEAR BLOGIVERSARY!!

I started this blog last year because I felt like I had things to say and maybe someone would listen. Admittedly, some of what I have to say is more interesting than other, but thanks for reading anyway.

I don’t have a lot of visitors every day, but I do manage to show up on people’s search results so every day I get a few people looking at what I have to say. Some days are better than others. But it amazes me that people stop by and read what I write.

Over the next year I hope to write more because I have more things to say, interesting or not. I am generating ideas all the time and making notes. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to write since I am totally overwhelmed by the new class I am teaching this year. However, keep your eyes out for more and then let me know what you think.

So for now, I think I’ll enjoy a beer tonight and celebrate one year of writing about stuff I care about. CHEERS!

Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation

 KathyaE: Hi my name is KathyaE, please give me one moment while I review your question.

 Ryan G: ok

 KathyaE: Thank you for waiting, Ryan. Sorry to hear that you were unable to use your credit. I will be glad to look into this for you.

It started out great, but went downhill rather quickly.

Background

A few weeks back I rented a movie at Redbox. I was looking forward to it because it had been on my “Watch List” for a little while and I am a history guy so I enjoy historical movies. I was looking forward to getting the “Monuments Men” Blu-ray home and devouring copious amounts of popcorn. When I got home and put the disc into the DVD player, things seemed fine. The commercials on the disc played normally, but for some reason the previews for upcoming movies were not playing correctly. Only the background tracks (music and sounds) for the previews were playing and not the voice track. Weird, I thought to myself. But then another commercial and all seemed well. However, when the actual movie began playing the sound did the exact same thing as the previews. No voices, just muffled noise, somewhere the equivalent of the Charlie Brown parents in the cartoons. I was disappointed. But, I knew that there would be a fix for it. I would rent another one, but I didn’t exactly want to pay for it again. So, I logged into my Redbox account on my computer and reported the issue with the disc. I, relatively promptly, got a response that I would have a credit issued to my account for my next rental. Great! I thought to myself again. I was just gonna have to wait till I had time to rent it again. I returned my defective DVD the next day.

The Rental

Two weeks after the original rental of “Monuments Men” I found myself outside the store in front of the Redbox again. I had time to look and I knew there was a credit waiting for me. So, I browsed and discovered there was a copy of the video I wanted available so I chose it. I got the “check out” screen and pushed the “credits” button. At this point, I assumed it was looking up my account and for the credit I had available to me. No such luck. It came back with a message saying something to the effect of “No available credits found.” Hmmmm….was my thought. That is odd. I haven’t used it yet, and I am pretty sure my wife hasn’t used it. So, I put in my billing zip and swiped my card, expecting to see along the way a message that said, “You have a credit available. Would you like to use it? Yes or no?” No where along the way did I see that. Only a message that said my receipt will be sent to my email address. Oh, maybe they just don’t bill me and credit me on the transaction. I’ll just check my email when I get home. When I go home I opened the computer and checked my email. I had been charged for my Blu-ray DVD rental. This was a little unexpected. However, I was anxious to watch the movie so I decided to deal with the following day. The movie is good, by the way. However, it is a tad slow so you have to really enjoy the subject of WWII and know the timeline to enjoy the movie.

The Chat

As you saw above, it started out well. At least normal, what you would expect, a friendly greeting and all.

 Ryan G: Thanks. I was at the kiosk and pushed the credit button but it said there were none available. I can home and looked because I knew it hadn’t been used yet. So, I got charged again.

 KathyaE: I have located a transaction for a rental made at the box for Monuments Men with the card ending in XXXX.

 Ryan G: Yes, just tonight.

 KathyaE: I show that that card is not saved to an online account, there for if credits were available they would not be accessible.

 Ryan G: So, in order to use a credit there has to be a credit card on file?

 KathyaE: That is correct.

 Ryan G: That seems a bit odd since all you have to do is pay at the kiosk. There would be no reason to have a card on file.

 KathyaE: Credits are added to your account, if there is no card on file there is no way to add credits to your account.

Here is things went sideways. I understood what she was saying and I really don’t fault her for the policies she has no control over. That being said, my account on Redbox clearly showed that there was a credit waiting in my account and I DIDN’T have a credit card saved to my account. When I logged into my account I was immediately shown that I had a credit waiting for me (see upper right hand corner of the picture below – a red circle with a white one in it – there is a red arrow pointing to it) and also on the account page it showed that I had credit available to me (see bottom left hand corner – there is a red arrow pointing to that).

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

So, the website shows that I have a credit and the kiosk clearly knows who I am once I have entered my billing zip and swiped my card because it always brings up, for my approval, the correct email address associated with my account to which the receipt will be emailed.

 KathyaE: If you had a card on file and credits were added and you still have credits available on your card I would recommend saving your card to your account so you can then use them. As you have already checkout out there is no way to apply any discount to your transaction, I do apologize. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

She must not be really looking at my account or she would be able to see that there is a credit already there, I have no card on file, and what really needs to be done is for an option to be added so that customers who have credits get the option to use it before being billed. Instead, she gives me an answer that doesn’t match the situation and then tries to hurry me along and end the chat. I try to explain why there is no card on file and why I don’t think it is necessary to enter one since they can already identify which account is being accessed at the kiosk.

 Ryan G: Nope. Perhaps there is a better way to add credits then. If you know who I am by putting in my billing zip code and then swiping my card, how does having a card on file help? There are security issues with having it on file.

 Ryan G: I also have a user name and log in to use this online account, so you must know who I am without having to put in a card number.

 Ryan G: I don’t reserve them online.

Then I get the standard “We’ll pass it along to the appropriate department” answer.

 KathyaE: Your thoughts will be passed along to the appropriate team here at Redbox but as of now it goes as I have previously mentioned. Have I answered all of your questions today?

 Ryan G: Yep

AND the “We’re done talking now” response with a quick disconnection.

 KathyaE: Thank you for chatting with us at Redbox. Have a great day!

 KathyaE has disconnected.

The part that really bothers me here is that I wasn’t asking for more credit. I wasn’t being unreasonable about how their website/kiosk worked, just pointing out that what she told me and what was shown didn’t jive. I wasn’t demanding to take command of the mothership. I wasn’t even rude. However, I feel as though I was treated this way because she thought I was doing all of the above mentioned things…

The Conclusion

Admittedly, I didn’t expect to get much help from Redbox chat. I didn’t expect to be listened to. I don’t expect that my suggestions will be passed along to the appropriate department (‘cuz they won’t be), but what I do expect is that I am treated with respect as the customer and that was something that wasn’t given. Instead, I was brushed off like dirty knees after kneeling at the beach. Next time I need to talk to a Redbox, I’ll talk to the brick wall next to it because it ought to be just as helpful.

Also, this experience hasn’t kept me from renting more movies from the Redbox. In fact, we have rented quite a few. However, we don’t usually rent that many there. We generally wait for the codes they send out via text or email  for a free one or an occasional rent one/get one offer. And, yes, I did put information for my card onto the website long enough to use my free credit, but then I took my card information right back out again.

Tell me about some of your customer service related encounters/problems in the comments section so we can commiserate together. Some day, maybe some day, customer serve will be king again. Until then, good luck and keep your head down!