Month: April 2013

Alternative Public Transportation

We were passing through Morgantown, West Virginia last week.  I did not know that Morgantown had something called ‘Personal Rapid Transit’, built in the 1970s as part of a government project.  I was thoroughly impressed with this system.  I’ve included a photo of the cute little car that goes along the track.

I understand that the system cost the government millions at the time of construction, but also that the reliability of this form of transit has been excellent, that it is used by many people and that it has operated for many years.  Also from what I read I understand that if the fares were increased, that this form of transit could also be profitable.

How was it that this type of transportation didn’t catch on elsewhere?  Sure, capital costs are high, but we can’t just look at financial costs anymore.  We must look at the true environmental economic costs of not using something like this (e.g. externalities related to burning fossil fuels in vehicles, etc.).

Here’s the link to the Wikipedia page about the PRT.

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Unemployment Update – Part 2

I called 1-800-UNEMPLOYMENT and this time the system didn’t hang up on me!  I waited 20 minutes — got through to a person who told me that my claim was being processed as we spoke and that I should be checking my account online to see whether I should be completing reports by the next business day, or at the very least I should expect someone to phone me.

Let’s hope by next week that I will have my unemployment $.  I realize that there has been a spike in the unemployment rate lately and I don’t think that the grass is always greener on the other side, but I would consider moving to a Scandinavian country.  My country is wealthy and is very well equipped to make the unemployment system more efficient.

Unemployment Update – Part 1

I just got back from the unemployment office.  I was standing in front of the employees’ desks waiting to speak to someone, when I noticed the person I spoke to before (twice) sitting at her desk working on her computer, ignoring me, even though she could see me standing there waiting to be helped.  Luckily another employee wasn’t too busy and had time to help me.

I explained to the new person helping me that I was tired of explaining my situation each time I came in. This person put me on the special “please call” list for people who desperately need unemployment (ie., getting the runaround though — still no money) and said that maybe it was a good idea to have reapplied for unemployment (keeping in mind I applied about five months ago) just in case my request for backpay was denied!  Yeah, right!  Apparently to request for backpay I learned, one is supposed wait approximately one month after not hearing anything from the government, and inform them of this – d’oh! I should have known that! It’s my fault I that I fell through the cracks!

I explained again that the system doesn’t make it clear that I should be submitting reports since it gave me messages that new information had been received and that my claim was being processed.  I was told that the system was ‘complicated’ and that the reporting system and the messages I could see when I logged in were somehow not connected to each other.  How can it be complicated?  Because the government makes it complicated.  How can the systems not be connected?  When I log in and the first thing I see is something like, “we’re processing your claim, just wait”, how would I suspect that I should be submitting reports?

I was told again to call the 1-800 number and that it should be only around 20 minutes to get through during off-peak times.  I said that the 1-800 number was useless.  Surprise – I called when I got home and the system hung up on me because the call volume was too high.

I am going back in three days if, or when no one calls me.  In the meantime I’ll keep trying the 1-800 number…

Unemployment

My country’s unemployment system is not working for me.  I had to leave my job for valid reasons last year (I will post more on that later). The reasons I provided for leaving my job were accepted by unemployment and therefore my claim was approved.  So no problem there – nothing to complain about.

The problem I am having is, when my former employer decided to provide information to the government, showing that I’d left my job a few months after I had made my claim, the government just seemed to have forgotten about me.   I waited a number of weeks, and when I logged into my government account online, I read a message that they’d received new information (I assume from my former employer) and that they were working on processing my claim.

When no one contacted me for a number of weeks, I went to the local unemployment office to talk to a live, in-the-flesh person, because basically, the 1-800 number that the government provides is useless, unless you want to wait on the phone all afternoon — if you can get through to anyone at all.  The person at the office told me just to wait and that my claim should be processed.  I thought they had taken their sweet time at this point, but that I’d wait because maybe that was true.  Good.

After several days of waiting, no one contacted me, and so I went back to the unemployment office.  I was told at that point (by the same person I saw the last time) that I should have been completing my reports to receive money and so by now the reports were late, even though I never received official instructions to complete them. Not a letter, e-mail, phone call, nothing. Either way, this person didn’t think to mention that I should have been completing reports the last time.

The messages I read when I logged onto the government website certainly did not indicate that I should be reporting.  The messages I read stated that my claim was still being processed (lots of processing happening, every day, for weeks – my claim has now been very well processed!).  I was given yet another form to fill out to explain why I didn’t complete my reports on time; I guess it was up to me to explain to the government why their shitty system didn’t work.

After three weeks from submitting the form which explained why my reports were not complete, I was not contacted by anyone, so I went to my local unemployment office, again.  The person I spoke to sent an e-mail to … someone (I assume one person? Wasn’t sure. I wasn’t allowed to know where the e-mail was sent) and this someone was supposed to have called me by today.  I was also given the option to call the useless 1-800 number, but I declined that option.

I am anxiously waiting by the phone in hopes that someone will call today to discuss my very delayed claim, but I doubt it.   So I will visit my unemployment office again for the fourth or fifth time in a number of weeks, since I have all the time in the world, while I am supposed to be looking for work and updating my employable skills.

Wish me luck, I’ll keep you posted.  It’s why I am screwed.

 

Local Toll Highway

Where I live there is a privatized toll highway which is mainly owned by a engineering and construction company whose ethics and legal record has been called into question as of late.

Said privatized toll highway company has the legal right to refuse individual license plate renewals through the government if tolls go unpaid (keeping in mind this company has the right to raise tolls at anytime, to any amount it feels suitable), all the while the main public highway nearby is unable to handle current traffic loads and has absolutely no commuter lanes on it.

I just received a notice that I did not pay my toll bill and that I would not be able to renew my license plate.  This was unbeknownst to me as when I checked online I had paid my bill.  So I called customer service and spoke to a very polite man.  Apparently my billing somehow became “disconnected”, so when I used my transponder toll device in my new vehicle on the highway, somehow charges didn’t show up on my account and I didn’t actually know I had to pay.  The nice guy on the phone reversed the extra charges that one has to pay when one goes on the highway without a leased transponder device.

What the friendly guy didn’t mention to me was that I was charged a $20 admin fee, because that’s what the government charges the private toll highway company when the government has to send notices regarding unpaid tolls to the company’s customers.  And that fee gets passed down to whom?  Yes, right, you got it, the customer.  So, if I didn’t ask, I was made to think that all the charges were magically reversed for me and I was given the option to pay my bill right away.  Great!

Since I did ask about whether I was charged for any other fees, I expressed that I wasn’t liable for the fact that the billing system wasn’t smart enough to connect charges to my account and that I shouldn’t be paying the government’s $20 admin fee for the payments I missed, since I didn’t know I was supposed to make them.  He was happy to reverse the charges at that point, without question.  So I paid with my credit card the whole $26 I owed in the end, and I was kindly given the option to allow the company to automatically take billing amounts from my credit card. Guess what? I declined the automatic billing.

I have to thank my government for giving away a toll highway to a private company which screws its customers as often as it can.  Oh, and thanks again government, for spending even more money on desperate lawsuits which attempt to limit how much customer screwing the company can do.

All this time, if the government owned the highway, it could have been receiving a steady income of tolls and using these funds to build an extended (rail) transit system to deal with the growing population, or maybe using them to help fix the expressways that are falling down in the main city.  It’s why we are massively screwed.

Automated Cat Feeder

This guy, Dave, made an automated cat feeder with a Raspberry Pi computer.  I wish I was smart enough to think of that.  I know that feeding cats lots of grains and carbohydrates is not a good idea, but, hey, at least they aren’t starving and neglected when their humans aren’t around to take care of them for a few days.  Their lives could really be a lot worse and that’s why my ex and I saved one of my little guys from a kill shelter.  The cat had eye and upper respiratory infections, along with ear mites when we got him.

Always, always, always spay or neuter your pet and don’t let them out to kill birds because those cute little furballs are also impacting bird populations across the world.