myBLOG-Online

UNPOPULAR OPINION: F1 should become a spec series!

F1, time for a spec series?

We have come to the end of the 2023 Formula 1 season, bar one race, Abu Dhabi, and Max Verstappen and Red Bull have been dominant, wrapping up the drivers and constructors titles half a dozen races before the finale this weekend. This is not because the Dutchman is just that good, it’s that he has the best car, the Red Bull RB18 and RB19 have been the dominant cars in Formula One for the past 2 years.

Max Verstappen’s nearest competitor is his teammate, Sergio Perez, who wrapped up second place in the drivers’ championship at the Las Vegas GP, after that race, Verstappen’s lead over Perez was 276 points, which means that Verstappen outscored his teammate by an average of 13.14 points per race. Clearly, Verstappen is on a different level from Perez, but it’s rare that two drivers of equal skill drive for the same team, so it’s unsurprising, I’d love to see Hamilton, LeClerc, or Norris partner Verstappen in the Red Bull.

Since 2010, there have only been two teams winning the Constructors championship, in 2010-13 it was Red Bull, in 2014-21 it was Mercedes, and 2022-23 it was Red Bull again, which is likely to continue until the next regulation change in 2026. This is the second issue, when there is a regulation change, often a different team emerges as dominant. Mercedes became dominant in the generation of the V6 hybrid turbo formula from 2014, and Red Bull in the return to ground effects aerodynamics in 2022.

So, these are the facts, and my view is that we need to abandon the idea of F1 being the pinnacle of motorsport innovation, for the show, the sport needs to move towards a highly regulated spec series formula, where all teams basically run the same engine, chassis and electronics, creating a situation where the driver is the main factor in deciding who wins races. I understand that my view is a minority one, but F1’s biggest growth period was in 2021 when Hamilton and Verstappen went at it hammer and tongs, coming down to the last race of the season to decide it, in this case, in a controversial way.

In 2023, one driver, Max Verstappen has won 18 of the 21 races run so far, and you would not bet against him claiming a 19th race win in Abu Dhabi. Outside of the hardcore fans, who would want to watch a race where the winner is almost predetermined, barring any mechanical issues or crashes. I’ve been watching F1 since 1987, and in recent years, I’m a casual watcher, often watching the 30 minute highlights.

In the past, I would get up early, or stay up late to watch races live, including the pre-show and post-show programs, and I’m considering skipping 2024 altogether. When I watch a football game, I genuinely do not know who is going to win, but in F1, even if the top driver in the top car starts from 15th place, you still expect him to finish on the podium, if not win outright, this is not what any sport should be.

This was proven by the lackluster ticket sales for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, initially, tickets were selling for over $1,600, with reports of prices being slashed by over 80% for some sessions as the race weekend approached, I believe that F1 is overpriced and underwhelming, especially in the US races, you’re not going to attract new fans when the races are predictable and overpriced, especially in today’s market. This is even more true when the race organizers cannot ensure that practice sessions start on time because they failed to secure manhole covers, destroying the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, and then forcibly ejecting paying attendees before the second session eventually started hours late at 2:30am local time.


Is it time for a change?

I have been feeling somewhat disillusioned with my current employment, there’s a number of factors, but I have been with this company for a decade, and feel like I am not respected, and it’s a dead-end job, there is no option for advancement, and have very little decision making power, while other people on the same hierarchy level do, different job role, but same level in the hierarchical structure.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad, there are positives, such as being able to work from home, being able to be creative with photography, website design, and marketing material creation, and being relatively autonomous, working on my own initiative. But, I feel like I am capable of so much more in this field, sadly, my position is extremely unique, so a move to a company in the same sector to continue to use my unique set of skills is unlikely. Property management companies, in general, tend to want managers to do their own marketing and don’t see the value in a dedicated marketing position.

Onto the thing that is really grinding my gears. I often go above and beyond, working well beyond my contracted 40 hours to get listings together and published, and often work on weekends, I work  10—15 hours over my regular hours each week, in addition to having work email on my personal phone, so I can deal with company website and social media duties, while not at my computer. The following has made me make a decision to remove the work profile from my phone, and only work my contracted hours.

There is a status sheet for our single-family properties, which we all have access to, but often this status sheet is not updated with the most up-to-date information. This means I often have to ask questions of the manager or regional manager to get the information that should be on the status sheet. In my view, a status sheet has no point if the status on the sheet is not correct, it fails at its most basic task!

The issue I have is directly with the regional manager, who I will obviously not name, who, from everything she has said and done, has no respect for me, expecting me to jump, when she says jump, remember, she is on a parallel level to me in the company structure. But, she interjected into a perfectly civil back-and-forth conversation with the property manager, with a highly disrespectful email response.

The initial email from the manager; was asking for some corrections to the new website that had been launched, that website in itself is a whole different story, but the import from the old website was from months ago upon launch, meaning a lot of information was incorrect, but, I digress. Additionally, the manager, asked when I could photograph two properties, to which I responded that I visited one property, but could not find a key lockbox onsite, asking her to confirm that a lockbox was onsite before I revisited, which I didn’t think to be an unreasonable request, as my time is very much in demand.

The manager responded that it had a master lock installed, so I suggested that maybe whoever updates the status sheet could input M in the relevant column to signify a master lock was installed. The manager responded, explaining if there is an “x” in that column, that means master lock, and if there is an “lb“, that means lockbox. I simply responded with “OK, understood, but FYI, for [property name], among others, there is nothing in the LB/LK column.“, this is where my conversation with the manager stopped.

This is where the regional manager stepped in, writing “Is it not reasonable for you to carry your key since you have one?“, this is after I prioritized her properties, over others, getting home from visiting her properties to take photos. When I originally visited the aforementioned property with the master lock, it was a Sunday, and I did not think of the key, as I never had to use it, as there has always been a lockbox.

I was extremely pissed, and being a very sarcastic person, I responded with the following;

I prioritized your properties for photos to help you out and I come back from photographing [property name] and [property name] to find this snarky response in my inbox. I’ve had these keys for years, and never once had to use them because there was always a lockbox, so sorry for not thinking of trying the key, out of office hours, and on a Sunday, I’ll add!

And, I got an email response from the regional manager, saying “I think it would be helpful if you carried your key to avoid not being able to access units in the future. Especially during your after hours time. But, just a thought.“, doubling down on her previous, completely unnecessary comments.

To be clear, I have no issue with the manager, from whom this interaction started, and I believe I can work with just about anyone, but the regional manager is intolerable to me, she seems to have a superiority complex, thinking everyone is there to be at her beck and call. So, moving forward, her properties can wait their turn, and I will not be working out of hours, enough. I did not mind working out of hours, but if I get a snarky response when the response should have been thank you, fuck that bitch!

Clearly, I am salty about this, I don’t think it’s an appropriate response from someone in a position of power. Am I being unreasonable? I asked my wife and she thinks I am right, and she would be pissed too.


What do we have to do to get a break in this life?

What do we have to do to get a break in this life?

As I mentioned in my previous mixed bag life update, I knew that I was required to submit an annual vision form from my eye doctor, but I thought it would be in January 2024, when I have to renew my driver’s license, and every January after that, as the last vision form was submitted in January 2023.

It seems this is not the case, the DMV claims they sent a letter two months ago telling me I had to submit the vision form by my birthday. I did not receive that letter, and yesterday evening I received a letter informing me that my license has been revoked, “due to your failure to complete the action required”.

So as soon as the DMV opened this morning, I called and asked what was going on with the revocation letter. This is when I found out about the letter that I never received, in fact, this is the second letter that went missing from the DMV in the past four months, my registration document and decal went missing, and they had to send me a replacement after I called the day after my registration expired.

I am not a big driver anyway because I work from home, but knowing that I cannot drive makes me feel trapped, it’s not like my hometown of Plymouth, UK, where you can live your life just fine without a car. Now I have to wait for another form to be sent from the DMV, and then I have to wait until I can get an appointment for an eye test to get the form filled out, then I have to send it back and wait for the wheels of bureaucracy to slowly turn, so I might have my license restored just in time to pay for a renewal.

The second blow is from the Social Security Administration, we received a letter stating the repayment schedule for the ‘overpayment‘, seemingly ignoring the appeal that Erin submitted. Their reasoning for their claim of overpayment is dubious at best, and corrupt at worst, claiming that Erin’s eligibility date was wrong, it shouldn’t have been until August 2022, and not February 2022 as the original letter stated.

The appeal is supposed to stop all garnishments until the appeal has been completed, but it’s the SSA, so they have probably ‘lost’ it in their mail room, it’s not the first time they have ‘lost’ documentation we have sent to them, but I digress. This means that Erin will lose all $1,543 for five months, December 2023 through May 2024, and $1,047 in June 2024, that’s a lot of money to lose for most people, including us.

Third, and hopefully final thing, last Friday night, Erin was trying to get her shoes from under the bed, when she heard a pop, and collapsed to the ground, not being able to move her right leg, and was unable to get up, so I had to call 911 for an ambulance to transport her to the hospital, now we wait for the bill, like all healthcare in the US, it’s pay to play and it’s not cheap, but I digress (for the second time). It turned out that she didn’t break any bones, but does have a sprained and badly bruised knee.

Erin has been getting around on crutches but did take a second tumble on Monday morning when her knee gave out, but we managed to get her up this time. It’s now been five days and Erin is able to drive again, just in time for me to not be able to, and has been working, although I wish she took a day or two to rest, but we do need the money, especially with the loss of over $1,500 a month starting next month.


YouTube now blocking ad blockers, my take!

YouTube now blocking ad-blockers

About a week ago, I started getting nag screens when playing videos on YouTube, saying “Ad blockers are not allowed on YouTube”, it popped up a couple of times, which I could dismiss by hitting the x after a few seconds, then I did not see it again before today. If their version of deterring the use of ad-blocking software simply displays a nag screen, which can be dismissed, that’s more desirable than being subjected to 6—8 adverts in a 12-minute video, some of them being lengthy and unskippable.

When I first started consuming YouTube, a decade ago, there were one or two skippable adverts at the beginning of the video, and another one or two at the end, which was fine. I could even accept a couple of skippable mid-roll adverts on longer videos, but, when they started inserting non-skippable ads after just 3—4 minutes, then every 3—4 minutes after that, plus some 10—15 minute adverts, which are longer than the video I’m watching, this is when I removed the YouTube whitelisting from my ad-blocker.

I don’t know whether YouTube will be more aggressive, blocking access unless you whitelist the website. But, I suspect that Alphabet/Google will not be more aggressive than a nag screen for fear of people ditching the platform completely, which will have a knock-on effect of reducing the number of advertisers, meaning less money for Google, market forces will dictate Google’s direction in regard to ad-blockers.

The simple solution is for Google to make YouTube a subscription service. To use YouTube, you’ll have to pay $13.99/mo, which I believe is too much of a premium price for a service where YouTube relies on independent 3rd-party creators. I want to support creators, who, incidentally only get a fraction of a penny per ad view, but if I have to constantly skip adverts every few minutes, I will simply close the window. This is exactly why I never use YouTube on my Android devices, too many adverts.

If we could go back to having two skippable ads at the beginning, mid-roll on longer videos, and at the end of the video, I would whitelist YouTube in a heartbeat. Google has only itself to blame, pushing more and more adverts into videos, forcibly on old creator videos, if you believe some creators, all this has encouraged people to use ad blockers. The ball is in your court Google, whatcha gonna do with it?

UPDATE: Nov, 8 2023, 21:22 – YouTube has played it’s hand!

Well, Google has decided on a 3 strikes system, you get 3 ad-free streams before you get this message

Ad blockers violate YouTube's terms of service
I suspect that ad blocker software engineers will find a workaround relatively quickly, we’ll see!


A Mixed Bag Life Update XIV

Life Update

It’s been about three months since the last life update, so here it is, buckle up, brace for impact. The biggest change is our health insurance situation, Erin has finally been approved for “Working Healthy“, which is Medicaid healthcare insurance. Erin is eligible as she is determined to be disabled, however, she works about 15 hours a week, hence the Working Healthy moniker. This change will save us $658 monthly, which we currently pay for Blue Cross, Blue Shield through the Healthcare Marketplace.

The downside is that the kids will not have medical insurance moving forward, Conner, he can get his own insurance, he is 19 years old now, and can probably get a good subsidy from the ACA as his income is super low at this time. Alya can hopefully get Medicaid through Erin’s disability determination. I have my own medical insurance through my employer, it’s from Aetna, and not worth shit, it covers next to nothing, with a high deductible, but I pay a few dollars a paycheck for it, so it’s a case of something is better than nothing. Sadly, I cannot add the kids to my insurance as adding them adds several hundred dollars per paycheck, and again, the insurance is terrible, and we need that money to live.

My concern with this switch is can Erin find doctors who take Medicaid? We already know that her therapist and pain management doctors do not take Medicaid, the latter is very problematic as Erin has severe rheumatoid arthritis and heavily relies on narcotics to control her pain. Her current pain management doctor is awesome, he has prescribed 2 months’ worth of narcotics to get her through to, hopefully, finding a new pain management doctor who takes Medicaid, if there is one to find, locally.

A related subject is the potential of Erin losing her SSDI disability benefit for six months, starting December 2023, that’s a loss of $1,543 per month, which would cripple us financially, even with the saving of $658 monthly. Social Security claims that we were not eligible for the first six months of payment, as Erin needed to be eligible for six months before they started paying the benefit. But we have documentation sent from Social Security, to say she had served that six months of eligibility before they paid her a cent. We have appealed the decision, and are waiting for a response about the appeal.

From what I have read, it seems that Social Security has overpaid as much as $20bn in benefits, and wants it back within 30 days, in our case, that’s $8,762,  which is low compared to what some have to pay back, one woman has to pay back over $60k. What the fuck is the Social Security Administration been smoking, if you qualify for disability benefits, you are not putting the benefits received into a savings account for a rainy day, we spend every damn cent of it just to make it from month to month, read more.

It’s amazing to me how the United States government can always find money for war, but when it comes to helping out American citizens, it’s always “How are you going to pay for that?”, but I digress.

I have been having my own health challenges, I’ve had to return to having injections in my eyes to help save what vision I have remaining, which, Aetna, my insurance provider does not pay a cent for, pushing me further into medical debt. This came about because like the last time, I woke up to a blurry world, making work very tough, and driving was not an option. And now because of this ongoing issue, my ability to drive is under threat, and I have to submit an annual form from my eye doctor, which is fine, but after the issues with renewing my driver’s license, renewing in October 2022, January 2023 and will again need to renew in January 2024, is very frustrating. This is due to a delay in USCIS renewing my green card, sending out two 1 year extensions, meaning that the DMV could not issue me with a standard six-year license because my legal residence in the United States is not guaranteed beyond the extension date.

I did finally receive my new green card, so hopefully, in January, I can get a regular six-year license, and just have to send the vision form to the DMV once a year. But, knowing my luck, I will continue to have to pay the full fee for a six-year license, for a 1 year license. I will have paid for 18 years of driver’s licenses in January, in just 15 months; there has to be a better system than this crap for green card holders.

Erin, Conner, and I all were infected with COVID-19, seemingly from the movie theater when we went to see Gran Turismo, which was fun, NOT, being laid up for a whole week, read more.

And right now I have a nasty spider bite on my face, and the US healthcare system failed me again. I called my doctor’s office, requesting an urgent appointment, and the nearest appointment was a month away, and they would not prescribe me any antibiotics without an appointment. They suggested Urgent Care as an option, but that’s not a real option, due to the copay cost, $250 just to be seen, and the ER is definitely not an option, the last time I had a spider bite, that 15-minute visit cost $2,774, luckily as I received the bite while taking real estate photos for my employer, workers compensation covered it.

So, I am left with having to just deal with it, and I think my body is fighting off the infection from the spider bite, but it was quite painful for the first four days, as my face swelled up, on my left cheek towards my eye. It’s still swollen, but the hardness of the swelling is softening up and the pain is gone, so hopefully this is a good sign that my body is fighting off the infection of its own accord.

Finally, Erin and I have put our foot down on the local kids coming into our house to play with Alya. I’m not going to mention any names, but there is one girl who whenever she comes into our home, especially staying overnight, there is some problem. This last time, I allowed Alya to have her friends stay over on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, the Wednesday and Thursday nights, there was not a big issue, but on Friday, I allowed the troublesome child to stay with her friend, who I did not really know. They treated Alya really badly, were throwing stuff at our cats, because Imzadi is “scary”, and finally deliberately broke two staplers, one of which did not belong to us, so we had to pay to replace it, we found staples in lots of our belongings, including the sofa, and they destroyed our wicker vegetable basket.

I should have put a stop to this months ago, but because Alya has terrible anxiety about not having anyone to play with, I gave them another chance. I should have stopped it for the simple reason that this girl, an African American child, is all too quick to play the race card, I’ve overheard her calling me a racist personally and had it confirmed by other people. If I am a racist, I am doing a terrible job of being one, being married to an African American, with two mixed-race children. Bottom line, no one comes into our house, and I do not want Alya playing with our neighbors’ kids, with friends like that, who needs enemies.


Dynamic pricing in real estate rentals, I hate it!

Dynamic pricing in real estate rentals, I hate it!

My particular chosen occupation is working as a rental property marketer, and in recent months, dynamic pricing, in this case Spherexx has been the bain of my life, to the point of me reevaluating whether I want to continue in real estate marketing if this is what we are trending towards in property management.

Let’s start with the reasons I dislike dynamic pricing software. It creates more work for marketers and managers, to keep pricing up to date, I have to log into our property management system to check the current prices, then go to the property websites, apartments.com, rentable.co etc. to update prices daily.

Secondary, this particular property has an online leasing system, which I pull into the website via some JavaScript, and I have seen as much as a $100 range for a single unit, and pricing for each lease length is all over the place, I have seen a 10-month lease be offered for $20 less than a 12-month lease, what sense does that make? Short-term leases should incur an added premium, not the other way around.

Some lease lengths are not available at all, and it was explained to me that the reason for this is to not have a lot of leases expire in a particular month, which I assume is why a 10-month lease is less than a 12-month lease, to deter people from signing a 12-month lease. And the price can change significantly if you change your move-in date a day or two forward or back, which in my view would drive people away.

This dynamic pricing model, amongst other things, has contributed to a vacancy crisis. I said at the time that I found out that the owners switched to dynamic pricing, this was going to cause issues at lease renewal time. Note, that I was not informed of this change, I found out when I logged into the property management software on a Monday morning, having to email around to find out what was going on.

This kind of software might work better in a larger city, but not in Wichita, Kansas.

RealPage, who is the dominant property management software provider has its own dynamic pricing software and is facing investigations into allegations of price fixing, keeping prices artificially high. RealPage, with dominance in the market, has access to pricing for hundreds, if not thousands of properties in a given area, and sells its dynamic pricing software with the incentive of maximizing rents, effectively killing competition. So it is facing multiple lawsuits for anti-competitive behavior.

I really hope that the government reigns in these systems, companies like RealPage should not be able to control the market in this manner, price fixing is extremely illegal in the United States. But, it is, the good ol’ US of A, so some palms will be greased and it will be swept under the carpet.


More Social Security nonsense.. they claim we owe $8,762!

Social Security Administration - Incompetent or Corrupt?

Despite Erin’s Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility being put under immediate review, after a 3-year battle for her to get SSDI, the Social Security Administration continued to pay her a monthly payment of between $1,419 (2022) and $1,543 (2023), and after a whole year of deliberation, they have finally decided that Erin was not eligible for six months between August 2022 and January 2023.

This week, we received a ‘notice of overpayment’ letter from the Social Security Administration, claiming Erin was not eligible for SSDI from August 2022 through January 2023, claiming we owe $8,762, and they want payment within 30 days of five days after the date on the latter, which is August 21, 2023.

Overpayment Information

Your overpayment was caused due to a change ip the month of entitlement for the period of February 2023 through July 2023. In the chart below, we will detail how we arrived at your overpayment amount. We will list what you have been paid and what you should have been paid.

You Received

08/2022—12/2022 — $1,419.00 — Total: $5,676.00
11/2022—07/2023 — $1,543.00 — Total: $12,344.00

You Should Have Received

02/2023—07/2023 $1,543.00 06 — Total: $9,258.00

How To Pay Us Back

You should refund this overpayment of $8,762.00 within 30 days. Please make your check or money order payable to “Social Security Administration,” and send it to us in the enclosed envelope.

$5,676 + $12,344 = $18.020 – $9,258 = $8,762, which we now owe. Obviously paying back $8,762 is not possible, we needed that money to pay our bills, $658 for medical insurance + $551 for a personal loan, made up mostly of medical debt, we didn’t put it in savings to squirrel it away. People who qualify for Social Security clearly don’t have enough money to live on, or they would not qualify in the first place.

Since paying it back in one lump sum is not an option, starting from December 2023, SSA will withhold the full benefit for 5.6 months to recover the money they claim we owe. This will financially cripple us, we cannot just lose $1,543 a month and be fine. We are not the Pentagon, we can’t just lose billions of dollars down the back of the sofa, every penny of our SSDI payment is 100% accounted for.

We have no option but to appeal as we cannot afford to lose this financial lifeline, and it was not our fault, we provided SSA with all the information they asked for, and did not lie about any part of our situation. Realistically, I am not expecting to win any appeal, not because we did anything wrong, but because it’s the government, and of course, they never make mistakes, right? The best I am hoping for is that the SSA don’t be total dicks, and take the entire benefit, I think if they took $500/month, we could just about manage on the remainder of the payment if we were to make some cuts in our lives.

If we had lied about our financial situation and got caught, I’d say it was a fair cop and sucked it up, but that is not the case. If the Social Security Administration believed we should not have received SSDI, they should have withheld it, which would have still screwed us, as we would have not had medical insurance for Erin and the kids, and I would have defaulted on my personal loan, but at least we would not owe anything to the government, what this has done is kick the can down the road, not at all helped us.

I have reused the featured image from the original blog about this situation, the same question applies, it took the Social Security Administration a whole year to make a decision, and now we get to pay for it.

Update: Sep, 16 2023: I think we might have figured out what happened!

Erin talked with the lawyer who helped her get SSDI in the first place, and the lawyer reminded her that from the time of eligibility, there are six months of nonpayment before they start paying out the benefit. Erin was approved in February 2022 and didn’t get her first SSDI payment until August, which is six months. We know this because, they said that Erin had earned too much money during February through July, and we were confused as we were not receiving any benefits during those months. So now, we can speculate that the SSA is now saying that the start date of eligibility was August 2022, meaning Erin should not have received anything until February 2023, so they have moved the damn goalposts.

This is clear bullshit, they are the ones that screwed up, why should we have to pay for their screw-up? I don’t believe it was a screw-up, I believe it is a deliberate attempt to defraud us of money we are rightly entitled to. This leads me to believe that like all levels of government, they are corrupt as f**k! But none of this matters, we dont have the money to launch a legal battle, and our lawyer does not handle overpayment disputes, leaving us at the mercy of the bean counters at the Social Security Administration.


My wife says I’m never positive about anything…

COVID-19 - My wife says I’m never positive about anything, but she was wrong...

But I have proof that she is wrong, I tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday, as did she, and our son Conner, seemingly after a family outing to see Gran Turismo at the East Wichita Regal Warren Theater.

I was the first of us to start seeing symptoms on Monday morning, feeling somewhat rough with a sore throat. At this time, I was not even thinking of COVID-19, I thought it was another bad allergy attack, which can make me feel this way, but after a day, I am better, so I battled through and worked despite feeling rough. But, by Tuesday morning, I found myself stricken in bed, not able to sit at my desk to work.

Anyone who knows me will realize this is serious, I’d almost have to be at Death’s door to not be working, I’m somewhat of a workaholic, probably to the detriment of my own health, if I am honest with myself. Despite feeling like absolute crap, I dragged myself out of bed mid-afternoon and did about 90 minutes of work, but that was all I could manage before laying down on the sofa for the evening.

This is when my son came out of his room, a rare occurrence, and informed me that he was sick also, Erin at this time was feeling a little off, but still functioning, and working, We’re still not thinking COVID-19, thinking we’ll just get over it in a day or two, this is despite me being completely laid up, not able to work at all on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, nor through the Labor Day holiday weekend.

When my wife, Erin arrived home from work, on Friday, she was also feeling the same as Conner and I. This is when it dawned on us that this could be COVID-19, we acquired some rapid antigen tests from my mother-in-law on Saturday, and we’re all testing positive. mine and Erin’s tests immediately showed up as positive, not waiting 15 minutes for us, but Conner’s test took 15 minutes to show as a positive.

By Saturday I had not eaten anything substantial in six days, and the hunger pains were intense, so I forced myself to suck down some tomato soup and a few pieces of bread, which staved off the hunger, but I struggled to keep it down, thankfully, I beat the struggle to get some nourishment in me.

Our daughter, Alya avoided getting infected with COVID-19 and was feeling fine, so we have been trying to keep her at arm’s length to keep her that way. We’re just one person away from a black X on our door.

Erin and I were put on Paxlovid pills as we are considered high risk with compromised immune systems, but after just one day, neither of us could continue with the course, these are hardcore drugs, making us feel worse than the COVID symptoms. We chose to treat the symptoms with a combination of Theraflu and Mucinex, which was working. By Tuesday, my next scheduled work day, Monday was Labor Day, I felt well enough to work at least 75% of my regular hours, and by Wednesday, I was working a full day.

Erin was now feeling the full effect of the virus, being laid up in bed, and missed work on Wednesday, but by Thursday, she was feeling much better, and went back to work today, Friday, despite still testing positive, simply wearing a mask to protect others the best she can. We’re both still feeling rough, as we are still positive for COVID-19, but are both feeling better, Conner is still testing positive also, but better.

Update: Monday, 9/11/2023;

Conner has now tested negative and has returned to work, and Erin and I have to wait until we have some cash to buy another couple of tests, but we are both working, despite feeling the aftereffects of COVID-19, I believe we are in the clear, and I work from home, so I have been working for a whole week now without an issue, I still have a cough, a mild headache, and my breathing is still a little labored, but I am 95% back to how I was before I was struck down by the dreaded Coronavirus.

COVID-19 is no joke, I cannot imagine what it would have been like if we had not been vaccinated and boosted. Why anyone would choose to risk it by refusing to get a simple, free vaccine is beyond me.

The moral of the story, is don’t go out in public, the general public has the lurgies.


My less than desirable Shopify support experience

My less than desirable Shopify support experience

My wife, Erin has a Shopify store, Broomsticks & Twigs, and it has 2FA enabled to secure the website better. and I didn’t download the backup codes, clearly a failing of mine, I just expected Google Authenticator codes to transfer with her Google account like they did when my Pixel 4 XL had an unfortunate interaction with water. Anyway, Erin’s Google Pixel 5a had an LCD screen leak, making it useless, so we bought a Pixel 6a, but we just discovered that her 2FA codes for Shopify did not transfer, and without the recovery codes, we are reliant on Shopify support disabling 2FA so we can log in.

What is odd is that despite 2FA being enabled, we had been logging in just fine for more than 3 months, with the username and password, bypassing the 2FA requirement, but last Saturday when we were about to start a Facebook ad campaign, we found that it was suddenly asking for the authenticator code.

The first thing I’d like to address is the lack of support options provided by Shopify, your only option is seemingly live chat, at least if you cannot log into your account, and no way to chat with the accounts team directly. According to my research, you used to be able to call Shopify at (888) 746-7439, or email support@shopify.com, but they moved to a callback system, which also seems to have been discontinued, at least for customers not logged in, the only option I can find on their website is live chat. This, in my opinion, is unacceptable for what is essentially a B2B (business-to-business) service.

Starting the saga, we reach out to support via live chat, our only option, not being logged in, last Saturday, August 12 and we explained the situation, the representative, Connie S said (in text form) that she had escalated our request to their accounts team, stating that they would be in contact as soon as they can. Moving forward to Tuesday, August 15, 2023, having not heard anything, I responded to the chat log email, as it states in the message “To add further comments, just reply to this email and you’ll hear from us soon!”, asking about the progress of our request, and if they needed further information to verify our identity and guess what, by today, Saturday, August 19, there was no response.

Erin reached out on Thursday, August 17, chatting with Carmela G, and was promised that the accounts team was “working on it right now”, and surprise, surprise, we are still locked out of our Shopify account, and we received no further correspondence at the time of writing this on Saturday, August 19.

Today, Saturday, I again reached out by live chat, chatting with Quennie B, explaining that we had been waiting a week, and there has been zero response from Shopify concerning our issue, expressing our frustration and dissatisfaction with the service we had received. I asked if it would be possible to chat with the accounts team directly, and was told that they were only available via their internal email system.

Continuing on, I asked the question is it common for requests to the accounts team to take more than a week to be completed? Quennie responded, yes, we have been getting a lot of requests concerning login issues. I also posed the question, can I cancel via live chat, hoping it might elicit a more urgent response, and she said she could cancel our store via chat, which is good to know. Quennie said that she had upgraded the request to urgent and that she would send me a separate email from the chat log, so I can email “directly” for updates, but this came from support@shopify.com, so I’m not hopeful.

I’m not the only person experiencing this poor customer service situation, you can search Google, and you will read a similar story from many hundreds of people, this Shopify forum thread is very revealing.

Update (Aug, 29 2023): cutting our losses

Another 10 days have passed and there has been zero communication from Shopify. Erin contacted them again today via live chat, the only method of communication with support, and it was the same old story, your request is in the queue and we’ll be in contact as soon as we can. In the meantime, they have charged our credit card for another month of service. So we are cutting our losses, and canceling the card, to stop them from taking more money without providing the service. Yes, the website is online, but that is useless if we cannot log in to update it or review orders, commonly known as doing business.

It is unacceptable to have to wait an indeterminate amount of time to regain access to your account due to losing access to 2FA and the recovery codes. There should be an automated system to disable 2FA by providing information specific to the account, not the Shopify, we’ll get to you when we can mentality!

Update (Sep, 4 2023): Finally, an answer

After many weeks of waiting, we finally got a real response from Frank (Shopify), which reads as follows.

To disable Two-Step Authentication:

Step 1: visit this Secure Document Upload Form.
this form has also been sent via separate email.
Step 2: upload current photo ID for the account’s user.
government-issued, all edges visible, full colour. Please note we cannot accept scanned/photo copied images.
Step 3: upload a screenshot of the latest Shopify charge as shown on your credit/debit card statement.
image must show the date, charge amount and 8- or 9-digit invoice number. You can find this information from your online statements or transaction list.

Please only submit files via our Secure Document Upload Form.

documents attached via reply are redacted for security purposes.

Once the above steps are completed, verification will proceed, and I will follow-up to confirm receipt and next steps.

I have redacted the links, as it looks like a specific link for us to upload our documents. I informed Erin about this latest happening, and her response was meh, so I don’t know if she is going to continue with Shopify or not. My issue is that this could have all been resolved weeks ago, it seems like such a simple and logical process to regain access, but we kept on getting the same response, our accounts team are very busy and will get back to you as soon as possible, why could the regular support staff not have imparted this information, or even had this information as part of their online help system?

Update (Oct, 13 2023): Our decision

I decided to take a look at the self-hosted WooCommerce system based on WordPress, created by the same people who made WordPress, Automattic, and we are going with it. I have had more than a decade of experience with self-hosted WordPress installs on a personal and professional level, and WooCommerce is the same quality that I have come to expect from WordPress, with lots of online help and documentation to help you through the process of setting up WooCommerce, including their payment gateway, WooPayments. I even found a template that allowed me to hit the ground running, to get it up and working over a weekend. It’s a truly amazing piece of software for the bargain price of FREE!


Downward depression spiral caused by deteriorating vision!

Downward depression spiral caused by deteriorating vision

Following on from my previous A Mixed Bag Life Update XIII blog, a couple of days ago, this blog expands on how I feel, and the struggles I am having with my vision since last Thursday morning. I’ll get this out there first, I am writing this for myself, in an effort to stave off the feeling of impending doom, where I just want to sleep to escape my own mind, and the dark thoughts it tends to come up with.

Since last Thursday morning, from the moment I opened my eyes to see a world that has a 30% Gaussian blur applied to it, I have been struggling to do everything, including the thing I do for a living, the thing that keeps a roof over our head, feeling more and more frustrated and helpless each passing day.

I have been regularly applying allergy and lubricating eyedrops that were recommended to me by my Optometrist, which seemed to be helping, based upon what my vision was on Thursday morning. I would estimate that maybe the Gaussian blur level is more like 18%, I now only need my monitor at 175% zoom instead of 250%, allowing me to at least somewhat work, as I work from home and don’t need to drive.

I was really hoping that these vision issues would be temporary, maybe after a day or two, my vision would return to normal, but no such luck. Five full days in, and I cannot use my 6.7in Pixel 7 Pro phone, the screen is blurry even with my head one centimeter from the screen. To use my computer, for work, I need to have my screen resolution set to 175%, and even then, some programs I require, I cannot use because, at 175% screen scaling, their UI layout does not work at an effective 720p (1440p scaled 175%).

I had some false hope on Sunday morning, it appeared my vision had improved, but that hope was dashed when I was a passenger in my wife’s car, it became super clear that driving was not an option, the whole world was super bright, like my eyes were not constricting to let in less light, plus blurriness beyond 1 – 2 feet. Not being able to drive is frustrating, making me feel trapped, as the Midwest is not set up to walk or use public transport, not to mention the frequent 100°F+ Kansas summer heat.

Also, how am I supposed to do real estate photography, a vital part of my job, if I cannot tell if the camera is in focus or be able to frame shots, how can I create good real estate photography? not that I have a way to get to the property to take the photos, not being able to drive, so I guess it’s a moot point.

Sadly, I cannot just “get over it”, that’s not the way depression works. I feel more hopeless than normal, I have severe depression and anxiety caused by our constant financial woes. Now facing the prospect of losing my income, and not being able to support my family has sent me on a mental downward spiral.

The next problem is; if there is something that can be done to fix my vision, how can I pay for it, outside of obtaining more credit card debt? I already owe $3,000+ from the last time something similar happened, as I had to get several rounds of eye injections, which only 90% restored my previous level of vision. In January this year, I put $500+ on a credit card to get new glasses, which were a new technology that is supposed to increase clarity, not only did that not work, but my distance vision was worse, meaning I had to revert to my previous glasses to drive, which were not as effective for nearfield use.

My Optometrist has been telling me that my deteriorating vision was due to diabetes, but that has been under control, my last checkup, two weeks back showed I had an A1C of 6.3, and it has been in the 6.x range for almost 2 years, yet, my vision seems to have deteriorated faster than ever before.

I’m a person that does not like to rely on anyone, so, being in this situation, where everyday things like working, driving, or making a phone call are very difficult is incredibly frustrating. Yes, I understand, this is pride, but I have always been the carer, firstly, for my disabled mother, before her care was taken out of my hands, and now my wife, who unfortunately, suffers from severe RA and chronic pain, often requiring me to drive her to the ER, which I cannot do right now, my vision means I am in no way safe to drive.

Anyway, I’ll end it there, before I start repeating myself, thanks for reading.