A Mixed Bag Life Update XIII

Life Update

I’ll start with a relapse in my vision, I woke up on Thursday, July 20, 2023, and my vision had deteriorated to the point of not being able to see much of anything, close or distant, everything was like a 30% gaussian blur had been applied to my vision. I’ve basically not been able to work, even at 250% zoom on my browser window, everything is almost unreadable, effectively limiting my ability to work.

My vision has improved somewhat over the past day, to the point where I can use a computer, with 200% zoom applied, meaning I can write this blog with my head about 10 inches from the screen. I went out, with the help of my wife, Erin to Walgreens and spent $50, on a credit card of course, on Thursday to buy Pataday allergy eye drops and Refresh Optive Mega-3 lubricating eye drops on the recommendation of my optometrist, which I guess have had an impact, but not as quickly as I’d hoped it would.

Continuing the medical theme, some good news, my diabetes is under control, in the past two years, my A1C has gone from over 10 to 6.7 to 6.2, and is now stable. But a side effect of my diabetes is neuropathy in my feet, which means I suffer from nerve pain, but also I have no feeling in my feet, and being the dumbass that I am, I walked barefoot out onto my concrete driveway on a 103° day and burnt my foot pretty badly, and as a result, I am on antibiotics and having to use a silver infused antibiotic cream.

Over the past few months, our 13-year-old daughter, Alya has lost more than 20 lbs, dropping from 110 lbs to just 89 lbs. She has had next to no appetite over that time period, it started with strep throat, making it hard for her to swallow, but she is reluctant to eat to this day, basically, we have to force her to eat small things, along with protein shakes. We were referred to a gastroenterologist, who wanted to do a colonoscopy on Alya, but we do not have the funds to pay for it, the doctor’s office wanted $750 upfront, which we do not have, our financial woes have been well-documented on this blog over the years.

We do have medical insurance, that we pay $657 a month for, and because of deductible and max out-of-pocket costs, we have a pile of bills amounting to about $5,000, many sent to collections, and roughly $2,000 in credit card debt due to co-pays. But, the US has the best healthcare system in the world, if you believe the politicians, who constantly deny Americans Medicare-for-all, but I digress.

As has also been covered many times, my wife, Erin, suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis, along with fibromyalgia, and many other health challenges. But her pain management doctor has straight up said he does not deal with breakthrough pain, which often results in a visit to the ER for Erin for pain relief. A friend from Erin’s lupus group suggested a steroid shot, which Erin talked to her rheumatologist about, and got that shot, which helped with her breakthrough pain initially but didn’t last more than 24 hours, resulting in another visit to the ER, much to our frustration, we hate that our only option is the ER.

It’s frustrating that Erin’s pain management doctor refuses to help with breakthrough pain, it seems to me that breakthrough pain, would come under pain management, but what do I know? And her rheumatologist didn’t suggest any sort of breakthrough pain shot. Another RA sufferer had to suggest it to Erin, to ask her rheumatologist. You would think that doctors would be proactive to help their patients in the “best healthcare system in the world”, but the reality does not match the healthcare marketing.

I have had to put my foot down and ban Alya’s friends from our house. They have a basic lack of respect for us and our home, making a mess, and leaving when it’s time to clean up, leaving Alya to do it, which ultimately doesn’t happen, she says “It’s not fair that I have to clean up after them”, meaning that our house is left in a mess until I break down and clean. And the last time I cleaned, I found several cups with mold in them, and when I pulled the sofa out, I found plates with food on them, trash and spilled drinks, left to stain our carpet, and chewing gum stuck to the wall behind the sofa, and also on our treadmill.

Apparently, these friends, recorded me having a private conversation with Alya about the reasons I do not want her friends in our house and played it to their moms, and now they are not allowed to play with Alya, which is a win in my mind. They do not treat Alya right in my view, manipulating her to do things she would not normally do. Alya is a good kid, who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and these girls use this to control her. I’ve been enjoying the past two weeks, not having these girls knocking on my door every few minutes, and I’ve been enjoying my house being in some form of semblance, with minimal upkeep needed as we don’t make a big mess to clean up, Ive even been using my living room again.

Finally, I have deleted my Twitter account due to Elon Musk’s changes to the platform. The free speech absolutist has made users pay for that ‘free’ speech, at a cost of $8/month for a blue check. This has meant that people who choose to not pay, have their speech extremely limited. For example, my tweets used to get between several hundred and thousands of views, since Musk’s takeover of Twitter, my tweets are averaging 7 views, and that’s with a following of 150 users. There’s no point posting on a platform, where I am screaming into the void, so after 15 years, I am no longer a Twitter user.

Regardless of your political or ideological views, I believe you should have equal access to free speech, but in recent months, Elon Musk has been elevating and retweeting right-wing extremists pushing hate, racism, and misogyny. While limiting the exposure of left-wing voices, basically turning Twitter into a right-wing echo chamber, just like Truth Social as millions of users abandon the platform, which is sad. Twitter could have been great, but then Musk was forced to massively overpay for it and has slowly been driving it into the ground, hemorrhaging advertising income since day one of Musk’s stewardship.

Superfinal thought; I don’t know if it’s specific to my credit union, Meritrust. But, I don’t understand why charges appear on my online banking, then disappear, releasing those funds, making us think we have more cash available than we do. only to reappear, sometimes days later, after you have spent the money you thought you had. Causing you to go overdrawn, and hit with insufficient funds fees, which at Meritrust is $32, it’s almost like its a conspiracy to screw over their account holders, just sayin’

Why, Google, Why? Google Domains sold to Squarespace!

Why, Google, Why? Google Domains sold to Squarespace

Two weeks ago, I heard the news on the Linus Tech Tips‘ news show, The WAN Show that Google had sold their domains business to Squarespace. This is very annoying as a year ago, my employer migrated our domains to Google and registered another 5 domains since that time, on my recommendation as we already heavily use Google Workspace for our email, calendar, and office software solutions.

My logic was that we could manage our domains and online systems from a single Google account. But now, we are facing another migration. I’m unsure of the quality of Squarespace’s domain management system, and given Squarespace’s core business is selling website creation and hosting services, I wonder how long it’ll be before they start sending out emails to domain name owners pushing their service.

The question is, should I migrate to a new registrar, or give Squarespace domains a try? The latter option would be the easiest, as hopefully, everything will be transferred over including all domain settings, moving to a new registrar will create a bunch of work for me, setting up DNS, redirects, and forwarders.

What’s annoying to me is that Google has not sent me an email notifying me of the sale to Squarespace, either on my work email or personal email, as we have a couple of personal domains registered with Google, this blog’s domain is not one of them, that’s registered with 123Reg as it’s a UK domain name, as at the time I moved to the US, no US-based registrar allowed me to transfer a domain to them.

Google only transitioned its domain service out of beta in 2022, after 8 years of being in beta. I just don’t understand why Google would sell their domain business, it’s easy recurring income through a 99% automated system, but maybe that’s why I am not super wealthy like the Google execs.

Google offered features such as email forwarding, with catchall forwarding for domains at a registrar level, which is extremely useful for me. I make up email addresses for specific services, to direct emails to the correct folders with rules, not requiring me to set up the domain on my hosting package. For example, one of our domain names forwards to our main website, with a catchall email that forwards all emails at the domain to my primary email address, which is something I haven’t seen at other registrars.

Then there’s cost, Google charges $12/yr for gTLD domains like .com, .net, .org, etc, while Squarespace’s domains cost $20/yr for the same gTLD domains, that’s a significant cost increase for 20+ domains. Additionally, there is no guarantee that Squarespace will offer the same features as Google, the only guarantee is Squarespace will honor renewal pricing for 12 months from the date of the deal closing.

I guess the bottom line is, I shouldn’t be surprised, Google is famous for killing off projects that people are actively using, so at least they are transferring the assets instead of killing it. But, it’s irritating nonetheless, as especially as a business, you need stability, and switching domain registrar is a pain.

Misleading phone camera specifications

Misleading camera specs, not 50Mpixels, just 12.5Mpixels

I recently purchased a Google Pixel 7 Pro after I discovered that my Pixel 4 XL was not as water resistant as I was led to believe by its IP68 rating. I’ve had the Pixel 7 Pro for 4 weeks and yesterday was the first time I took a photo, and was shocked to find out when I imported it into Lightroom that it was only 9.1mp using the 16:9 ratio. I’d like to be able to take 3:2 images, but 4:3 and 16:9 are my only options, but I digress.

On the Pixel 7 Pro specifications page it states “50 MP Octa PD Quad Bayer wide camera”, which I have learned today is 4 pixels combined into one super pixel, so what you end up with, assuming you use the 4:3 ratio is 12.5 megapixels. This is called pixel binning (no pun intended), which allows smaller CMOS sensors like the ones featured in most cellphone cameras to take higher-quality photos.

Manufacturers are being deliberately misleading in their marketing, if I see 50mp listed in the specs, I’d expect to get 50mp images. This is the same bullshit as what budget “Hi-Fi” manufacturers use, PMPO, which is 4 x the actual output power, RMS, for example, 50 watts RMS, double that to get MPO (music power output), then double again to get PMPO (peak music power output), the end result, the claim is 200 watts, which is utter nonsense. Quad Bayer feels the same to me, call it a 12.5mp camera, the 50mp specs are nonsense, it’s pure marketing bullshit, and most people don’t know what Quad Bayer is.

Like Hi-Fi enthusiasts, photography enthusiasts are exceptionally condescending and toxic, spouting crap like “You don’t understand how it works, you expect 50mp images from such a small sensor?”. My answer is YES, it’s marketed as 50mp, I expect to get 50mp images, not 1/4 of the listed specs.

One Redditor wrote, “Imagine spending $1000 on something without doing any research on it beforehand”. Well, imagine manufacturers being honest, instead of using misleading figures. The least they could do is have an asterisk denoting the final images will be 12.5mp, or maybe have a link to more information about what “Octa PD Quad Bayer” actually is. I don’t think this is too much to ask, do you?

This is why I have never joined Reddit, and have generally avoided it in Google search results, the amount of assholes on there with a superiority complex is astonishing. There is no need to be condescending to people with less knowledge than you. Just explain how it works, there is no need to insult someone for their lack of knowledge, even you, the “expert” didn’t know shit at one point, don’t be an asshole!

I’m not a noob, I have been a professional photographer for over a decade, and my 26mp DSLR camera produces 26mp images. I understand that a full-frame DSLR is a long way from a cellphone camera in terms of quality, but to not even allow the buyer to use all 50mp of the sensor, even if it resulted in terrible images is clearly false advertising, regardless of what the assholes on Reddit claim.

The US’ toxic tipping culture!

The toxic US' tipping culture

As a Briton living in the US, I generally don’t use food delivery services, or eat out at a restaurant due to the insane tipping culture, which allows businesses to pay as little as $2.13 per hour. I understand that businesses have to make up the hourly wage to the minimum wage if tips fall short of the federal $7.25, or the state minimum wage, if higher, a fact that I’m sure many customers are unaware of.  But, unless a restaurant is totally dead, a server will make more than the minimum wage, so it’s kind of a moot point!

This blog is inspired by Louis Rossmann’s video about a DoorDash driver pitching a fit because the customer didn’t tip him. And as Louis points out, tipping culture has made employees angry at customers when they don’t tip, instead of being angry at their employer or the government for allowing employers to pay as little as $2.13 an hour. In my opinion, I believe that the customer should not be expected to subsidize workers’ pay so a business owner can maximize their profits, pushing the cost to customers.

On the rare occasion that I do dine out, I do tip, mainly out of an obligation to do so, not because the service was exceptional. Someone taking my order, and bringing my food and drinks to my table should be the minimum expectation. I have never had a server complain, or come after us for the tip we leave, but I hate that I am expected to tip 18 to 20%, which can get expensive. When Erin and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary, our meal cost $110, so a 20% tip is $21 for 5 to 7 minutes of work.

I often see stories pop up in my Facebook news feed about servers publicly shaming customers who didn’t give them the tip they feel they deserve, posting a photo of the ticket. The tipping culture has produced a bunch of entitled employees who think they should get a 20% tip, saying I waited hand and foot on these people and they only left me a $10 tip, that’s literally your job, be happy you got a tip!

There are non-tipped workers that do other physical jobs that get paid $10 or less an hour, and you’re complaining that you only got a $10 tip for realistically a maximum of 10 minutes of work.

One comment I heard is “If you can’t afford to leave a tip, stay at home.”, which is what I do, and I certainly don’t use delivery services, because I don’t want to feel pressured into leaving a tip, in addition to a 10—15% surcharge per item ordered, over what it would be if we went to the restaurant ourselves.

In my opinion, the tipping culture in the US has become toxic, with an entitlement complex among the employees, as shown in the linked YouTube video above. Aggressively banging on the customer’s door, and calling the customer with a confrontational attitude. This is America, where guns are rife, so all it takes is acting like this at the wrong door, and BANG, you’re dead! And in many states with stand-your-ground laws on the books, the shooter would likely walk away as he or she felt threatened.

Be angry at your employer, or your lawmakers, not the customers, the customer does not employ you!

Questioning the Google Pixel 4 XL IP68 rating?

Questioning the Pixel 4 XL IP68 rating

Yesterday, I set up the inflatable pool for my daughter and her friends in our yard. I decided to demonstrate how modern flagship cellphones are “water resistant”, with their IP68 rating by immersing my Pixel 4 XL in water and as you can probably guess from the title of this blog, did not go well.

I immersed my Pixel just 2 inches under water for 5 seconds and the first sign of trouble was bubbles coming from the phone, so I immediately pulled it out of the water. Initially, it seemed to be fine, it woke up and functioned as expected, but after a few minutes, it powered off, despite having over 90% charge.

I left it turned off for a few hours before trying to power it on, and a green screen came up with a battery symbol that had a question mark inside it. I did some Googling and found out this means a dead battery, or there is a problem with the connection to the battery, which was a problem with early Pixel 4’s.

I tried shaking the phone to get any water out and a fair bit of water did come out, and left the phone in the garage, which was pretty warm being a 90°F day, for a couple more hours, and tried to power it on once more, and nothing, it was completely dead. So I put it on charge and after a short while, it showed the green screen with battery and question mark again, never attempting to boot into Android.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the Pixel 4 XL refuses to power on, whether plugged into the charger or not, no green screen with question mark battery, literally no response at all, so I can only assume that water did ingress inside the device and killed the battery as it was powered on at the time of immersion.

So, this is problematic as I use my phone for two-factor authentication for many online services. My understanding of 2FA is that the code generator is directly linked to the phone it’s on. So I am freaking out as I have work resources linked to the Pixel 4 XL and I might not be able to log into those resources.

I am not a big phone user, most of the time it sits idle, but not having it made me realize how much I relied on it for many things I do, including mission-critical work things. This meant that I had to purchase a new phone, I was looking at buying a new phone relatively soon, possibly waiting for the Pixel 8. I obviously need a phone, so I opted for the Pixel 7 Pro, I bought the Pro, as the telephoto lens is a must-have for me, if the regular Pro had regular wide and telephone, I’d have bought that and saved $200.

In regard to 2FA, I did disable 2FA on a couple of services as I was still logged in and managed to recover my Amazon account by sending Amazon a scan of my driver’s license. Other services were not so easy to recover. To my surprise, when I downloaded and installed Google Authenticator on my new Pixel 7 Pro, all my 2FA accounts were there, so it seems that these rolling codes are not linked to a specific device. So I had to delete and reenroll the accounts I had reset, which was not a major chore, but it was unnecessary.

But I am left with the question of whether Google lied about the IP68 rating of the Pixel 4 XL? The IP68 rating that Google claims the Pixel 4 XL has, according to the spec is that it can be immersed in water to at least 1 meter (3.28ft) deep for 30 minutes. Clearly, this was not the case with the Pixel 4 XL, was my Pixel defective, or does the Pixel 4 XL not meet the standard as advertised? either way, it’s very annoying.

A Mixed Bag Life Update XII

Life Update

It’s that time of the year for us, time for our annual lease renewal, and as I expected, it’s going up, but more than I expected, a whopping 11.2% increase. Currently, we pay $1,095 per month, on a month-to-month lease, and if we stay on a month-to-month lease, we’ll be paying $1,225, however, if we commit to a 12-month lease, the increase will be $100, a mere 8.73% increase on what we currently pay.

Due to multiple financial challenges, we are unable to move in such a short period of time, just 5 weeks from the notification of the rent increase, having to give notice by April 30, 2023, and move out by May 31, 2023. We don’t have enough available cash to physically move, let alone, pay a deposit, usually equal to one month’s rent, application fees, and more to secure a new home by June 1, 2023.

This forces us into signing a 12-month lease, as $1,195 butts up against the absolute maximum rent we can afford. $1,200, and that puts us dangerously close to not making it from month to month.

Moving on, my daughter Alya is having trouble with, what she perceives to be bullying at school. From what she tells me, it sounds more like middle school life, but to her, it’s bullying, she is the very sensitive type, who can burst into tears for the smallest of insults. There does not seem to be anything physical going on, which is where I draw the line, no one needs to be laying hands on my daughter.

This is having a knock-on effect of causing her to be late for school, four times this week, as we cannot get her moving in the morning, this morning, she missed the entire first period, and part of her second period. Which is obviously causing her to fall behind in her lessons, affecting her grades.

We tell Alya to ignore them, it’s just part of middle school life, and middle school kids are mean, but she doesn’t seem to be able to let it go. Sadly, Alya did not inherit my sarcasm gene, she is more like her mother, Erin, who tends to take things to heart more than I do. Not to say I am insensitive, and maybe my sarcasm is a mask, but I tend not to let people’s words hurt me, especially if it’s some random person.

After just four months, we have paid Erin’s deductible and max-out-of-pocket costs for her medical insurance, but at a cost of about $4,500 in outstanding medical debt, which we cannot afford to pay, plus about another $750 in credit card debt for medication, but at least until the end of 2023, everything is 100% covered by Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Kansas, outside of our $658 monthly insurance premium.

Erin gets $1,543 monthly disability payments, as she works part-time and falls under the max income she can make. But, in reality, she struggles to do it, working 3 days a week, 5 hours a day takes everything out of her. When she gets home, she lies down and cannot do much of anything around the house. The only reason she works is because we need the money, even with SSDI, our combined income is not enough.

About half of the aforementioned debt is to the local ER, where we end up every 2 to 3 weeks because of Erin’s severe Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Lupus, which is exacerbated by Erin working, I would say that 7 times out of 10, the Emergency Room visits are when she arrives home from work. And her rheumatologist and pain management doctor are either unable or unwilling to help her avoid the ER.

Back to Social Security, Erin is constantly being investigated for her income, and forever under threat of having her SSDI stopped. One of the reasons is the way Social Security calculates your income, by calendar month, which is problematic as most people in the US get paid bi-weekly, which means that twice a year, a person has 3 paydays in a calendar month, which puts Erin over their limit for that month.

And, if the SSDI payments stop, no more medical insurance and I will be defaulting on my personal loan, which was a consolidation loan for credit card balances made up of about 70% past medical debt. Do you see a theme here… remember the United States has the best medical system in the world… /sarcasm

To end on a positive note, Erin and I went to see Papa Roach, Falling in Reverse and Hollywood Undead a month back at Hartman Arena, which of course, was put on a credit card, but we needed a release after months of stress. And we have booked tickets to see In This Moment and Motionless in White in August, also at Hartman Arena, using our own money from one of those aforementioned 3 payday months.

And, it looks like we have a new member of the family, my daughter Alya found a kitten all by itself in the local park and brought it home. We tried to take it to the local animal shelter, but they refused to take her, telling us to just release her, she’ll find her way home. We did not feel comfortable releasing the kitten where we found her, as there are wild animals in the area that would kill her in a heartbeat. We’ll keep an eye on local websites and Facebook groups for lost pets to see if someone has a missing cat, but otherwise, it looks like we’ll keep her as a companion animal for Alya to help with her autism and anxiety.

Rent is too damn high! the housing crisis in America!

Rent is too damn high! the housing crisis in America

I work for a property management company, and as an employee of a company that leases rental homes, I cannot afford to live in the average home I market to people, and we’re well above the median income.

Zillow reports that the average 3-bedroom house rents for $1,350 in the city of Wichita, where I reside. I understand that cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Denver pay much more; but this is about the rent-to-income ratio. The median household income for Wichita, as of the 2020 census, is $56,374 per annum, with a median income of $31,558 per individual, while 15.2% of people fall below the poverty line.

Given that the standard income requirement to lease a rental home in the City of Wichita is 3 times the rental rate, to rent an average 3-bedroom house, you’ll need to make $4,050 per month, or  $48,600 per annum gross income, which is technically below the median household income, but, this does not take into account bi-weekly pay schedules, which brings the real monthly income to $3,738, except for the two months a year where there are three pay periods which makes up the annual income figure.

After you factor in an average of 18% payroll tax, the median income of $56,374 drops to $46,226, taking away $16,200 in rent, you only have $1,046 per average 2 paycheck month to live on, which has to cover electricity, water, trash collection, gasoline, insurance premiums, and potentially a car payment and gas utilities, not to mention groceries so you can stay alive to continue to line corporate America’s pockets.

Over the past 3 years, I have seen rents jump between 10% and 25% depending on home type and neighborhood, while value-added services like including water and trash collection have been excluded from apartment home rent using what they call the RUBS method, taking the overall cost of these services per community and passing the cost onto residents based upon their unit size and household makeup.

I have also seen deposit amounts rise to be equal to 1 month’s rent, so in the scenario of $1,350 rent, assuming you move into a home on the first of the month, you’ll be stumping up $2,700. This is on top of application fees, which average $45—50 per adult, plus other, what I consider BS fees, such as a redecoration fee or admin fee, further shifting the burden from owners to the renter.

In recent months, we have seen owners switching to a dynamic pricing model, where rent varies from day to day, based on local market forces. Although once you sign a long-term lease, your rent remains at your lease price, at least until renewal time, when you play the game of rent roulette. This is common in bigger cities, and RealPage, which offers such dynamic pricing ‘software’ has been accused of price fixing.

And of course, this is a catch-22 situation, because you are paying 1/3 to 1/2 or more of your net income to rent a home; you can never save enough money for a deposit to buy a house, when you can clearly afford to make the mortgage payment based upon your rent payment amount, even with the inflated mortgage interest rates, meaning for so many that the American Dream is unobtainium!

Something has to give, either wages have to increase, or rents have to drop. Sadly, in the America we live in, neither of these things is likely to happen, given that our state and national congresses are bought by corporate America, meaning there is little chance of the federal minimum wage being increased. Bearing in mind, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation and productivity, it would be $21.50/hr.

Rent might come down if vacancy grows to a high enough percentage that it affects the rental homeowners’ bottom line. In more than 10 years in the industry, I have only seen rents drop a handful of times, special promotions are used to entice people in, instead of decreasing rent to affordable levels.

The lack of affordable housing has become an epidemic, in the state of Kansas, the percentage of Section 8 income-based housing has dropped significantly, creating a massive shortfall of housing for people less fortunate than those earning the median income. In the state of Kansas, there are 41 affordable homes per 100 extremely low-income households, and I’m sure this is mirrored across the whole of the US.

What’s the solution? Increasing the federal minimum wage to at least $15/hr, and creating quality affordable state housing across the nation would be a great start. Overturning Citizens United would also help, pass legislation that stops politicians from receiving campaign contributions from wealthy corporations. I don’t care what the SCOTUS ruled; money is not speech and corporations are not people. Maybe if these politicians could not take bribes, calling what campaign contributions really are, maybe they would actually represent the people that sent them to the state and federal capitol buildings.

Insufficient Funds Charge + PayPal website issues

PayPal + Meritrust, No Bueno

I randomly logged into my online banking today to find we are almost $96 overdrawn, when we should have had $21 available, with over $1,500 being deposited on Wednesday at midnight.

I clicked the overdrawn account to realize that PayPal had taken the payment for Erin’s credit card from our checking account instead of the bill pay account as I had scheduled. I am obsessive when it comes to finances, and when adding a payment account through the PayPal platform, I triple-checked that I was adding our bill pay account, where I had transferred the $88 payment, to ensure it was available!

This is not the first, or even second time that PayPal had taken a payment from the wrong account, causing us to go overdrawn and get hit with ISF fees. I removed all payment accounts after I took out a consolidation loan to pay off this high-interest debt to avoid this happening a third time.

As Erin had run up a small balance on her PayPal Mastercard, I used PayPal’s system to log into my bank and allow for easy linking of accounts. I made sure to uncheck our checking account, leaving the bill pay account checked, despite this, our checking account got added, leading to our current predicament.

Despite an overall income of over $5,000 per month, we are constantly running out of money due to our loans, medical insurance premium, and credit card bills due to having extensive out-of-pocket medical expenses, on top of paying almost $700 insurance premiums, that’s after the ACA premium credit.

Erin says she prefers credit unions, as they are better than banks, but are they? our credit union, Meritrust is eager to charge us a $29 ISF fee. I know these fees are automated, but you’d think maybe they would flag it for review, and if a human reviews it, they’d see that the exact payment amount was transferred with the same PayPal name to another account and simply transfer the money from the bill pay to the checking account, or wait a day, for the account holder to realize what happened and transfer the funds back, instead of charging an already broke account holder an Insufficient Funds fee.

In my opinion, an ISF fee is a way to punish those who don’t have enough money to live on, going overdrawn when an unexpected bill gets taken out of their account, or even charges disappearing, then reappearing later, to make their lives a little harder than it already is. These ISF fees snowball, as each time an ISF fee is charged, the account holder has less and less money to live on each paycheck, eventually crippling the account holder to the point where they can no longer pay for the essentials.

I don’t believe for one moment that credit unions are any more ethical than banks, maybe it’s time for me to start withdrawing all my cash as soon as it’s deposited and stash it in my mattress? Obviously, I am being facetious, but I am sick and tired of working my ass off when every red cent is taken by basic necessities and never-ending debt payments, we’re supposed to work to live, not the other way around!

Republicans: democracy, we don’t believe in that!

Republicans - democracy, we don't believe in that!

Happening right now, Republicans are trying to remove 4 Democrats from office, 3 Tennessee state house members, and a Wisconsin supreme court justice elect, you literally cannot make this shit up.

In Tennessee; after a recent mass shooting at the Covenant school, where three 9-year-olds and three adults were gunned down, 3 Democrat lawmakers joined a protest at the state capital calling for gun reform. Republican House speaker, Cameron Sexton claims the three representatives, Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson, broke “several rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor”, which, obviously requires that they should be expelled for standing with the people who they represent.

But, being an alleged child molester, prescribing drugs to family members illegally, or urinating in other members’ chairs does not break house rules, none of these congresspeople were expelled. I would suggest that these actions were infinitely more severe than protesting gun laws with a bullhorn.

In the history of the Tennessee state house, only twice has a member, interestingly, both Republicans, been removed. In 1980, Rep. Robert Fisher was removed for accepting a bribe, which is ironic, given that bribes have now been normalized and called campaign contributions. A second representative in 2016, Rep. Jeremy Durham, was expelled for allegations of sexual harassment, legitimate reasons I’d say!

This shows the Trump effect in action, where actions have no consequences. Before Trump took office on January 20, 2017, Republicans had moral standards and punished their own. Today, I guarantee that the GOP would have circled the wagons to protect both of these representatives in 2023.

The Republican solution to the Covenant school shooting is more guns, putting forward a bill that would arm teachers, which is the GOP party line, thanks to them being, let’s call it what it is, bribed by the NRA. Arming teachers and militarizing our schools is not the answer to the question of reducing gun violence. How long will it be before a teacher accidentally shoots a student, or leaves their gun in a bathroom?

Anyway, back on topic, this is clearly a partisan move, knowing that no Democrats need to vote in favor of expulsion, as the Republicans have a supermajority, 75 members, no doubt from gerrymandered districts; when they only need a two-thirds majority vote to oust Johnson, Jones, and Pearson.

Moving onto Wisconsin, where Republicans are already talking about impeaching the newly elected liberal Supreme Court Justice, Janet Protasiewicz. Judge Protasiewicz’s election pushed the court’s bias toward the liberal side, and the right wing has lost their collective minds over it, as it’s likely to thwart the GOP’s plans to ban abortion and reverse the extensively gerrymandered districts in the state.

Republicans recently obtained a supermajority in the Wisconsin Senate and the newly elected Senator,  Dan Knodl said he would consider impeaching Protasiewicz from her position as a judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. This, I would assume, as a non-expert on the legal repercussions of impeachment, would disqualify Protasiewicz from taking her seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Due to gerrymandered districts, Republicans have a supermajority in the Wisconsin Senate, meaning they could push to convict on any impeachment of Protasiewicz from the Wisconsin state assembly.

Republicans like to scream about VOTER FRAUD when they lose elections, when in reality, they are the party who do the gerrymandering, voter suppression, and yes, most cases of people voting illegally, have been votes for Republicans, not to mention the 2021 insurrection. They know that in a fair Democracy, they would not hold any power, as their policies are not popular with the majority of Americans.

Update; Apr, 6 2023, 19:12: Two black representatives expelled.

The two black representatives, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson were expelled from the Tennessee House, while the white representative, Gloria Johnson survived the vote. I don’t know what is in the hearts of the TN GOP, but it does not look good, especially with the reputation of Tennessee being good ol’ boys.

I don’t often write football blogs, but this one is special!

Liverpool 7 - 0 Manchester United

When I started my day, never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted that Liverpool, a team I have supported since I was six years old, some 40 years ago would end the day with a 7 – 0 victory over the in-form Manchester United at Anfield given the inconsistent season the Reds have had in 2022/23.

Liverpool came out of the blocks hard, winning the majority of balls, having the most possession, and piling on the pressure, but didn’t have a single shot on target. It was the visitors, United that had 4 shots on target on the counterattack, forcing a couple of decent saves from Liverpool keeper, Alisson.

Despite the first-half pressure, it was not until the 43rd minute that the deadlock was broken, with Cody Gakpo’s sublime shot from inside the 18-yard box across the face of the goal into the bottom right of the net. This came just 1 minute after Manchester United’ Bruno Fernandez had a goal disallowed for offside.

The Reds went in at half-time with a 1 goal advantage, nothing to get excited about, as recent history has proven, the second half against arch-nemesis, Real Madrid springs to mind, conceding five goals at Anfield. I was hopeful, but not expecting a win, but Liverpool put on a masterclass in the second half.

Jurgen Klopp’s team came out in the second half with intent, and only 2 minutes into the half, Darwin Núñez doubled the lead with a close-range headed goal. A further 3 minutes later, Gakpo scored his second goal, a nice little chip over David de Gea from a tight angle from outside the right post.

Next to get on the scoresheet was Mo Salah, who could not believe his luck finding the ball at his feet, after a fortuitous deflection off a United player, the Egyptian put his foot through the ball into the roof of the net. I’m watching in disbelief, the Reds are 4 – 0 up against the old rivals Manchester United.

The 75th minute brought a fifth goal, Núñez with another headed goal off Jordan Henderson’s cross into the box. Then the chants of “we want six” rang out around Anfield, and in the 83rd minute, Mo Salah obliged with his second goal, which took the Egyptian international past Robbie Fowler’s Premier League goal-scoring record for Liverpool, cementing his position as one of the Liverpool all-time greats.

But, wait, there’s more, Bobby Firmino, who recently announced he will be departing Anfield at the end of the season, in an effort to play more minutes, showed why he will always be a Liverpool legend, with a superb turn and shot, as it seemed the ball was running away from him, to make it 7 – 0 to the Reds.

I didn’t know how much I, and every Liverpool fan needed this result after the poor season thus far. But, let’s not get carried away, it’s a great result, Manchester United’s worst defeat since the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Liverpool needs to be consistent now to finish in the all-important top 4, which puts them back in the Champions League for next season, which they now have a great shot of doing.

If Liverpool can come away with another 3 points at Bournemouth next week, keeping confidence high, could the Reds do the impossible and turn around their 5-2 deficit to Real Madrid in the return leg at the Bernabéu? Liverpool only need four goals without reply to progress to the quarter-finals. It’s unlikely, but, I never thought Klopp’s team would put seven past Manchester United, so anything is possible.