The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, Debtember 28, 2007

I should know better than to trust a bank to be “fair”

A decade ago, I found myself at the Orlando Airport at 10:30 pm. The reason behind why I ended up at the Orlando Airport at 10:30 pm in early January is a story in and of itself (the fact that I had to abandon my car in the middle of Georgia just after Christmas should give an indication of how fun that particular trip was) and I had just spent the last of my cash on a one-way ticket to Ft. Lauderdale on the first flight out of Orlando the next morning (it was amazing—it was like the airline knew, right down to the penny, how much money I had on me; I think I had less than a dollar's worth of change after purchasing the ticket). Since the flight was still a few hours away and the thought of sleeping at the airport didn't thrill me, I was overjoyed to realize that a hotel existed on the premises.

Now, at the time, my financial situation wasn't all that stable. I just had my cash reserves wiped out, and my checking account wasn't all that great either. And I knew it. But I figured I could write a check, and by the time the hotel chain attempted to cash said check, a day or two would have passed, giving me enough time to get some cash into the checking account to cover the expense.

I think this used to be called “float” and was a process I've seen used by many an adult growing up.

But that was then, as a small kid. The Banking Industry however, pissed that us mere mortals were able to take advantage of such a loop hole, had in the meantime, closed that particular avenue of financial leverage to us peons (even though that article was written in 2004, I think the process was on the way out back in the late 90s when I tried it). So it was rather surprising when the hotel clerk took my check, ran it through was looked like to me a credit card processor, and informed me that I had “insufficient funds” to obtain a room.

Lovely.

I spent the night sleeping in an uncomfortable chair at the Orlando Airport, and upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, was picked up by a fellow cow-orker and we both drove into work. It wasn't until around 6:00 pm the next day that I finally got home.

Fast forward a decade or so. Today I'm at my bank, DonTrustUS First (where their slogan is “We bank on you!”) trying to depost two checks. The first is a tax refund from Uncle Sam that I received a few months ago, but given that it was for less than a typical Yuppie Food Stamp, depositing it wasn't a high priority. The second check was a gift from Dear Old Dad, and it was of a sufficient amount to warrant a visit to DonTrustUS First (remember, “We bank on you!”). I was lucky enough to get just head of a large crowd of people (but not lucky enough to get Cute Teller—bummer).

The teller was having difficulty with the check from Uncle Sam, trying multiple times to run it through the magnetic ink reader and having the computer spit back nonsense. The teller then tried keying in the number directly, but the computer kept insisting that the check was from a “foreign country.”

Somehow, I find it very amusing that the computers at DonTrustUS First thought that the US Treasury Department was a “foreign bank.” The teller was finally able to get the computer to accept the check by informing the computer that, indeed, the US Treasury Department is not a “foreign country” and to accept the check.

The second check, the one from Dear Old Dad, didn't have nearly the problems as the one from Uncle Sam. Although the teller did inform me that there was a “hold” on Dear Old Dad's check. When I inquired why, I was informed that because the check from Dear Old Dad was drawn upon an out-of-state check, it would take a few days to clear.

It would, in fact, take until January 7th!

I'm sorry, but XXXXXXXX!

If some large hotel chain could immediately transfer funds from my checking account to their large coffers, are you, DonTrustUS First, telling me that you are still acting like this is the 19th Century and that exchanging funds with an out-of-state bank takes nearly two weeks because you're limited to the Pony Express? (I hear there's a new thing called a “transcontinental railroad” that will supposedly make cross-country mail take days, instead of the few weeks it formerly took)

XXXXXXXX! XXXXXXXX! XXXXXXXX!

It will probably clear sometime tonight, at which point, you, DonTrustUS First, will sit on the money for ten days collecting interest, and yet you still manage to charge me a quarterly fee? (And let's not even get into the whole “draft overcharge” racket you got going)

XXXXXXXX!


Can a civilian land a jet airliner?

Truth be told, I've never had cable TV, but the Discovery Channel's “MythBusters” series has always struck me as a fun and useful idea for a program. A sort of Snopes.com of the airwaves, it seeks to prove or dispel various urban legends and generally wacky propositions—for example, can a person really become stuck to an airplane toilet seat by flushing it during flight?

With commercial aviation as rich as it is with mysteries and misconceptions, it's perhaps no surprise that plane-related topics are among the show's most frequent. Most recently, hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempted to find out if people with no flight training, namely themselves, could safely land an airliner. Their answer turned out to be yes, probably.

The correct answer, of course, is no, absolutely not. But who am I to quibble?

Via Instapundit, Can someone with no flight training safely land an airliner? Plus: Pilotless planes, overpaid pilots and other aviation myths.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to “fly” an airplane. A friend's girlfriend's father, a flight instructor for the Miami International Airport, invited a bunch of us down to his facility one weekend wherein we all got to “fly” an Airbus 320 commercial jet plane.

Or rather, ride in an incredible simulation of one—the very same simulators they use to train pilots.

Now granted, he was there with us in the “cockpit” telling us what to do, but even so, I found landing the airplane quite easy. In fact, it was much easier to land the Airbus 320 than it ever was to land any number of craft on various microcomputer simulations like Microsoft Flight Simulator. In fact, of the four of us there, three were able to successfully land the craft on the first attempt (and the failure? That was because Chuck didn't approach the runway straight on, and attempted a last ditch maneuver to straighten out since he was too impatient to skip and try again).

Now, I saw the Mythbuster's episode in question, and it was very clear that with no instruction what-so-ever, it can't really be done (as both Adam and Jamie crashed when they attempted to land with no instruction).

But with instructions? Landing one of those modern bad boys is plausible.

Heck, I managed to land one under similar conditions.

Sounds like that pilot up there ate some sour grapes.


Everything is smooth sailing, but when things go wrong, you end up in a hurricane

Oh, and speaking of airline myths, this bit from the article caught my eye:

Insult to injury, Pummer finishes up with that “for a job that technology has made almost fully automated” bit. Pilots themselves are partly to blame for propagating the mythology of cockpit automation, so enamored we tend to be of our high-tech gizmos and sophisticated planes. But again, the knowledge, training and experience required to fly one of these “fully automated” jetliners are vastly more substantial than Pummer and many others would have you believe—especially when there's a problem or emergency. That, more than anything, is what pilots are paid for—not for the routine trip during which nothing out of the ordinary happens, but for the times when something goes wrong.

Can someone with no flight training safely land an airliner? Plus: Pilotless planes, overpaid pilots and other aviation myths.

Heh. Sounds like our servers at The Company. For the most part, they run themselves, and even the <shudder>control panels</shudder> allow one to manage the server. But when things go wrong, they go wrong and it takes a metric buttload of experience to diagnose and fix the problem in those cases (and it's certainly debatable if that's a form of progress or not).

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