Thursday, November 29, 2012

German citizenship for children born outside of Germany

If you’re a German citizen, your child also has German citizenship. Unless the child is born outside of Germany and you fail to register their birth with the appropriate office in Germany before the child is 1 year old.

I don’t know what the rules are for adopted children, where the finalization or even the placement sometimes does not happen until the child is more than a year old.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Too many numbers

We have an opportunity to rethink our phone lines and phone numbers, since it's no longer urgent if an agency can't reach us. We also have a prompt to do so now that our home line is going up in cost from $240/year to $600/year.

Our current setup feels overly complicated. We have two landlines at the house. One is for home ($600/year) and one is for business ($720/year), but really we have two lines so that we can both be on the phone at the same time. I have a Chicago-based number ($25/year) through maxemail to receive voicemail for home when calls are forwarded there, and a different Chicago-based number ($15/year) through maxemail to receive voicemail and faxes for work. I have a remote call forward number ($348/year) which was my advertised business phone line, and a different one ($360/year) which was my advertised business fax line. Plus two cell numbers ($50-$100/year each), though we don't really use our cell phones much, and three Google Voice numbers (free) that we're not doing anything with yet. That's $2218/year in total, and we don't have smartphones. Sigh.

For actual phone numbers, I need to keep the remote call forward numbers around somehow. I'm asking maxemail if they can port the remote fax number over to them, since $84/year through maxemail would be better than $360/year through Verizon. That seems like an obvious step to take. It reduces costs, even if it doesn't reduce the total number of lines.

If I could port the remote voice number directly over to my current business landline, I could save another $360/year. Verizon won't let me do that. I may be able to port it to a forwarding service like Google Voice, if I can convince Verizon to let me port the number over to a cell phone first and then port it from the cell phone to Google Voice. All so that Google Voice can send my phone calls straight to my business line. I'm nervous about what happens if my remote number gets stuck on the cell phone and can't be forwarded back out.

If maxemail allowed conditional messages based on the forwarding line, I'd only need one maxemail account instead of two or three. But that's not going to happen any time soon, and their service works really well as it is, so I don't want to mess with it.

If at some point you try to reach us and can't, try email. We have no current plans to mess with that. But any of our phone numbers may suddenly stop working as expected, or go away entirely, because 11 phone numbers is too many when only 2 of them are important. It's not that we don't want to talk to you on the phone; apparently we REALLY want to talk to people on the phone.

Update on November 27, 2012

STEP 1: I've ported the remote fax number to maxemail, which went very smoothly.

STEP 2: I've signed up for a FIOS installation, which should take over our home phone number as part of a package where the phone line basically costs nothing for at least two years. We'll lose the home voicemail that we're used to, but supposedly FIOS can forward voicemails to email just like maxemail has been doing. We'll also lose our good international calling from the home line, so any international calls will have to go through the business line. (I realized that the $2218/year total didn't include our separate long distance bill of $120/year, which could in theory drop by $40/year if we move all outgoing domestic long distance calls over to the FIOS line.)

STEP 3: I'm considering porting the remote voice number to maxemail. This is the public work number which is on every book, catalog, user manual, and postcard I've created in the past 18 years. If I do this, the number would always go straight to voicemail.

If step 2 works, I'll have reduced the total from $2338/year to $1462/year, which is more reasonable. Step 3 would bring it down to $1198/year (or persuading Verizon to replace my home business number with my remote business voice number would bring it down to $1114/year).

STEP 4: Replace the business landline with a smartphone, since the cost of a smartphone is not a lot higher than the $720/year cost of that landline. Open question: keep the copper line open with few features, useful for extended power outages? With a small child and a dog, how long are we really going to stick it out around here during an extended power outage anyway? Small added savings would be only needing 1-line phones in the house (saving $200 when I replace the dying cordless phones next year), not needing my $50/year basic cell, and perhaps not needing the $120/year long distance service at all.

Update on January 30, 2014

STEP 5: Home and work landline numbers now go to two smartphones (one for me, one for Lisa), and the landlines have been disconnected. Both smartphones use maxemail for voicemail. Cost is similar to what the two landlines cost.

STEP 6: FIOS took over the remote voice number, and that now goes to all of our landline phones. Savings: $360/year.

STEP 7: Our long distance account has been closed, since we no longer have any lines where we can choose a long distance carrier. Savings: $120/year.

Notes for the future: If we need to replace phones in the house, we can get 1-line phones. It’s hard to imagine needing a second landline as long as cell phones keep working. If David needs a phone, he can get a cell phone.

Current cost for cell phones: $1080/year. Voicemail lines: $40/year. Fax line: $84/year. FIOS business line: free, since we have television and internet with FIOS anyway. Total cost right now: $1204/year, including data on our smartphones. And we had to buy smartphones.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Otter Point

I’m really torn between these two approaches to this wave sequence at Otter Point in Acadia National Park. The series above focuses on a single enormous splash, the shape forming and unforming. The series below adds an anchoring foreground, a sense of a vantage point, and the balanced timing of the foreground splash receding as the more distant splash explodes. If printed large and hung at eye level, the bottom sequence should still allow the viewer to focus on the more distant splash.

I think the top sequence is more successful because of its simplicity, and the bottom sequence is more interesting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Five identical visits to the chiropractor

Billed in different combinations, processed for varying amounts.

98942: $40
97012: $0

98942: $40
97110: $0

98940: $32
97110: $15

98942: $40
97110: $15

98942: $40
97012: $10

So 98942 (adjustment of 5 or more regions) is worth $40, and 98940 (adjustment of 1-2 regions) is worth $32. 97012 is worth $0 or $10 at random. 97110 is worth $0 or $15 at random. For any given trip to the chiropractor, there’s no way to tell whether I’ll be billed for a 98942 adjustment or 98940 adjustment. The billing could theoretically turn up as 98941 and just hasn’t recently. There’s no way to tell whether I’ll be billed for 97012 (mechanical traction) or 97110 (therapeutic exercise). Neither seems related to reality, but one of them is always billed. The total could be $32, $40, $42, $47, $50, or $55, all for the same basic visit to the chiropractor with the same adjustment done.

Since I’m within my deductible, I actually pay all charges after the insurance company rolls the dice. This isn’t just an exercise in theory. 20 visits a year should total $640, but can actually total up to $1100. That’s a bit of a difference over time, and makes it difficult to plan for.

It’s a relief to have this figured out even this much, because it had been a black box for ages while the billing codes were entirely hidden.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Amazon and the Out of Print lie

Amazon is listing some of our books as “Out of Print” when they are not out of print. This misinformation has both business and legal ramifications to the extent that anyone believes Amazon.

“Out of Print” is a long-standing publishing term meaning that a book is no longer available from the publisher and is not expected to become available again in the near future.

Amazon is free to say that they do not have copies of a book. They are free to say that they don’t want to have copies of a book, or that they don’t like a book. But they are not free to lie to customers by saying that a book is out of print when it isn’t. That lie can cause a customer to give up on finding a way to buy the book. That lie can damage the reputation of a publisher who keeps books in print. That lie can convince an author that the rights should be reverting back to the author if the contract allows for that when a book goes out of print. That lie can cause someone to think that photocopying or scanning the book is ok if they believe that they are allowed to do so (or should be allowed to do so) with out of print books.

I have seen this same misleading behavior from Amazon before. I talked with someone in their legal department many years ago, who agreed that Amazon should stop doing that and who promptly made sure that our books were not wrongly listed as being out of print. And yet Amazon is back to the same old dirty tricks (or perhaps never really stopped).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

One of these banks is not like the others

I’ve received five letters from banks in the past five days:

American Express: Sorry about Sandy, let us know if we can help in any way.
Capital One: Sorry about Sandy, we’re here to help.
Citicards: Sorry about Sandy, we might help somehow.
Citizens Bank: Sorry about Sandy, here are some specific ways we could help.
Elavon: That bogus one-time fee that we shouldn’t have charged? We’re making that an annual fee.

One of these companies has a bigger lock-in on their customers than the others.


At the county and state level, the only contested races on our ballot on Tuesday will be for State Rep and for Middlesex Sheriff.

I’m delighted to be voting for Carl Sciortino for State Rep—he is caring, smart, and honest, he listens to his constituents and his conscience, he talks to people, and he works really hard. I can’t imagine anyone better for the job.

The Middlesex Sheriff’s race is between Koutoujian, who was appointed to the job recently, and Petrone, who is a corrections officer who touts his lack of political experience. They both seem ok. I’m voting for Koutoujian, who has been proactive in the job about working with more communities to help clean up graffiti and vandalism.

I’m voting yes on all three ballot questions. The folks behind Q1 (right to repair) reneged on the deal they struck to get a compromise bill passed by the legislature, and I’m unhappy about that dishonesty. But their ballot question is good for car owners and independent repair shops, and my mechanic (who I trust) is in favor of the measure.

Q2 is the physician-assisted suicide question. I wish nobody ever wanted to use this option, and maybe someday we’ll make enough strides in pain management and palliative care to remove the need. We’re not there yet.

Q3 is medical marijuana. The arguments against it sound like paranoid fantasies.