Bad user interfaces in microeconomy (personal finance)

I’ve posted previously about unneededly bad credit card forms on websites before, so here is one from a site I left the information off of in the image, so do not remember its name:

Credit card information entry form on a website. Expiration date is a drop down field of month and year combined, values begin 02/2020, 03/2020, … ending 09/2021. The form also requires selecting the “Card Type” (Visa is displayed/selected).

This is an interesting way of allowing the user to enter the information. By typing it off the card surface, the browser will automatically zero in on the correct one except:

  1. Credit cards (that I have seen) do not write the full year out. A card expiring in August of this year would have 08/20 on the face of it, not “2020”.
  2. As a prevention of incorrect data entry, it’s not good either. If someone enters “01/22” they are not going to get 01/2022 but probably 01/2020. If this field was a text entry field with validation, it could automatically add the slash (alot of telephone number fields will generate add the punctuation this way) and, if really needed, the millenium-century digits automatically.

A firm I do business with recently updated their bills (good, the old ones were quite constrained in their content, the template could barely do histograms) and then their website. I get a paper bill and pay it on their website. Here is how an account standing of earlier this year was shown:

PAY BILLS / Amount Due / $ 98.1 / Late Charges Added after 03/04/2020 / Buttons: Pay by check / Pay by card

Their site coding cut off the one-cent digit because it was a zero (bill was 98.10 USD), thinking it was not a significant digit. If this was almost any other unit, this would have been fine: 98.10 gal = 98.1 gal; 98.10 kg = 98.1 kg; 98.10 kWh = 98.1 kWh. (I am not getting into the legal metrology here.) With money, or at least United States dollars, if it is a noninteger, single cents (hundredths of a dollar) are significant no matter what.

(In some contexts, like motor gasolene and taxation, mills [thousandths of a dollar] shown as are as well. Their symbol is ₥, U+20A5, not ℳ U+2133 sometimes used for the old German Mark. The old pharmacy unit minim uses the two Zodiacal M-like signs for its symbol.)

In the United States, there are 3 business entitys, called credit bureaus, that business firms send information to and purchase from, about what finantial obligations people have obtained and how well they have managed with them. In other words, what loans and credit cards they have and if they pay them as the contract says. A while ago now, a federal legislation requires that the 3 of them allow each person (= SSN holder) to get 1 free report from each of them each year. (There are other times when a person can get free reports, such as if they are refused a contract because of what is on one.)

The firms are approachable through a website so you can access them three-in-a-row style more easily. When trying to do this this past new year’s time, I got these strange appearances:

ExperianDisappeared.png showing Equifax listed twice, TransUnion once, and Experian missing. This was in Internet Explorer 11 because at once time Equifax (or Experian?) would throw an error in other browsers that wouldn’t tell you why it happened, you just had to know to use IE.
XunionDisappeared.png showing Experian listed twice, Equifax once, and TransUnion missing. I was using old Edge to see if it was browser or cache dependent and it wasn’t.

Interestingly, the website says that through February 2021, they will all offer free reports weekly. This is nice for Equifax, but the other two have consumer (= SSN holder) memberships where you can do that anyway.

Experian tries to upsell you more than TransUnion. They also let you only get a new one weekly, while TransUnion lets you refresh it daily! Experian’s has this method of trying to get your credit score (not report) to improve by looking at your utility payments. I did it with my phone bill, and my number got worse. They let me take it back out and gave me some normally paid stuff for free. (None of them, or anyone else, pay/paid me anything to post this and it’s unlikely they know who runs this blog.)

Finally, a company Chemwise from OhiO that wants to recycle nastys like elemental mercury and nail polish. Sadly, it really looks like their web developer is driveler in the business of design and construction, or worse. My account summary was this the first time I logged in (before placing any orders):

My account - Chemwise2.png
Chemwise’s My Account summary page (excerpt, edited): Member Since […] 2019 / Payment Dude Date: […]/2017 / Last Payment: Received […]/2017
Along with some subscription information that was incorrect, I supposedly had been billed and payed for services two years before I opened my account. This was such an obvious thing that I emailed them immediately and received on the next business day a reply to ignore this because it was a mistake. I eventually closed the account because their services wouldn’t’ve fit my need.


Crackers in unfortunate places

By education, I am an engineer. In the professional of chemical engineering, specifically petrochemical or petroleum engineering, unit operations called “catalytic crackers” exist. These “crack” larger molecules into smaller ones. As an example, octane (nC8) can be crackt into propane (nC4) if desired.

All occupations have their own language, whether cryptolect or just technolect. In mine, these are termed “crackers” (definition 5), with sometimes unfortunate effects.

Continue reading Crackers in unfortunate places

Report of the Wheel-Barrow Man

I knew in a slight way, a few years ago, an older man who lived alone on the outskirts of a village, further than I did. He lived alone and walked almost everywhere. When traveling to the store in the village to pick up groceries, he used a wheel barrow on the shoulder of the State road there and back. I called him “Wheelbarrow Man” once when my grand mother was around she didn’t like it, correcting me with his real name and title.

After he died, his sister, who I knew independently, let me have some of his things, including a typescript proposal. Having used a scanner and Microsoft Word to digitize it, I set it out below

Continue reading Report of the Wheel-Barrow Man

Well that only took forever

I don’t like to hate on government agencies, especially the underfed and underfunded. This, however, is annoying to me…

The United State Government Publishing1 Office lets you buy books and pamphlets the various parts of the United States (but not the States themselves) have reduced to written form. I have bought several copies of the official text of the Constitution from them for ready reference.

Some publications just go to show that there is a certain amount of stodge that always goes with government, such as the bizzare choice of smiley face on this document about bridge inspections. It make it look a little untrustworthy to me, like “It’s OK, really (wink)”.

Anyway, I wanted badly to read this entertainingly titled Ebook on investment frauds from a sometime Commissioner of the CFTC with a mullet that is supposedly available free. Well:

  1. There are two entries for this media on the GPO’s website, for some reason.
  2. The PDF link in the one is bad.
  3. I can’t find the “Add to Cart” link mentioned, even if logged in to my account.

Anyway, after fussing around (I didn’t call them up, because when I reported a spelling mistake in their ecommerce user management, it took over a month to get a reply. And it still isn’t fixed. As before, underfunded) I found a link to the PDF and EPUB files on their… FTP server.

Anyway, go here:

  1. Ex-Government Printing Office. I understand the name change, but the older one was headed by the supremely titled “Public Printer of the United States”. The new one is run by a “Director”. Boring!! 

Odd Economical names

As mentioned before, I occasionally look into the magazine called The Economist (exactly like that, with a capital article).

One of their online features is a little quiz each week, where you have to answer general (or specific) knowledge questions about the news of important things and then know who someone’s picture is.

Continue reading Odd Economical names

Be an up to date farmer (in 1963), part 1 of 2

Browzing through old matter, I found a page from a 1963 magazine, the Farm Journal with some handy advices:


A couple of things jump out immediately. First, they had fluorescent light dimmers in 1963? For YEARS I’ve been seeing warnings on dimmer switches I’ve installed that they should never be used on a fluorescent light. Was this really a thing and, if so, what happened to them?

Second, were dimmers really that new in 1963? A dimmer is just a rheostat, which has existed as long as systematic study of electricity has, maybe longer. It’s just a wound coil of wire with a movable contact. In the case of a light dimmer switch, it is usually a circular affair. An industrial example may be seen here.

Another point, potentially hidden, is the price. 16 USD for a dimmer is outrageous today. They are about half that or less for a no-frills rotary dimmer switch, per Home Depot and Lowes. (I’m not linking to them because their websites change so regularly.) Using an economical adjustment for inflation, the highly recommended Measuring worth website, the purchasing power of 16 USD in 1963 is about 124 USD in 2014. That is by no means “inexpensive”, especially for farmers, who are notoriously not high earners.

Finally, the company in question, Hunt, appears to still be around, at least as a brand. It is owned by “Caribe Corporation”, which appears to just be an alternate name of the firm, since I cannot find any other business lines owned by it in a cursory search.

Cheap senior housing in Chicago

From section 18 (!) of the Chicago Tribune of November 27, 1988 comes a piece about the gentrification running seniors on fixed incomes out of town. There were two photographs of local political persons making reflections on the phenomenon:

A particularly unfortunate double meaning of the word “cheap” here makes it look like the state representative doesn’t give a **** about seniors and wants them warehoused somewhere. Note that they misspelled her name. It’s Judith Baar Topinka.

The country treasurer looks like he’s never seen a camera before! “You mean you can make that little thing paint a portrait of me? Shocking!”