Wallet theft causes major distress

Last Friday my wife had her wallet stolen from her shopping cart. Her wallet was in one of those large, heavy purses that women commonly carry today. Naturally the purse was unzipped.

During her shopping she was distracted for several minutes by a seemingly friendly fellow shopper asking her questions about a product. When she went to check out she discovered her wallet missing, but thought she might have left it home or in the car. After returning home and fruitlessly searching for the wallet, she returned to the stores she had visited; they did not have the missing wallet.

Just 40 minutes after noticing the missing wallet, we received a phone call from American Express advising us that there was a potential fraud on the card. Over $4500 had been charged on the card at Apple and Best Buy!

What a mess this became to notify and card issuers and cancel the cards; to notify the police and fill out the crime reports, and to notify the credit agencies to alert them of a possible fraud and to lock our accounts against future credit card applications.

In addition, the thieves now had our home address, social security number, medical cards, and driver’s license, making us an ideal candidate for identity theft.

So in addition to the above we now have to sign up for identity theft protection for both of us.

Here is my advice as to how to prevent or ease this process for you in the future:

  • Keep copies of the front and back of all your credit cards
  • Sign the back of all credit cards immediately
  • Never put your wallet or purse in a shopping cart; instead keep it tucked under your arm
  • Keep copies of your drivers license at home
  • Beware friendly strangers while shopping

Be alert, be aware, and be prepared!


Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy hits TechniCom and NJ hard!

Guess I was wrong about the early intensity of Hurricane Sandy!

It started slowly, but rapidly gained intensity. We lost power a few times during the day Monday, but it came back within a few minutes — until Monday night. We do not live near a train track, but in the early evening Monday it sounded like we were living right next to a railroad! at 9:05 PM the power went out and stayed out. As of Thursday evening it is still not back on and we have no idea when it will be back.

I ventured out late Tuesday for a drive around the neighborhood, but was very frequently detoured by downed trees and along with them the overhead power lines. With the wind speeds at over 40 mph, the work crews were on hold.

The only way I was able to keep in touch was with my cellphone.

It sure makes one realize the utility of what we normally take for granted. A few days without the Internet, heat, television, and lights makes me feel like a farmer, but without the satisfaction. I was prepared, with flashlights, spare batteries, and a full gas tank in both cars. But, hey, this is the third time in three years this has happened. It looks like those 100 year storms are coming every year lately.

Not only were we without power, but virtually all our fiends and neighbors were in the same state. Of course it became impossible to find any hotel rooms. After two days my wife and I decided to drive 240 miles to our son’s home in Massachusetts – he had power. Soon other relatives began clamoring for shelter also. We are getting real crowded now and things are becoming testy.

It turns out that a major problem is finding petrol for cars. With most gas station pumps powered by electricity, few stations are left that have generators. Lines often extend more than a half mile waiting to fill up.

All we know now is that more than 2 million residence still do not have power and it could be another 7 to 10 days before we see power again.

In the meantime I am busy searching for the right type generator to buy. Any recommendations?


iPhone 5, not yet for me

An avid fan of Apple products, I am holding off on upgrading my 4S.

While many of the features seem nice, especially the faster network downloads, there are only minor feature upgrades for the most part.

I am about halfway through the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson. [By the way, it’s an excellent read.] I wonder whether Jobs would have continued to allow the introduction of each with so few real advances, Where is the innovation?

Nevertheless, Apple announced that they sold 2 million phones on the first day! Using an average selling price of $600 each, that’s $1.2 billion USD! Perhaps not a bad business decision. No wonder the computer manufacturers are hurting. Each smartphone drains the need for traditional laptops and their siblings.

Mars Science Lab: Rover Tether Landing

3 Dec 2011: In my blog reviewing the Siemens NX CAE Meeting I mentioned a conversation I had with Kendra Short of JPL about how the rover will land on Mars. Today I found this picture simulating how this will be accomplished. I thought you night appreciate the engineering embodied in the MSL to accomplish this.

MSL Landing; Courtesy of NASA/JPL/Caltech via AP

The platform holding the rover is called a Sky Crane. It first will need to separate from the spacecraft after it reaches Mars orbit. We will know more in about 8 months from now, when the landing is scheduled.

You can learn more at http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/


Kindle Fire – not an iPad competitor

Amazon’s announcement of the Kindle Fire underwhelmed me and apparently many others. Bill Shope of Goldman Sachs wrote “We continue to believe that Apple’s thriving app ecosystem provides it with a critical source of competitive advantage in tablets, and the Kindle Fire does not seem to be targeting this strength. Indeed, Amazon’s tablet business model would suggest that a lower-end market is forming for users that need a dedicated media consumption platform, with limited compute capabilities. As such, this seems to be more of a high-powered e-reader approach rather than a tablet that is capable of replacing a PC or an iPad.”

While the price is super aggressive, the capabilities seem to match the price – low. Its small screen and limited web browsing, as well as an unknown ability for app expansion, match well with the existing Kindles. I like its network connectivity and the color screen. My Kindles generally have a battery life measured in many weeks. Color backlit screens have severely limited battery life.

I am a bit surprised at this offering. I expected Amazon , which certainly has the marketing muscle, the content, and evident hardware build capability, to mount a better charge at the iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad. Just looking for reasonable competition.

My thoughts on how to rescue our economy and some of the mess in Washington

I just returned from an 18-day trip to Greece and Turkey. OK, I admit I was not going as a political strategist and I did not meet with any government officials, but I did speak with lots of citizens of different countries. I also watched international TV. It got me to thinking about our dysfunctional democracy, some simple ways to help it work better and get us out of the mess that our so-called representatives have gotten us into. Rather than just crippling our US financial systems, here are some ideas that seem logical and could work (my engineering training at work).

  • Leave Afghanistan and Iraq immediately. Reduce our emphasis on military solutions to save the world.
  • Reduce the number of military bases worldwide by half.
  • Mandate smaller cars and higher fuel economy immediately
  • Restore the USA manufacturing capacity by making outsourcing and importing goods more expensive and focusing on insourcing.
  • Restore the middle class by greatly increasing the taxes on the top 5% of asset owners.
  • Eliminate the ability of corporations to evade taxes.
  • Heavily promote sustainable energy, primarily solar and wind power.
  • Tightly regulate the financial markets to remove speculation incentives. If Canada can avoid a banking crisis, so can the USA.
  • Expand social programs to eliminate the waste. Medicare for all would be a good start.
  • Fix the blockage in Congress by enacting two term limits for all federal elected offices.
  • Get the external money away from elected officials by offering only federal campaign financing. No private funding allowed.
  • While we are fixing this, let’s shorten the time for campaigning. We need our legislators to legislate– not posture! Three months ought to be enough time to get the word out to voters.

Other issues:

  • Be brave enough to maintain strict standards on the environment, for our children and us. Crippling regulations makes no sense except for those companies wanting to pollute to save a few dollars!
  • Maintain a decent social security net for difficult times or for those experiencing hard times.
  • Fix the USPS budget issue – this should not be viewed as a profit making organization, but one that delivers valuable services to all people.
  • The FAA deserves a solution to its long term strategic planning and budget. It operates a critical resource for air safety.
  • We badly need a national transportation solution that goes beyond state lines, for instance, for decent, long haul passenger trains.


What are your thoughts?

Ray Kurland, Rockaway, NJ