Secret Agent: Top-10

I’ve spent the last year plus digitizing my vinyl collection for personal use. I’ve done all my general soul/jazz/jazz funk and disco artists from A-K. Which in total is only about 1/4 of the collection.

My passion though is collecting albums made by, former A&M  producer/A&R manager Creed Taylor.  CTI was initially a sub-label on A&M Records in the late 1960’s. There were a number of classic albums released including

10-Years earlier, a 28-year old Creed Taylor, was working with a small orchestra on a series of albums with Kenyon (Ken) Hopkins, one of jazz’s great composers and arrangers. Ken spent the 1950’s and 60’s in New York studios, where he became king of “the concept album.”

I spend a lot of time hunting both in person and online for affordable but good quality albums on the Creed Taylor CTI and Kudu labels. I have all but two of the Kudu label, I’ve had more than 50% of the label output since the late 1970’s. I’ve also had probably 40% of the CTI label. Buying the remainder has been a fun, rewarding experience, I’m working on ideas for the 50th anniversary of the labels in 2020.

A few weeks back I mentioned my CTI project to Rusty Hodge, founder of SOMA FM and he immediately came back with

I’d love to get some of Creed Taylor’s “crime” stuff for Secret Agent.

I’ve had all four of the Hopkins/Taylor concept albums for a few years, but aside from the Sound of New York, never played them. They were really only there for completeness. While you can get some of the albums from specialist UK outlets Sounds of the Universe and Boomkat as downloads, they just don’t have the same atmosphere as the original mono albums, and especially after some re-engineering.

I was delighted to see four of the tracks in the SOMA FM Secret Agent by spins chart this week.

The four albums I’ve worked on for SOMA FM are as follows, interestingly these albums are not mentioned in either the Kenyon Hopkins or Creed Taylor wikipedia entries. I’ll have to see what else I can find out about that period. It is remarkable to me that Creed Taylor, possibly one of the key people behind the early Jazz > Funk evolution in the early 70’s was working on these soundtrack style albums 20-years earlier.

The Creed Taylor Orchestra album covers
Discogs listing page for the Creed Taylor Orchestra

You can sample the albums on youtube, you can buy MP3 downloads from Boomkat, or listen in on SOMA FM Secret Agent.

Prime Music?

I got to reading this review of the Amazon Prime Music offering that’s been included with Amazon Prime for a while. I’ve spent the last 5-days or so trying out the service, and have to say, overall I’m pretty disappointed.

I had always assumed, perhaps wrongly, that Prime Music was the function that allowed me, in most cases, to buy a CD album and be able to download the “Auto-rip” version, for less than buying the digital MP3 version alone. Otherwise that service makes no sense. Except I’m sure there is some arcane music industry tracking/licensing reason.

It turns out that Amazon Prime Music is a pseudo streaming service, ala Spotify, Pandora etc. So I thought worth trying. I’d already installed the Amazon Music app on my Windows Media Center (WMC) PC, that way any download or auto-rip albums can go straight onto the NAS based music server and be available to stream around the house.

Another big benefit of Prime Music, is it keeps track of what you buy, and allows you to add (Prime only) tracks and albums to your Amazon music collection, which you can stream mixed with your purchased music, or download and play offline. Want to listen for free to The Beatles – Abbey Road, offline, but don’t want to buy it? Amazon Prime Music lets you do that.

In summary, I would say it’s a great way to listen to very specific albums(provided they are available free). As I write the 3x CD version of Oasis (What’s the story) Morning Glory? is streaming in its entirety to the WMC, which it turn is playing streaming it around the house using wifi to players in each room.

They have a lot of back catalogue material, which is good, plus some timely new material. After the Superbowl on Sunday, we streamed the Justin Timberlake “Man of the Woods“. It’s also good for streaming commercial-free, top-50, original artist, playlists, and curated playlists, like this one, 50 Great Songs from the Last 10 Years, but on most other stuff I’d give it a C-.

I have not tried out Amazon Unlimited Music, Business Insider has a good overview of the 99c Trial offer but doesn’t cover the content. What follows are my tweets from my journey around Prime Music, and especially the content.

I’ll be continuing the thread with other thoughts and discoveries. If you are a twitter user, you can follow along here.

In full transparency, I’ve never been a Spotify or Pandora customer. I’ve never felt the need to. Given I have over 1,000 albums and CD’s, and am still cataloging and converting about 2,000 vinyl albums to digital, I’ve never felt the need.

FCC and Net Neutrality – Fraud in your name?

After this weeks hugely disappointing repeal of the net neutrality. The ACLU has their take on the repeal, here.

I’m more concerned though with the claim that up to 2-million comments supporting the repeal were submitted to the FCC using fraudulent identities. I actually don’t don’t think it would have made any difference given what we know about the commission members who voted in favor of repeal.

Still, I wanted to be sure my comment was actually the comment I submitted, and no one else had submitted a comment using my identity. You can check here. Simply add your name to the form and click search. You’ll have to go through the comments submitted by people with the same name to check your comment is there, or that a comment was submitted on your behalf. Make sure to check all the people with your name, lots of comments seem to have been submitted using older addresses.

If you find a comment submitted that claims to be from you, that you did not authorise someone else to submit, or did not submit your self, please do 2-things

  1. Complete the remainder of the form to lodge a complaint
  2. Write, preferably a paper letter, to you States Attorney General.

A number of US States Attorney Generals are suing the Federal government over this issue. However, many have not joined that effort, including mine, Colorado.

Here is my comment, as submitted.

US Broadband and cable Internet access is already one of the most expensive in the developed world. It is also fragmented and suffers from overcharging for access to services. This proposal will only allow this to get worse, and potentially hamper both the development of small business services, and the use and consumption of both those and existing services. This must NOT be allowed to proceed. I write as a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and Member of the IBM Academy of Technology, and more recently, a Senior Distinguished Engineer and Executive Director at Dell Inc.

And finally the Presidents Tweet. Because I assume #NetNeutrality is too complex for him to understand, he assumes it’s too complicated for everyone else. Note the #NetNeutality auto-correct/mistype in the Presidents tweet. Explain it? He can’t even type it.

Ripping off customers

I saw the following tweet and literally laughed-out-loud. In the past two years I’ve got to the checkout confirmation step on music and theatre events and cancelled out and closed the browser window more times than I care to remember. Ticket “fees” and “convenience” charges are rampant.

The airline industry over the past year has gone the complete opposite direction, some forced by legislation, some by marketplace competition. They nickel and dime you for charges for everything. The Trump administration has rescinded a rule requiring Airlines to disclose baggage fees upfront. This rule previously made it easier to compare airfare prices across airlines.

Enjoy!

Fear of Automation

ZDNet has a good summary of a few recent reports on automation, a subject I’ve covered here more than once.

The more interesting survey report is from a Harris Poll for ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace.

ZipRecruiter’s nationwide data shows 60% of job seekers believe fears around robots taking away jobs are overhyped while 2 in 5 employed job seekers (41%) believe their current job will be automated within their lifetime.

This is more than likely because workers asked, don’t see the big picture. They don’t get involved with decisions and discussions about how to cut cost and risk from their workflow.

I’m not saying that we’ll wake up one day and everything will be taken over by robots, that’s not the case at all. It’s worse than that, automation is insidious and for the most part, invisible.

The ZDNet article by  for Robotics also links to recent reports from MckInsey and Redwood Software. Greg points out that:

  • 4 in 5 job seekers agree that the current technology boom has left certain people (84%) and cities (78%) behind.
  • Half of job seekers (50%) say the introduction of the Internet has generally done more harm than good. Employed job seekers are more likely to agree with this sentiment than unemployed job seekers (53% employed vs. 40% unemployed).
  • 2 in 5 job seekers (44%) believe there is no such thing as a bad technological advancement.

What this ignores, for the 50% that thinks the Internet is good, is that without it, and the automation and communication it has enabled, the workplace would be very different today. And that is one way the creep of insidious automation has been taking over.

Medical Billing update

After spending another hour yesterday making calls to try to come to a conclusion over the 2x appointments and treatment I had for my leg wound back in August and early September. I’ve been applying the lessons learned, experience I’ve had resolving my billing for my heart attack, which i close to, but not yet finally resolved. Here are some tweets I sent after getting off the phone yesterday.

Bringing Jobs Back to the USA

As the GOP push through their tax bill, without any transparency, one of the big ticket items is corporate tax breaks.

My opinion is the government are really wasting their time, and our money giving tax breaks, especially to companies to repatriate their overseas earnings, in some kind of swap for jobs. No such thing will happen, sure there will be a few winners here and there, but nothing substantial and certainly nothing overtime.

If the government wanted to do this, they’d have been better creating an incentive program, which gave them tax deductions for each net new job they created, the longer their total employment numbers were up, net new, the lower the tax rate on repatriation would go.

I posted the following on twitter… but in a debate about it today, realized I’d left the link off for the NPR article. Here it is.

Google Pixel trade-in is a scam

and if it’s not, Google should be ashamed how poorly the program is being run.

the google offer – 5-days

I’d exchanged my Nexus 5x phone earlier this year as I’d dropped it and the screen was broken. The replacement 5X showed up in a few days, but I never really spent any time customizing it, and hadn’t even loaded up a few key training apps. When the Pixel 2 was announced I figured I’d upgrade and then set that up with everything. The Pixel 2 had a decent trade-in and I figured as a non-working, semi-retired person that would be good to take advantage of.

The Pixel 2 arrived, and in a separate mailing the trade-in offer. That had the same “promise” that I’d signed up for on the web site, evaluation within 5-days of receiving your phone.

and it’s on it’s way

I sent the phone after taking a full set of pictures, and factory resetting it as instructed. It arrived in Atlanta on October 30th.

I waited, and waited, and waited. On November 17th, I called Google on their (855) 836-3987 number and asked what was the delay? The agent I spoke to helpful confirmed that the phone had indeed been received, but that it hadn’t yet been 14-business days and so no payment was due. Also, although my phone had been received on October 30th, it hadn’t reached the dept. that was evaluating the phones until Nov. 2nd. (thats my problem?)

I waited, and waited, still nothing. On  Wednesday 29th I called Google again via their (855) 836-3987 number and had a terse but direct conversation. They owed me the full trade-in value and as a semi-retired person I could no longer afford to wait for the refund. The agent said she’d escalate and call me back. She did, she said they were backlogged and she’d escalate my case #4-3161000019796.

On Friday, I received this in the mail, they’ll evaluate in in another 10-15 days! It won’t affect the estimate I received??

This program is a shambles. I’m happy for Google that the trade-in has been such a success they are running 45-days(at least) behind on evaluations. It’s also not my fault that the 3rd party they’ve contracted with isn’t performing up to their contract.

As a solid google customer, this is my 3rd google phone, I’m a Google Fiber customer, and was considering switching to Google Fi this month. I can’t in good faith.

 

From Tax to Pariah – Colorado’s TABOR history

One mans crusade to limit Government, what he wanted, how he did it, and what happened. At least Bruce was principled. A great listen, especially on the consequences for the State and Bruce(The Pariah?)

The Taxman Episode 1
The Taxman Episode 2
The Taxman Episode 3

Just checking in…

My disdain for the US Banking system should be obvious to anyone who follows my blog. Their attempts at modernizing, really are just “lipstick on a pig”.

While most countries are looking for ways to get out of the check processing business, and many to avoid it all together, using micro-banking and straight-through-processing to enable both a more effective user experience, and also reduce risk inherent in a real-time banking system. The UK even initially announced an end-date for the use of “cheques” in 2018, although that was later withdrawn. It’s still possible to transfer money between accounts in different banks within the UK banking system almost instantly and within 15-minutes, and for free.

Not so here in the USA. Much to my disappointment, I recently ran out of checks for my Texas FCU. It was the easiest and most effective way to pay some big bills for the construction work we’ve been doing, as well as bills for our wedding. I went online to the FCU and clicked order checks, it took me to an external website, where I was unable to order checks. Turns out the 3rd party had my address from when I first ordered 250 checks back in 2006.

You can’t change the address online, I had to call the FCU, they had to go through the update process and order the checks for me. Sure enough 8-dys later they appeared in my mailbox.

Mobile Ready Checks

Much to my “surprise” the checks have changed, just a little bit. They now include accommodation of the process which allows us to pay cheques in by taking pictures and submitting them on out phones via an app. I’m sure someone is feeling pretty smug, they’ve just invented pig lipstick.

Everything a consumer or non-financial institution does in terms of moving money around depends on the ACH, it’s not just checks, it’s pretty much anything online. Hey, but there’s an eCheck API.

Bloomberg had a good article on America’s addiction to checks back in July, by @kate_robertson – I think though they tackled it from the wrong angle, the reason people are addicted is because they work, and the patchwork of alternatives and restrictions on how they can be used has put them off if they’ve tried them.

My local credit union, Elevations FCU does a pretty good job at working within the confines of the American Clearing House and Federal Reserve straight jackets. Their technology is pretty solid, and their process limits, reasonable. Their mobile app has fingerprint sign-in, a good UI, and access to Popmoney, with useable daily and monthly limit. Their effectiveness and ability to innovate though is still hampered by the “system”.

My Texas FCU, Amplify, so mirrors their roots and seems incapable of escaping them. They started life as the IBM Federal Credit Union in Texas in 1967, and they’ve struggled much like their namesake to move with the times. While they have Internet/Web banking, I’ve had numerous problems and one acknowledged defect between their web and backend systems which frustrated my efforts to avoid paying by checks. They also claim Texas State rules prevent them from allowing various amounts above $1,000 in an out of accounts, especially Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) accounts.