In the process of moving to another state, we decided to sell my car to some friends. This turned out to be much harder than anticipated.

I admit that this is entirely my fault and I deserve to be made fun of for it, but we couldn’t find the title. It could be that the bank which financed the loan never sent it to us. It could be that it’s in our safe deposit box in our last city and that I’ll find it next month when I go back for the rest of our stuff. Or maybe I’m just a bad document caretaker and I lost it along the way. I don’t know. But the end result is that we don’t have the title and needed to have a duplicate issued before we can sell the car.

Late May

I called the county clerk’s office to ask how to apply for a duplicate title. The clerk was very helpful and friendly, and offered to look up the necessary information while I was on the phone. I gave her my car’s VIN and my personal information, and she came back with the unwelcome news that the bank still had a collateral lien on the car. I pointed out that I bought it used in 2000 and didn’t have a 12-year loan on a used Oldsmobile, and that I hadn’t been arrested for chronic non-payment of the loan. She laughingly agreed that I’d clearly paid it off, but needed a notarized lien release from the financing bank before she could issue a new title.

When I tried to find contact information for that bank, I discovered they had been acquired by another bank in 2004 and no longer existed.

OK. So.

Early June

I called the new bank, Regions, and explained the situation. They were more pleasant and easier to work with than I’d feared, but couldn’t find any information about my paid-off-9-years-ago loan from their subsidiary. They took all my information, though, and agreed to send a lien release if they couldn’t find proof that I still owed them money. That seemed perfectly fair and reasonable - from a bank! - and I sat back to wait for the letter to arrive.

It didn’t arrive.

Late June

I called Regions again. They were missing some information from the lien release application form (but weren’t sure exactly which information) and needed to re-file it. Given how nice they were and that I wasn’t even their customer any more, I didn’t protest or complain too much.

July

A couple of week later, the official, notarized lien release came in the mail. The VIN wasn’t quite identical to the one I gave them, but I hoped the county clerk would call it “good enough” and accept the note.

Now we were ready to apply for the replacement title. The state’s form required that Jen and I both have our signatures notarized, so on a sunny Saturday, we drove to a nearby UPS Store and paid up. We stuffed the lien release letter, the application, and a check for $14 in an envelope and mailed it to the county clerk’s office.

August

Not a peep from the county clerk. I didn’t rush things because, well, government office… But after a few weeks of silence, I called to check on the application.

The county clerk never received it.

The notarized application? The check? The necessary, certified original copy of the lien release? Lost forever to the mail system.

I asked the clerk if I could just take the car out back and burn it, as that might be the easiest way to dispose of it. She asked me to please not to.

I sheepishly called Regions again to explain the situation, apologize profusely, and to ask them to please send me yet another copy of the lien release. They cheerfully agreed to and collected all my information to fill out the request form.

I called US Bank to cancel my lost check and they told me there was a $30 change to stop payment on a $14 note. I told them not to bother and that I’d take my chances.

Now

And that’s where it stands. All I wanted to do is sell my car, and it’s involved the county clerk, three banks (one of them out of business), a UPS Store, and the post office. As of today, I’m no closer to the goal than I was two months ago.

As a side note: yeah, it was my fault for losing the original title (if I ever even had it). But I wouldn’t have been able to transfer the title to the new owners without the lien release anyway, so this was destined to be a pain in the butt in any case.

While I almost never buy extended warranties, conventional wisdom is that you should always buy AppleCare for an Apple laptop. You have up to a year after buying your laptop to purchase the extended coverage. At a high level, you’re basically buying an insurance policy for a piece of hardware with a specific serial number. Why does Apple make this so difficult?

I bought my MacBook Pro directly from Apple’s website. Here’s how AppleCare purchase should work:

  1. I log in to their store website.
  2. I view my order history and find my laptop.
  3. Apple has my MacBook Pro’s serial number on file with this order, and they also have a list of equipment covered by AppleCare. Since my laptop isn’t already covered, the site displays a “Buy AppleCare” button next to it.
  4. I click the “Buy AppleCare” button, choose to use my billing information that Apple already has on file, and click “Buy it now”.
  5. I get a confirmation email and move on to other things.

A lot of people bought their laptops through other sources, like local dealers, chain retail stores, and so on. Since Apple might not have any record of their purchase, here’s how that process should work:

  1. A customer visits Apple’s store website.
  2. Under “Mac Accessories”, they click “AppleCare”.
  3. They see a new form titled “What’s your Mac’s serial number?” and a link to how to find that information.
  4. When the user enters their serial number, the website looks up that part information and selects the appropriate AppleCare plan for their hardware.
  5. They add the plan to their cart and check out normally.
  6. The user gets a confirmation email and moves on to other things.

In reality, the process is far less polished and, well, un-Apple-like:

  1. I logged into their store website and looked for a process like the one I described above.
  2. When that failed to materialize, I browsed around until I found the AppleCare plans in the store.
  3. After some rooting around, I found the correct plan and added it to my cart.
  4. I was given the option of picking my plan up in an Apple Store or having it mailed to me. Wait, what? Pickup? Mail? For a warranty? Fine - mail it.
  5. After a couple of days, my AppleCare plan arrived in the mail. It came in a large cardboard box with a tiny cardboard box inside it. The tiny box contained some printed material and a registration number, but no Apple stickers or anything else I’d actually want.
  6. Per instructions, I went to a separate section of the Apple website and entered my laptop’s serial number (which they already have on file from when I bought it last year!) and the AppleCare registration number (which they already have on file from when I bought it a few days earlier!).
  7. I agreed to the Terms of Service, which were identical to the now-completely-unnecessary printed copy that came in the box.
  8. After submitting those numbers, Apple asked if I wanted my coverage certificate sent by email or by postal service. “Telegraph” and “carrier pigeon” were not available options, so I chose email.
  9. Apple informed me that I’d successfully completed my application, that my registration was now in progress, and that I would receive my certificate when they had finished verifying my registration.
  10. That was over 12 hours ago. I didn’t get any kind of confirmation email, but my browser history helped me find the status page so I could check in on it today. It’s still stuck at “Registration in progress”, presumably while Gertrude from Accounts finds my punchcard in the filing cabinet.

I’d probably shrug the ordeal off if I were dealing with Best Buy, Microsoft, or some other company not known for their customer service. But Apple? This was the opposite of the kind of experience they usually provide and I’m disappointed that the process was so clumsy.

We’ve all seen the commercials:

  • You have mesothelioma! Our lawyers are here to help you!
  • You took Plavix and had a bleeding problem. We’ll get you the money you deserve!
  • Your birth control wasn’t perfect? Call our trained counselors!

This is why we can’t have nice things. It sucks when bad things happen to nice people. Still, certain actions have known, unpleasant, predictably frequent consequences. When you work in a hazardous environment, those environmental hazards may eventually harm you. If you take medicines, it’s quite possible that you’ll experience some of the listed adverse reactions. Someone else already did, after all; that’s how they know what the bad effects are.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take that job or medicine. Someone had to get paid to remove asbestos from old office buildings, and doctors prescribe medicines because they think those compounds will help their patients. But nothing is without risk, and people have to assume some responsibility for the results of their own choices when they are warned about those dangers in advance.

The Omaha World-Herald published a story about a Lincoln public high school who wrote “Remember the Reason for the Season” on their electronic bulletin board in front of the building. The ACLU contacted the school’s principal to request that the message be removed, and the school complied.

I can understand why some parents might not want that sign above the school. While I don’t personally have a problem with it, I’d feel uncomfortable if my kids’ school ran a similar sign that appeared to endorse Islam, Hinduism, or other religions. And as it turns out, the high school in question does have Jewish and Muslim students whose parents probably weren’t thrilled with the message.

Buried in the article, though, was an interesting nugget:

The ACLU was alerted to the sign by a World-Herald reporter who called to ask if anybody had complained about it. The marquee is along a well-traveled city street near the school.

Although many travelers had seen the sign in their daily commute, there were no complaints or any other evidence of offense until OWH’s own reporter triggered the investigation and created the story. I think the school did the right thing in not choosing one religion over another, but I think the newspaper was completely wrong to spark a controversy where none apparently existed.

I wrote an earlier post on converting a Drupal site to Blogofile. I couldn’t be happier with how that turned out as it allowed me to immediately start using Blogofile while still keeping my old Drupal content online. Sweet! But who wants to continue running the two systems in parallel forever? I certainly don’t, and after a code sprint I came up with a way to completely transition off Drupal.

First, I manually converted the most popular nodes on my Drupal site to Blogofile. I moved all of my Project content to GitHub, and wrote a Blogofile photo album that replaced 99% of the Drupal photo album functionality that I actually used. At the end of this process, there were only Blog, Story, and Page nodes left in Drupal.

Next, I changed drupalmigrate.py to generate a bunch of Blogofile post files for each of those remaining Drupal nodes. I added these settings to my _config.py:

controllers.drupalmigrate.makeposts = False
controllers.drupalmigrate.mainusername = 'kirk'
controllers.drupalmigrate.startpostnum = 1000

then ran “../bin/blogofile build -v” to create about 70 new post files. When that finished successfully, I removed those settings.

Finally, I added new code to drupalmigrate.py to generate a different set of RewriteRules that redirect the old Drupal node permalinks to their new Blogofile locations. It makes rules like:

RewriteRule ^/yet-another-python-map(/|$) /2008/04/16/yet-another-python-map/ [R=301,L]

where /yet-another-python-map is the node’s old location in Drupal and /2008/04/16/yet-another-python-map/ is the new Blogofile URL. To activate that, I added this to my _config.py:

controllers.drupalmigrate.makepermalinkredirs = True
controllers.drupalmigrate.redirectrulefile = '_generatedfiles/redirectrewriterules.txt'

With this in place, there was nothing left in Drupal so I decommissioned it and changed my Apache configuration to something like:

	<VirtualHost *:80>
		ServerName honeypot.net
		ServerAlias www.honeypot.net
		CustomLog /var/log/httpd/honeypot.net-access.log combined
		DirectoryIndex index.html
		DocumentRoot /usr/local/www/honeypot.net/honeypot/_site
		<Directory /usr/local/www/honeypot.net/honeypot/_site>
			Order Deny,Allow
			Allow from All
		</Directory>

		RewriteEngine On
		Include /usr/local/www/honeypot.net/honeypot/_generatedfiles/redirectrewriterules.txt
	</VirtualHost>

I’ll leave the Drupal node redirects in there permanently so that all the links to my site will continue to work.