Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Refinance from Hell

In October I went to do a home refinance with my current lender, Nationstar Mortgage. The rate was 4.5%, a significant savings over my current rate. At closing the paperwork was a little messed up, but the big problem was that although they set my signing date for the end of the month, they set the actual date for the refi to occur on the 4th day of the next month. This was a problem for me because, coming out of an FHA loan, all interest for the month is paid on the first day. So I'd have ended up paying $1700 for that. On top of that, the adjusted origination charge (read that as, very roughly,  "how much you pay to get this loan rate") was another $1700 I'd have to pay. In addition, rates had gone down a bit since I started the process, something my lender neglected to tell me.

When you refinance you're given a 3-day grace period to rescind the agreement. So I rescinded. I gave Nationstar a chance to get me a better rate but they "couldn't", so I ended up getting a different loan quote from Crown Mortgage, at 4.125% and an adjusted origination charge of (-$1800). That's right, they'd pay me. When I let Nationstar know this, they suddenly could get me a better rate, but I declined.

Since I'm writing about it here, you know it screwed up more. Crown couldn't get the payoff amount request to go through at Nationstar, so I had to call. Only to find out that Nationstar never processed the recission. It took weeks to settle this, and by that time mortgage rates rose, and loan costs rose. A 4.125% loan now costs me 0.25% of my loan instead of paying me. Sigh. So now, in order to get a better cost, I'm getting a higher rate. I'm getting a 4.5% loan again, but this time the adjusted origination charge is ($-1700). Hopefully at the end of this month.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Just a wireless fire

TL;DR: unplug your car charger if your car outlet is 'always on'.

So my lovely wife is on her way to take her physics board exams this morning, a pretty high-stress affair. About 3 miles from our house, smoke starts pouring out of the wireless charger that's plugged into the cigarette lighter port of the car. She panics; the car stops on a blind curve. A good Samaritan helps her get the car started again and move it out of the road after more than a few cars slam on their brakes to avoid smashing into her.

Turns out the problem was the automobile phone charger.. in particular, the problem is the melting circuitry in the charger itself, that I discovered when I took the thing apart.

 I'm scared to think what would've happened if the fire started while the car was unattended, or even worse, plugged into a socket in the rear of the car.

I contacted the manufacturer who was apologetic, and offered a top-of-the-line replacement. They said they had not received any complaints about this model before. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Conexis flex spending is an absolutely ridiculous amount of work

Once again, I'm dealing with trying to justify expenditures from my flexible spending account. Five months ago. At a place called "CENTRAL BILLING OFFICE" in Charlottesville VA. My investigator rates are way higher than the $10 a year I'm saving by using flexible spending pre-tax. It took 4 emails to get a phone number to call the place, and two transfers to get help logging in. It seems like 50% of my flex spending expenditures have to be justified months after they've happened. Why is this so hard?

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I'm really digging Goodreads.

Derek's bookshelf: (currently-reading)

Storm Front
0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wireless (3G) modem antenna

Living in the middle of nowhere, I count myself lucky to get mobile wireless as opposed to god-awful satellite internet. I bought a travel antenna (the Mighty Max) off eBay from Sunsun for the Verizon UB760/Sprint U760 EV-DO USB Modem, and it works great. It's tiny, about 3 inches high. The picture makes it looks like it's a foot tall. But I jumped from 2 bars to 3, sometimes a full 4 bars as soon as I plugged in. Definitely recommend. If you're looking for 3G internet, check out Millenicom for no contract service. Very happy with them for the last year, too, though I may have to switch soon as they don't offer unlimited internet to my location and I'm really jonesing to enter the 21st century.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Keeping Away the Job-Hunting Blues

So I'm finally off the market! (Again! See my post last month about the debacle with the last company to give me an offer, who, I might add, never deigned to answer my complaint.)

TL;DR short version: keep a log of your job search, network, stay on top of your field with training.

Here's some thoughts on my job search and lessons learned:
  1. Fight the blues by keeping track of what you've done. I started a "Career Diary" that I updated every day with what I did for that day to find a job. On my low days, I could look at that and say "Well, I did all I could" and it was a great resource when I needed to see if I'd applied at a place before.
  2. Filing for unemployment is easy, and the pay is awful. Unemploymnet paid about half my mortgage, and that's it.
  3. I was a lousy networker, and that needs to change. If you don't network, start today. Call that old boss and your old co-workers. Start/update your LinkedIn account. When you make a business contact, make sure you connect with them even if the deal falls through. Do things to network.
    I started my job search with about 25 contacts on LinkedIn. I've ended six months later with 246, and met some very interesting people along the way. If you haven't already, connect with me on LinkedIn.
  4. Job searching was a roller coaster of emotions. The high of a successful interview just picks you up to dash you that much farther when you're turned down. Exciting jobs with awesome people make you so hopeful until you learn the bad news - they can't pay even half of your salary requirements, or you don't meet their requirements, or just you're just not the best fit in a competitive market.
  5. Do a budget. Figure out your absolute minimum salary. Put your salary range in your cover letter to your applications. It will save heartache on your part and time on the recruiter's part. Some will still call asking if you'll take less than your salary range, but it will be a short phone call.
  6. Apply to jobs. A lot. I applied to more than 100 places since March, at more than 120 jobs. I usually spent 6 to 8 hours on job related emails, applications and searching each day, five days a week. Only a couple hours each day on weekends. It took me about 45 minutes to find and apply to an average job. I updated my 'core' resume and the half-dozen job sites where it was posted more than a dozen times.
  7. Tailor your resumes and don't print them until you need them. I probably killed half a forest before I learned this last part. I have 25 different versions of my resume - some for management positions, some for programmer positions, some for architect positions, and different formats for each of them. Most sites wouldn't format my Microsoft Word resume properly, so I had a PDF version and a plain text version, too.
  8. You must manage your expectations:
    • You aren't going to get paid what you were making before. You're going to be paid what the market will pay for the new position you receive. In my case, I was looking at a 27% pay cut to stay in town, or a 7% pay cut if I was willing to commute an hour and a half one way to Richmond. I got lucky and got only a 14% pay cut, telecommuting, but only because I networked to get the job, and since I'm a rehire, the employer knows I'm really good at what I do.
    • Just because you're good doesn't mean anyone will believe you. You need training or experience. If your company won't pay for it, do it on your own. I had my first offer rescinded because I didn't finish my degree. I would've been excellent at that job, and I would've loved it. But even though I had 18 years of relevant experience, I didn't have the 20-year old irrelevant degree, so I lost the job.
      I had lots of interest in my resume based on my sole certification, which is totally irrelevant to any job I've ever done. (The only reason I am certified is because the government required it, even though everything I learned is useless in my day-to-day work.)
      So my priority one is finishing my degree using my employer's excellent education benefits. My boss once told us that we should consider taking vacation to get our own training. My happily-employed ego laughed at him, saying that if the company wanted me trained, they should pay for it and give me time to do it. I wish I'd listened, because the company doesn't want me trained, they just want someone trained. My unemployed-ego realizes that company benefits like vacation and education are there for me, not them.
My job sites that I checked daily:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dropbox Limits

I just learned that in addition to the very visible size limits that Dropbox advertises, there is also a limit on the number of files. An account with more than 300,000 files is problematic. Good to know for those looking to use Dropbox as your cloud storage solution.
Details here:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Finding a job is a lot harder than having a job

Derek Karnes
434-242-xxxx (c)
August 30, 2013

Xx Xx
President and CEO XX Company
XX Company
XX xx xx
Fairfield, Connecticut 06828-0001

Dear Mr. Xx:

I am writing to raise to your attention my recent (almost) hiring experience with XX Company.

I applied to XX Company for an Enterprise Architect position, a role that XX had been trying to fill for quite a while, and a role for which, to me, was exactly what I was looking for. After the application process I went through the Recruiter screening, then the Hiring Manager phone screen, both of which went really well.

I took a day of vacation to complete the first set of face-to-face interviews with other architects, then another day of vacation a few weeks later for the face-to-face interview with the hiring manager.

At this point I was entertaining other interviews from perspective employers, and had several strong leads, which was lucky, because the day came when I was laid off (due to budget cuts) from my previous employer. But luck was strong with me and I received a verbal offer from XX that same day.

Now I had a quandary; I had put a down payment on a vacation house back in January when my job was secure, and now I’m facing a new job and have to decide whether to cancel this rental or work out a longer-than-normal-two-weeks start date with my new manager. I talk to the XX hiring manager and we decide my starting date to be in four weeks due to his travel schedule. This solves my quandary; I can still go on vacation and will start XX the day after I get back, refreshed and ready. I pay the thousands of dollars for the vacation rental.

I get the written offer, accept it, and do all the things required by it – reams of paperwork, travel to the drug testing center, etc. I cancel all my pending interviews, write a dozen emails to potential leads thanking them for their interest and let them know I’m off the market.

I go on vacation, spending a bit more than I normally would have because I have a fat wallet from my severance pay, and a job starting on Monday.

On Wednesday before I start, I get a call from HR that they can’t find record of my college degree. I explain this is normal; I stated on my application that I don’t have a degree. I mentioned it to the recruiter. I mentioned it to the hiring manager. I mentioned it to people I interviewed with. The Human Resources person confirms my application is factual. I start to panic and contact the hiring manager, who assures me we’ll work it out, and the recruiter who says we’re still “100%”; he’ll just have to write a new job request without the degree requirement and have me apply to it; a mere formality.

The next day, two business days before I’m supposed to start, a different Human Resources person calls me and says XX is rescinding the offer. My request to speak to her supervisor is ignored. She says the degree requirement is firm, and that XX is using the background check clause to rescind my offer, even though the background check revealed nothing interesting.

I’m now entering my second month of unemployment, having lost dozens of leads, wasted a month of severance pay, and most importantly, lost a month of job search time.

If you deem 18 years of professional experience more important than a degree based on defunct programming languages, I ask that you help to rectify this situation.


Derek Karnes
IT Architect, Technical Leader, and Software Engineer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Java Webstart: Could not create the Java Virtual Machine

Problem: Java can't allocate enough contiguous memory as specified in the JNLP.

Work around: Lower the max memory setting in the JNLP, or use a 64-bit JVM that allows for more memory availability. If you have total control over the client, close running processes.

Synopsis: Researched the hell out of this, and the problem is ridiculous. On a machine with 16G of memory, and who knows how much virtual memory on top of that, the most I can set my max memory is 900M. Otherwise I intermittently get this error when launching from my JNLP.

The problem is that Java needs contiguous memory for the JVM, and because windows throws DLLs and apps in memory all over the place, the more you have running, the harder it is to get that block of contiguous memory.

Java has no guidelines for 'max memory' settings; it's all dependent on the app, the machine, and the version of java.

Keyword tags: -Xmx, max heap size, jnlp, java, web start, Error: Could not create the Java Virtual Machine

Monday, January 7, 2013

Removing Sprint Proxy Servers on the Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G

How to remove Sprint proxy servers on the Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G

  1. Root your phone (QBKing77, opens in a new window)
  2. Download alogcat from marketplace
  3. Open alogcat
  4. Press menu > filter 
  5. Type in MSL
  6. Press the home key then dial ##data#. 
  7. Click Edit
  8. When asked to enter MSL just enter random numbers and press okay. 
  9. Now go back to alogcat it should be there and look something like this:

    I/MSL_Checker( 220): MSL result : ******

    The number (*****) is your MSL. For some reason when you enter the wrong msl it gives you the right one when looking at the logs with alogcat.
  10. Press home key then dial ##data#
  11. Click Edit
  12. Enter MSL and press okay
  13. Click on Others
  14. Click on Multimedia
  15. Change the following settings to:
    1. RTSP Proxy Address changed to
    2. RTSP Proxy Port to 0
    3. HTTPPD Proxy Address to
    4. HTTPPD Proxy Port to 0

For posterity, stock settings are:
    1. RTSP Proxy Address:
    2. RTSP Proxy Port: 554
    3. HTTPPD Proxy Address:
    4. HTTPPD Proxy Port: 8085