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Monday October 29, 2012

What's up with the Florida electorate?

florida map It’s election season, and time to talk about election things. And since Florida is going to decide this election, it’s worth doing a deep dive into what’s happening here. In Slate, a pretty bold headline: The Fraud That Failed: How the GOP’s voter suppression laws may have inadvertently cost them Florida. The gist of the article is a little weaker than that: seems that the movement to get the word out about Republican voter suppression efforts was effective, and it’s a mobilizing force for Democratic voters.

“I think that this whole thing is gonna backfire on ’em,” says Curry. “If they had left it alone, African-Americans may have been less excited about this election than they were about 2008.” Take the fear of disenfranchisement away and they might have been skittish about voting for a president who endorses gay marriage. In other states, like Maryland and Washington, there are campaigns directed at black voters that straddle the line between patronizing and true. But in Florida, where the Obama campaign is running an ad to remind people of the 2000 election, it doesn’t play. “Just because he says he’s for gay marriage doesn’t mean he’s going to implement it,” says Rev. Gary McCleod of the nearby Mount Sinai church. “That doesn’t concern people.”

(Special note to anyone who opposes legalizing gay marriage: fuck you. See me after class.) Also:

Democrats are proud to say it: If they win this election, it’ll be because a superior ground game turned out their base and overcame a Mitt Romney comeback. In Florida, they have twice as many campaign offices as Romney-Ryan. “With absentee ballot requests, usually the Republicans have a pretty significant advantage on us,” says Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman who represents a liberal slice of the Miami sprawl. “We’ve cut the advantage by 85 percent.” This is true.

Meanwhile, Molly Ball traveled around Florida and reports all the ways voters are upset with Obama. Predictably, it’s the economy, stupid:

They all promise a lot, Romney too,” she said. “I just want a better economy. Gas prices going down. Someone who can fix it for the long term.” The polls currently show Florida looking more hostile to Obama than almost any other swing state. (Only North Carolina looks worse for the president.) If he loses here — indeed, if he loses the 2012 election — it will be because of voters like these: the ones who refused to take him back.

So you see, the forces they are strong here in Florida. Meanwhile, the polls are pretty much evenly tied, and the election still rests on us. Stay tuned.

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Friday October 26, 2012

Sorry kids, the power’s down at CM headquarters, so you’re on your own this weekend.

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Thursday October 25, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 2: the people

voting machinesI promised you people a part 2 to our election guide, and here we are, less than two weeks to election day. Lots of people have done absentee voting, taking hours and hours to research all the stuff on the ballot, so we need to figure this out. Back to the sample ballot. (Note: your ballot will look different! To get YOUR actual ballot, go to this page, type in your info, then click Sample Ballot in the second blue box. You’ll also get to see a photo of your voting place, which is kind of cool.)

President

You people don’t need me to tell you who you’re voting for, so I’ll keep this as short as I possibly can. Generally, I’m a fan of “anyone but the first two” strategy on this one, on the grounds that we need to do whatever we can to strengthen the voice of third parties generally. But it’s a close election that Florida is most likely going to decide. So none of that funny business. I’m still registered Libertarian, and I like a lot about Jill Stein, but no.

Now, a word to my Republican friends. I don’t think you guys are unreasonable! A lot of you see the problems with Romney, but on the other hand he looks like a Reasonable Republican in a tough situation Doing What He Needs To Do. Let me submit to you that the next president will appoint probably two Supreme Court justices, and that if Romney is elected we have an excellent chance of ending up in a country where abortion is outlawed for decades. If that concerns you at all, then consider this: the economy is in recovery. Obama has not done everything he could have done, but it’s a fact that Republicans for the last few decades have been much worse for the budget deficit, and Romney’s “cut taxes and grow the military” is a strategy for more of that.

He underestimated the recession, doubled down on government secrecy, and refuses to stop the drone strikes. But hold your nose and vote for Obama.

US Senator

Your choices: Bill Nelson [D], Connie Mack ®, and two independents: Bill Gaylor and
Chris Borgia. Both the independents have a touch of the tea party about them, but Borgia is talking the “big rethink of government” talk that I think we need to hear more of. I don’t agree with all his positions, but I like the cut of his jib. He won’t win, but there’s a good argument here for voting for an independent voice.

US Congressman

I don’t get to vote for a congrescritter, but they’re up for reelection in districts 23, 25, 26, and 27. Look your people up on Vote Smart and figure it out.

State offices

This is the place to get smart. I can’t really help you, because everyone will be voting for different people. But keep in mind: your vote here is maybe the most important of any you’ll cast today, because there are a lot fewer people voting in each of these races and you have a real chance of swinging an election. You know all that stuff Rick Scott did that you didn’t like? These are the people who voted on it. Don’t be a dumbass — you have maybe a half-dozen people to look up. Do it. Check out Vote Smart, Ballot Pedia, and the Herald’s recommendations.

Judges

Good news: nothing too bad coming out about these people, and replacing them gives more people to Rick Scott. Yes on all of ‘em.

Board of County Commissioners, Community Development Districts, etc.

What I said for the state offices? More so here.

State constitutional amendments

See part 1 of this guide. (Short story: No on everything except maybe the Veterans stuff.)

School Board Questions, County Charter Amendments

That’ll be next week. Stay tuned for part 3! (Wow, this turned out to be surprisingly useless.)

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Tuesday October 23, 2012

LOAD Seeing Load in the early 90s (opening for Marilyn Mason at Squeeze, whazzup) was a pretty formative experience for me. Bob Johnston, lead singer of Load, died recently. This would be an excellent time to listen back to their music, and since it’s not available for sale I’ll just link to the complete Load discography at Cosmic Herse.

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Miami Science Museum new building fly-through

This is new to me: an architectural fly-through of the new science museum building going up downtown next to PAMM. Pretty awesome. Also: huge, right? The video is silent, so I’m adding a separate player underneath, with suitable rendering fly-through music for you. Hit play on both:

The shark aquarium that the building wraps around is some pretty neat stuff. By the way, remember the park part of museum park? Yeah, well it turns out that’s sort of off for now.

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Monday October 22, 2012

AT&T saga, part 2

This is just a quick followup to my AT&T post from three weeks ago. It’s long, but you should read it before proceeding.

AT&T I vaguely remembered that both my iPhone orders, the one that supposedly went through and the one that was supposedly canceled, indicated that I’d get my phone between October 21 and 28. This Saturday was the 20th, and I still hadn’t received an email confirmation of placing an order (much less that anything’d shipped) so I figured it was time for a call back to AT&T. I’m battle hardened, so I’m expecting problems. But I’ve also got order confirmation numbers, and a list of phone numbers. I call the one for AT&T “Premiere,” where I was last told they had the information about my order.

When the system comes on, I start hitting “0” per Get Human. The frist thing you get is a long recording giving you all the reasons you might want to hang up and abandon your call. (“If you ordered a phone, it’ll ship in 14 to 21 days. We can’t change your shipping address. Check your status in your account online.” etc.) When the system finally receives your first 0, a much louder and sterner recording comes on.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you!”
“0”
“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you!”
“0”
“Thank you for calling AT&T. Bye!”

And yes, the machine hangs up on you. I call back, and now I have to actually listen to the options. There is (of course!) no option to talk to a human being. I go through the “check your order status” section, knowing full well that I can’t trust what the system will tell me. I’m on hold, and the recording, still trying to convince me to hang up, tells me I can check my “Premiere Order Status at http://att.com/myorder,” a secret page that doesn’t get linked from AT&T’s website or from your account page. I hang up an give it a shot.

It’s a modest page with a single form field. I punch in my order number, and I get a page that says “Your order has been processed and will be shipped shortly.” Online system speak for “fuck off — you’ll get your thing when you get it.” For shits and giggles, I reload the page and punch in my other order number. “Your order has been processed and will be shipped shortly.” Now I’m starting to lose my shit a little. But I call back, go through the system again, and wait on hold.

When I’m “connected,” something very odd happens. I get a strange staticky recording, kind of like you’d hear in a bad WWII movie when the pilot’s way out of range and can’t communicate with the tower? I actually can’t make out most of what it’s saying, but the gist is clear: we’re not here. Call back Monday. And now I really lose my shit. I start sputtering about how I’m going to call back monday morning, cancel my order, dissolve the family account, and get a phone from Verizon, Sprit, anyone but these asshats. Then I decide to hit the twitter.


I don’t think the tweet embed shows you the time it was posted, but it was at 12:52 pm. A few minutes later at 12:56 pm, I added this one:


Obviously I’m not expecting a response, but I got one! At 1:07 pm, this:


Which is pretty strange … if he’s there M-F, how am I getting a tweet? Does he not want me to respond until Monday? Also, AT&T has people answering customer service complaints on the weekend but not anyone answering the phone? And what’s up with the format of this response? A signature?! Whatever. I ignore it. Saturday. Shit to do.

The kicker comes later in the day when I check my email. And now you’ll understand why I went back and double-checked the time on those twitter posts. Here’s 1:16 pm, exactly 20 minutes after my tweet and 26 days after my actual order:

AT&T order confirmation

Coincidence? Seems impossible to believe. But it’s also impossible to believe that a guy that’s on Twitter on a Saturday afternoon can get a phone shipped off. Basically, I have no idea what happened here. All I know is that I’m stuck with AT&T for at least another two years. But yeah, the next time a Republican tells you how efficient free enterprise is, and how government programs are bureaucratic and inefficient, do me a favor. Just chuckle quietly to yourself.

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All your Kindle are belong to them

Here’s an email I just sent to Amazon customer support:

Hi Amazon!

I bring to your attention this blog post:

A couple of days a go, my friend Linn sent me an e-mail, being very frustrated: Amazon just closed her account and wiped her Kindle. Without notice. Without explanation. This is DRM at it’s worst.

To sum up: this customer was abruptly blocked by Amazon, had her Kindle purchases deleted from her Kindle device, and did not receive clarification about why it happened after multiple requests.

I understand that I’m only getting one side of the story here, but it rings true — this is how corporations act with some regularity. Do you guys have any comment? Is there more to the story?

See, in the absence of a response, I’m not sure how much business I want to conduct with Amazon in the future. I’m holding off buying any Kindle books for the time being, but I’ll be re-evaluating my other Amazon purchases going forward, too. (You can look through my order history and see that I’m a very regular customer. I have a Prime account, and I use it multiple times per week.)

PLEASE, we need a response. I’ll be cross-posting this message, and any response I get, to my blog, http://criticalmiami.com.

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Friday October 19, 2012

Gwar weekend

Tonight

Saturday

Sunday

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Thursday October 18, 2012

Term Limits for Dade county commissioners are on the ballot.
Michael Lewis gives you the argument for voting against the limits. It’s a tough call, but term limits empower government bureaucrats and lobbyists.

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Tuesday October 16, 2012

Butterfly garden

butterfly garden

Hey everybody, check out my butterfly garden. Actually, it looks a little sad right now. It’d been planted for awhile and was getting overgrown, so I replanted everything Sunday to give it more space. Consider this a “before” picture.

butterfly garden

That’s not to say there aren’t some flowers happening. How this happened is that Hillary and I were visiting Fairchild like a year ago and happened into conversation with a very knowledgeable volunteer in the butterfly garden. Before you know it I was jotting down names of flowers on my phone (Milkweed, Corkeystone Passion Vine, Border Weed, Tropical Sage, Egyptian Star Clusters, Scorpion’s Tail). He recommended checking out Richard Lyons Nursery”:http://www.rarefloweringtrees.com/, which sure enough is an amazing place.

butterfly garden

The guy at Richard Lyons recommended one or two more plants, and these five are the ones we came home with. Milkweed and Passion Vine are for sure in the mix, but I don’t remember what the other ones are. No matter, really, because we have seen exactly ONE butterfly this whole time — this weekend (maybe it’s the start of an influx, tho I doubt it; we’re near the bay, and I doubt butterflies like the salt air?).

butterfly garden

This is the Passion Vine. But in any case, I’ll keep y’all updated. Now that I’ve got this post, it should be easy to drop in more photos as the everything fills in.

butterfly garden

Hey, lizard, this trellis is not for you! This PDF is a pretty great resource on planting a butterfly garden in Florida. It’s complicated! For best results, you’re supposed to take into account plants that are common within a quarter mile of you, among a grid of other factors. I sprawling Miami I should think this amounts to doing trial and error with lots of the species on the list.

butterfly garden

The idea though, is that you need a combination of plants — some that attract butterfly larva, and flowering plants that the adults feed on. Then, different species of butterflies like different plants (some like rotting fruit and manure). The Miami Blue Chapter of the National Butterfly association is an excellent resource. I am also to point out that there is a thing called Butterfly World, and their website at least is a rare and beautiful flower.

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Friday October 12, 2012

26 fashion blogger weekend

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

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Wednesday October 10, 2012

Sandbar

sandbar

Here’s a confession: I have no idea what a dive bar is. Does it have something to do with how well lit a place is? How cheap the drinks are? How it’s decorated? Or is it just some intangible assessment one makes about how likely you are to see a roach? I dunno, but I was pretty surprised after I wrote about Fox’s that some people consider it a dive bar. Maybe the term is like 90% positive these days? Anyway, I guess you would consider Sandbar to be one too. All I can tell you is that this is one bar I wish I lived walking distance from.

sandbar

The entrance to Sandbar is a sliding glass door which I’ve only ever seen partially open. Inside, the floor is sand. Covered with a layer of sand. About half the bar stools are counter-hight beach chairs made of 2 by 4’s and painted bright colors, and some are two-seaters.

sandbar

That’s all well and good, but it takes more than a gimick to impress me. There’s gotta be beer, too. Now, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to beer, but I do not require a Yardhouse-type selection of dozens or hundreds of tap beers. Actually, I find it a bit unseemly. I like a place that can curate a selection of a half-dozen or so tap beers that are interesting and reasonably priced. Sandbar doesn’t carry Old Rasputin or 120-minute anything, but it does pretty damned well. In addition to the Bud Lights and Longboards, there’s Brookly Brewery Lager, Longboard IPA, and a couple of Holy Mackrels. And they’re priced absurdly cheap. (I want to say it was $2.50 each during happy hour(?!) but I’m actually not sure.) And here’s the kicker: free food(!) Friday and Saturday. It was hot dogs with fixins (kraut, chili, onions, etc) one day, sphaghetti another day, and chili (with sour cream, cheese, crackers, etc) another time.

sandbar

The doorway to the men’s room has a neon light that says “DICKS.” It’s got the last operating cigarette machine I know of. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists. There’s a sign on the wall that says “Hippies use back door. No Exceptions.” (The ‘no exceptions’ gets me.) All in all, it’s a lot of win. The only real problem is that it’s pretty out of the way, and parking is a drag. Here’s what you do. If you’re coming from the South you’ll be on Collins. If you’re coming from the North you’ll be on Indian Creek. Either way, turn on 67th Street, and head North on Harding Avenue. You’ll find a space.

Sandbar Lounge
6752 Collins Ave
Miami Beach

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Friday October 5, 2012

Oktoberfest weekend one

Now listen here people, the REAL Oktoberfest Miami is at the German American Social Club, and it happens the last two(!) weekends in October. That said, I’m all for doing the

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Tuesday October 2, 2012

Miami Herald on 'Trayvon Inc.' – any hint of hypocrisy?

miami herald, today's cover Here’s the front-page story of today’s Herald, CASHING IN ON TRAYVON INC.

An iconic photograph of a young Trayvon Martin in his Bulldogs football uniform, staring stone-faced into the camera, has been published in print and online around the world.

The Optimist Club team photographer, Lucricia Woodside of North Miami, owns the copyright to the picture and never authorized its use. Now she is a member of a growing number of entrepreneurs, artists and even some opportunists who have found ways to cash in on a new cottage industry.

Call it Trayvon Inc.

The Trayvon case is tragic and wrong on many levels. But a photographer trying to get credit for her work? That’s the lead in the article about people exploiting the tragedy for profit? Let’s be clear about this: despite the liberties people have been taking with reuse of imagery on the internet (including this very blog!), a person with a camera owns the copyright to every picture they make.

What is the writer, Frances Robles, arguing here? That when something becomes news any photo relevant to the news becomes public domain, free to be used without the photographer’s permission?

In fact that must be the argument. Because that’s what these newspapers and websites did: used a photo without asking for permission of the copyright holder. (From a legal perspective, the fact that the photographer registered the copyright is irrelevant to the story.)

Check out the Herald’s own terms of service

Material published on MiamiHerald.com, including articles, photos, Content Feeds, graphics, bulletin board postings, audio and video clips, trademarks, service marks, and other content (“Content”), is copyrighted by The Miami Herald … You may not reproduce, republish or redistribute Content or any portions thereof, including, without limitation, Content provided by licensors and others, including member-submitted content, without the written consent of the copyright owner.

What do you think would happen if something in Miami became a national news story, and a photo from the Herald started popping up in newspapers and websites? That’s right, they’d get their lawyers on it. It’s wrong because the person doing it is a journeyman photographer? Look: part of the deal with being a photographer is that you might be in the right place at the right time and get a photo that becomes valuable. Trust me: professional photographers have it tough these days. They deserve whatever break they can get.

And they certainly don’t deserve to be made to look like profiteering lowlives by a major national newspaper. This poor woman is going to be getting hatemail and threats from ignorant jerks who read this stupid article and don’t think this through.

The Herald’s got a catchy headline, but it’s completely unfair. Cashing in on Trayvon Inc., eh? Say, I notice that this article is on your front page. Could it be that you’re profiting as much as anyone else from this? Where’s the intellectual honesty?

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The sad extent to which AT&T does not have their act together

AT&T envelope

It’s time to check in with AT&T. Last year, I needed to call technical support for their DSL service, which powers the internet at my work. The internet was down, so I pulled up their website on my iPhone to get their number. I’d encourage you to try — just try — to find a phone number on their website. You click a tiny “Contact Us” link in the footer or in a submenu of the main navigation. This takes you through a series of pages where you’re expected to answer a number of questions before they’ll give you a number, but the interface of the pages proved to not be navigable on the phone.

So I dug through my files, looking for a phone number for them, and eventually finding one. Turned out to be an old number for AT&T web hosting(?), but I dialed it anyway. The person on the other end was super nice, and tho he couldn’t help me, he gave me the number for AT&T DSL. Called that number, and got another super nice person. Gave her my DSL phone number, but she couldn’t find my account. After a bit of investigation she realized that I was calling from Florida.

HER: Oh, that’s why … you’re on Bellsouth!
ME: Bellsouth? You guys bought them years ago.
HER: Yes, but they’re still a separate department within the organization. Let me give you the number for them …

At that point I was thrust into an excruciating multi-day attempt to get them to even acknowledge that I was authorized to inform them that our service wasn’t working, but that’s a story for another day. I’ve always suspected that AT&T’s purchase of Bellsouth was mainly a talend aquisition for incompetence, and now I’ve got proof. Remember the insane Valentines Day mailer advert? Well, the same marketing folks are alive and well, and doing their work for AT&T. Above is an envelope I got recently. No mention of AT&T anywhere on the outside. Just my address in a bogus handwriting font, and a faux “real” stamp. Here’s what’s inside:

AT&T advertisement

A single fake-photocopied page, with fake pen annotations from a fake “neighbor.” I would like to believe that AT&T is having fun here, and that they expect us to be in on the joke. But on reflection it seems unlikely, which is depressing. AT&T is actually targeting the segment of people gulliable enough to fall for this. I don’t know who that would be, but it speaks to a pretty deep level of cynycism.

Now let me tell you what happened when I tried to order my iPhone. I attempted to log into Apple’s order page with my AT&T phone number. It asks you for the last 4 of your social, and when I punched them in it didn’t authenticate me, and I was stuck going through AT&T’s website. Logged in, checked my eligability (it incorrectly listed me as ineligable for an upgrade for over a week, but was resolved by last Monday, which is when this all started), and tried to order the phone. When I get to the shipping page, it tells me that it can only ship to my billing address. No way to change it.

This is straight out of 1999, before every other online retailer realized that most people actually have an actual job, and simultaneously do not want FedEx dropping things like iPhones in front of their door to sit there until they get home in the evening. That’s the first call to AT&T, which goes like this. First, you get a stern warning admonishing you to not text and drive. Second, you’re asked to punch in the number you’re calling about. Second, you verify the last 4 of your social. And boom: I’m out. I can’t get a human. I try hitting 0, but no dice.

Switchboard-Telephone-Operators A trip to Get Human reveals the trick: just keep hitting 0 through the repeated prompts to enter your phone number, and eventually you’ll get a human. (Which works. But take note: if you put in your phone number, but the last 4 digits of your social don’t match what they have on file, you can’t get a human. Play at home and see if you can figure it out why the last 4 of my social security number doesn’t match what they have on file for my account. Or just stay tuned: the answer will be revealed before this is all over.)

The human turned out to be super nice, and because of surplus staff brought in for the initial crush of iPhone orders I got her on almost immediately. She changed the primary address on my account to my work address, and promised to change it back a few days later. I thank her and log back into the site, where sure enough I can now order my phone. There’s something I don’t understand about having to change my data plan (and which may come back and bite me later) and I’m on my way, confirmation page printed to PDF. Off to bed.

The next day I check my email, and there is no confirmation or anything. I log back into the website, and it shows me as still eligable for an upgrade. What the hell? Is it really going to let me order and iPhone like I didn’t just order one last night? Yup, sure it does. A second confirmation page printed to PDF. I call. Texting and driving admonishment. Tap zeros. Get human. The human tells me, believe it or not, that she can’t access the system because it’s being reset (?!?) and that she’ll have to call me back. (This might be the point to remind you that AT&T has been dealing with the yearly influx of orders since 2007.)

AT&TThey don’t call back (or I missed the call) and I try again the next day. Texting and driving admonishment. Tap zeros. Get human, who has absolutely no idea what might have happened. She suggests I check to see if my credit card was charged. Nope, it hasn’t been charged either time. Believe it or not I’m condensing this story, but suffice it to say that I called a half dozen times total. I’m not sure if neither of the orders were really processed and I would never have gotten a phone, or if somehow they both were processed and I would have gotten two phones, both at the subsidized price (or maybe free?), but eventually one of the humans I spoke with went into the backend and canceled one of the orders, and a single charge appeared on my credit card.

As of yesterday there was still no confirmation of an order though, either in my email or in my account on AT&T’s website. Being that even best case scenario I don’t get my phone until the end of October, I want to be damned sure there’s an order in there, which I guess means yet another phone call.

Texting and driving admonishment. Tap zeros. Get human. Just for fun, this time they can’t find anything about my order. Did I place this order online? Why yes, I did. Well then, I have to talk to the online department, which is a different phone number. I’m so beat down at this point that I don’t ask why everyone else I’ve talked to at this number could pull up my order. I hang up and call the number for online, and I’m not shocked at all when they can’t pull up my record. Oh, that order is through “Premiere.” I have to call Premiere, which is (you guessed it) a different phone number. At this point I have to go full Dave Barry on you and swear on a stack of Huffington Post Guides to Blogging (Amazon Affiliate link!) that I am not making this up. I read the nice person on the other end both my order numbers (It’s worth pointing out that for every single one of these phone calls I got a person with zero hold time, after just mashing on the 0 key on my phone for a bit, and they were all super helpful. It’s a testemant to AT&T’s profit margins that they can overstaff their call centers so lavishly, and a further indictement of literally every other thing about this process.) and sure enough, one is canceled and the other is processed. I suddenly think to ask why neither their system nor Apple’s recognized the last 4 of my social. Here’s why: my grilfriend and I recently got on a family plan (true love!) and since she’s the primary person on the account … you guessed it: the secret formula is my phone number, last 4 of HER social. I’m not baffled at all about why AT&T wouldn’t do something as simple as changing their phone prompt to specify the last 4 of digits of the primary accountholder’s social. After all, they’re powered by that old-school Bellsouth incompetence.

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