Category Archives: pabulum

Pabulum– Stuff to Think About!

teeth

I just got back from Yucatan, Mexico where I had extensive repair work: crowns and root canals done. Specifically, in Cancun, on the far east of the country on the Caribbean, a major package holiday and tourist destination.

Lots of folk over Facebook & elsewhere wanted the skinny on this.
Bottom line:

*It’s easy ahead of time using Mexican Dentist websites to know what various treatments will cost as they are clearly spelled out.  Most people are aware and have been given estimates ‘at home’ for onerous things like root canal treatments, implants, crowns, veneers, and all the rest.  
But you do need to clearly understand  what these terms mean to be able to compare prices.
You could get a treatment Plan here then send it ahead for their estimate. 

* Mexico is 30 to 75% cheaper than the USA or Western Europe
Simple fillings? that too.

  • Gas: same price. Food: Less than half. Basic accommodation, less than a quarter. a/c Transport: Cheap ands good. City buses, very cheap, very noisy and a lot of fun.

* Costa Rica, India, Thailand and other places are also in the running- But I have not had  teeth done there. 

* Eastern Europe! I have had Implants done in Bosnia, Budapest and Warsaw and am happy with there results.. : ) But this is not about that.

* Los Algodones across the border from S. California has the most dentists and is easy to drive to near the Mexico/Arizona/California junction near Yuma, Arizona. – you can walk over the border, there are over 100 dentists in that one town and not much else , so you have LOTS of Dental choices.
It is WAY TOO HOT in the summer & pretty much shuts down from April onward.

* I was going to drive there this year again (2022) in my RV as I did before ‘The Pandemic’ but the fuel cost was double what it was.
The airfare to Cancun, 2500 miles away and 6h flying time  beat it!
with some effort & adaptability it can be under $300 both ways 
(Google Flights)

* Google maps showed me there are about 15 ‘dental tourism’ places around Cancun. less than Los Algodones- But you only need one dentist, the right one, after all. All the ideal ones seem to be in the ‘tourist’ zone in ‘Zona Hotelaria’ which looks to me like Miami in miniature.
Note that Mexicans typically DO NOT get root canals, veneers and whatever you are going there for- just fillings & extractions.  
These places are geared up for ‘us’
And not just Americans go there. Western Europeans, too.
* The rest of everyday Mexico- Its food, jungles, ruins, beaches, cenotes, villages and people await you not far away.
* Staying in the Hotel Zone would be at least $100/night, so I stayed in ‘El Centro’ The actual City of Cancun, Pop: 850,000,  a 60c /half-hr public bus ride away. Taxis are cheap but I am cheaper.
For $20/night I stayed in small 3 room apartment  I rented by the week down town in the Big City- With WiFi, A/C, locked yard gate and own keys, great food nearby and plenty of street life, just the way I like it : )
* How? I used Booking.Com to initially find a place for a few nights and struck a deal with the landlady for a week at a time more, once dental timetable was settled.

* How Does One  Find  The Right Dentist?
A; Show Up. I did NOT book or call ahead. I mapped them all, CLICK HERE: (Note: Google Maps is far from perfect, zooming in and out makes various different practitioners come up!)
I walked past a few and stopped in at four. The 3rd one that got my attention that I will list was the only one with an attached tech lab and surgical, orthodontic, cosmetic and endodontics specialists all in the same office. They were (as they all are for that matter) Super clean, masked up to put us back home to shame and had a large portfolio of work done. What made me settle on the particular practice I did was, talking to the various patients in the air conditioned waiting area in different stages of repair that were totally happy with the progress, prognosis and treatments given- esp. the Price.
* PLUS the office was 5 minute’s walk from Playa Caracol a tourist and hotel beach with bars and lounge chairs. Not really my idea of a Mexican Visit but beats the hell out a boring recovery room.
5 minutes after many unpleasant drilling and banging procedures,
I am dozing in the sand. No margaritas as I don’t care for such things, but I could have had any such libations.
* I got my first appointment within 24 hrs and started treatment after some hairy decision making on my own part within 3 days. 
I did tell them to use all possible hours to ‘get it all over with’ and they did, but this is not for everyone. Couple 6hr days in the Chair as I decided for once to proactively prevent further future damage rather than wait for things to go wrong THEN fix them as I had before. That  was A LOT of work built up over 50 years : )

* I kept the Site to Last simply because there was a lot to understand to get the best options for my own case: Your Mileage may vary. Also- Cancun is now gearing up for Dental Tourism and not as well known as some destinations- yet- for this type of work.
http://www.denticscancun.com It has been in business for 8 years and hosts graduates of Mexican university system known as UNAM. They are also apparently members of the ADA- American Dental Association meaning their practices and techniques are in line with that organization. 
* My Spanish is Okay, and couple young staff were called in couple times when procedures got too complex to afford language mistakes.
* The way I do things is not for everyone. I telecommute so kept right on ‘working’ from abroad and don’t have many time constraints. In fact, I bought a one way ticket and decided to keep going as long as stuff remained to be done, plus, left 5 days after the last treatment so I could come back for a followup if anything caused Problems.,
(There are none- yet.) This allowed me to visit and stay in beautiful Merida, about a 4 hr bus ride away and get over Hotel Zone Life and the rigors of Chair Life and too many lidocaine shots to count. 

Final Notes.
Never pick a dentist that does not use electronic X-rays:
Film X-Rays are Passe.
Reasons: the radiation is extremely low and the result show up instantly. When I was done they gave me copies on thumb drive of ALL the X-Rays they took as they were working.

– It’s not hard once you are in the office to talk to other patients, these were my real marketing gurus. Several guys reported they were as I ended up doing, getting a lifetime repair for years of trouble. 

– I HATE the term: “I Have Done My Research:” like a few weeks of googling beats your 7 years of internship and study. But we should all learn some terms and recognize the difference between hype and reality at the very least.

– I DO rely on my instincts about hygiene, proffesionalism and competence. I could be gyped by conmen easily but not a whole office and staff, unlikely.

  • Do not do what I did or follow what I said. YOu will have to use this as a starting point to make your own decisions– you are On YOu Own. your health and welfare are a big issue and I do not want to be responsible for them : )

Hope that Helped. Comments, corrections, kudos and clobbering Welcomed!

  • Paule Castro

 

Commuting abroad

Here I am in Cancún Centro Mexico, where I stay for $20 a night in a small semi furnished apartment so that I can commute to the Hotel zone to get major dental work done

Just to show what we can do literally on the road I’m walking back from the bus station to my apartment, a 25 minute walk after a 30 minute bus ride this being the third or fourth time I’ve done it.

It’s been years since I commuted and the weird thing is that “work” consists of having sat in the dentist chair for eight hours very uncomfortable and sometimes in pain but all for the good…

I have not commuted or worked anywhere in years, having worked for myself for 20, is what I have done the last three days the way it is for most people? Feels like having teeth polled feels necessary feels in evitable?

At the very least this little exercise here shows it is possible to post blogs I’ll strolling along the road in the dark at 8 PM in a big city… And yes, I am using dictation which works quite well

Teleworking

So you take your tech show on the road to the likes of Mexico,
from wherever you usually work,
and assume the reasonable Internet connection will allow you to do everything you could do from home…

Not quite. The level of security involved with most things on the Internet now will make you a suspect as your usual access Is obviously coming from outside your usual country.

This Internet bureaucracy known as ARIN Assigns blocks of IP addresses to each country, and you will get one in Mexico if that’s where you are. If this is not where you usually are, your bank, WordPress, name registrar and anything of significance you want to log into will be most unhappy.

They never give the game away by telling you that this is true, you just simply find mysteriously that your password does not work or that they want to send you a text message to verify you…
To your usual USA number.

Thanks a lot, Xfinity Mobile, in spite of your blurb that doesn’t work out here Even though your site mentions it would do so at $.10 per message, Or they offer you a generous $10 a day. No thanks
iMessages? Yes. Plain Texts? No.

A long time ago I signed up for the free Google voice system which allows you to use an app to send & receive your USA texts wherever You are in the world.

I know this works because I use it with my friends but The banks etc. are not fooled… Yeah, they say they sent the text but you will never get it… Also those free webpages that allow you to use a throwaway number… Security software knows about them too

Basically no site that I tried that wanted to send text messages do anything except with blocks of phone numbers it knows belong to real cell phones with SIMs

Makes sense I suppose

None of this is helped by trying to use a VPN so that my activity appears to be coming from the USA… Using Nord VPN I found that every USA  connection I made always appeared to be in Miami Florida, and when I looked up the the  company that owned that block…
I find the address Block concerned was blacklisted in all sorts of places, and even resulted in Regular Google searches bringing up a capture challenge because, as the site said,
“we need to check your browser…”

Be aware that as a road warrior security wise you will never actually told exactly why or how you are being kept at bay.. Stuff will just Not Work Right, and if you push your luck, you could be completely locked out.

Same story with the Chip n PIN  and ATM cards… Never use the bank machine that is the type pick and pull your card into its guts and only give it back if it feels like- It Won’t

The type to use will always allows you to pull it back out yourself without a fight or breaking something.
..and does not pull it in itself with a motor

I personally think this is the most secure type anyway As it will be harder to trick the machinery with skimmers

Only way to do this Internet I suspect it to use Proxy Server or VPN back to one of my OWN machines ‘back home’-
So I really AM there. Sorta

This is a draft, that’s it for now.

SIM cards Abroad or, Troubleshooting troubleshooting itself.

[Dateline: Cancun, Mexico]

God forbid you should go abroad with your smartphone!
Who does that?

I did. Using my iPhone XS I had been relatively happy with XFinity Mobile, which uses the USA VERIZON network,
for some time, while in the USA

But, seeing their ‘unlimited’ Roaming Rates for use outside of the USA I decided: No, Senor, Will not do that then. $10/day?!
now I am headed for Cancun, Mexico. Nope.
That’s 3 meals a day there!

I would have thought, then, that it simply would not work abroad as I had ordered no Travel Plan.
Or maybe “Pay As I Go” would work

And, tellingly, foolishly, even,
I assume my Voice Callers would simply be sent straight to my Voicemail.

I could call (with a different phone!) in and retrieve them perhaps.
Of course “Visual Voicemail” won’t work- I accept  that.

The web pages confusingly talk about Per-Text and Per-Call rates, or at least I think so…Only one way to find out! Try It!
.
Well no, it did NOT seem to work much. Confusingly of course, iMessage uses your actual phone number to reach you- besides other means,
even if the sim card is OUT. No Woes. So Far. I turned Data Roaming Off as that’s $1/100mb. Maybe.
So. Just Voicemail for my callers while I am Gone. And, MAYBE, some straight non iMessage sender Texts (the Green ones on the iPhone) now and then for me. OK!

So I land in Cancun- Initially, “MOVISTAR”, a local carrier was acquired and seemed to do something.. Couple straight 
Texts seemed to pop through,… Guess I’ll Be Billed Later…
Look online at my account- Nothing Extra Shows..

At this point for the equivalent of $11 I got a Mexican SIMM card from TELCEL and put it in my phone. Instant Success: 2.5 GB data and a Mexican number & texts to use to call my dentists, etc.

I actually used a real TELCEL office so the assistant did help me,
but, you can buy the little SIMs almost anywhere in OXXO Convenience stores etc.
and do it yourself if your Spanish is Okay-
they do not seem to have a “Press 2 for English”

The XFinity Mobile SIM is OUT of my phone, safely stored.
I tend to tape it inside the card the replacement sim came from and tuck it back in the case

The TELCEL SIMM is in the phone and working perfectly.
I mean: Perfectly. TELCEL is #1 in Mexico and so far blows the pants off the USA offerings for simplicity. Oh! and unlimited calls to Canada & USA are… Included. $11. & 2.5GB data. Wow.

Now the Problem starts: 

I brought along a ‘spare’ iPhone 7 because, well, Crap Happens.
I put the XFinity Mobile SIMM into THAT phone, not my regular one
in case the promised 3c/text, 10c/min XFinity call rate would  SOMEHOW work as a backup means of catching my Texts as I never did figure a way to Forward such things

Did I need a Roaming Package? It was all so confusing I thought I would see what happened but this was Definitely a Backup

Bad Move.

Some days pass, then Hello? Someone Emails me that calling
my USA cell number immediately goes to saying:
“4-3-2-1 Switch 112-5 Verizon blah blah”
Not a Busy or non-answer sound just that bizarre message
I just Want  Calls To Go Straight To Voicemail

So! Now no  one can leave a message,
AND i cannot call in to get my messages. 
I don’t care if it does not actually RING in Mexico- It’s my Vacation.

So! I call XFinity Mobile who tell me, oh you will LOVE this:
This is a praisy or summary only:
First off they say ‘
XF:We see nothing wrong
ME: So CAll My Cell Number Yourself
XF:You will have to hang up
ME: No I won’t, this is my office line, My cell phone doesn’t wo…
XF:But it DOES work..
ME: Call it….Please?  [LONG wait on Hold..More Back and Forth]
XF:Your service is Disabled as your service was “Red lined” due to 
sim card/phone mismatch,
ME: OK! I ll just turn that  phone OFF
XF: But using it in the wrong phone disabled the line..
ME:OK!! Ill put the sim card back in the right phone
XF: Too Late….
ME:Okay,let’s Register the iPhone 7– I have it’s IMEI Serial.. I…
XF:No Can Do, you are out the country, needs Verizon towers,
ME: Okay!!! I will not use the sim AT ALL: Please turn on Voicemail ..
XF: No Can DO Because you are De Activated…
ME:Okay Activate me on my original phone..
XF: No Can Do You Are Out The Country, do it when you get ba…
ME:No Can DO., I no longer WANT any cell service, just Voicemail…
XF:Your voicemail is associated with your cell service Phone…
ME: Let’s just assume I don’t HAVE any hardware any more? 
XF: It has to be Active before you turn it OFF in Your Own Country
[Here I skip the strong urge to suggest my Teleporter is also a part of the Verizon family and is also broken]

Several of these conversation threads  went round and round in a good old fashioned GOTO:SELF loop I had to  break by trying alternate approaches. I shamefully admit it took quite a while to figure out what was NOT wrong and backtrack what ACTUALLY happened of the several things that COULD  have happened
This is the Troubleshooting I love to do with Tech in General…

When it’s someone Else’s 

1) It is not because I used my Mexican SIM in my usual (unlocked)
XS phone, as ‘they’ would not need to know that fact.
Why would they, of the thousands of other networks?
unless the phone was reported Stolen ?
Yes they CAN be blocked worldwide based on the phone IMEI: Serial Number, that is
but I was petty sure that had not happened otherwise .. Well, the Mexican SIM would Not Work. Right?
Besides…. what has that to do with my Voicemail?!?
the Lesson Here: Think off Everything, but don’t sidetrack.

2) It’s not that I went a-roaming without a Roaming plan and did not tell anyone, When I first got here some messages got through
What I wanted was a Pay as you Go at 10c/message $1/100MB that they mentioned somewhere in their Site, and did NOT want to pay $10/day to make that Unlimited. as I would have Limited use

3) Someone Emailed me that my cell phone number rang BUSY
I checked all over my Plan online, Devices, everything. Nothing. No Email. No Text from XFinity, Their Rep’s support screen obviously showed NOTHING WRONG– Initially.
Nothing in their App to say there was a Problem
It’s Strictly Self-Rescue- Something Sailors know- It’s what you do when there’s no one to help. Only the liferaft is full of holes..
And you don’t; know til you are ‘out there’ and cannot ‘go back’
It’s Titanic, this f-up.

4) The rep I called, Bev, as as helpful as she could be. Please folks don’t shoot the messenger, it’s the Company! She got caught in the middle messaging ‘higher ups’ who fed back BS about ‘turning on Line & Voicemail Is Not Possible Til You Are Back Home” etc
“Can I Talk To That Higher up Person Directly So YOu Are Not Caught In the Middle?” 
Not Possible. “Can we Escalate This?” No…..
“Why is that?” “Because that’s the way things are” (Paraphrased)

ME: Can I talk to a Supervisor? (I did say this apologetically as I knew it was ‘out of her hands).
XF: He Is In A Meeting”
ME:Please have IT call me Back at this Mexican number..”

I am sure that form of personal pronoun is
Not Acceptable but I used IT anyway.

IT stands for:
“Information Technologist (Male, Female or Anything In Between) and also the famous Impersonal Pronoun used by Gollum: 
“What has it got in its pocketless?
Decent Service my Preciousssssss??””

This was after unravelling a longer conversation about what exactly was “MY Problem” Own it, Right?

I left my Mexican Cell Number to Call me Back as I KNEW that that worked. I had Tested it from USA numbers..
I asked her to put in tech support notes:
“Caller does not need cell service to work
Caller just wants ITs number and voice mail back”

That’s all she could so. She seemed stressed and I was in the unenviable role of saying, “It’s NOT YOU It’s this Stupid Company,
How would you feel if someone ditched your main phone number?But thanks for trying to Help”

Hung Up; Plotted Next Moves of which Waiting is never my Fave.
I’ll just call back over and over and NOT go away til it’s handled?
Some companies you just have to, and prefix your call with
“I do not seem to be the kind of client who can be blown off do I?”
But ALWAYS remain calm and polite. THIS is why I do not Meditate
Or perform religious rituals. THIS is the Ritual. Above all their mendacity os not an infectious disease.

Nevertheless I recognize that, according to Dale Carnegie, if you identify too strongly with your Employer it means insults to them are insults to you.
Not least as it sounds like a criticism that one has ‘chosen’ to work for a deadbeat company. I get all that, Stockholm Syndrome ahoy-
“Be Grateful You Even HAVE a Job even with the Corporation From Hell…” 
I feel her hands were tied by missing information
and dire warning never to escalate calls

One take away from this:

Take Great Care not to fall in this logical trap:
There is a logical fallacy called “Straw Man”
I create a ‘straw man’ replica of my antagonist as it is easier to attack that than the real issue

I am Mad at XFinity. Of Course!
This agent  ‘represents’ XFinity in my head, if I let it
Ergo, Everything That Happanes Is Her Fault
Why?
Because I would LOVE to go to corporate HQ in Philadelphia
And rip someone’s head off
(But Who? the Entire Roberts Family that Runs it?!)
But I cannot. All I have is ‘Bev’ between me and the Tech Abyss
No Sorry– the Corporate Abyss, the Tech is JUST FINE

Would that make my number come back?
Who Cares. I get some satisfaction

In Fact, I think I shall go right now,
that way Ill get a chance to re activate my phone….

Post Mortem: About an hour later- The line starts working again as I would Expect. No Explanation, no remedy, no warning, Nothing
NO sim in my phone and- I am NOT putting it back til I am Stateside

THANKS. I Guess. I’ll just shower insults and pickets outside
their Corp HQ instead.

No Wait, the XFinity Teleporter is Broken,…,

Web Optimizing

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Secure websites: httpS:// (not http://) like this one used to be a curiosity and a minority-
Now there are no pages that should NOT use https,  also known in general as “SSL” or Secure Socket Layer protocol.
Whether or not you Take Payments nor even have Forms to Fill.. It ensures that ALL traffic to and from your Browser (Chrome, etc) to the final intended destination are properly obfuscated so none of the hundreds of machines and networks along the way can, even with sophisticated technology, snoop what is going on between the two of you.
Right now, you are reading these words off my own Web Server into your own Browser without any
person in the middle seeing anything more than a binary mishmash of unintelligible  data.
Someone  Human might look over your shoulder.

They might install software on your machine to ‘record’ what’s going on
But, at least in the transport- Not
EVEN IF you are connected to a passwordless WIFI this remains true. It actually does not matter, security-wise, whether your WIFI has a password or not, because your data camnnot be snooped between the endpoints.
Why does a WIFI password matter?
It prevents Strangers sneaking in when you do not want them to and using up all your speed and incriminating you in Criminal Activities.
Despite “SSl” (httpS://, your IP address usage may be tracked, by the way.

It’s up for grabs the opinion that the NSA could unobfuscate it- But we are mainly concerned with Daily Life, not the Dark Web here.

For historical reasons, most websites respond to BOTH types of request- secure & insecure- with exactly thr same appearance- But once is insecure, the other not. 
Why not simply turn off the Insecure pages? For historical reasons, that’s why.. in case sites still exist that ONLY reply to the OLD insecure standard and are not set use the new one- Yet. 
So! On YOUR website, make sure it DOES respond on the OLD (http://) insecure protocol but immediately gets redirected to the PROPER and SECURE site https://

HEre is the Code to do that in the root folder of your web server in a configuration fiel that controls how Apache, the Web Server, behaves:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301,NE]
Header always set Content-Security-Policy "upgrade-insecure-requests;"

Ill write more on this a bit later- But i wanted to get this Out There to Remind Myself!

 

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Log4j

Log4j security Issues have come up and then been (ab)used a lot since October 2021 due to defects in its design that affect a lot of other products

It is a 20-year-old open source project Meaning that it is essentially a free software Library that may be used inside any number of a very large number of other pieces of software out there

Its purpose is to create a log file reporting what the main software is doing.

There is a small chance you may be aware that your piece of software uses this.

There’s a bigger chance you use some software that has got this embedded in it That will cause your security problems- And you may not even be aware of it.

The game software “Minecraft” is the most prominent example, but exists elsewhere.

The probability exists that in fact problems will arise from websites and web hosts who are more likely to use this software meaning that they could be issues securely accessing certain websites,

I will add more items here as I learn about it

By that I mean, you cannot be sure that Facebook, Twitter, your bank, PayPal etc. don’t in some form use this in their infrastructure – being 20 years old, quite often software infrastructure is incompletely documented and it’s not realized this is being used

Companies do have to be motivated to go look for it, and in the worst case they wait for something to fail then run 🏃‍♀️ and jump on it – the problem is, nothing may go wrong but it could be used as a way to steal passwords & credentials

If you were someone that is abusing the service in order to steal passwords and credentials, it behooves you to not damage the website so that nobody would notice… Just remember that.

More as we learn of it



Interface design

I did not design this therefore I am not supposed to criticize this,
am I?
But I did pay for this Device so does that give me Some Rights about Complaining?
How about if I am borrowing someone else’s stuff?
Here we go:



This above describes ONE button which affects a tiny display area of display on a remote concerning… well, you tell me.
That’s all you really need to know.
If you think I am not being helpful saying what the other seven controls are in the instructions, believe me, you don’t want to know. the only one that’s straightforward is the ‘On/Off” button which even so has a layer of qualifications about what exactly that means..
The symbology/synology is truly obscure even given that the Design is obviously from China and would better have been presented in Kana or actual ideograms
</RANT>, as they ‘Say’.