Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dear Mortgage Company...

UPDATE 2011-08-20: I just got a call from Seterus saying that I've been approved for the modification and they sent out the final documents on Thursday! Thanks to everyone who offered advice and kind wishes.

Following is a letter I just sent to my mortgage company. It pretty much speaks for itself (some things are redacted for my own privacy).


To: Seterus, Inc. Fax: 877-371-7799

Attention Customer Service:

Subject: Loan # [REDACTED]

Matthew A Orlando [REDACTED]

August 2, 2011

This is a “qualified written request” under section 6 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

I am writing because your organization has utterly failed to live up to its obligations and has denied me a modification based on false information. First some background:

My wife became unemployed in 2009 and we fell behind on our mortgage payments in the beginning of 2010. At this time our loan was serviced by Chase. Around April 2010, we applied for a modification, and were approved for a trial period for the July, August, and September payments. The modification was scheduled to be finalized on October 1. In September, however, I got a letter from Chase informing me that the loan would be transferred to your company (then IBM LBPS, now Seterus).

When I received information about the transfer from your company, I called to make sure the modification was still in the works. I was told to continue making the trial payment and things seemed to be moving along. In January, I was informed that we were approved for the modification and that documents had been sent out. I still hadn’t received anything by February when your automated dialer started calling me every week for being behind on my payments.

Every week for months I talked to someone and told them I had not yet received the documents. Every week for months I was told they would look into it. I spent a few 40-60 minute calls being transferred between different departments, all telling me they would look into it. At one point someone said “I see this message was sent to <so and so department> but they never did anything with it. I’ll try to get that moved along.” Every. Single. Week. For MONTHS.

You guys gave me this runaround for MONTHS. From February through late May it’s the same thing. Calling to collect on a debt, wondering why I haven’t sent back my documents, even though I told you repeatedly and persistently that I had not received them.

Let me spell it out one more time since it didn’t seem to get through:

I NEVER RECEIVED MY FINAL DOCUMENTS FOR THE APPROVED MODIFICATION

But wait; there’s more!

Around early June, I got my weekly “you’re behind on payments call.” I was told that at this point, because so much time had passed since the initial application, they would have to open a new file for me. This was downright insulting. YOU failed on your end and now I had to start the process all over again with the chance that it wouldn’t be approved.

True to my worries, the modification was declined with the excuse (paraphrased) “Your monthly mortgage payment including principle, interest, taxes, and insurance is less than 31% of your gross monthly income.”

[Ed. note: Using variables here instead of pure redaction so it makes more sense]

Let’s do some arithmetic here. My annual salary is $[12a]. Divide that by 12, you get $[a] per month (I listed $[a] as my monthly income on the Request for Modification form). What’s 31% of $[a]? The answer is $[0.31a]. What is the monthly mortgage payment listed my statement including principle, interest, insurance, and taxes? $[0.33a]. Which number is greater: $[0.31a] or $[0.33a]?

[Ed. note: yes, a is a positive number]

Given the above, I demand that you re-instate the modification trial period and send me the final documents no later than November 1, 2011. I would also like a written letter of apology for all the abuse I’ve received in the face of my good faith efforts.

I understand that under Section 6 of RESPA you are required to acknowledge my request within 20 business days and must try to resolve the issue within 60 business days.

Sincerely,

Matthew Orlando

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Totally Random Made-Up Term for the Day 4 & 5

fishgiver
n. - A person who gives an easy answer to someone in spite of others' efforts to provide the necessary tools for finding or producing the answer.
fisheater
n. - A person who refuses to use the tools at their disposal to solve a problem and instead relies on the handouts of fishgivers.
These are derived from the proverb: “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Caffeinated Bang For Your Buck

I quit caffeine for six months a couple years ago and hated every minute. I’d rather sleep less than live longer. Well, I’d rather do both; that’s why I love science. I wonder if there are studies that correlate caffeine consumption with life expectancy. If my life expectancy is reduced by less than the total of daily added time, I’d experience more time conscious than otherwise.

Like most Simpsons episodes, the rest of this post is only tangentially related to what was just discussed…

I loves me some energy drinks (proof). I’m here to pimp my most recent favorite, Molotov Explosive Energy. “Pimp” isn’t the right word; that would imply I’m making money from it. Really, I’m just a guy in love with a drink. They’re a relative newcomer to the market, and I don’t want them to go away any time soon. I really hate it when products I love disappear.

I’ve posted about them on Facebook before, but something struck me as blog-worthy. A portion of their sales goes towards the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Considering what my grandmother does, I have a big soft spot for charity.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what does Molotov do for you?

If I could describe myself in one word, it would be “eclectic.” When I saw “con Tapatío” on an energy drink can, how could I possibly resist?

The first flavor I tried was Pineapple con Tapatío (they have non-Tapatío versions as well). I poured it into a tall glass to see the color. It was pineapple yellow with sparse, red specks of chili peppers. As I brought the glass to my face the first thing I noticed—even before the sweet pineapple smell—was a tickle in my nose reminiscent of a strong ginger ale.

The first sip paid perfect homage to the description “explosive energy.” It was a blast of pineapple-y goodness. It takes a fair bit of sweetness to cover up the bitterness of caffeine, but Molotov perfectly balances it with the acidity of lemon. There is absolutely no hint of the unpleasant tang and aftertaste associated with highly caffeinated drinks (especially the ones with taurine and guarana).

Swallowing was another experience unto itself. Carbonation conspired with capsaicin to tickle and tingle my throat in a way I never imagined (usually I have a great imagination for imbibants*). It was similar to a ginger ale, but with a subtle warmth that goes beyond the superficial burn. The warmth builds as you continue to drink it.

One word of warning though: be careful breathing while drinking. If your throat or sinuses are sensitive to the spice, it may make you cough. This can be especially troublesome when sitting at a computer at work. Ahem. You may not be affected by it, or (like me) you may think it’s totally worth the risk. Otherwise, the non-Tapatío versions are perfectly acceptable alternatives. The loss of spice does nothing to diminish the unique, “is this really an energy drink?” experience.

The mango has a more mellow flavor than the pineapple. There is less acidity, but also slightly less sweetness. I still have a hard time noticing the “energy blend.”

The third flavor which doesn’t have a spicy counterpart is Tamarindo. If you’ve never experienced tamarind before, do yourself a favor. It’s sweet, and ever so slightly fruity. It has been described as somewhat cola-like, but I’ve never found that particularly satisfying. Whatever the case, it’s just as delicious as the others.

Oh, did I mention Molotov drinks make excellent cocktails?


* TODO: Totally Random Made-up Term for the Day: imbibants

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tame Your Inner Monkey

philhellenes posted this masterpiece on YouTube yesterday. I cannot possibly share this video with enough people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

General Advice to No One in Particular

Anyone who knows me well knows I let go of things pretty easily; perhaps to a fault (once the things are over, anyway). Wait, what? Is it really such a fault to be abnormally forgiving?

Anyone who knows me well knows I rarely stress over the stresses in my life. Sure I might talk about the stresses, but you’d be hard-pressed to call me stressed.*

Is there some cause and effect here?

Some discussions I’ve observed recently have helped solidify a couple ideas I’ve been mulling around in my head for a while:

If an argument is based on a misunderstanding and the people arguing realize this fact, no one has the “right” to be mad anymore. As soon as the misunderstanding is pointed out, the entire context of everything that followed vanishes. Granted, it takes a while for your anger hormones to dissipate. Go for a walk. Exercise. Eat some ice cream. Act like it never happened.

Forget your own first impressions. We all know first impressions make a huge difference in our lives. Have you ever felt like you “should” have achieved something were it not for the first impression you made? Have you ever bothered to examine your own judgments in that regard? I have many friends on whose feet, off I wrongly got.

I hope English forgives me for murdering it…


* It was about 3 minutes after I wrote that when I realized it rhymed. Just be glad I didn't try to take it further…

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Totally Random Made-Up Term for the Day 3

Alphabet patch

n. – A software patch which upgrades the program from alpha to beta status. (Also known as RTM within Microsoft®*)

* Badum CHHH**

** If you can’t play the rimshot sound on that page, you really should upgrade your browser. Chrome, Opera, Safari, Firefox (in no particular order) are all great choices. If you already have one of them, be sure to check for updates.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gimme my Gamut

I wish there was more consumer interest in spectral imaging/display technology. We miss out on many chromatic experiences by persisting in the bland world of RGB (RYGB, RGCB, RGBW, CMYK, HSL take your pick).

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer on how our color vision works.

Our eyes have three types of color receptors: “red” receptors which are most sensitive to yellow-orange, longer wavelength light, and also slightly sensitive to blue-violet, short wavelength light; “green” receptors which are most sensitive to a bright lime green, medium wavelength light; and “blue” receptors, most sensitive to, well, blue.* Here’s a chart to illustrate this:

 Color chart

Your perception of color is simply your brain measuring the relative levels of each type of signal. When all three receptors are at their maximums, you see white. If your red receptor is firing strongly but your green and blue receptors are firing weakly, you’ll see red. If your red and green receptors are both firing strongly, you’ll see yellow. And so on…

Since every color we perceive is simply a mixture of three signals, we can use just three colors of light, red, green and blue, to reproduce a huge range of other colors. This is how TVs and monitors work. Images printed on paper work similarly: each color of ink subtracts either red, green, or blue from the white background.

So what’s the problem?

Since we can perceive the same color from different combinations of light wavelengths, we don’t really get a full perception of the “actual” color of things (the wavelengths of light reflected off, transmitted through, or emitted by objects). Without a fundamental redesign of the visual system, we will never perceive color as an accurate representation of reality.**

On top of that, three-color image technology cuts out a huge amount of the already-limited set of possible colors. Here’s a gamut chart illustrating this. Don’t worry about the details; the important point is the size of the triangle relative to the larger area of color.

srgb_gamut

The triangle here represents the gamut of most reasonable quality displays; that is, the set of colors it’s capable of representing relative to all the colors we can see. The gamut of ink or paint created with only three primary colors is similarly limited, though the points of the triangle are in different places. Dyes and pigments have an advantage over displays; they can be colored with substances that fall outside the usual gamut. Unfortunately, it’s unfeasible at the moment to create displays with a full range of color (though some manufacturers have added “pure” cyan, magenta or yellow for added fidelity).

And that’s the point of this post. A high-resolution spectral display would open up a whole new world of experience. I’d like to share some of those potential experiences.

Cyan… Is that a kind of pepper?

Poor, neglected cyan. You could almost say we don’t have a word for it; most native English speakers will just call it blue. The cyan you see above is but a pale impostor compared to the true beauty behind turquoise, tropical beaches, and ’80s spandex.

If you have some sunlight and a crystal or prism handy, I encourage you to take a good long look at the color in between green and blue. Now compare that part of the rainbow with the spectrum in the first image above.

What you will (or maybe you won’t?) notice is that the cyan on your screen is washed out—quite literally whiter. The problem? Green contains red. Wait, what?

Cyan is between blue and green. So naturally, to create cyan on the screen, you will mix blue and green together. But take a look at the perception chart again. See where the spectrum is green? The red receptor is at about half its maximum, the green receptor is a little way down from its maximum, and the blue receptor is practically at the bottom. But in the cyan part of the spectrum red is only about 1/5th max, and green and blue are about 1/3 max (blue looks lower because our eyes aren’t as sensitive to it overall; that’s why pure blue looks so dark compared to other colors).

So when you mix green and blue together, the red receptors are firing a lot more strongly than under monochromatic cyan. Since red, green, and blue together make white, adding perceived redness to cyan makes it look more white.

How hot is your pink?

Fluorescent colors have a certain je ne sais quois that just doesn’t come through in print or display. While je might not sais quois, I think je might ai une idée…

Fluorescence is when a material absorbs light of one wavelength, and emits it at another. A photon is absorbed by an atom or molecule, bumping one of its electrons to a higher energy state. A little while while later (understatement), the electron settles back down by releasing another photon. If the electron is excited enough, it might come back down in more than one step. Each step emits a photon with a different wavelength, longer than the original photon’s.

Under sunlight or a black light, fluorescent dyes and pigments become excited by ultraviolet light which we can’t see, and then emit frequencies of light which we can see. From our point of view, it appears as if more light is being reflected than falls on the object in the first place. This effect is exaggerated with a dark room and a black light.

The color of a fluorescent object is a chimera of sorts. The substance might have a normal, reflected color on its own which is is mixed with the very different frequencies of light from fluorescence. I suspect that the aforementioned je ne sais quois is exactly this juxtaposition of colors, creating novel ratios of receptor signals.

Magenta is a good example of this. It’s created with a combination of red and blue, colors on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Your brain tries to treat it as a single color, but it still has that special something that makes it stand out from the rest.

Haha! My socks are glowing!

Black lights are one of the more spectacular failures of imaging and display technologies. On the imaging side, most cameras simply record them as blue. Very bright blue, occasionally white, even. When was the last time you were blinded by a black light? Of course, this can be solved with filters, but that’s too advanced for most people to bother.

Displays could probably do an OK job making black lights themselves look right, but the “black lit” objects wouldn’t be made up of the right frequencies.

It would really be cool if full spectrum displays extended into the near ultraviolet. TV or movie scenes with black lights, sun light, office fluorescents, etc. would have a more natural effect on objects lit by the display.

Sunsets and rainbows

Beautiful things, they are, though I’ve never seen a photo do them justice. Never. Sure, I can imagine what it might have actually looked like, but regardless of film, lens, and photographer quality, the shots are always underwhelming.

I don’t know whether we’ll ever be able to truly recreate the breathtaking majesty of the universe. I certainly hope so, and I believe it’s within the realm of possibilities. What I can say for certain, though, is that we’ll never get anywhere close without looking at the bigger picture of color.


* Some research indicates that we actually have ultraviolet-sensitive receptors as well, but our lenses block out the light before it reaches them.

** I wonder if some sort of rapid cycling through the spectrum would be noticeable to our retinas. Perhaps spinning prism + DLP? Implants? Nanobots? =) I’m sure our visual system would learn to work with that kind of signal. If you build it (signals to the brain) they will come (new neural pathways to interpret them).