Category Archives: Writing Out Loud

Thoughts and opinions about everything else

Verizon Wireless & CPNI

I got en email from Verizon today, which I get about once a month saying our wireless bill is ready. Usually I just delete it, but out of chance I started reading into this one. I saw it was a privacy notice, which we receive from about every company we do business with, once a year. No big deal.

But for some reason, I kept reading…

Remember all the hoopla last year about everyone’s cell phone number becoming “fair game” for telemarketers, and the whole “Do Not Call” registry? At the time, Verizon said they would never release their customers’ phone numbers to telemarketers and all that. Good for them.

So after reading through the privacy agreement, I’ll agree they haven’t (technically) released our numbers, even though we started getting funny phone calls this past year or so. Here’s the catch…

Verizon collects CPNI, or Customer Proprietary Network Information. This means they collect information on us that is privileged to them because we use their product. I’m sure every company collects this stuff. In Verizon’s case, it probably means they collect things like who we call, times of day we call, and probably things attached to us financially (after all, you do give them the right to check your credit history when you first become a customer – I don’t suppose they ever give up that right?).

Their privacy statement says they collect this information, and share it with their partners and their subsidiaries and affiliates. Technically, that’s not “telemarketers” but just their business family. So it just struck me…

When I make calls to my credit card company, I start getting calls on my CELL PHONE from “Financial Card Services” telemarketers. When we took a loan out against my car, I started getting calls on my CELL PHONE from “National Auto Warranty” telemarketers. When I called Wellmark last year for health insurance, I started getting calls on my CELL PHONE from “Healthcare Insurers of America” telemarketers. I always did find it alarmingly coincidental that I was getting telemarketing calls regarding subjects that I were currently dealing with. I guess it wasn’t coincidence after all.

But the best part is the times I’d get these calls. My memory tells me they most often came over the lunch hour, shortly after work, or shortly after 9:00 at night. Now when do I most often use my phone…lunch time to call my wife and after work to call my wife. At 9:00 PM my free minutes kick in. So who do you suppose told these “non-telemarketers” what times are best to reach me on my phone?

Verizon… sneakiest basterds yet!

So anyway, I followed the procedure to tell Verizon not to share our CPNI with anyone. They said they will respect our wishes for two years, because obviously we’d like them to start sharing our CPNI again in two years time.

So here’s an interesting question: How much less valuable of a customer am I now that I don’t let them share information about me? Will this influence any special deals or savings Verizon would have potentially given us for being “loyal” customers?

Rock Bottom…

The absurdity of this didn’t hit me until after I was back home and saw the smiley face stamped on the back of my hand.

I was taken out to eat tonight for my recently celebrated birthday. My wife and I were meeting her mom and friend at Rock Bottom Brewery in West Des Moines. For those unfamiliar, it’s a nice, chain-style brewpub. Nothing fancy, moderately priced, and in our neck of the woods more known as a restaurant than a drinking establishment. Upon entering we were greeted by two (2) oh-so eager hosts, ready to please.

We indicated to Host #1 we were meeting two others, and my wife points over to a side booth, “there’s my mom.” We ever so slyly side-step Host #1 (and of course the whole time I’m thinking, “Yes! The mom line worked!”). Then with the tenacity of an overprotective parent, Host #2 makes his purpose known, “Are you going to be drinking?”

What?! Did I just hear that right?! We are being questioned as we come through the door if we will be drinking? Is this like the new thing at restaurants now? Since Iowa passed the no smoking law last year, has “Smoking or Non-Smoking?” been replaced with “Drinking or Driving?”, “Lush or Teetotaler?”, “Wet or Dry?”. Will we be treated differently based upon our answers? Will they attempt to seat us in a special area, or rope us off from the non-drinkers? Or maybe I broke the rules and was suppose to make my intentions clear when I came in through the door. After all, this is a brewpub, right? I was probably suppose to kick the door in and shout, “I’m here to drink!” or conversely, “I’m here to eat!” But wait, they’re not exclusive choices are they? Can I do both? Do I yell both? Does order matter?

But what if I don’t know if I’ll be drinking? Let’s pretend I didn’t decide 20 minutes into my workday today that I’d be drinking tonight. Is a proper response, “Can I see the drink menu?” or would that be snobbish? But if I say yes without looking at the menu, that’s like saying “I don’t care what you got! If it’s got alcohol in it, I’ll be drinking it!!!” That’s not the impression I want to make. Why doesn’t he start with an easier question? “So there will be four of you dining tonight, and do you like raw onions?” I can confidently answer, “No.” You see, I knew that before I even came in. I could have kicked the door down and shouted, “I don’t like raw onions!” and there would be no confusion. But this question he posed, “Are you going to be drinking?” came too fast, too soon. I haven’t sat down yet. I haven’t taken my coat off yet.

But what happens if I answer incorrectly? Or is this a trick question? “Yes, no, well, it crossed my mind.” Does that get me past this test? I can feel all the judgey eyes in the restaurant on me as he asks this fateful question. I feel like the new kid as the whole school watches to see which table I’m going to sit at during lunch. What if I sit with the preppy kids, but later want to sit with the band kids? You don’t get a do-over when you’re the new kid. Would I get one now? If I say no, go to my table and order nachos, and then really wish I had a beer, can I leave the restaurant and come back in, answer yes to Host #2, and then come back to my nachos? It’s kind of like flipping back in those choose-your-own-adventure books to pull the yellow lever instead of the black one (never pull the black one!). Oh, why isn’t there such sage advice when faced with this question: “Are you going to be drinking?”

I don’t know what it was, maybe a flashback to my college glory days, but after the instantaneous moment each one of these questions flashed across my mind I answered, “Yes, we will be drinking tonight.” And just like that, BINGO, we received smiley face stamps on the back of our hands.

“Beam me over three feet, Scotty!”

Knowing I would get a kick out of this, my wife sent me an article about some magicians (Quantum Physicists) who have successfully teleported “quantum data” from one atom to another, over a distance of 2.96336602 x 10-17 Parsecs, or about 3 feet.

How they’ve achieved this feat of “hocus pocus” may be a little muddy to the layperson, but I’ll try to break it down for you all. From the article:

The contraption is a Rube Goldberg-esque mix of vacuum chambers, fiber optics, lasers and semitransparent beam splitters in a laboratory at the Joint Quantum Institute in Maryland.

So that doesn’t sound too complicated. A trip to Maryland, a couple standard household items, maybe something from your Mr. Wizard’s World wizarding kit. So far, so good, right? Heck, I bet you just teleported yourself back to 1986, watching that ol’ Mr. Wizard making clouds in his kitchen sink. This quantum physics stuff is pretty easy!

The article goes on with the scientists describing their process, and some of the “reasons” behind why it works. You can skip all the reading and just look at these pictures, as they sum it all up nicely (who has time for reading when there’s quantum physics to be done!). On a side note, I wonder what would happen if you put Jeff Goldblum in one of those teleportation chambers? Maybe a follow-up question I’ll pose to the scientists.

So let’s get a little scientific here. How does this really work? I’m no quantum physicist, but I think I know the answer: Quantum physics is a bunch of hooey! See, the basis of quantum physics is that it explains things…but in no certain terms. Or maybe more appropriately, it explains things in uncertain terms. From the article:

Because it was not known which photon came from which atom, the photons became “entangled,” meaning that the behavior of the two particles became wrapped up in a single equation even though they were not in the same place.

As clear as a bell, and sound as an old engineer. Let’s start simple (and work towards nonsense):

A photon is a unit of light. So they have two atoms sitting in the room (a few feet apart). They shoot the atoms with a laser (probably produced by a cat) to entice them to release a photon. They direct each atom’s photon down a “tunnel” of fiber optics and “shine” the photons together. At this point they don’t know which photon came from which atom, but can take a measurement of them.

Now a key concept here to remember is that light (i.e. photon) and time are exclusive of one another. Where light travels, there is no time. Light moves from one place to another instantaneously. A “stream” of light at an instance in time is really a single photon appearing at all the locations in the stream, all at once.

So in this experiment, these photons are both at the atom and at the “shine spot” at the same time. The two atoms are also sharing the same “shine spot.” So at the exact moment of this experiment occurring, this photon/light is technically located at atom A, atom B, the “shine spot”, and everywhere in between all at the same time. You can’t say where it really is, and nothing scientific (not yet anyway) can tell you. It’s just everywhere. Because of this silly phenomenon…anything that “give value to” one of the atoms is invariably giving value to the other atom as well. It’s like a theoretical (or maybe physical?) wormhole. All of the sudden, your two separate atoms are actually the same atom! (…and all because you had to take a measurement, didn’t you.)

Really, the hooey part of quantum physics is “measurements” or anything that “gives value to” (important, thus the bold flavour). A measurement is assigning a value to something at a given point in time. Repeat, a given point in time. In quantum physics, there is no movement of time. Remember that photon…it is not at a precise location but technically everywhere along the path of light. Even in the pictures, they indicate an ion of ytterbium in “quantum superposition” has its SINGLE election in both a north and south orientation (creepy, huh?). The reason (I believe) is that if you remove time, as in quantum physics, your value is (and must be) ANY possible value! You know, Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle. Ah, I guess it kinda makes sense?!?

So are they really teleporting information from one atom to another? I suppose they are, but it only seems like a technicality. Really, they are just producing a scenario in which the two atoms are equally effected in a single equation, and by assigning one of the atoms a value based on two indepented measurements, they are “giving” (i.e. teleporting)a known value to the other atom. Viola!