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Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

After More Than an Hour on the Phone, “Standard Life” Says Pension Was ‘Transferred’, Refuses to Give Any More Information (Money Gone ‘Missing’)

Speaking to pension schemes can be a massive waste of time. They are good at amassing people’s money and little other than that. Last week I spent over half an hour on the phone with Standard Life. They could not locate my pension! Nothing helped. They sent me to “Web sites” and I spent a weekend trying to find papers from 12 years ago. Now, with all the references and codes, they still say there is no record of those. Not my name, not the scheme number… nothing!

And they tried to send me astray to some “Web site”… as if that would work better than a person from the company on the phone, with full access to all the people and relevant systems. This is corporate greed in action.

Having spoken to 3 pension providers so far this month, I’m beyond appalled by the state of that industry, which the government blindly protects (to maintain ‘calm’). In its financial filings in Companies House, one such provider cautioned about its state in light of “COVID-19″ and “War in Ukraine”.

If myself, a tech-literate person, struggles to locate such things, then what about old people who don’t use technology and barely use the telephone? What about relatives of dead people, whose pension funds they don’t even know by name (or number)? The government’s pension tracker does not even work. I tried it about 4 times. It doesn’t even bring up a complete list of companies. This is incredible!

So my advice to all people, in the UK if not elsewhere too, call your pension provider to actually affirm the accounts are actually there as stated. Do not take anything for granted. Study the financial state of those schemes; in some countries it is publicly accessible for free, e.g. via Companies House in the UK.

The government can try to blame this on Russia or “an act of nature” (Wuhan virus), but the bottom line is, people’s economic lifelines aren’t safe and nobody in the media seems to be talking about it. Maybe they worry it would cause a panic and a run on the bank (or on pension schemes; people emptying their pension funds would open a whole new jar of worms, such as old people who suddenly lack a pension and rely on the government for food and heating… some already get called the “working poor” and rely on food banks).

The global system of finance is failing more and more people over time. The capital has been captured by the few.

I eventually found a “lead” (after more than half an hour spoken to a lady called Leah Brown at Standard Life). She suddenly could (unlike her colleagues) see the pension was moved to another provider in 2016. She did not, however, say which company did this and was very evasive about the whole thing, hoping to deflect to the Pension Regulator while acknowledging they almost never sent me any communications about anything. This seems to have become “normal”; they don’t inform people of anything.

In summary, they more or less lied to me about having nothing on their system about my account; upon escalation they suddenly knew the year of some change, less than 7 years ago (when you phone them up they say they retain the full audio of calls for up to 7 years, so why can’t they retain that much in actual records of pension schemes?).

To be continued…

After Nearly 3 Weeks Pension Provider Finally Responds: Can’t Find Pension!

Further to the rants from the other day, consider the Aviva letter claiming to have ‘lost’ traces of a pension, along with my reply:

> Thank you for sending in this LOA, We have searched our files with the
> information you have provided and can?t find anything, if you have any
> other information we can search again, we will just need you to resend
> it with the LOA.
> The details we need to search our systems to find out customer are
> policy numbers, full name, date of birth, current address or old
> addresses that may not have been changed on our systems, national
> insurance numbers, scheme number or scheme address
> *Kind regards*
> Aviva Customer Team


I paid into my pension scheme at Aviva from around 2011 until about 2016. I gave you my DOB and NI number and you say you cannot find my account. How is that possible? Did you lose my money?

And a more personalised one too:

This is an automated email from Aviva Customer Services – please do not reply as this mailbox is not monitored.

Dear Dr R Schestowitz

Thank you for contacting Aviva. Please find attached the information you asked for.

If we have sent you a form to complete, please ensure you print and complete the form and post it back to us. For security reasons we are unable to accept forms by email or fax.

If you need any further information and you are calling from United Kingdom then please contact us on 0800 953 1777 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday not including bank holidays.

If calling from other countries please contact us on +0044 2037 611130.

Please do not reply to this email address, it is not monitored for incoming messages and your query may not be dealt with. Please email instead?. For security reasons please only include your policy number when you email us.

Yours sincerely

Aviva Customer Services | PO Box 520, Norwich, NR1 3WG
Telephone: 0800 953 1777 | E-mail:

?Any details you submit will not be secure whilst being submitted

Here’s the PDF (nothing sensitive in there):

Aviva letter

Be wary of pension providers. They’re mostly good at taking money.

In the Manic Age of Irrational Government Subsidies (or Bailouts) Don’t Take Anything for Granted

UK debt

SO we might have a fourth Prime Minister in less than 12 months. Things aren’t so “strong and stable”, are they, Tories?

Given the awful state of public health and the bailouts for the rich (including energy giants) it “pays off” to be prudent and proactive. I left my job last month and lately I’ve been checking the state of pension schemes, knowing some of them are akin to pyramid schemes. I was already cautioned about this more than a decade ago (after the first financial crisis and meltdown). Shown above in this figure is our rapidly growing national debt (similar trend to the US, the political sibling of the UK). This does not seem sustainable simply because it is not. And as health and long life are a sort of wealth I decided to leave the job (almost a year ago I finalised this decision), but now it’s time to worry about financing the future.

I’ve ranted already about pension providers barely responding to their customers. I documented this here.

With Aviva, it took nearly a fortnight (and persistent nagging) merely to get this not very useful reply from a generic E-mail account (and no name):

> Dear Customer,
> Thank you for contacting Aviva.
> To allow us to get your query to the relevant Administration department
> as quickly as possible, we require some additional information to help
> us find your policy with us.

It took you nearly two weeks to finally respond to me.

> Please reply with the following information ?
> Policy Number ?*please note we may not be able to trace your policy
> without the policy number *

As far as I know, Aviva never sent me any correspondence with any details. Myself and my employer paid Aviva, but I have no record of the actual Policy Number.

> Full name (including any previous names that may be linked to your
> policies)

Roy Schestowitz


Roy Samuel Schestowitz

working for Sirius Corporation

> Date of Birth

[... redacted]]

> Full address (including any previous addresses that may be linked to
> your policies)
> National Insurance Number

[... redacted]]

> As soon as we receive the details we need, and we are able to find your
> policy our Admin team will be in touch.

Please do. I’ve been frustrated by how long it took you to respond and even blogged about it.

Aviva hardly bothered to communicate with me, ever.

> Warm Regards,
> The Aviva Customer Team

There seems to be no “safe” place for one’s money these days. Commodities, cash, “crypto” (scam)…. they’re all volatile. Pension schemes don’t even assure anything; they’re just there and people assume they too are “strong and stable”.

Nothing is “strong and stable” these days. Pension providers barely want to even speak to their so-called ‘customers’. All they want is their money. Keep paying us every month, they insist, no questions asked…

Sirius Staff: Managers’ Relatives Who Don’t Even Show Up on Time (Won’t Apologise and Won’t Get Punished, Either)

So you say you know Linux?

Summary: For quite some time now Sirius ‘Open Source’ has been hiring for technical roles people who are neither technical nor grasp (nor use!) Open Source; this was a recipe for disaster

THIS post may seem like it revisits a subject we covered here before, but today we provide some more in-depth details and name numerous different examples. Nepotism is rampant in many companies; but this is the story about a company where my wife and I spent a combined 21 years. So we know it very well (from the inside).

Let’s start with D. S. who seems to be related (family connection) to management, hence hired. He was not capable of solving any tickets, could barely even figure out how to access clients’ machines. Even coming late, despite this being the bare minimum! While proving the family connection was always tricky, the surname was a giveaway (the first name is a very common one). Not every time the surname matches does that imply a family connection (we previously gave the example of the CEO’s surname and a new hire with the surname; they were quick to point out in writing there was no connection!). Was that a nephew? More relatives as new/temporary recruits?

For those who like to pick on my wife for this, remember she was suitably qualified and educated (Bachelors degree in Computer Science).

If that’s not compelling enough an example, consider the manager who brought three romantic partners to the company (including a wife). There might be faction at play (Mr. Kink and ‘the Angels’), but it would not be a problem if the new arrivals had a relevant degree or relevant work experience. As we noted before, you risk having people who paste a wall of text into the command line (the client did notice this error and was very unhappy; not even history -c was run after this mistake).

Nepotism hurts not just on the technical front. It makes people unable to do the job or key aspects of the job; it moreover harms morale. Some people get special access and treatment owing to ‘bedroom politics’ rather than actual achievement or seniority. This is not good. It ruins companies.

Then there’s the immunity. When it comes to technical failures, procrastination, negligence etc. the Support Manager and the romantic partners never ever get reprimanded or criticised because he’s part of the inner clique; when he was a Support Engineer he got serious bollocking, in person, from our biggest client (at the time), right in front of the rest of the team. It was painful to witness and even seemed over the top, definitely inappropriate; either way, now he’s immune from criticism. As we noted in the last video (less than 24 hours ago), the rules apply only to “lesser” staff; the people at the top are immune from their own rules and they’re the ones monopolising actual enforcement. They don’t apologise and never face consequences. That too is connected to endemic nepotism.

So we’ve thus far covered several examples of nepotism and kinship in the management. Had the technical qualifications been satisfactory, it would probably not be a problem (or a lesser problem).

In the next part of this series we’ll travel back in time to 2010 and show how the CEO of the company married a manager 2 years after she had joined the company and after they had gotten a child (and a second pregnancy). It wasn’t his first wife and wasn’t his first pair of daughters. It seems like in Sirius grasping the concept of nepotism would lead to inner conflicts over double-standards.

Getting Bullied by Management After Gates Foundation Pays Your Employer

Video download link | md5sum 0b5cee9f48792260e28e59272e7fbb14
The Very Ugly Collapse of Sirius
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The Sirius ‘Open Source’ series is now dealing with the more interesting “stories from the trenches”; with over 20,000 views of the Wiki alone after less than 40 days (see above) it seems clear that people are interested in the 21 years of experience my wife and I had inside a company that claims to be “Open Source” (things changed for the worse, so we must investigate/examine why, knowing this can happen to other companies including large ones such as Red Hat)

THIS week the series entered its final phase. We shall be gathering remaining material/stories and explain them in a more generalised context, seeing that some readers (whom we heard from) experienced similar things in present or past workplaces. There are things here that people can relate to even if they worked for other companies in other countries.

Some time this month we shall cover a likely illegal contract-signing ‘ceremony’ and explain the context of Sirius ‘expanding’ to the US (because it was failing in the UK and the marriage of the CEO was collapsing). The above video explains how both my wife and I were being bullied by management just weeks or at most a month after a shell was created in the US after the Gates Foundation had secretly (under NDA) offered money to the CEO. Only a few years prior to that he told me (face to face in Alton Towers) that Microsoft had contacted him over the phone to complain about me (regarding things I wrote in Techrights). Funny how Microsoft likes to complain about you behind your back… to your boss. I only found out and wrote about it years later. It was risky to even mention this, but I did it anyway.

Therer’s a lot more information in the above video — stuff that wasn’t covered in the text earlier on. We’re far from done here and there’s still an ongoing fact-finding investigation.

“Those with long memories might suggest a parallel between Rick’s position and mine when in 1997, I was sitting on the XML Working Group and co-editing the spec, on a pro bono basis as an indie consultant. Netscape hired me to represent their interests, and when I announced this, controversy ensued. Which is a nice way of saying that Microsoft went berserk; tried unsuccessfully to get me fired as co-editor, and then launched a vicious, deeply personal extended attack in which they tried to destroy my career and took lethal action against a small struggling company because my wife worked there. It was a sideshow of a sideshow of the great campaign to bury Netscape and I’m sure the executives have forgotten; but I haven’t.”

Tim Bray

Sirius ‘Open Source’ Wasting Almost 10,000 Pounds a Year on Hosting (That Could Cost Under 1,000 Pounds)

Summary: The Sirius ‘Open Source’ management was dumb enough to replace the in-house infrastructure with overpriced (and outsourced) junk that did not even work as expected

THE report we deposited over a month ago already covered the fiasco of outsourcing (gradual) where I had worked for nearly 12 years. We don’t want to repeat what was already covered. I discussed this in person with the main individual responsible for the awful decision. He said they envisioned it would save money, but based on bills that I saw it was beyond insane to suggest so! Why would any sane company throw about 10,000 pounds down the drain every year? A modest second-hand server can be purchased for just 1,000 pounds and we didn’t need to buy any. We already had servers!!! We had an ISP, too.

When the company’s “cloud” (or “clown”) bills keep blowing upwards (upward to almost a thousand pounds a month), for something that started very small (the vendor lock-in relies on this sort of illusion, before exit barriers are raised), you have to wonder about the judgment of short-sighted decision-makers like Mr Kink. Who’s going to be held accountable? Or when?

As a reminder, AWS operated at a loss for years and Azure still seems to be operating at a loss (they just call everything “Azure” now). They are enticing people to enter the trap. Microsoft loses money and so does Google. Billions in losses! I brought this up over the phone, speaking to the CEO for about an hour almost a year ago! But they don’t want to listen!

As a reminder, Microsoft is laying off staff, cancelling and shutting down datacentres, as they overprovisioned for something that never came (or resulted in massive losses). Microsoft basically misleads shareholders by rebranding many things “cloud” and/or “Azure”, so even if it’s not growing Microsoft can claim otherwise. There’s no proper definition of “cloud” or “Azure”.

On the phone about a year ago I suggested small self-hosted machines (the CEO called this “hobbyist”). It’s worth reminding ourselves that we lost staff that looked after our servers. That too was the fault of the management, for reasons we explained before.

It would be so much cheaper and safer to run our own infrastructure, as we already did for decades. And yes, we covered this in the report and earlier in this series. This is a no-brainer.

To give one example of what moving to AWS caused Sirius: OTRS, a ticketing system, needed us throwing more and more resources at it (partly because of bad design, partly due to workers sending megabytes of text in E-mails, as they top-post — the “Microsoft Way” basically — and don’t bother trimming/snipping what they respond to). Each time you add resources the bills go up by a lot! That’s the “magic” of “the clown”! It’s getting very expensive very fast!

Remember that we used to self-host all the E-mail of the company; now the company uses phony encryption as a tenant on someone else’s servers (Amazon). I challenged my colleagues about this. I argued with management. They could not even defend their decision. They saw no need to defend what they had done! We’ve had arguments over this internally in 2022. Of course it was risky for me to bring this up, but at this stage it was the moral thing to do, even a moral obligation. At Sirius, colleagues felt like their efforts and contributions were ignored/discarded by the cabal (family), so they quit caring. This is how nepotism dooms companies. Some colleagues left, some remained but without much desire to go beyond the basics. And this aspect too we’ve covered here before.

Regarding E-mail hosting in “the clown”, here’s a 2020 story. To quote an Evening Shift handover: “Spent most of my evening tracking down missing emails. I was rather perturbed by xxxxx’s handover email disappearing and I’m guessing that because the server was underpowered it started to behave strangely and misclassified legitimate emails as viruses and deleted them. Fortunately each email is given an unique id by the system which is useful for searching the logs. Managed to get a list of deleted ones and sent it to xxxxx, xxxxx, and xxxxx suggesting that they identify their clients or ones they recognise and email them with the time + 1 hour asking to resend. I found one from xxxxx and emailed and xxxxx kindly sent his email again.”

Wonderful! What a mess.

“Ironically,” Ryan Farmer notes today, “”Cloud Hosting” only makes sense if your needs are so small that it’s hardly worth setting anything up yourself.”

In some cases useful virtual machines were turned off to “save money”. Even if they took little space and CPU. If self-hosted, they would cost almost nothing to leave on.

Clown computing is a trap. To quote one new (days-old) cautionary tale (already in Daily Links): “Turns out that Revue is getting shut down. This means that I won’t be able to use it anymore (and I stopped using it because it wasn’t getting much traction vs the amount of work I put into it).”

So maybe outsourcing isn’t such a wise long-term strategy after all.

At one point by far our biggest client relied on VMware for clown hosting; of course VMware shut the whole thing down and in a hurry we needed to get all the servers out of there. Clown computing: it’s here today, but gone tomorrow. You’re not part of the decision! It does not matter if you have critical services on there and they give you a very short notice (to vacate).

The Pension Appzone

SOME days ago I ranted about totally useless ‘apps’ and ‘Web sites’ that are falsely marketed as making things easier even though in practice they mostly offload/outsource all/most of the actual work to the clients. Their real purpose is to lessen expenses for private companies that formerly had actual staff, offering actual service (of course those useless ‘apps’ and ‘Web sites’ also lead to a severe unemployment problems).

Today people are ‘meant’ to study how to do all their banking (different interface for each bank), how to process and package their groceries (different machines and different programs in each chain of stores). The list goes on and on. Apparently many people are self-taught ‘masters’ of how to manage water bills and power bills ‘online’ or with ‘apps’. This means no trail of paper either. Is that a plus?

I don’t mean to blow a bubble here. I’m far from the first person to complain (or even rant about this repeatedly). The world is becoming a more difficult place. Technology was meant to simplify life, to make life easier through automation. So how did we end up having to ‘learn’ (self-train) a lot more? This is not progress.

Case of point: I want to move my pension away from some awful provider. I have no online account and don’t wish to create one. I paid into this particular pension for 5 years. In the ‘old’ days (say, 1990s) I’d probably phone some number and it would get done by a specialist. Today, it’s almost impossible to even find a contact form on a site; they suggest creating a Web site “account” (as a person with a pension there I already have an account!) or downloading some “app”. Sorry, not everyone complicates or worsens one’s life with so-called ‘smart’ ‘phones’. Some of us have better ways of getting things done. After several days of them not responding to a complaint of mine I once again told them (in a faceless, voiceless Webform): “Please e-mail me or phone me to arrange this.”

Time will tell if they even bother. If bad service persists, maybe I’ll name the company. It’s pushing my patience (a week already).

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