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Technology bites me in the butt
(Alternative title: I hate Comcast.)

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

As many of you know, I am not a big fan of talking on the phone with people that I do not know (i.e. for the purpose of making appointments, making reservations, tech support, those sorts of things). I will find almost any and all ways to avoid it, which, thanks to technology, is easy enough to do, for the most part. There is always OpenTable for making reservations, email, chat, etc.

So, I need a new cable decoder card for my TiVo, so I logged into my account on Comcast and low-and-behond, they have a “chat option”. Perfect. Or so I thought. The following is the next 45 minutes of my life (thankfully, one can just keep the chat window open while one does work). The bolded things are either my commentary or general stage direction.

customer Kat has entered room
analyst Maria has entered room (yup, “Maria”)
Maria: Hello Kat, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Maria. Please give me one moment to review your information (at which point, I had not given her any information yet)
Maria: It is a pleasure to have you on chat! First of all, I apologize for whatever inconvenience the issue has caused you but I’ll be more than happy to resolve it for you. I hope you haven’t waited so long to be assisted. How’s your day so far?
Kat: Fine. I bought a new Tivo and need to schedule a tech to come out to install a CableCard. Can I do that via chat? (I ask this right up front, because if they can’t schedule it via chat — which might be the case — I will stop right now and make the dreaded call)
Maria: I am glad that you are doing fine to day.
Maria: I see here that you have on a request on scheduling a technician to install your cable card. Am I correct?
Kat: Yes, I need to schedule someone to install a cable card (didn’t I just say this?)
Kat: as soon as possible, please
Maria: I am happy to know that you are interested about this. Comcast values your business and your time today, thus we will resolve this issue to your delight in no time.
(3 or 4 minutes pass)
Maria: Do you mind if I check your account?
Kat: No problem.
Maria: Thank you.
Maria: To ensure the integrity of your account information, can I please have the Full Account Name? Also, please provide me your 16 digit account number and the last 4 digitis of your SSN.
Kat: Well, my full name is Katja Suletzki.
Kat: here is my account number: 8773XXXXXXXXXXXX, my SSN confirmation is XXXX
Maria: Thank you for the information that you have given me
Kat: address is 40 springfield st somerville, ma 02143
Maria: Thank you for that additional information.
Maria: Can you give me 2 minutes to pull up your account?
Kat: sure
Maria: Thank you so much.
(at least 5 minutes pass)
Maria: Are you doing well today?
Kat: yes, fine.
Maria: While waiting for your account to pull up, I will share you a feature of Comcast that you can truly benefit. Are you aware that Comcast is introducing XFINITY?
Kat: yes, I have heard. Really though, I don’t need to be upsold. I just need to know when a tech can be here
Maria: I am glad that you are aware if Xfinity.
Maria: XFINITY is the new brand of Comcast ‘s technology platform, products, and services: XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice, XFINITY Internet and XFINITY Triple Play or XFINITY bundled services. XFINITY marks the beginning of a whole new era of innovation and change for Comcast. We’re transforming the customer experience and giving you more choices, more convenience and more control over your entertainment, information and communication needs. To know more about XFINITY, go to XFINITY.com/home.
(another 8 minutes pass)
Maria: Thank you for waiting.
Maria: I already have your account. (“already”? wow, 8 minutes to pull up my account? Comcast “valuing my time” my ass)
Maria: I will now schedule a technician to install your cable card.
Kat: thanks
Maria: You are most welcome.
(5 more minutes)
Maria: I apologize for the delay.
Maria: While waiting, may I ask if you have other concerns for today?
Kat: none (what I felt like writing was something to the effect of “world peace, abject poverty in Africa, the condition of the water in the gulf of Mexico because of the BP oil well, the probable nuclear missles in Iran and North Korea”, but I didn’t)
Maria: Alright, please stay online while I process your request
(10 minutes – literally – go by)
Maria: Kat, may I ask how are you doing today?
Kat: You already did. twice.
Maria: I apologize for my mistake.
Kat: no problem. How much longer?
(no reply for 4 minutes)
Maria: I am still processing it. Please give me another 3 minutes to complete the process. Thank you.
(5 minutes)
Maria: kat, would you like 08/07 between 8am-11am to have your cable card installed?
Kat: sure
Maria: Perfect. I will now schedule it for you.
Kat: great. thank you
Maria: No problem.
(4 minutes)
Maria: May I have your contact number so that the technicain can call you 10 minutes before the appointment?
Kat: 617-623-1923
(8 minutes)
Kat: so, are we done? Do I need a confirmation number or anything?
(2 minutes)
Maria: I apologize for the delay Kat.
Kat: no problem, are we done?
(3 minutes)
Maria: However,there has been an error while I am scheduling a technician to install your cable card. I apologize for the wait
Kat: ok. so what still needs to be done?
(nothing for 5 minutes)
Maria: In order to have your cable card installed, please call your nearest local office.
Kat: What? after 45 minutes you tell me this?
(3 minutes)
Kat: are you still there?
(no reply)
Kat: ??
Kat: fine
Kat: whatever
(2 minutes) (at this point, I should have just given up)
Maria: I apologize for the inconvenience Kat
Kat: Is this something that you knew you couldn’t schedule or some sort of error in your computer system or what is the issue?
Maria: I apologize for the inconvenience Kat
Kat: I need your full name and some sort of ID number from you. I think that it is mildly unfair that you kept me here for 45 minutes and now can’t do this? Is it just a computer glitch?
Maria: I can’t tell you that.
Kat: You can’t tell me if this is a computer glitch?
Maria: I apologize but I am not able to provide you any of my personal information. However, I can provide you my ID number. It is 100459555.
Kat: Thank you
Maria: I apologize for the inconvenience
Kat: I find it slightly odd that I gave you my name, my telephone number, where I live and my SSN confirmation number and apparently a last name is too much to ask. Seems like a lack of accountability on your behalf. You apologize a lot but it would have been better customer service just to help me.
(Kat logs off chat)

Yup, 45 or so minutes. Of course, I still need the decoder card so I do end up calling… Total elapsed time of the phone call? 4 minutes and 21 seconds.

Guess that taught me, huh?

In the Name of the Father, the Sun and the Holy Goat

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

It’s another sunny and sweltering day here in the city and it is the usual weekend for the Portuguese holy goat festival in my neighborhood. It is, of course, actually called the Holy Ghost Festival, but last year, they typo’ed the sign that hangs over Springfield Street (doh!) by forgetting the S, so it read Ghot, which to me is pronounced the same as goat, so forever and ever (ahem), I will call it the Holy Goat festival.

What is the Holy Goat Festival? Well, there is the traditional ‘opening ceremony’ where the local Portuguese marching band walks up and down my street a few times on a Friday night. All day Saturday, they close down the street and it is your basic block party with the Portuguese-American society selling some yummy smelling grilled stuff and sweets (which, despite having lived here a while now, I have never tried), a beer-prison (seriously uptight as usual about the alcohol; sad really) and a big tent with a huge array of music playing throughout the day. Tomorrow, Sunday morning, there is a parade (again, really just up and down my street) and they crown the Goat Queen. She probably has a better title than that, but usually it’s some gangly-looking teenager that got roped into participating by her parents out of tradition. She usually has braces and gets to wear an overly-poofy prom dress.

I made fun of all this, of course, but the funny thing is that it is ‘old country’ enough that it reminds me of the little stadtfeste in Germany so whatever. It’s part of July my Julys now.

Available for Your Viewing Pleasure

Friday, March 19th, 2010

So, the Slingbox is up and running again. After the meltdown of my Tivo in January, I disconnected it, but with things on US TV that some people can’t get overseas (like University of Maine hockey games, right Jean?), I hooked the whole deal up again. If anyone wants access (both to live US TV, broadcast in Eastern Time zone) and stuff that I record on Tivo (happy to take requests), let me know and I’ll send the details.

The only caveat, of course, is that you don’t delete my entire library of shows. [grin]

On Insomnia

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Being the geek that I am, I have a laptop on my bedside table. Yes, I clearly have an internet addiction. I actually use it as a DVD player because the TV is in the living room not the bedroom, and most every night, I plan on watching a film to put me to sleep. Being the insomniac that I am, this seems to be the only way that I can even get some shut-eye.

But here is the thing: for the last month or so, I have been trying to watch the same film every night and every night, almost exactly at the same time, the same thing happens: I actually fall asleep. The movie is Chocolat (one of my favorite movies, one that I have seen a few hundred times, even while awake, and one that is slow moving and quiet enough that I actually can fall asleep to it. Also, it’s appropriate for the season, it being lent and all).

So, every night, between minute 5:08 of the film (where Vianne says to Armande “We’d like to rent out the patisserie and the apartment above”) and minute 7:36 (when Anouk says “A real one? Like the Count de Monte Cristo?”), I am out like a light. And I pretty much am awake again right as the closing credits roll. At this rate, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you that Johnny Depp was actually in the movie!

There is that saying that insanity is repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome. At this point, the outcome is pretty clear: apparently the only two hours of real sleep that I get a night is while watching Chocolat (much of the rest of the night is spent getting up every 20 minutes as I can’t sleep). Maybe I should just put it on a constant loop. [grin]

Silliness

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

As sappy, blantently overindulgent and probably downright silly as it is, I am spending my Valentine’s Day watching the most romantic, silly, cute and overall best film in the world at least three times. In a row. And if I weren’t on a diet, I would eat ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream. OK, no ice cream (but maybe a cupcake — there is this great little place in Harvard Square called Sweet — but in the words of Alton Brown, that’s another show — hmmm. I wonder if they deliver); just sappiness indulgence. It’s Hallmark’s finest moment after all.

And as an ode to the movie alluded to, The Princess Bride, of course, here are my favorite lines, from memory (I know much of it verbatim, though so many of these are common parlance, it seems):

Westley
- As you wish.
- There is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world; It would be a pity to damage yours.
- You mean, you put down your rock and I put down my sword and we try to kill each other like civilized people?
- We are men of action, lies do not become us.
- This is true love – you think this happens every day?

Inigo
- Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Fezzik
- Anybody want a peanut?

Vizzini
- Inconceivable!
- You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia. The second, slightly less well known, is this: never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Miracle Max
- Tr..ooooo…luv…
- True love is the best thing in the world, except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich; when the mutton is really lean…
- I was fired. Thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice papercut and pour lemon juice on it?
- Have fun storming the castle.

(this is a really loose stream-of-nothingness post; sorry about that!)

Thankfully this doesn’t happen everyday

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I suffer very badly from acrophobia, the fear of heights (strangely, no fear of flying or heights when in an enclosed building, so I tend to say that I have a fear of falling from heights, not the heights themselves). When put into a situation when I faced with heights, i.e. bridges, cliffs on hikes, etc), I have these absolutely paralyzing panic attacks. I stand there, teeter (which isn’t exactly helping the ‘falling’ part) and then get almost violent when people try to touch me or help me out of the situation (usually resulting me hitting or swatting at the person and screaming ‘don’t touch me’ over and over again — not exactly helpful and quite out of character for me), complicating matters even more.

Other than that, I don’t get panic attacks all that often. Of-course, certainly my blood pressure rises sometimes and I have these moments when I am anxious (ok, more than a few of those moments on the whole), but today, for the first time in a long time, I had a full on panic attack, without explanation and while sitting at my work desk. My heart was pounding, I was shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t breathe, my fingers were all tingly and had I stood up, there is a good chance I would have fallen flat on my face. Stranger yet, I felt like I was on the ceiling, watching myself and screaming “don’t touch her, don’t touch her!”.

It’s a few hours on now, and I am being rational about what happened, though I still don’t know why it happened. There was the obvious physical reaction in my body (overload of norepinephrine and adrenaline) and now I am sore as hell as the chemicals go back to normal. There was the the mental reaction, though that was more confusion at it happening, because I was generally having a good day otherwise, with plans to go out with Liz for dinner (canceled that, though I feel wildly bad about that now). I’m not really nervous about anything; work is fine, personal life is fine and other than it is my birthday soon, there isn’t even anything tremendously exciting going on. Perhaps I am trying to rationalize too much and perhaps sharing this on my blog isn’t the best idea, but I needed to record it and so I am putting it here.

TiVo heaven is a warehouse near Fort Worth TX

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

My TiVo died and has gone to TiVo heaven. Sort of like the MS blue screen of death, Monday night a green screen of death appeared telling me that “TiVo has detected a serious error and will now attempt to fix…. please wait three hours” Sigh. Yesterday morning, I tried again, hoping those three hours had proven to be enough time at the spa, but no. Various attempts and after reading the support forum, last night I finally called the friendly people at TiVo tech support who, after running through all the steps that I already had, plus a few more, determined that indeed, the partition of the hard disk that has the Operating System had shit the bed. Bye Bye jumping cartoon dude.

Redeeming the whole experience, however, is that the box is still under warranty, so they are mailing me a new one and of only a handling fee (which was less than $50, surprisingly), a new TiVo will be landing on my doorstep by Friday.

I can live without TV, of course (I don’t even watch that much in comparison to others I know), but if I have a TV, I have to have a TiVo.

I am of the Superstitious Sort

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I have this superstition that the place where I live must be spotlessly clean when I ring in the new year, otherwise the new year will have bad luck. I think that this might be just a Kat-superstition, as I haven’t really heard anyone else go on about cleaning frenzies in the last week of the year, but who knows.

Now, as some people in the peanut gallery will attest to, I have not always strictly adhered to the scrubbing of the kitchen floor mantra before the stroke of midnight on December 31, because more often than not, I seem to get pretty sick the last few years of every year. Inevitably, though, when something bad happens in January or March, I find myself thinking that, damn, I should have cleaned the bathroom on the last day of the year. No, I am not kidding.

So, despite the lingering flu (I am much better, thank you), I am planning a full on attack with scouring pads and swifter dusters in the next few days. This morning I already moved the bed to make sure the dust-bunnies that were under it were evicted. The fridge must be emptied, the wardrobe/closet must be emptied, organized and refilled, and I have to crawl into the stove (almost literally) to get the burned on sugar from a recent blueberry pie fiasco.

And no, when I am finished, I will not come over to your place and clean. Well, ok, that depends on who you are and how nicely you ask.

Hibernation, Even If Just For Today

Monday, December 28th, 2009

After nine days of Thanksgiving-Jean Wedding Planning (which included far too much drinking)
and…
nine days of Absolute Crazy Christmas Baking (which included far too little sleep) and…
twelve days of International Travel (again with the drinking and lack of sleep) and…
five days of Domestic Travel (which included suffering from the flu) …
All of which… don’t get me wrong… were great, amazing, wonderful (‘cept the flu part) and overall the meaning of the holiday season for me, but…

You have absolutely no idea how much I am looking forward to slacking on my own sofa tonight in my new fleece pajamas with take-out Chinese food and watching the B’s play hockey. No To-Do list (well, I always have a To-Do list, but not one that absolutely has to be done tonight); no deadlines; no cooking; no wrapping.

Bliss.

The Big Picture Year in Review

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Being the photographer-wannabe that I am, I appreciate good photography of most sorts — nature, light-play, architecture and photojournalism being my favorite types. Perhaps this is why I love Boston.com’s The Big Picture so much.

Alan Taylor, the blogger for the Big Picture, doesn’t take the photos, but he has an amazing eye for collecting them. He’s started putting together end of year collections and 2009′s are in three parts over the last three days. Have a look:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Personal favorite of the bunch? These husky eyes. Surreal.