Technopathology Today

Friday, August 05, 2005


When you watch Seinfeld episode where Kramer avoids a cable guy to punish him for the typical cable company behavior of not keeping appointments, you'd think cable companies would try something different to render the stereotype obsolete. By different I mean, if not fix the problem, may be at least fail in some other - new and exciting way. We had a number of TV providers over the years, including MediaOne (R.I.P.), DirecTV, Dish Networks, and presently Comcast. All of them were surviveable in terms of customer support. But with the Comcast I feel like I am in the Truman Show-like sitcom, where invisible audience watches the development of my bumpy (right off the gate) relationship with the Comcast. The first Comcast-related episode of the series was about the guy who came out to connect the service. What was curious about him is that after pretty much every work-related move he did, he was trying to give me the work order to sign and to get the hell out of here. His wish to go home was so strong and apparent that I checked if I am unzipped by any chance or if my teeth have become green all of the sudden. It was weird: he gives me the papers, and I say: hey, let's check out how upstairs TV set is working. We go upstairs and it snows like we are in Nothern Territories of Canada. He fixed it with putting a new cable from the outside switchbox to the house. This new cable was put just on the ground and the dude told me the six-feet-under crew will come out in seven to ten business days to bury the cable. After I signed the papers the cableier left the premises with the speed of StarTrek crew beamed up by the recently departed Scotty. Three weeks later I tripped over the cable and made some very questionable moves in the air in the attempt not to fall. That was my first indication that the cable was still not in the ground. The call to Comcast brought the memories of the encounter with the cable guy back in very vivid details. All because the mysterious, almost surreal voice on the other end of the wire told me there was no work order for my address. The voice, however, belonged to a very humane creature, who scheduled an appointment in two weeks. Frankly, I never saw how cables are buried. When I was a child, I was forever traumatized by the scene where huge excavator digs a ditch three feet wide to pull up some cable. These horrific images made me uneasy about the extent of the damage our front yard will sustain through the digging process. So I asked the fairy-tale voice in the phone if I could talk to the crew before they start digging to find out about how many Hiroshima's craters could be put inside the cable ditch. She assure me I can trust them but recommended to meet those brave people from 5 to 8 PM. I asked if they could call me on my cell ten minutes upfront - I work close to home - so I wouldn't have to take time off work. The nice voice was soft, but unshakeable, like the one the good cop had when I was... Never mind, that's a completely different story. The voice said they can't call me. Because of The Policy. I didn't dare to ask about the meaning of The Policy. It probably is as hazy as the meaning of Bodhisattva arriving from the South. I complied with The Policy and was home at 4:55 PM on the day the cable was scheduled to bid its farewell to the sunlight. Three hours later I started thinking: what if they don't come. What to do? In the search of answers, I called Comcast. The people there were very busy with some sort of ritual where incoming calls were redirected from one person to another for about 45 minutes, and then one of them, came down from the haven and told me the crew may still come. Encouraged by this testament, I didn't give up hope until a week later. This time Comcasters told me that first of all, their computers have frozen. Then, despite the ice age descending on Comcast computers, they said my appointment was cancelled due to truck unavailability. Truck unavailability! I then surprised them by asking when, in the name of Darth Vader, will they come? They said they had no definite plans - the appointment was cancelled and was not rescheduled. At that point I decided I want a job with Comcast. Whatever they smoke - I definitely want to try it. Now, full of new hopes, I will watch the cable laying at the front yard blown over by winds, washed by rains and burnt by the Sun for at least another two weeks. Or till whenever Comcast overlords feel like coming to our house and doing this immensely complex, space-age job - digging the ditch.

August 15th Update.
Beckett, Schmeckett! If you want true Theater of Absurd, join me! The life is stage, and I am one sorry actor on it. I start doubting Comcast cable funeral people are real human beings. I am starting to think they are just a myth, a spook story, Kaiser Soze of the cable industry, if you will. The ditch digging people didn't show up again! They said the can't dig if it's rainy. At that point I wondered if Comcast won a hostile takeover bid and bought out a gay choir and tured them into dirt diggers. How delicate are those damsels who bury cables? I wonder, do they have cable TV in England at all? What about Seattle? Are those places simply covered by spaghetti of cables laying around? I again, spent 35 minutes on hold, got very unfriendly attitude from the first line of Comcast defense person. They fought me very adamantly by telling me the superwiser was out of the office and he would just repeate the same nonsense. But after supposebly trying to pu me in contact with the someone else, the same person came back, apoligized (I guess he was playing both good and bad cop at the same time), and said the work order will be sped up to be complete by the end of this week if it's not raining. :-) Seriously. Damn global warming! I will never get the cable!

I noticed that Comcast customer service has actually nothing to do with helping customers. Their reps are much closer to corporate lawyers fircely protecting the disfunctional company and fending off opposite side - customers. Once I heard Disney was declared a best place to work becasue they treat their employees as good as their customers. I think Comcast appying opposite idea - they treat customers as badly as employees.

So my Comcast soap opera goes on. I wish I at least lost memory to get all this doo-doo out of my head.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Re: Bad Connections

"As we use these [on demand] technologies to increase the pace and quantity of our experiences, we might find that the quality of our pursuits declines."

Theme of pitfalls created by the culture of instant gratification, discussed in the articles, reminds me of a joke: "A lady: lieutenant, do you like kids? Lieutenant: Not so much the kids, but I really like the process."

Lifestyle-changing technologies, like cellphones and DVRs, are the source of many interesting debate topics. The article makes a few nice points, like the one quoted, but other conclusions are lame. Article's key observation regretfully notes that DVR owners watch 6 more hours of TV instead of reducing the amount of time spent on watching TV. It implies that ALL time spent watching TV is a total waste. If one assumes that watching shows you choose can be enriching, then the article becomes pointless. I am surprised NYT published something this weak on logic.

The article argues about the danger of on-demand technologies making us less tolerant for other people's preferences. So basically author wants us to treat watching knife-cutting-through-the-shoe ads as a willpower training and as a lesson in tolerance. C'mon! If you follow this logic then being able to choose anything is contributing to evils of instant gratification culture. Would you like me to be in charge of your wardrobe, for example, just to ensure you can become a better person by tolerating my affection for Soviet military uniforms?

Friday, February 18, 2005

DirecTV: The saga of love and betrayal.

You see, I am a loyal person. I had 2 year long “happily ever after” relationship with DirecTV. She would show something wow-like, and I gave her my credit card number so she could take money whenever she felt like doing it. We were getting along very well. Those years were very fulfilling. Then I met someone else. Her name was Dish Network, she was high-definition and being younger, she was also less expensive all around. I didn’t have anything against DirecTV, but since we never said it was exclusive I felt it’s OK for me to go with something fresher. So I spoke with DirecTV. She understood everything and assured me we’ll go our separate ways as civilized people with no hard feelings. She owed me $26.48, which she said will mail me in about 9 business weeks. Although 9 weeks sounded odd – it never took her more than a day to take my money from me – I didn’t suspect anything foul. I was enjoying Dish Network to its fullest. Both bedrooms in our house and even a living room saw all she had to offer. With this craziness going on, I completely lost track of time. Before I knew it, I realized that $26.48 DirecTV owed me were many weeks overdue. I called her and she said she mailed check to me yesterday. Weeks passed. We got many nice things going with Dish Network, including PVR functionality with Microsoft Mediacenter. Then again I remembered I didn’t get my money back from DirecTV. I called her again. I could tell she wasn’t happy to hear from me, because she moved on and had many new customers. She said she sent me my money a month ago. I told her I didn’t get it. She said she will check why it happenned. A month later I called her again and she said she doesn’t know what’s going on. She said she’ll “escalate” the matter to her accountant (she has an accountant!). A month later still having received bupkis from my ex, I called again and was told accountant dropped the ball. The only reason it didn’t go to lawyers is because I am filthy rich and even $26.48 don’t matter much to me. I was watching this saga unfolding with amusement. Six months later I'm still longing for my $26.48 and have DirecTV saying she mailed me another check. It’s so sad when some you thought you knew, someone you trusted, does something like this. I despise DirecTV because this relationship cost me my innocence – I have become typical cynic and misanthrope. If you are out there attracted by eye candy called DirecTV, please don’t repeat my mistakes: pay your bill by check.

HP Bluetooth Headphones: existential implications.

So, let’s say you have HP iPaq rx3115 PDA. With all the pretty wireless features, Windows Mobile 2003 OS and Windows Media Player 10, 1GB Secure Digital card with everything romantic about you stashed in it in the form of illegal MP3s, and even HP Bluetooth Stereo Headphones (Do we still have to say “stereo”? If so, then to be onboard with the trend: the PDA comes to you IN COLOR and HI-FIDELITY STEREO SOUND!!! Sheesh!). With all this equipment in place, it looks like you are totally ready to spend the rest of your life alone, in the Nerd Nirvana. What’s missing, people always ask me. Now let’s be honest with ourselves. Why do we need Bluetooth headphones at all? What exactly is the distance between your ass (sorry, your back pocket) and your ears? Why cord doesn’t work? It would be nice if we descended from giraffe – drinking wine would be so much more pleasurable. But if you are like me, you descended from apes and then cord is fine. Everyone knows this. I witnessed a BestBuy salesman flipping right there when questioned by a young lady why would one need a Bluetooth in the PDA. He said “you don’t really need it”. Poor bastard! For all of you BestBuy sales folks, here the free PDA with Bluetooth sales pitch targeting young female demographic. Dust off your arrogant self-confident voice and say this: “If your dance partner was like me and had this Bluetooth PDA and these Bluetooth Headphones, you could practice Salsa without ever being wrapped in the headphone cord!” The effect is three-fold: you sell PDA, an accessory, and undermine her boyfriend, who of course doesn’t dance and doesn’t have money for the PDA, which positions you very well to replace the guy even if the sale doesn’t go through. But before this could actually work, HP would have to fix one fundamental issue in the Bluetooth headphones: you can’t play music to both wireless and wired headsets at the same time! It’s either or! Now that makes you feel right! You blow a bundle on the fancy headphones while you could just steal one from an airline, and instead of sharing your music with your future ex-wife, you are stuck alone listening to “All by myse-e-e-elf!” Now, HP, listen up! Firing Carly after I let the tech support guy in India have it was a nice touch, but it doesn’t go far enough for me. I need freaking Bluetooth driver to work! Here’s my list of grievances:
- I am tired of my PDA hanging about every 50 minutes while playing to Bluetooth!
- It’s a shame your Bluetooth headset’s Next and Previous buttons are not compatible with Windows Media Player 10!
- Sound quality is mediocre. No matter what you say, as a failed musician I will stand by this claim till the second advent.
- No downloadable updates for Bluetooth Headset are there at all!
- Your tech support should commit mass ritualistic suicide for not knowing that newer image of the OS for rx3100 series PDA is available for download from the web site!
- I am annoyed to no end by “Cannot Connect” message box puked out by PDA’s WiFi driver when I turned the WiFi OFF!
- My last haircut sucks!

Brothers and sisters, stay away from HP Bluetooth STEREO Headset for at least next 6 months. Abstinence-only is a viable option in this particular case. I will deal with my sorrow. Hope to meet you on my next drunken binge.

Dealing with unhealthy urges

Are you a techie who always wants to buy a new gadget while you know all too well you have too many of them already? If you are, this is your sanctuary.