Got bored…

…so I changed the theme (and the font color) just to provide some amusement.The question is, is anyone actually reading this so as to notice?

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The wonderful world of tech support…

A couple of years ago I switched from Word Perfect to OpenOffice. Not too much of a problem with the changeover as OpenOffice can open most Word Perfect files – assuming the formatting isn’t too crazy……of course, with me, the formatting often defaults to “too crazy…”

Anywho, over those last couple of years I’ve spent some time making sure all my stuff is converted from wpd to odt files just in case my old copy of Word Perfect 10 becomes unavailable for some reason. And today I was finishing up some of the last of them when I came across an old letter that I had sent to Earthlink and was going to send to “thisisbroken.com” – a blog that covered “broken” things (both physical and conceptual)…

…but by then, “thisisbroken.com” stopped being “thisisbroken.com” and I had no where, really, to send it.

So I’m going to annoy you guys with it…two years later:

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Okay, where to begin…

Last night, my net connection went down. After trying the usual things (rebooting the modem, the router, the computers – several times) I try to call Earthlink Technical Support. Unfortunately, the only number I have is for Earthlink in Pasadena.

No problem, I’ll call them – their after hours message should have the number to call for support.

So I call, get a brief message and notification that “your call may be monitored” and then get forwarded off into dead air…that lasts a minute or two until it hangs up on me. Well, not quite “dead air” – I could hear an echo of my own voice on the phone going “hello?…”

After trying this three times, with the same result, I gave up for the night – no internet for me!

The next morning, I hesitantly try the number again, and this time I get a menu and a “if you need technical support, please call…”

So I do. I dialed up your number and was asked to enter my phone number (as on my account) – apparently, so that it could be pulled up.

Then, after navigating through three or four levels of “choose 1 if you’s…” – which is stupid as in spite of the fact this is suppose to be the number for technical support, there’s twelve other things here as well – I got to choose technical support…which then asked to enter my phone number (as on my account) – apparently, so that it could be pulled up…again.

Apparently, you system isn’t bright enough to pass that along.

Then another round of “choose 1 if you’s…” – I’ve now had to enter twenty-six or twenty-seven digits to get to this point (if you add in the two phone number entries) – and I finally get to a live tech support person.

“Alex” (who is about as much an “Alex” as I am a “Devarsi” – look, everyone knows you farm out tech support to India, stop trying to pretend…), then asked me a couple of questions (“what is your problem?” “I have no internet access”) and then asked me for my Earthlink email address “so I can pull up your account…”

Let me repeat that: I have to enter my phone number twice, the only possibly purpose of which would be to identify me so that you could pull up my account and have it ready…and one of the first questions asked is for my email address so that you could pull up my account!

Well, that was a waste of twenty button pushes!

He checks and says the problem is that “your account is inactive.” I – not unnaturally – ask “why,” as it worked just fine the day before and I have an email invoice from a week prior that says you dinged my Visa account just fine. He doesn’t know – but will pass me along to a representative.

He passes me along to a representative – “Joe” (see parenthetical about “Alex…”) – who then asks me my email address – again – so that he can pull up my account and then asks me what the problem is, because apparently, no information can be passed from person to person in your system. I tell him that the last person told me my account was inactive. He looks and says “no, everything is very active.”

He asks who told me this.

I tell him the tech support person.

He asks me how long ago I was told this.

I tell him right before I was transferred to him.

Meanwhile, my net connection suddenly restores (after being down from the night before), so after going through the meaningless pleasantries of “we’re glad we could assist you” – which were especially meaningless as “we” did nothing – I hang up and wait for this email.

So let’s sum the problems I had, shall we?

1) Phone systems that don’t work.

2) Excessive levels of menus to get to Technical Support. There should be a Technical Support number that actually takes you directly to Technical Support. That’s its whole purpose!

3) Pointless entering of phone numbers – twice! – to identify yourself. Pointless because the first thing you’re asked is for your email address…to identify yourself.

4) The complete inability of your system to pass information along from person to person. For pete’s sake – you’re an internet company, whose whole purpose is to connect hundreds of millions of computers together to share information. And you can’t even pass along as much as an email address between two of your support representatives?

That’s not just stupid, that’s stupid stupid.

5) I was about to say “Having reps that are unable to deduce that if you’re transferred from one person to them, the information you’re now giving them probably came from that one person, just a second ago” – but then realized that the second person probably has no idea where your phone call was transferred from, due to the “number 4” problem above. Still, he didn’t actually do anything to warrant thanking me for being allowed to help, so I won’t totally apologize here.

And let’s sum what should have happened, just for fun:

1. I either call the Earthlink-Pasadena number, which gives me a menu choice to take me directly to Tech Support, or I call the Tech Support number straight off. Both choices take me to Tech Support, without any further button pushing.

2. I enter my phone number to identify me. This brings up (on your system) my account and this information is passed along wherever I go – I never have to enter a number or give an email address again for the duration of the call.

3. Since the system knows who I am and where I am, it can – and does – tell me if there are any service interruptions in my area and what their status is. That way, if this is the cause of my problem (which it very often could be) I can now hang up. This saves me time – and saves you time and money.

4. Assuming I need a live Tech Support person, once one picks up my call, his/her computer automatically opens up with my account information so that – rather than having to identify myself for the third time in five minutes – he/she can simply say “Earthlink Technical Support, Mr. Johnson, how can I help you?”

Heck, if I use the debit card reader, my supermarket cashier can do that much!

5. Should they need to pass me along to a different representative, then – as always – my account information, along with whatever steps they’ve already taken should be passed along with me to the new rep, so that I don’t spend another five minutes repeating both all the information I told the first person and explaining all the things the first person has already done/said.

Face it, guys, technical support for Earthlink…well…sucks is the only viable way to describe it. I spent fifteen minutes on the phone, pushing buttons and repeating myself, with essentially no results. Had the problem not cleared itself, I would have had to been transferred back to a third tech support person…where I would have had to repeat everything I’d already said all over again even before he/she could start working on my problem.

To sum: This one is going to thisisbroken.com…

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Of course, it then didn’t, but the problems still remain as I described them. Oh, Earthlink may have fixed some of my issues since then (it has been two years, after all), but it was and is hardly the only place these kinds of problems come across (having to explain everything the first technician you talked to did to the  second is, I believe, universal…) and I’ve yet to come across any tech support phone lines that match my “what should have happened” sufficiently to make me a happy camper.

Why is this such a problem?

The Bush Era has ended…

…eight years too late.

No, really. It would have been far, far better for everyone if at his inauguration, instead of taking the oath, he had said “become President? No, I was only joking” and then left for Tahiti or something.

Heck, it would have even given him a better “legacy” than he has now.

Now we have President Obama. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high (though the hope of “I hope he’s better than Bush” is an easy one – a concrete block wall would be better than Bush…), but it’s just possible that he’s going to be one of those Presidents that future generations look back at as a “Great” President.You know, one of the ones students actually remember the name of rather than have to look up.

We’ll see. He’s starting off right – putting a hold on a bunch of last-minute Bush legislation – but we’ll see. I’m tentatively hopeful.

Another movie I don’t need to see…

Okay folks, more bad news for genre movies: Keanu Reeves has been signed up to play “Spike” in the live action version of Cowboy Bebop…Has no one in the industry noticed he can’t act yet? He has exactly one character – and that’s Ted Logan. Oh, he can change it slightly by making it a more mature Ted Logan, or by making it a geekier Ted Logan. But in essence, he needs a role that allows him in some way to say the equivalent of “whoa!” – then he’s fine. Anything else, eh.

So basically, he played the roll he was “born to play” in 1989…hit the height of his ability…never really developed any more as an actor…but for some reason, people keep giving him new parts.

Oh well, they probably would have screwed up Bebop even without him…

Chicago is apparently just east of Redlands…

In keeping with our tradition of finding places to eat we really, really like really, really far from home, today we found the finest pizza place we’ve ever been to. The only difference is that “really, really far from home” is just 75 miles this time, rather than the more usual 400-800…AJ Barile’s Chicago Pizza Company is run by an ex-Chicagoian – so he knows Chicago pizza. It’s also in Yucaipa, of all places. You remember Yucaipa? Site of the “waiting forever for the tow-truck” event a few weeks back? Well, we were out there again today (still trying to pick up our order – and still failing. Oh, at least the car worked…but the place was closed) and – on the way through it to Oak Glen, passed  a place apparently being remodelled that said it was the Chicago Pizza Company and that it was the 2nd Place finisher (regional)  at the International Competition and Pizza Expo. Well, that sounded good – and we started talking about pizza and saying “we should go there when it opens to try it.”

And then a bit further down Yucaipa Blvd, we pass its current location and go “Oh! We could check it out now.”

So on the way back from Oak Glen…we did.

The crust is perfect. Dee Dee is a fan of thin crust pizzas – me, not so much. But both of us absolutely loved the flavor, the crispness and the flush of garlic and olive-oil infused through it.

The sauce…just as good…as are the toppings…as is the pure buffalo mozzarella. How good? We started fighting over who got the bigger remaining pieces.

And AJ himself is fun to talk with.

They should be moving into their new place in March or April and it’s about five times the size of their current one. That alone should tell you something about how good their pizza is: In this economy – in the middle of Yucaipa – after only being open three years, they are doing well enough to quintuple their floor space…and use it when they get it.

So go. Get a pizza (I suggest the “Stockyard”). Get a Chicago-style hot dog (they’ve got the florescent green relish and everything). Have some lasagna. Have a sandwich. Heck, just get some jalapeno poppers.

Go.

Happy New Year!

Just checking in to say “hi” and all that. New Year’s for me and Dee Dee mostly involves trying to avoid the Torment of Roses here in Pasadena. Tricky, since it pretty much surrounds us on three sides (with the fourth being mountains) and the floats end up parked less than a mile from our house.Meanwhile, parade-goers seem to think “trash can” and “Colorado Blvd” are synonyms. When the parade is over, they literally have to go down the street with bulldozers to pick up all the garbage. How people can stand to, well, stand there surrounded by all the trash they’ve tossed about them over the last twenty hours is beyond me. Even driving down the street it smelled…

Apart from that, my only connection with all the “festivities” was managing to catch a picture of the B-2 as it flew by.

Predictions for the new year:

1) The stock market will eventually hit as low as 7,000-7,500 before it starts crawling back up. And I mean crawling – if it’s above 8,000 again by the end of the year I’ll be surprised.

2) Gas is not going to hit a dollar a gallon. It’s pretty much as low as it’s going to get now. It might – briefly – hit a U.S. average of $1.40 a gallon, but only if the economy is doing a whole lot worse than it is now. Admittedly, this could happen…

3) The recession will not be over by the end of the year. The Feds will declare it over sometime in early 2010, but of course, for real people, it’ll be at least another three years before it’s over.

4) Psychic, astrological and other woo-woo predictions for the year will average less than random chance…and only do that well because they put in some obvious guesses like I did.