Saturday, January 13, 2007

No Complaints

It turns out I don't have anything to write about this week. I thought I did earlier in the week, but things changed, and now I don't.

Earlier in the week I was planning on telling you about my frustrating experience of dealing with Earthlink Technical Support. It's not that anything was actually wrong, but I happened to notice that my DSL download speed was consistently less than half of the advertised speed.

I've had DSL for about seven years, and the speed never bothered me until I found out recently that it should have been about two times as fast. So I called up Earthlink Technical Support, and after several conversations over three or four days, they decided that I probably needed a new DSL modem, which they could sell me for about $80, or which I could get for free if I committed to staying with Earthlink for another year.

Since I'm generally optimistic, I assumed the new modem would work, so there'd be no problem staying with Earthlink for another year, but due to a clerical error, they posted a charge of $80 to my credit card. And when the modem arrived a few days later, it didn't work at all. I couldn't even transfer a single bit between my computer and the internet.

So much for optimism.

Anyway, I called Earthlink Technical Support, but the recording informed me that due to an unexpectedly high number of calls, they wouldn't be able to take my call and advised me to call back at another time. I didn't want to do that, but fortunately, Earthlink has a live chat facility, so I was able to exchange messages with a Technical Support person.

Of course, to be able to do this, I had to disconnect the new modem and plug in the old modem, which made troubleshooting next to impossible, since it involved him telling me what to do, me terminating the chat session so I could connect the new modem and configure it, and then hooking up the old modem so I could go back online, start a new chat session with a different Technical Support person, and tell him that I was getting nowhere.

Before long, I didn't even want to troubleshoot the problem -- all I wanted was to send them back the new modem, get my $80 back, and switch from DSL to cable. But I was told that first they'd have to troubleshoot the problem with me, and if they determined that the modem was faulty, they'd send me a new one.

At that point, I decided to give up. Even if they did manage to fix the problem, I'd only get 1.5 Mbps, but my cable company was promising 7 Mbps for about the same price. So I decided to kiss my $80 goodbye and switch to cable.

To be honest, I was actually thinking about doing this a couple of years ago, but I was never that happy with my digital cable TV service. It seemed like over the years, the signal had gotten weaker and weaker, and I was worried that splitting the cable again would make it even worse. (It's not that the picture quality was bad -- most of the time it was great -- but every now and then the image would pixelate, which is due to a weak signal.)

So I had some misgivings, but after dealing with Earthlink Technical Support with no result other than the loss of $80, I didn't care any more. So I signed up for cable internet, and so far I couldn't be happier. I'm actually getting about 9 Mbps, and my digital cable TV signal is no worse for it.

I'd already notified every company, organization, and individual I received email from that I had a new email address, so all that was left for me to do was to cancel my Earthlink subscription.

Their web site leads you to believe you can do this online, but after answering various questions, I was led to a page that informed me that for my protection, canceling my account could only be done by calling Customer Service. So I called Customer Service, navigated through the menu system, and was eventually directed to the proper department, where I was put on hold for more than 15 minutes. But I didn't mind at all, since it was for my protection.

Anyway, I finally got to talk to someone, and when I told her I wanted to cancel my account, she wanted to know if I'd mind telling her why. I was only too happy to tell her, so I explained about the useless modem, the $80, and the frustrating and pointless troubleshooting with Technical Support.

She told me that a credit of $80 had already been issued to my account, which was a pleasant surprise. It was probably due to someone correcting the clerical error, because I do remember complaining about that to someone at some point.

So in the end, everything worked out fine and I couldn't be happier: I'll get my $80 back, I have a much faster internet connection for about the same price, and my digital TV signal is no worse because of it.

And that's why I don't have anything to write about this week.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Resolution

I haven't said much about all the work that's been going on outside my house recently. A few months ago, I may have mentioned something about a hole that was accidentally made in the side of my house, but I don't think I ever mentioned anything other than that.

Anyway, part of the project involved removing a bunch of ivy from a hill, then excavating the hill and building a retaining wall. As a result, one side of my house is no longer up against a hill, but as a side effect, I think it must have left a few ivy-dwelling rats without homes, because some of them have recently entered my house in search of food and shelter.

Which means that the ultrasonic devices I deployed during the last rat invasion may not have been quite as effective as I thought they were. At first, I thought they were doing the job pretty well, since they not only kept rats and mice out of my house, they also kept out squirrels, stray dogs, ocelots, monitor lizards, tortoises, komodo dragons, killer whales, ring-tailed lemurs, and members of various other animal and reptile species.

I was free of such pests for about a year, and I thought I was free of them forever, but then I saw a rat in my kitchen sometime last November. So maybe the ultrasonic devices weren't that useful after all. Or maybe, as a friend of mine suggested, they were working just fine and the rat was deaf.

She was kidding, of course, but I guess it's possible to find a deaf rat -- or even a hearing-impaired rat -- so I got out my trusty Rat Zapper, which is supposed to kill all rats, regardless of affliction or condition. I put in some fresh batteries, loaded it with bait, and waited for it to claim its next victim.

A week or two later, it killed a cute little mouse, and a couple of weeks after that, a big ugly rat. That was in early December, and I havent seen any rats since then, but I'm not foolish enough to believe that my rat problem is over for good. Even though I haven't seen any evidence of rodents in my house for over a month, the Rat Zapper is still lying on the floor, waiting silently and patiently for the next hapless rodent.

I like the Rat Zapper. I've had much better luck with it than with spring-loaded traps, which I used to bait with peanut butter. My experience was that the rats had figured out a way to eat the peanut butter without springing the trap. So I don't use them anymore, but when I did, a friend of mine used to tease me about treating my intended rodent victims to organic peanut butter, which is what I buy for myself. He had a point, but as I reminded him, if I bought the regular kind and the rats ate it, I could have been inducing them to engage in unintentional cannibalism, since the government allows a certain (very small) percentage of things like insect wings and rat paws to be present in many processed foods, including peanut butter, hot dogs, and any number of other things.

Anyway, I hope I don't see any more rats in my house for a while, and I don't think I will, since I'm not planning on undertaking any additional home improvement projects in the near future, but I have nonetheless decided that my New Year's Resolution for this year is to be ever-vigilant in my fight against invading rodents. It doesn't really require me to do much, other than keep the batteries fresh in my Rat Zapper and discard any rats and mice it dispatches to their final reward. So it's a pretty easy resolution to keep.

But it still requires a lot more effort than last year's New Year's resolution, which was to move a two and a half gallon water dispenser to a new location on the kitchen counter top. That was a pretty easy one, and some people may complain that it wasn't made in the true spirit of New Year's Resolutions, but the way I figure it, what's the point of making a New Year's Resolution unless you know you can keep it?