Past Rants: 2001

   I work in the Internet industry, helping people solve their connectivity problems, and this I have done for two years (which is impressive since the churn rate for tech support is supposed to be around six months). Recently my supervisor told me that in talking to other managers, there was a distinct trend: techs who have been around for a long time and are used to taking dial-up calls, usually in Windows, get bent out of shape when they have to take other kinds of calls. I have to agree, teaching old dogs new tricks can be a challenge. And I'm trying to be flexible and open-minded, I wish to survive and roll with the new. But here's what is stuck in my craw (and apparently others', too): What we like about taking dial-up calls, that which centers around an analog modem (be it 300 baud or 56k), is that we can typically and expediently fix the person's problem -- tweak an initialization string, adjust a Network setting, remove and replace component files which may be bad or missing, reinstall the modem and its drivers, change a phone number or reset a password. The calls aren't always quick and easy, but short of a major operating system screwup or defective hardware they're in and they're out.
   Enter DSL, the digital subscriber line, that which uses the same phone lines as you already have but transmits as an always-going signal. No dialing, as the ads say, thus no busy signal, and faster than snot on a doorknob. Which is true when it works. When it doesn't -- no synch between router and line, synch exists but nothing passes over the line, connected but the throughput is slower than a dial-up modem or comes in widely-spaced bursts -- you can't expect someone to just snap their fingers and fix everything. Okay, so you can expect it, but that doesn't make it an actual possibility. Which is why folks like me are up in arms: We're used to fixing people. When your DSL stops functioning, here's the timeline [your own results may vary by provider and telephone company -- it can be said that DSL in podunk places works better than in metropoli due to the closeness of line ownership]: Person calls their ISP. Tech support is obligated to do a few client-end diagnostics in case it's just something simple, like is found in dial-up -- power-cycle everything, replace operating system components and any software used to make the connection, check the status of the account and look for known problems in that geographic area, other user data which could be not what it should be, run some tests to diagnose where the problem is. Failing that, the tech fills out a trouble ticket, and the customer is now at 45 minutes talking to the tech and Who Knows how long they were on hold before getting a human. Okay, now the fun begins: Techie fills out trouble ticket, which sits in someone's In-box for a few days before being processed, the person who works the ticket may do some further banging on the customer's setup then failing that passs the ticket along to the DSL provider (typically a phone company) to handle, the ticket sits in their In-box for a few days before being processed, and then they do whatever they see fit to do -- be it say "We checked the line, it's fine" and solve nothing (lather, rinse, repeat after 2-3 weeks) or find an error and correct it (cross fingers this will never happen again). With dialup, the ISP owns or leases the phone numbers and modems. With DSL, the ISP (if not a branch of the telco) doesn't manage any of the equipment involved. It's surprising how many new trouble tickets get opened within one week of the closing of a previous because the issue was not solved or the line was working for a few days then pooped out again.
   The largest DSL provider in the nation, Covad, filed for bankruptcy protection a few months ago, which sounds really rediculous with the $40-$60 per month charge DSL commands. The reason (not what they said, but what we concluded in a discussion at the office) is that the trouble rate exceeds the benefit. When you (as an Internet provider) have to credit someone a month or two for down service, you didn't get any money for the service but you still had the charge on your end. That adds up after awhile. So does the frustration of humans who aren't nonchalent about helping others, who can't just say "click here, do this, reboot" to make people functional and happy anymore. Get cable Internet service when it comes to your neighborhood, it's more reliable, I'm told.

Laziness from August until December

Families are very strange entities, especially mine. They weren't too terribly interested in me, until I started dating. As a teenager growing up, they never said a word to me about sex and marriage and all that stuff, now they can't keep their mouths shut. For a family who wasn't even willing to fill out the financial aid paperwork for my university (I had to get my dad's tax info and do it myself), they sure are suddenly very interested in protecting their little girl from the international influence. For a father who couldn't be bothered to make sure that my car didn't break down and kill me on the freeway, he sure doesn't hesitate to give me advice on love. Not that I pay much attention to what my parents say, for the shit I've gone through from them, not to mention their own "exemplary" track records on love, sex and marriage, I find it almost ironic that suddenly they started to care for me now.
Really, I move away from college, and my father, who couldn't let me out of the house for more than 10 minutes without knowing who I was with, the whole life story of the person I was with, where I would be going, down to the details of what I was eating, I found it a little strange that he never once called me at my apartment in Moscow, until he heard I was seeing a Pakistani guy. Asshole. After all the abuse, after all the shit he gave me, and BACKED UP WITH HIS RELIGION, he has the GALL to tell me that I have to keep HIS faith (not my faith mind you) because it's BETTER for women!! Better my ass, Christianity has NO built in protections for women, AT ALL, while Arabs may be unjust, Pakistani guys are generally VERY good to their women, and I have found he's MUCH less sexist than ANY Mormon man I ever met in my life previously.
I just love his arrogance to give me advice in my life, especially my love life, and tell me about abuse and all that when the man used to beat his own wife, and children, and didn't do JACK SHIT for my sister when he KNEW that she was being beaten by her husband. As if he would do anything for me. Sometime, I just want to scream at him, "Fuck off, you weren't interested before, what's this, your last ditch effort to make it APPEAR like you're a caring father? No one believes it, so just drop the act, and leave me the fuck alone you lying son-of-a-bitch."
Then there is the rest of my family, who can't decide really what would be best for me.
· Dating, at her age? She should wait until she's at least 27, and done with her PhD to even LOOK at men, and even then, since all men are evil, marriage is out of the question. Sex? Never, what a terrible thing sex is, invented by men to subjugate women.
· Dating, geez, shouldn't she be married by now, really 20 years old, and no a child to her name? What kind of parents are they anyway, claiming to be Mormons? They should have had her married off by now, and popping those babies out, no wonder she resorted to foreign men, what American Mormon would have her at her age. She's almost an old maid. I wonder what took her so long, and just now dating.
· They're going to get married you know. He probably already fucked her 20 times, and she's pregnant. Her parents, you know, they're totally immoral, look at her older sister. Probably became a party girl when she got to college, and he fucked her while she was high or something, and now she's pregnant, that's why she's staying with him you know.
· Dating a Non-Mormon? What the hell!
· Thank GOD she's not dating a Mormon!
These are the expected comments of my family and friends on this matter. I've heard some of these comments already, or heard them whispered. You know, you live with people long enough, how can you NOT expect them to know what you think on a certain matter? --#3

So Chrome was finally around town long enough that we could do a real R.A.T.tage and write... of course, that's not how stuff works. Sit around, talk, eventually fall into a deep sleep, wander around to amuse the cat, another comatose period or two, laugh at the concept of doing anything to Define_2.txt or Thotz.txt, and now the night is beyond young and has transcended into collecting Social Security. Significance of the age of the day is that much of it was spent in anticipation of other people; certain things were to happen but did not as hoped.
In Mushy's case, it was what the universe usually delivers:
  ¶ A coworker said, "hey, why don't we hang out for awhile?" Sure, says I, it's so seldom that anyone from any job I've held wanted to spend time outside work (or inside work, come to think of it) associating with me. "Call me after 9am Saturday," I says, "and we'll set up a plan." He says sure, even jets me an email on Friday to say "we're on, catch you tomorrow." Saturday comes. To some people, the words "call me after 9am" mean call me between 9:00 and 9:30 while to others they mean if you feel like it, call me somewhere between noon and 8pm to discuss what we intended to start doing at 10am. So for about six hours, I stayed off the modem and near a phone, and not even the telemarketers called. It's the kind of situation where you pick up the phone for a second every few hours just to make sure you have a dialtone, then check the ringer switch. And they have your number, you don't have theirs, so you can't call them to ask whazzup. Around 3:30, Chrome returns to my house (to my surprise, he'd said he was going to call at 5pm to see if I was around), so we hit the road and did a little shopping. I get home an hour later -- and he had called. Twice. From payphones around the county. And says he'll try again later. And it's now 11pm and the phone still has not rang. The message left on one of those payphone calls was an explanation of the first six hours of silence: had to take a friend to the hospital, something that I can understand and forgive on. But the second call came from the Mall, saying he'd call again shortly. The excuse for not calling again couldn't be quite as plausible once I finally hear it at work tomorrow.
Meanwhile, as for Chrome: Just another day with the Guard ....
     I arrive early for a regulary scheduled physical (you get to have one every few years or so). Of course I left early to avoid traffic as it can sometimes get bad early, even on a Saturday morning here in the Tacoma area. Upon arrival at the hospital, it's cold and wet out, several folks standing around in uniform, go out and join them. BS for a while. Folks from my unit start to show up, a scout is sent out to find where we're supposed to go. Would have been nice if this had been part of the information we were given to start with. Word comes back with a building number, move en herd to the appointed place. We then discover the place opens an hour later than we were told to arrive.
     There are around twenty of us there for different levels of physicals this morning, no huge big deal, plenty of staff to go around. As we're finishing up however, another group of twenty-something is arriving. This was not anticipatd by the staff... No huge issue since we're ahead. Told by staffers we should be done in about an hour and a half. So about fourty-five minutes later, I've got everything done except for blood draw (HIV test, DNA sampling, etc), hearing test, and Doctors' interview/final rubberstamp. The line for blood draw is shorter than for the hearing test, so I go there first. Half hour wait. About seven minutes to complete the process. No problem. I go back to the waiting room for the hearing test, and now the line has more people in it than the group I arrived with. Seems there was only one person on the hearing test, and she was a trainee. What should have been two hours tops (counting admin overhead and paperwork shuffling) turned out to be eight hours mostly spent napping in a waiting room. Yay.
Gee, had we known our day was to be so useless, we would have taken a powder on everything and ... found something fun to do. Such as: #1 could finish coding a MUD and #2 would have mowed the lawn, two things in need of completion according to those who keep an eye on such things. Or we would be writing a cynical R.A.T.phile or a happy Daybook entry instead of a long-overdue Rant.   --#1 & #2

So it's getting close to Tax Time, and I don't have all my W2's in yet. No problem, call various places where my mail is sent, and make sure everything received gets forwarded. No biggie, everything arrives yesterday. Pull it all out and tally it up, guess what? My W2 for the Guard isn't included. This could be a problem. Get with the National Guard rep here and get info, national number to call, etc. Today when I'm getting ready to call, decide to try calling the fine folks in Seattle first (read: coworkers who should have sent me that W2). Guess what? They had it, and never mailed it out. THREE MONTHS AGO, TO THIS DAY they gave out the W2's to all present for drill. I was on a plane instead of being there.
Oh well, as I'm owed a refund, there's no penalty for filing late (unless it's three years late).
Same folks that still owe me two paychecks. Heh. Why do I bother with them? --#1

Sometimes the stupidity you should ph33r most is your own. A friend tried to comfort me that since I didn't have any context to compare by, this sort of thing happens. Said friend is having an international joust with a computer parts manufacturer so he's had similar things happen to him lately, just not as vocally as I. But it's stupidity nonetheless and I acknowledge it.
Recently I bought a Diamond Rio 300 MP3 player. It has 32M RAM onboard and has a SmartMedia card slot. The docs say that one can stick 16M or 32M in, but at no point do they say that 32M is the upper limit. The maker's website also doesn't say how much memory it can handle, but then again it also doesn't have any memory for the device listed for sale (they are promoting the FlashMedia cards for newer Rio models though). I was cruising the Web comparing memory prices and found Coast To Coast Memory on eBay, which has an actual e-business to back its auction posts, and they said the Rio can handle 64M. So I went to their site to order a card, and by the end of the week I had it in my hands.
And the Rio didn't recognise that a card had been inserted, and neither of the formatting utilities see it there either.
This is where at least one of three things could be wrong: either the memory is bad, the Rio is bad, or the Rio can't handle that much RAM. I called Diamond to ask what the ceiling is, and after waiting on hold long-distance for 5 minutes listening to menu option and disclaimers, a human said 32 megs. I called C2C to tell them to stop saying a 64M card will work on the Rio, and they confidently said they've sold hundreds without a complaint -- and that Diamond says 32M because that's the most they [used to] sell.
So with all this information in my head, which should I trust? The manufacturer or a dealer? I sent the memory back in exchange for a 32M card, which arrived today. And the verdict? Erg, it was that other choice: the Rio itself is defective, it doesn't recognise the 32M card either. Yes, I'm sending an apology to C2C. They had emailed me to ask if I wanted to exchange the first 64M card for a second 64M card, and I said yes -- but apparently this email didn't get to the shipping department, which sent what I'd asked for (the 32M) on the RMA form. So tomorrow I have the joy of wading through another costly sea of long-distance phone effluvia to get an RMA# emailed to me (they don't just hand them to you on the spot!) so I can return the Rio. While it's out, I may as well exchange the memory again since it won't be doing much for awhile, and figure I'll get the memory replacement faster than the Rio replacement.
And if dealing with Diamond winds up being Rant-worthy (gawd I hope it isn't), you know where to read about it... --#2

Musicians have said that the hardest part about making a Christmas album is the fact that it is July when it is being recorded. Somehow I liken this to writing a Rant when there's not much that is really gripeable in life. In the near future, Chrome may be contributing something about what's been happening in his life lately -- I can't give details, but the letters home have been venomously funny -- and Emmer has been pretty quiet lately, with what little she has said about life lately being more of a question mark than an exclamation point. This of course does not mean there is nothing to complain about, far from it! There is just less focus and more diversity. Just like life. So for a pack of micro-rants:

And my final thought is a potential rant: It's been really dry here in Puget Sound, and fairly warm. I took my snow tires off today, after a month and a half, because they were getting pretty loud and make the car pull to the left. I will be so hacked if suddenly it starts raining a lot and/or the roads freeze when I'm coming home near midnight. --#2
[addendum 2/8: Wouldja believe... nights have been freezing since 2/5 and it snowed a scant this morning? @#%(*#!!]
[addendum 2/15: Wouldja believe... it freaking snowed 6" tonight? Double-@#%(*#!!!]

I'm one of the few people who like junkmail. (As for spam in my email box, that's another matter. Spammers should be eviscerated.) I do market research for a couple firms and subscribe to The Funny Times which for some reason is on the left-wing mailing list, so I get plenty of great ads and information. But this isn't the thing I'm complaining about. What bugs me is credit card solicitations and linked applications. I never received any credit card apps for the first 28 years of my life, then I got a MasterCard and all hell broke loose. Now I can't go more than a day without someone wanting to give me plastic, or more than a week without one of those companies calling my house; I speculate that the folks behind the "Diamond Aspire Visa" have spent no less than $100 in my direction in the last five years. Which is fine with me, so long as the people who are using that brand of card realize where their 26% interest fees are going -- back into relentless advertisement and telemarketing. Shortly thereafter come the companies which assume you want their services, and these usually involve life insurance or "clubs" which involve saying Yes at the end of a sentence, then you're hooked. Until recently I was paying $40 of every $100 sent to pay my MasterCard bill to some insurance policy that I had absolutely no information on, and that doesn't exactly get the sum paid, ya know. My wife opened her Texaco bill and there was a charge of $80 to join some travel club she never knew about, which has happily since been revoked. Having recently taken out a mortgage, this insurance agency has been writing us regularly trying to get a cut, and it is kinda funny: on Monday, I received three phone calls and two letters from that company between when I woke up and when I left for work.
About the only thing more dildonic than that is AOL, but you don't want me to get into that. Anyone who has ever dialed into a real ISP then received a dialog box saying You are connected to the Internet. Would you like to hang up and dial AOL? knows exactly what I mean. --#2


...back to today's Rant...