Friday, August 29, 2008

Woes Turn Into a Great U-Verse

I have a reason to be thankful for my troubles today. The disappointment of canceling my satellite service and the trouble of signing up for AT&T DSL have given way to the ultimate destination I was seeking in the first place. Turns out it is called U-Verse.

Background: I called AT&T today because I got my first bill. The phone line was significantly more than I expected so I was calling about that. As I was on hold, I was browsing their site and came across a DSL service they offer WITHOUT needing a phone line. I asked the representative about it, noting that the man who helped me before had a real strong accent and I never truly felt he understood what I wanted. She started to switch to this new DSL, when she asked me what I was doing with TV service. "Funny you should ask," I say.

She then told me about a newer, "advanced" technology of delivering TV through fiber optics, never once using satellite along the way. From there, she patiently waited as I read and researched this service called U-Verse. With the fiber optics line comes vastly faster internet speeds of up to 10 meg down, despite getting an internet package that touts 3 meg. I reviewed the technology quickly and compared the channel line up to what I have now. Locals are in HD and there are about 10 more channels that I'm not getting in HD with Comcast. (Plus there's ESPN-U. That's for you, Lupka.)

They were running a promotion for $250 check to people who got TV and internet and there is no commitment. That'll come in handy with the $700 repair I'm having done next week. First month is free as I try it out. The package I chose will run me $94/month. That saves me $40 over Comcast and I'll be completely out of their terrible structure. (I see today that I ended my internet service with them not a moment too soon.) The rep even offered to back-date all my current DSL charges since it was never quite what I wanted. I am so fortunate to have gotten her as my rep when I called!

Hopefully there will be no unpleasant surprises when they install next Saturday. A process that takes 4-6 hours apparently. But I'm already very excited at the possibilities...chief among them, the ability to use my AT&T phone to set my DVR to record remotely. Whaaaaat!!!! Heck yeah!

Update: I've spent the better part of the morning reading technical forums. Seems most, if not all, users agree that the HD quality is not as good as satellite or cable. AT&T has to compress their data to fit all the streaming for HD and internet in to their pipes. (All TV providers compress, but apparently AT&T does it a bit more than satellite and cable.) What results is a lot of macroblocking, or a pixelated background and a softer image. Makes me incredibly nervous but I'm going to have them come on out and install it. First month is free, after all. Won't cut off Comcast just yet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding Out About Life on Facebook

Believe me, I'm about as pro-technology as they come. But there's a point where the technology replaces the human-to-human contact where I have to draw the line. Facebook is the prime example of this. Every time I find out about a very significant event in someone's life because another friend of mine saw it on Facebook, it really irks me. (I don't have Facebook myself, so I get the news second-hand when a friend sees a person's status has changed.)

One example: several months ago a couple broke up. For some reason the first thing people do when this occurs is to log in and change their status. Then the grieving can commence as if that finally makes it official. And by the way, this apparently justifies not telling anyone because "you could have seen it on my Facebook".

Another case (which spurred this little post of mine): a guy I used to know came out of the closet, taking everyone by surprise. Perhaps he was so scared of judgment or maybe he wasn't completely confident in this decision that it was much simpler and more brave to hide behind a monitor and announce to the world via a keyboard.

I'm not being a hypocrite by the fact that I blog and use Twitter. Anything I say on here invites conversation or is a result of a conversation. Most of it is nonsense anyway. But when people reach the point of using these avenues to not do the right thing by having that person-to-person contact, I would go so far as to say it is not what God intends because the relationship with that person suffers. It's like emailing someone when you are angry with them, instead of talking to them. It's a weak, character-miring cop-out. Soapbox off.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Satellite Dreams Shattered

I just canceled my DISH Network service. About 15 minutes after the installer left. Let me lay it out for you: I sign up online with the aid of a representative via chat. I'm signing up for an HD-ONLY service. I select my package. Now I have to choose features. Among them, there is an option to add local channels. Representative tells me they are, in fact, available. Process my order. Fast forward--get it installed today. Installer leaves and I start flipping through my channels. All I can find are the local channels in standard definition. So I call and tell them I think I got the wrong package installed because not only are there no HD locals, I've got tons of other channels not listed in my package. After 20 minutes, the tech support lady comes back on and says HD locals are not available in my area. Um, WHAT?!? She says I could get a digital antenna, but I can't DVR them that way. Forget that....After verifying the information, she tells me that it could be next week, or it could be next year, when HD locals are added. I have the service canceled. I feel terrible for the guy that installed everything but what's the point of getting an HD-only package with no HD locals? I went back and acted like I was signing up for new service. NOWHERE does it say that this service is unavailable. Wow.....

Still getting rid of Comcast's internet though....despite AT&T going back on my modem rebate. But my desire to get off Comcast is stronger than my conviction toward AT&T's integrity in this matter. This has not been a pleasant experience overall....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Comments on Commercials

I don't watch commercials. That's the beauty of living in the DVR age. Even if I'm home, I'll wait for 15-20 minutes before watching a show. But with the Olympics, I've been forced to watch them. There's three that stand out in particular I feel compelled to provide commentary for.

1. Dish Network: As you know, I'm making the switch from Comcast to Dish. And I discovered their awesome HD-only service by their commercial. Well done!

2. McDonalds: Okay, if you've seen one of their commercials touting their new "southern style" chicken sandwich and biscuit, it should be very clear that they are targeting Chik-Fil-A. I mean even down to the two pickles. Jumping on the bandwagon a little late, aren't we Ronald?

3. Alltel: They are still pumping out the Chad vs. the other guys commercials. This latest one, featuring an RVing family, particularly attacks Verizon's "all inclusive" feature, noting that it cannot be shared by family. Um, aren't you guys merging?

Well that's all for now. Gotta get back...race just ended and they're going to commercial....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a week....

There are two days in the year that I dread the most--payment due day for the Fall semester and payment due day for the Spring semester. Wednesday was one those and as typical, it was a mad dash from the moment I walked in the door. I'll never understand why students who have months of advance notice wait and scramble right up until the deadline. It started out with 85 students receiving "impending drop" notifications. We were able to work the list down to 22, who did end up getting dropped. This was much higher than normal. (I later found out that PTC had a record drop number. Curious if it is a sign of the economy.)

In the meantime, I learn that they do not have enough instructors to cover my six sections of chemistry. They promised me last year to hire someone and that I could be a part of the interviews. Well the latter didn't happen even though the former did; however, they kept the new guy on the main campus. So I was faced with having two overload sections past my commitment to do two online sections. I called my boss to let her know and she was not happy. She went straight to the top. Long story short, I was relieved of the sections, but the solution is definitely not in the best interest of our chemistry curriculum.

In the meantime (again), my full-time faculty received new computers. Now PTC has been on the BHSLR campus for over 7 years and it has never been a problem to have them connected to the network so that we could have internet access. But all of the sudden, the IS department has decided they don't want to put computers not purchased through them on the domain. So they canceled my request. At this point I was still patient because I thought it was a misunderstanding. But I entered into frustration when it was confirmed and I was told my instructors could go to the student lounge to use the internet. I consulted the school's administrative lead and we've gone back and forth all week with IS. First it was run DSL lines from the guest network to our offices. Then it was a wireless connection option. Then it was PTC should buy computers through BH-IS (yeah right)..... Now I'm moving into the realm of anger. I have not gotten one good reason why these computers can't be added other than "we can't" and am getting the feeling they are going to disconnect the ones that are still there. Late Friday I was told they were finally going to honor my original request, but 15 minutes later, I get a call that the computers will be connected wirelessly and that I'm responsible for buying the wireless network cards (with no budget mind you). That's where we are at right now...somewhere between thinking it was done and being back to a wireless option. In the midst of trying to get a semester off the ground, this has been the single-most worst experience I have had in this job.

And that's just work. Shall I get started on all the things I have to do for church in the next several weeks?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making the Switch

I'm finally getting rid of Comcrap, er...Comcast. Years of poor cable quality and recent stories of their net neutrality-killing practices of throttling traffic to certain sites, not to mention the cost, has done them in for me.

While watching the Olympics I saw a commercial for Dish Network's new TurboHD package. I checked it out. Their lowest package (Bronze) is $29.99 and lacks 3 HD channels I have now, but adds about 12 that Comcast doesn't even have at all. I did extensive research on the weather/signal loss issue and asked plenty of people. My plan is to buy a digital "rabbit ear" device if the signal is lost for any significant amount of time due to storms. That way I'll at least always have locals, after the digital conversion Feb. 19.

I was paying somewhere around $60 for a digital package that only just allows me to also get HD service with Comcast. But that's another $15 (with DVR). So that's $75 per month for about 15 channels (because I don't watch any of the others). Their internet is about $40. All told...$135 per month.

I'm also getting AT&T's DSL service. I wanted to get the 3 meg download package (DSL Pro) but unbelievably it is not available in this area. Further bummed because they were giving the modem for free with that package. So I got on chat with a guy and said that I should get the modem for free anyway since I fully intended to get the Pro level but can't. He said he couldn't do that, so I told him I wasn't going to sign up. He went to get his manager who quickly approved the rebate for me. After an agonizing hour of trying to sign up for service--their website was having major issues--I finally got signed up. I tripled checked with him that he was sending my rebate and he assured me he would email me with all the details. Haven't gotten it yet. Gonna be pissed if I don't get that rebate. But for this service, the phone line--which I won't use a phone at all--is $11.95 and the DSL is $25. So that's about $37.

All told, with satellite and internet for about $40 each, I'm saving over $50 per month now. Sweet!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Job Update

The word is, they are going to try to take measures internally to catch up on their work load. If these measures do not work, they will post a job in December. So we're on hold until the beginning of the year.

And I think that is okay, because I'm considering picking up two more classes for some extra money. And if I did that, I would definitely have to wait until the end of the semester because I'd be locked contractually.

So maybe it's a small blessing....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Losing Control of What I Never Had Control of in the First Place

God and I spent a lot of time together this morning. I've reached a point of seeing a behavior change, which so often indicates I'm heading down the wrong direction. The key change being my patience level. When I feel like I'm losing control, I become less tolerant. And I mean EVERY area of my life: home, work, church. They are all getting away from me.

Home: my frustration and worry about Scamper's health. If you read my previous post, you'll get the details. The "drippies" have stopped, but not the full blown accidents on the floor. My prayer (which by the way I felt a little foolish about, considering the big scheme of things) was that we either find a way to give him good quality of life or that God would just take him, because I cannot make that decision.

Work: Again, read previous posts and you'll know what's going on here. I feel like I've worked it out financially, so I asked God if this is His will, or does it even matter, as long as I am obedient in my relationships with other people where ever I work and I am responsible with the resources it gives me. This is completely out of my hands now.

Church: Unofficially, I guess I've been running things for the media team for while. But a recent meeting pretty much made me the lead guy in the day-to-day doings. Since then, it seems like I just keep making bad decisions. I told a staff person that we would be more attentive to their needs, but now I'm overwhelmed by requests from them. I've got a team member who I'm trying to encourage growth out of, but can't get past insecurities of acceptance. I'm not communicating correctly with my church staff leader in charge of our team. And Sunday technical problems threaten to overwhelm me on a weekly basis. I prayed for wisdom and the skills that come with this spiritual gift of leadership, because I am still an infant in this arena.

It is good to be able to recognize the source of the problem, I think. I know exactly what it is. It is thinking that I had control in the first place. When truly, the problem is that I'm trying to wrestle control away from the One who really has it--and needs to keep it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just in case you might be the one...

I had a fun conversation with a friend last night about stuff I don't think about too much. And that is, what would be my most important aspects of a young woman I would consider marrying. Well, here they are, for the world to read.

1. Jesus. Come on, you knew the "Jesus" answer was gonna be first. But in all seriousness, what is most important to me is a woman who is mature in Christ. This is hard to qualify in words, but suffice to say, I don't want to be with someone who I am constantly having to build up. That should be a mutual compliment in a relationship. In other words, she's not on "spiritual milk" (to use Paul's words).

2. Ambition. That word can evoke positive or negative connotations, so let it be clear I mean that in a positive way, not in a tear-down-anyone-to-achieve-my-goal way. I'm talking someone who has lofty goals, perhaps that I can partner with. College educated is a definite plus.

3. Adventure. This is the category where I talk about having similar interests. Though I rarely have the opportunity now, partnered with someone, I like the idea of driving two hours to see a musical or vacationing at an amusement park or going camping (real camping, mind you...not "living in a building in the woods"). Or the flip side, can be classy and sophisticated (if that's the right word) when the occasion calls for it. Things that "build the team" as it were.

Please post your resume in comments. (That's a joke, by the way.)