Chatting with Comcast, Who Still Honestly Hopes I’m Fine

Oh, Comcast, you crack me up. You are so close to achieving world domination and want to ensure no one is pissed off about it. While I don’t like you encroaching on every aspect of my technological existence, I don’t have any issues with my Internet service. It’s working quite well and I appreciate that. So you can imagine how puzzled I was when your CSR posted this paragraph at the beginning of our live chat today.

I always remain committed and focused to provide you quality customer service at my fullest effort. Before anything else, I want to extend apologies for any trouble, inconvenience and frustration any issue has brought along your way. I still honestly hope you’re fine. No worries. As your service representative today, I want you to know that your satisfaction is of my topmost priority and I assure you that we can resolve this issue together on this chat by today.

I still honestly hope you’re fine, too, Comcast. No worries. Really. Honestly.

At the tone the time will be…

Remember the days when you’d have to call a phone number to get the local time? When there was a power outage in my neighborhood, and all the clocks that required electricity needed resetting, I’d be the one assigned the task of setting the clocks. The number was 844-1212 (the first two numbers were T and I, short for time – clever, eh?) and the voice always sounded the same: a clear female voice, precise without being sharp or harsh on any consonants, dialect- and accent-free. If I was really bored sometimes I’d call the time and stay on the line until the minute changed. She never skipped a beat.

Seems most local phone companies have fired the Time Lady, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise, considering the prevalence of cell phones and computers. Shame, really, because the Time Lady was a constant in my life growing up and it was a comfort to know that if everything else seemed to be going wrong – shuttles exploding, walls crumbling, people dying in coups and earthquakes and hurricanes – she was still there, patiently announcing the time as if she had all the time in the world. Which she did.

I just checked to see if that number for the time still works in my hometown. It rang once, then the Time Lady answered my call as polite as ever, with a “good morning” and announcing that it was 11:38, exactly. I’m still smiling, and, to be honest, tearing up a little.

My Own World Series

Being a baseball fan, and having recently adopted the San Francisco Giants as my new team (from the National League, that is; I’ll always be a Baltimore Orioles fan), I watched the last two games of the 2010 World Series and had a blast rooting for the Giants. Nothing like seeing a team who wasn’t on anyone’s radar as even making it to the Series actually win.

As for me, I’ve got my own World Series going on…with technology. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know all about my mutant ways and how electronics will crap out on me or give me fits, especially when I am angry or really stressed out. (Type “mutant” in the search tool and see what pops up. Or call T-Wizzle. She’ll fill you in.) The last scorecard I could find was from 2007, and while much has happened since then, with computers and monitors and phones, I’ll pick up the score from here.

Last we heard the score was Technology 3, Moxie 2. The last three hours have been particularly rough:

my desktop PC keeps crashing. It’s going along fine, I’m happily watching “Modern Family” and then BLAM! The computer shuts down. After doing a little research I think it’s freaking out over all the USB devices plugged into it, so I’ll try unplugging and re-plugging everything in, see what happens.

My food steamer appears to have died. I like to use the steamer for rice, since it’s one less pot on the stove. Tonight I decided to have chickpea curry with jasmine rice for dinner. I plugged in the steamer, filled the rice bowl and the water reservoir according to the instructions, set the timer, and went about making the curry. When the time was up, the rice was still sitting in about 1/4 inch of water and the water level in the reservoir hadn’t gone down at all. I noticed the light to indicate the steamer is working didn’t come on, either. I ended up putting the rice in a pot and cooking it for 10 minutes on the stove – turned out fine but I am sad about the death of what has been a fabulous food steamer. I’ve cooked chicken pieces, shrimp, potatoes and vegetables using the steamer, and it’s been so awesome for rice. Guess it’s time to buy a new one.

These two incidents bring the score to Technology 5, Moxie 2. Might be time to put in a pinch hitter.

Reason #223 Why I Love My iPhone

I am writing this post from my iPhone, using the WordPress application. Oh man, this is hot…I can review and approve comments, write posts, add images. I love it when technology works and looks so damn beautiful.

And it will let me go back and edit posts too. Sadly I am having a hard time publishing photos. Hmm.

Back in the Blogging Groove – Well, for an Hour, Anyway

It’s been about a month since I updated the blog with any news on my life, and people are starting to ask questions. Now that I’m comfortably ensconced at Starbucks with a vanilla latte and a company laptop (more on that in a moment), I feel inspired to post again.

Work: I am still enjoying my job immensely, even when it makes me nutty. The drama that comes up is manageable and often quite humorous. One of my clients is about to launch a website, and setting up demos and interviews has been fun yet challenging. In the process I’ve learned a lot from my boss about the art of delicately negotiating coverage and handling excitable clients who want results yesterday.

I now have an account coordinator that reports to me. Learning how to be middle management without being a micromanaging tool has also been challenging. For years I wanted to be a manager and now that I’m in that role, I find management to be way overrated. Not only do I have to do my work, I have to make sure that she’s keeping busy, understands her tasks and deadlines, etc. It’s more than a notion.

Several of my colleagues read the blog now, and I’m realizing even more how I need to be very clear on what I’m willing to blog and what I need to keep to myself. It’s in my nature to be an open book, so self-editing feels somewhat unnatural. I keep reminding myself that if I can’t say it out loud, I’m not allowed to blog about it.

That being said, there’s a lot of venting and bitching I’d like to do publicly but I don’t want to offend anyone or get myself into trouble. Mainly my venting has to do with generational differences in work ethic, attitude and overall outlook on life. I remember behaving the same way as my younger colleagues not so long ago, so it’s easier to be empathetic and realize they will have to get some hard knocks before it’s clear as to what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. At times, though, I want to call up former employers and supervisors and apologize for being such an arrogant little shit.

Life: My long commute and work hours sometimes render me comatose. Yesterday it wasn’t until 7 p.m. that I finally got showered and dressed. I’m recognizing more and more the necessity of work/life balance, and I’m looking more into what technology I can use to help me achieve some balance (more on that in a minute). I also have an order in for some liquid vitamin supplement thingy so that may help too. I try to get out and socialize with friends and attend Meetups as much as I can without overtaxing myself, and I’ve been forcing myself to get away from my desk for at least 30 minutes at lunchtime, just so I have a chance to clear my head and decompress.

Love: For the past few months, I’ve been spending time with Peter*, a warm, funny, kind man who has been very patient with me and my occasional bouts of mistrust and panic over “where is this going???” He reads the blog and provides commentary to me, and questions the need for blogs in general. Sometimes that makes my head explode, but for the most part I am amused by his comments. I enjoy his company and do my best to respect his privacy, so you won’t see much about him on the blog.

Technology: As part of my ongoing attempt to feel balanced between life and work, I’m embracing a bit more convergence in my technology. I’m borrowing a laptop from work – an IBM Thinkpad that is actually quite fast and uses XP, thank god – and I just bought a first-generation iPhone from a friend who upgraded to the 3G model. I’ve set up accounts with I Want Sandy, the virtual personal assistant who sends you email, text message and Twitter reminders when you have crap to get done; Zenbe, a web-based email aggregator; and FriendFeed, a service that makes it easy to track all my social networks. I just picked up a new SIM card from AT&T prior to coming to Starbucks, so here’s hoping that the process of getting the iPhone fired up and working goes smoothly. I do need to update the Technology/Moxie scoreboard as there have been some amusing incidents recently.

I’ve got a few web things in the works…a new blog, an upgrade to Girl with Moxie, and some other fun stuff. So stay tuned and follow me on Twitter if you’re so inclined.

Time to Celebrate!

Great news, kids! I got the dream job! I’m going to be working as an account executive for a PR firm. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years and now it’s finally happening. And the cool part is that the firm specializes in technology, so I’ll get paid to stay up on the cool toys, websites, and blogs. I must focus to keep…my superpowers…under…control…

On another happy note, T-Wizzle’s job offer came through as well. She’s moving from adjunct teaching to a full-time professorship in marketing at a community college. It still amuses me to think of her as a professor, because she has way too much fashion sense and pop culture savvy to fit the stereotype. She’s goddamn genius level when it comes to marketing and I owe a lot of my knowledge about branding, marketing, and PR to her. I only wish she lived closer so we could celebrate our new jobs together.

Thanks, everyone, for all your positive comments and support over the last couple of months. You have helped lift me up when I really needed it. I’m putting good vibes out there for all of you as well.

Now go forth and party!

(I would have posted “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, but YouTube and Universal Music Group won’t let me. Oh well, this is another feel-good song.)

Friday’s Hot Tip: Technology

When you’re on a tight budget, shopping can really be a pain in the ass. Not only do you need to track which grocery store has the best deals on meat, eggs, and cheese, you also have to remember what exactly you need to buy at the store without falling prey to impulse buys. (I know all about this, trust me. Many times the Little Debbie display has called to me, saying “Oh Moxie, the Swiss Cake Rolls are soooo very delicious, don’t you want a box? What about my Nutty Bars, hmm?” And who can resist a little girl offering you cookies? This is how Girl Scouts stay in business.) Sure, writing down a list is good, but tracking actual dollar amounts and doing comparison shopping can get a bit complicated.

Enter SplashShopper, a list manager program from our dear friends at SplashData, makers of SplashID (which I previously reviewed here). SplashShopper makes tracking what you need and how much it is to get what you need very easy and fun. Available for use on Palm OS, Windows, and Mac platforms, SplashShopper comes with 9 pre-installed lists for groceries, books, and movies, which you can easily modify to reflect your preferences. You can set everything up on your desktop computer and then sync it with your mobile device so that once you hit the stores, you have all your lists ready for review.

There are two things I really like about SplashShopper:

  1. The price tracking feature. Let’s say you want to do some price comparison on a set of margarita glasses. This program will let you set it up to track prices by store by merely checking a box on the List Info pop-up window. Once you add the margarita glasses to your list, select “Multiple” on the Store drop-down menu, then add all the stores you want to check – Pier 1, Cost Plus World Market, etc. When you’ve gotten the prices at each store, you add them to the Price field on the Multiple Store window. This makes it so much easier to find the best deal.
  2. The Needs List. Yes, we all have needs, but there are some things we need more than others, right? For every list you set up, whether it’s a Packing List or Groceries, there are two tabs: All and Need. Everything that you’ve put into that particular list is included on the All tab. When you’re ready to go shop, you click on the items you need to purchase and the items are marked with a cute little icon, like a shopping cart on Groceries or a shirt on the Clothes list (you can change the icons if you don’t actually think they’re cute). Go to the Need tab and there is your shopping list – you can see only the items you need for that specific shopping trip.

There are many other things to love about SplashShopper, though. How about the fact that you can beam items from your mobile device to someone else’s? This could be really handy when you are double-teaming the local supermarket, or if you want to share your birthday wish list with your technologically astute friend (yeah, T-Wizzle, I’m talking about you). You can customize the display to show only certain columns, you can create QuickLists for when you have repeat shopping performances (for a specific recipe, perhaps), and it will wash your dishes. Nah, I’m just joking about the last one, but if anyone knows of a program that will do this, let me know.

All in all I highly recommend SplashShopper. It’s a great way to keep on top of the details without turning everything into a major shopping trip, which makes Pops’ head explode. And nobody wants that. My grade: A

The Middle Name Meme

I got up this morning to discover I’ve been tagged by the infamous Beth at Cup of Coffey to participate in a meme. What makes this one a little challenging is that the meme requires me to use a middle name, and not only do I not have a middle name anymore in the real world, I also want to keep my name, as well as the names of my loved ones, anonymous (or at least the semblance thereof). That being said, I do want to participate, so I figure there are a few ways I could go about doing this:

  1. Use the maiden name of a woman in my family tree.
  2. Use “With”, since that’s my middle name on this blog.
  3. Use the middle name I was given at birth.

I think I’ll go with #1, since #3 is too short to offer any sort of interesting response (my former middle name was Rae), and #2 is just too corny and I’m leaning more toward zany practicality than wacky humor this morning.

Here be the Rules:

1. Post the rules before you give your answers.

2. List one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother’s maiden name.

3. At the end of your blog post, tag one person (or blogger of another species) for each letter of your middle name. Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged.

I never got the chance to know my maternal grandmother, as she died of breast cancer when Momcat was a teenager. In her honor, I’ll use her maiden name, which was Trask.

T: When I am upset or stressed out, I have a tendency to render technology ineffective. Long-time readers of my blog are familiar with my score-keeping. I’ve had challenges with computer monitors (I’ve had about 3 or 4 monitors die on me, which T-Wizzle finds baffling), printers, my DVD player/recorder, Palm TX, and MP3 player; cell phones; software programs; Internet access; and a host of other products. Someday, this superpower will enable me to take over the world, or at least bring global e-commerce to a grinding halt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

R: While rebellious wouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind when describing myself, I definitely do act the rebel at times. I have been known to do things just because someone said I couldn’t or shouldn’t. Some positive examples of this are:

  • My high school world history teacher told me that it was hard to get an A in the American history teacher’s class. I said, “Watch me,” and for 3 out of 4 grading periods, I got As in American history. (One quarter I was distracted by a part-time job. Once I quit, I had more time to study and got As again.)
  • My former editor said I’d never get tickets to see Spamalot while in New York for a trade show. Again I said, “Watch me.” I sat in line for nearly 6 hours and got 8th row orchestra seats. I grinned the whole way through and brought my editor back a t-shirt.

I’m waiting for the day when the right person challenges me to lose weight or publish my novel. King Kong ain’t got shit on me! Bring it on!

A: Ever since I was little, I’ve been interested in acting. Back east, I was in my high school’s drama club and performed in a couple readers’ theatre productions with Pops. I’ll admit that part of my motivation for moving to LA was that I wanted to become a famous actress. The thing is, you actually have to work at doing that, and I was always too insecure about my looks & weight to make it happen. I wanted to just show up and become famous. I admire comedians who are super-talented at improvisation, so I’d like to take improv classes at some point. Then who knows? I could finally bite the bullet and really give acting a shot.

S: I have never been one to fear for my personal safety. I have been in some dicey neighborhoods and suspicious places, but I have never felt threatened or scared. I’ve been cautious, sure, and I’ll use my intuition to avoid putting myself in uncomfortable situations. But I feel it’s all about attitude, and I am so freakin’ arrogant that I cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to do harm to me. I’ve said several times that I would walk naked through Watts just to make a point – which goes back to that rebellious thing again. Because of my attitude I have a hard time empathizing with people, especially women, about safety issues. My belief is that fear is the biggest bully you can ever encounter, yet all it takes is one hearty yell to make fear run for the hills.

K: I love singing karaoke. I’ve been doing it since I moved to CA over 7 years ago, starting with a piano bar where the average age of the clientele was 68. Those old folks were so supportive and excited to hear a thirty-something singing old standards, so it gave me the courage to branch out and go to more karaoke joints. The place where I went regularly has gotten more ghetto-tastic, so I’m going to new spots that have a wide variety of songs. I even have a spreadsheet on my Palm TX for tracking songs by venue, but I have yet to buy my own karaoke CDs and bring them with me when I go sing. My favorite artists to cover at karaoke include Journey, Amy Winehouse, Garbage, Heart, Maroon 5, Olivia Newton-John, Britney Spears, Sarah McLachlan…and the hits just keep on comin’.

And now for the tagging of others (links to completed memes are in green):

Staci at Laughing Mommy (because she is my cousin and she loves me, plus it’s payback for the taser Superpoke on Facebook last week)
Arianne at Daily Llama (because she likes memes)
Gifted Typist at Gifted Typist (because she’s cool and I like her writing)
Splotchy at I, Splotchy (because no-meme month is over)
Beckeye at The Pop Eye (because she loves ONJ as much as me, if not more)

Friday’s Hot Tip: Technology

I haven’t had a working cell phone since the beginning of January, which initially caused me a great deal of stress. Now just looking at what I owe AT&T causes stress…but that’s not the point here. Since I’d given up my home phone and gone mobile-only, I was outta luck for arranging job interviews, coordinating outings with friends, and checking in with Momcat and Pops. I think it was T-Wizzle who suggested I look into Internet phones – it would be logical that she would make this suggestion, as she is the most techno-savvy friend I have. Everyone should have their own T-Wizzle, and I’m sure she would agree. She’s just that kind of girl. Be sure to lock up your good whiskey before she comes over, though. But I digress.

I am a big user of Yahoo Messenger, so I looked into Yahoo Voice for making Internet phone calls. There are two components to Yahoo Voice: Phone Out and Phone In. With Phone Out, you can make calls from your computer to any phone number worldwide for incredibly low rates. Within the United States, it’s one cent a minute. Yes, I said one cent. For my Canadian readers, it’s one cent per minute for you as well. Got friends in Swaziland? Giving ’em a ring will cost you 12 cents a minute. What about a call to Down Under? One minute will set you back about 0.018 cents. The beauty of the Phone Out setup is that there are no setup fees; if you have a PC, an Internet connection, and Yahoo Messenger (which is free to download and use), you’re ready to make calls. At the end of January I bought $10 worth of minutes…and as of March 7, I have $7.67 left. Anyone that knows me in the real world knows that I can talk and chatter for days, so for me to have such a high credit balance is pretty amazing. Either that or I’ve been pretty closemouthed…nah, not possible.

Being able to call out is all fine and good, but in my situation I needed a phone number where I could be reached as well. That’s where Yahoo Voice’s Phone In becomes very handy. For a fee of $2.99 per month (or $2.49 per month if you pay for 12 months in advance), you can get a phone number that rings at your computer. For U.S. users, you get to choose from a wide selection of area codes and phone numbers. Through Yahoo’s Phone In, I finally got a number in one of the most desirable area codes in L.A., so I feel like one of the cool kids. Again, the Phone In service works with Yahoo Messenger, so anywhere you’re on the Internet and you’re on Yahoo Messenger, you can receive calls. Don’t feel like answering? Let the call go to voicemail. And if by some crazy chance you’re not online, any incoming calls will go to voicemail.

Which leads me to the one drawback with this service: you can’t customize your voicemail greeting. That is, I couldn’t find anything on Yahoo Voice’s website to tell me how to do this. My guess is that this capability will come in the next version or so, because as everyone knows, you can’t stop progress. You can’t stop the beat, either, but again, I digress.

“But what about the sound quality, Moxie?” I hear you ask. Well, my friends, the sound quality is excellent. I live on a busy street and sometimes I have to jack up the volume in order to hear everything, but everyone I have talked to via Yahoo Voice has said the sound was crystal clear and distortion free. The only time I had issues with distortion was when I talked to Deena, my friend who lives in the sticks on the East Coast and has some cell phone issues to begin with.

So if you’re looking to set up a business line on the cheap, or you want to make some long distance phone calls without spending a ton of money, put your miked headset to work and buy some time on Yahoo Voice. In fact, the first 4 people that e-mail me (see address on the sidebar) will get hooked up with free minutes on Yahoo Voice, so you can try it for yourself. Check it!