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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Incompetent Customer Service Louts At Spectrum

We are one of the few households that have kept our landline and we also have Internet/WiFi from the phone company, CenturyTel. 
     Our cable is provided by Spectrum. For the most part we have had little reason to complain about their cable TV service and when we have had a problem, up to now, the customer service reps have done a pretty decent job of correcting the issue. 
     The other day when our phone bill came in there was a significant jump in the cost, $30 per month! A call to the phone company revealed that we had been on some kind of promotional program that expired, hence the increase. This lead to a call to Spectrum on Tuesday afternoon to make an inquiry about bundling Internet, phone and cable. 
     The frustration began almost immediately with a 20 minute wait to talk to a rep and when she finally came on the line I explained that I was seeking information about pricing for bundling everything. 
     Frustration mounted as she began complaining that she was having computer problems and kept putting me on hold. I should have hung up and called back instead of waiting patiently. My total time on the phone was about 80 minutes, but the lady finally got me the information I was seeking. 
     The next morning I had an additional technical question and so called Spectrim back. After 20 minutes on hold some guy came on and that’s when I found out the rep I talked to the day before had actually signed me up for Internet and Wifi! 
     I was furious and told the rep that it had been made clear to the lady I was making an inquiry only and never authorized her to sign me up for anything. This guy stated, “No problem” and said because the work order hadn’t gone through he would just cancel it. Problem solved...or so I thought.
     Wednesday evening we sat down to watch some television and discovered most of the channels were no longer available. Now, we have three cable boxes (family room, bedroom and library) and only one box was working...the others were disconnected! 
     Another call to Spectrum and a long hold. I explained the problem and requested that my service and programming be restored to what it was prior to the SNAFU of Tuesday. The snot nose, idiotic jerk told me there wasn’t anything he could do because our service was under a grandfather clause with Time-Warner and he added haughtily, "They don’t exist anymore, you know."
     When I informed him I don’t care, that’s not my problem because it was a screw up by a Spectrum employee and I wanted to speak to somebody with some authority to correct the problem.
     That's when he transferred me to their “Retention Department.” Let me guess. If your company has a Retention Department there must be a problem retaining customers. I was on hold for 50 minutes.
      My wife was convinced the guy had just put me on ignore and so called customer service from her cell phone. After about 10 minutes she was connected to some woman to whom my wife patiently explained the problem.  This woman was so snotty and rude my wife hung up on her.
     In the meantime, after a 50 minute hold a lady named Maria came on and I explained what happened. Finally I got somebody that was nice, sympathetic and very helpful. 
     First, she turned on all three of our cable boxes. Then she politely explained that she could not restore us to the same package that we had, but she could give us a package that was similar plus a few extra channels. I advised her that I had no intention of paying more money for this "similar package" than I had been for the old package. She assured me that I would not and it was, in fact, a few dollars a month cheaper. 
     While checking to make sure all three cable boxes were, in fact, turned on, I asked her if she knew who the culprit was that had totally screwed up our service. She said she did and she had sent an e-mail to her supervisor. I hope that part is true. We all have made mistakes on our jobs, but the lady I originally dealt with was unprofessional and her performance was nothing short of incompetent. And, except for Maria the other service reps were turds.
     Finally, around 11 o’clock at night everything was back to pretty much normal. Then this morning my wife handed me the phone and said Spectrum was asking for me. When I took the phone I accidentally hung up on them and they never called back...no e-mails either. 
     Later when I checked for mail I discovered a huge package that FedEx had delivered...it was a modem from Spectrum! I am holding on to it until I am sure they didn’t charge me for it. If they didn’t I will drive it over to the Spectrum office across town and return it. 
      Good help is hard to find and I hope Spectrum keeps Maria because she was the one bright spot in this whole mess. However, the whole incident makes me leery of bundling our cable, Wifi and Internet with them!

FOLLOWUP:  On Friday, July 31, I received a call from Spectrum following up on my recent purchase. When I informed the caller that I did not make any purchase, but had made nothing more than an inquiry, I got no further...I was listening to a dial tone; the caller hing up on me. Revenge for when I hung up on them by accident?!  Clowns! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Let’s Listen a Little To Elizabeth Cotten

    Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten (January 5, 1893 – June 29, 1987) was an blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter. 
     A self-taught left-handed guitarist, she developed her own original style and played a guitar strung for a right-handed player, but played it upside down. Her signature style has become known as "Cotten picking". 
     She was born into a musical family near Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she was the youngest of five children. She named herself on her first day of school when the teacher asked her name because at home she was only called "Li'l Sis." 
     At age 7, she began to play her older brother's banjo and by the age of 8, she was playing songs. At age 9, she was forced to quit school and began work as a domestic. At the age of 11, after scraping together some money, she bought her own guitar, a Sears and Roebuck brand instrument that cost $3.75 (equivalent to $107 in 2019). Although self-taught, she became proficient at playing it and her repertoire included a large number of rags and dance tunes. 
     By her early teens, she was writing her own songs, one of which, "Freight Train", became one of her most recognized. She wrote the song in remembrance of a nearby train that she could hear from her childhood home.  
     Around the age of 13 she began working as a maid along with her mother. On November 7, 1910, at the age of 17, she married Frank Cotten. And soon after her daughter was born she gave up guitar playing for family and church. 
     The family moved around the eastern US for a number of years, finally settling in the Washington, DC area. After her daughter married, she got divorced and moved in with her daughter and her family. 
     Except for occasional church performances she didn’t play the guitar for 25 years and did not begin performing publicly and recording until she was in her 60s. She was discovered by the folk-singing Seeger family while she was working for them as a housekeeper. 
     While working as a maid for Ruth and Charles Seeger, she picked up a guitar and relearned to play it, almost from scratch. In the early 1960s, she went on to play concerts with some of the big names in the burgeoning folk revival. Some of these included Mississippi John  Hurt (see my post HERE), John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. 
     Using profits from her touring, record releases and awards given to her for her own contributions to the folk arts, she was able to move with her daughter and grandchildren from Washington, DC and buy a house in Syracuse, New York. She continued touring and releasing records well into her 80s. She died in June 1987, at Crouse-Irving Hospital in Syracuse, New York, at the age of 94.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pinhole Glasses

     I saw an ad the other day for a pair of “pinhole” glasses which look like sunglasses with tiny holes. The claim was wearing them 15-20 minutes a day could permanently improve eyesight rather than just correct it. Additionally,
 they also help relieve eye strain, fatigue and headaches. 
     These claims are, naturally, disputed by Optometrists which says the claims are unsubstantiated. 
     There's no doubt that while they are being worn, pinhole glasses make for a clearer image, but what happens is similar to what happens when one squints. The glasses (and squinting) artificially makes the pupils smaller and reduces the amount of light getting through. 
     This pinhole effect has been known about for centuries and pinhole glasses are used by optometrists as a sight aid where conventional glasses cannot help, in the case of a scarred cornea, for example. But they are not normally used where prescription glasses can be used, because they cut down on light, and cannot give as clear an image. 
     Squinting helps a little bit with the clarity of vision because it changes the shape of the eyes. However, the main optical principle at work is called the pinhole effect. Squinting creates the same effect as looking through a pinhole...only a small amount of focused central light rays are allowed into the eye. This prevents the unfocused light rays in the periphery from reaching the retina which results in slightly better vision. 
     In the case of eye injuries resulting in blurry vision the pinhole test is very helpful. The patient looks through a small eye cover containing many tiny pinholes. If the vision improves it is unlikely that the blurred vision is related to an eye injury. It is more likely to be an existing vision problem that can be corrected by glasses. If the blurry vision does not improve through the pinholes then injury is more likely to be the problem. 
     Manufacturers argue that pinhole glasses have a more permanent effect. They say normal glasses encourage the eyes to become lazy, but pinhole glasses encourage the eye muscles to become stronger thereby pulling the lens into the correct shape. The theory is that the eye can be made to adapt to its environment and can be encouraged to change shape towards normal. 
     They claim improvements can be made within a few weeks in the case of those who use reading glasses and within a few months in the case of those with distance lenses. 
     The traditional view is that poor sight is for the most part genetic and is caused by the eye being too short or too long so that the image is focused either behind or in front of the retina. Optometrists say there is little evidence that muscle exercises of any kind will help poor sight. 
     When it comes to vision self-diagnosis is inadvisable. Optometrists also advise that walking round wearing pinhole glasses could be dangerous and warn they should never be worn while driving. 
     Who is right? There have been no clinical trials on the effect of pinhole glasses on permanent vision and all evidence is so far anecdotal. Manufacturers claim that optometrists are reluctant to carry out experiments. 
    In spite of the opinions of professionals, manufacturers try to sell pinhole glasses by making claims that they will permanently improve your vision, but the reality is that while the pinhole effect does clarify your vision, it has no lasting or long term effect. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed lawsuits against companies to ban these false claims all the way back in 1993.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Air Conditioner Compressor Delay Feature

   With the temperature in the mid-90s the last several days (unusual for this part of the country) our air conditioner has been getting a workout. When we returned home last night I turned the thermostat down two degrees, but the air did not come on and an icon on the thermostat was flashing. (Each thermostat model has a different display message when a delay occurs). 
     I had no idea what the problem was and had to check the operating instructions that came with the thermostat. The problem was that, unknown to me, the air conditioner had shut off less than five minutes before we returned and when I lowered the temperature setting the compressor delay feature was activated. Most modern air conditioners have a 5 minute time delay for the compressor to start to keep it from short cycling. 
     When a compressor, or any motor, starts it has a high amp draw in the first few seconds that it starts using the start winding in the motor. For example: When the compressor starts, the amp draw is 165 amps for 2 seconds on the start winding. Compressor rpms are above what the start winding requires to operate, so the compressor motor then switches to operating mode, utilizing the run winding, which draws considerably less amperage, say 12 amps. 
     If the compressor turns itself on and off repeatedly (known as short cycling) due to a malfunction (low refrigerant, for example) then the compressor draws high amperage on every startup until either it burns out or its thermal limit switch is activated. The thermal limit switch opens and closes to control the flow of current in response to temperature change and it will cut off the current if a temperature limit is exceeded preventing potential burn out or failure.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Uncured Bacon

     I've given you the scoop on bacon before (use the search bar to the right to find them), but the latest thing I have seen in supermarkets is "uncured" bacon.
    What is that, I wondered? It sounds like it would be bad for you, like unpasteurized milk or raw eggs or under cooked meat. But then again maybe it's a healthy alternative to bacon cured with chemical preservatives.
     It turns out uncured bacon is a cheap marketing trick designed to dupe consumers into thinking they are getting something special and extra healthy. Need it be mentioned that the uncured bacon will also cost a little more?
     Nutrition experts have for years attempted to clarify the difference between cured and uncured bacon. As Americans become more concerned about how their meat is raised and processed, uncured bacon sounds like the healthy alternative that avoids nitrites and nitrates which preserve meat and keep spoilage bacteria from developing. 
     But, uncured bacon is a myth, or perhaps a better description is an outright lie. "Uncured" bacon is in fact cured, but using celery derivatives rather than sodium nitrite. Look at the ingredients - celery-derived ingredients are sometimes listed as celery juice or celery powder. 
    But, isn't the nitrite molecule from celery different, or more healthy? No, the molecule is the same, no matter its source. And, in fact, uncured bacon can sometimes contain higher levels of nitrites than conventionally cured bacon.
     Is it possible to buy truly uncured bacon? Yes, if you can find a small local butcher who cures their own bacon using just salt, brown sugar and spices. They put the mixture on the bacon for ten days then rinse it off and smoke the bacon. Bacon made this way won’t last quite as long or look as pinkish as what you see in the grocery store, but it still cooks and tastes like bacon. 
     Bottom line: cured and uncured bacon from the grocery store are virtually the same thing.