Originally uploaded by xadrian.
I got a call yesterday from my mom. Shortly after exercise class, my grandma suffered a massive stroke. She was kept on life support for a short while until it was determined the damage was irreparable. She died around 7pm last night. She was 87.

After 37 years, I don't think I truly knew her and that's the worst part about her death for me. I don't mourn like other people. I try to be supportive for those left behind and I try to remind them of what the deceased was like in life. Personally I try to imagine what I'd like to see people do when I die as though I were looking in on them from beyond the veil and I can tell you I don't want to see them sad. I want them to remember me and say how awesome I was, so that's what I do for people.

My grandma was awesome.

First of all, she put up with an artist for 57 years. My grandpa Joe died in 2003 and he was a great artist, but I can see them being at odds over a great many things, especially early in their lives. My grandma saw WWII, the building AND tearing down of the Berlin Wall. She was alive for 17 Olympic games. She saw Kennedy's assassination, the first man on the moon, the first man in space, and Pearl Harbor.

What I don't know about her is what she did during all this time. I'm sure I'll find out from my family, but all I know is that at one point she worked as a banker. She raised three kids, two of which had kids of their own. She had to drive my grandpa around because he didn't have a license until late in their lives. She always made dinner for Christmas eve and it was usually delicious. (I say usually not to be mean, but there were times as a kid when I couldn't get through the adult dishes.)

I know her family came from a long line of German and Irish citizenry. Her family line was Ganley and Rueves. She has family in Minnesota and I've always made fun of the fact that they all listen to or have been mentioned on Prairie Home Companion. Once about 15 years ago, she bummed a cigarette from me and my brother as we were outside smoking. (I probably shouldn't tell my mom that one.)

Ms. A said to me "...the Jedi just don't feel death as a great sadness." This is very true for me. I have been devastated before, I have been sad and depressed. I feared the loss of my kids to the point of bawling for hours. But when someone dies, I don't have the same reaction. My grandma died quickly, apparently painlessly. She'd lead a good long life with as many hardships and joys as anyone could need. I don't feel sad she's gone, I feel happy that I knew her when she was alive. I'm grateful she gave birth to my mom.

I'm not real happy about that cigarette though, sneaky "ex-smoker." :-)

Carry on.


Tech Support

I believe ISPs find out my job title and spend extra support time with me just to see how long it takes for me to snap.

Something in the way I call in must say to the tier one specialist, "I work with computer systems and network equipment all day.  If possible, please speak to me as though I know nothing."

I'm trying to set up an internet account at TG's apartment.  She already has cable for free but no internet.  I volunteered to have it in my name and get it all set up.  Time Warner had a special so I called.  After paying a deposit (don't ask) we got the equipment for a self install.  It's super easy and stupid if you don't.  You get the cable from the wall to the modem, modem get your network cable to the wireless router, done.  Some times you'll need to configure your wireless but that's a different story and there's easy software for that.  The communication between the wall, the modem and the wireless should be a no-brainer, unless there's a problem.

And there usually is.  Why?  Because I work in IT, so there will be a problem.

I get everything connected and of course it doesn't work.  Laptop sees the wireless, but gets no outside connectivity.  (I hate saying "I don't have the Internet" or "I can't connect to the Internet."  It's semantics but it drives me nuts.  Sadly it's the only thing even level 1 support people understand.)  I'm unable to reach outside addresses.  After doing the regular troubleshooting on my own I call support.

First thing is they can't find my account.  I'm already tweaked about the connectivity, now I'm double spiked about the account info.  Finally they are able to find it and it's because a different phone number was listed.  I called from my work number and despite giving them my cell number as the MAIN ACCOUNT number, they put in my work number anyway.  Okay, sorted, no problem.  Now let's look at this problem.

Can see your modem from where you are?

I'm going to stop and say that I understand why tech support people do this.  I'm sure there's a large slice of the pie chart that leaves things unplugged, loosely connected, soaking in the fish tank, set on fire or otherwise unable to function.  I'm not them, but I don't know how to tell them without making me look like a PowerDouche 4500.  So after trying to explain my circumstance and what I've already done, I just shut up and let them read their script.

Yes I see the small black box with the flashing green lights.

Okay I've checked all the connections.

Yes it's plugged in.

No oddly after those three steps I still can't get to the Interwebs.

The first guy at the local Time Warner office here in Austin, was nice enough though I had a feeling he was on the 9pm to 6am shift for a reason.  After running 2 hours of trouble shooting (mostly involved with me rebooting my laptop, which takes 59 minutes each time) he decides it's a software problem.  It may also be the memory.  And you should try taking the battery out and tightening all the screws.


Okay thanks dude.

I give up for the night because my head hurts from all the dumb.  The next day is too busy and we aren't done till late so I don't even try.  Today at lunch I get on chat because I mainly want to find out what's wrong with my account and why they can't find it.  I had no intention of troubleshooting mainly because I didn't think anything would come of it.  I'd already resigned myself to calling for a tech to come out or just bring the modem back to the local office and get a replacement.  But, while I was on the Time Warner Grand Help Chat You Save Time, Go Fun! I decided to actually mention my problem.  Here's what follows (edited for personal information.)

Jennie Jones:    Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable. At the end of our chat you will be given the option of taking a brief survey. My name is Jennie. Please give me a moment while I access your account.
Jennie Jones:    Hello!
Jennie Jones:    Thank you for waiting.
Ben_:    sure thing
Jennie Jones:    You would like to know whether we provide service in your area. Correct?
Ben_:    No, I would like to make sure my account exists.  I signed up for service, got a self install kit, and it doesn't work.  When I call or email for support, I'm told my account doesn't exist.
Ben_:    So I'd like to find out why, maybe get an account number, and possibly set up a trouble ticket.
Jennie Jones:    Thank you for the information.
Jennie Jones:    I understand your concern.
Jennie Jones:    It'll be my pleasure to direct you to the right support in order to get this done for you.
Jennie Jones:    Since, I belong to the technical chat support for Time Warner Cable video services, we do not have access to check the status of the new order for the services.
Jennie Jones:    I would appreciate if you would contact our sales team at 512-485-5555 or 1-800-418-8848, as they are specially equipped to handle this type of request.
Jennie Jones:    The working hours are from, 7:30am - 9pm Monday -Saturday and 9:45am-9pm on Sundays.
Ben_:    So you can't look up my account?
Jennie Jones:    Let me try once again.
Jennie Jones:
May I know the account holder's full name, please?
Ben_:    Ben Rollman
Jennie Jones:    Thank you.
Jennie Jones:    May I have the complete address associated with the account, please?
Ben_:    (address)
Jennie Jones:    Thank you for the information.
Jennie Jones:    May I have the PIN on the account?  The PIN is a 4-digit number that was selected by you and it allows me to authenticate that you are an authorized account user. You are required to provide your PIN for all issues needing account information.
Ben_:    (pin) (by the way, it's not pin number)
Jennie Jones:    Thank you for the verification.
Jennie Jones:    Your account number is (numbers).
Ben_:    excellent
Jennie Jones:    I appreciate your patience and understanding.
Ben_:    Is your support for only TV?
Ben_:    You said video.
Jennie Jones:    I mention, Cable video services, which means cable service.
Ben_:    Okay, not road runner then, right?
Ben_:    Not that it matters, I wouldn't be able to chat with you if we started troubleshooting anyway. :)
Jennie Jones:    May I know you need assistance with which services?
Ben_:    When I call the local number, are there options for tech support?  Last time I called the local 485-5555 number I was then transfered to Austin as though I'd called a HQ number.  But I just called the local number.
Ben_:    Sorry, I have a cable modem, I'm not able to connect from multiple devices.  I've called a couple times and have been told it's a software issue.  It can't be.  If you have it, I could use some upper level help.
Ben_:    So, internet services.
Jennie Jones:    Thank you for the information.
Jennie Jones:    It seems that this issue needs to be escalated to National Road Runner support. We will transfer you to that support group.
Jennie Jones:    One moment please, while I connect you to our National Road Runner support.
Jennie Jones:    Again, my name is Jennie.  Thank you for chatting with Time Warner Cable.  We value you as a customer and are here to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Jennie Jones:    Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst
Irina:    Hello! Thank you for choosing Road Runner Internet Technical Chat Support. My name is Irina.How may I assist you?

(This is where I begin to worry.  I'm connected on my laptop via Clear, which is a little USB device that picks up a WiMax signal.  Before you ask, I only have one, so TG would have to wait till I'm not using it for her Mac and the Playstation would never be able to get it, hence the need for Time Warner.)
Ben_:    Hi Irina.  I have a new account, self install kit.  Cable modem, Netgear wireless router, PC MAC   PS3.  So far I'm unable to get online.
Ben_:    I've gone through some local connection configurations and tests and I'm left thinking it maybe a DNS issue or something wrong with the modem configuration.
Ben_:    The last person I spoke with said it was likely a software issue, but two of these devices connect to other wifi locations just fine.
Irina:    I understand that you are unable to access Internet connection , am I correct?.


Ben_:    Yes
Irina:    Thank you for confirmation.
Irina:    I am sorry to know this.
Irina:    I'm more than happy to assist you.  To get us started, I'm going to need to verify some security information and then we can move on to understanding your setup.  We will need to perform some troubleshooting steps together, and I'll be running some tests on my end.  Feel free to ask questions along the way.
Irina:    Before we begin, please provide the following three pieces of information to verify your account and to document this interaction for future reference:
1. The account holder's 10 digit telephone number. (xxx-xxx-xxxx)
2. The account holder's Full Name (First and Last)
3. Please tell us your name.


Ben_:    (number)
Ben_:    Ben Rollman
Ben_:    acct (number)
Ben_:    PIN
Ben_:    SSN (last four)
Ben_:    (Address)
Irina:    For some reason I am not able to pull your account details, may I have any other phone number that is registered with RoadRunner?
Ben_:    Try (work number)
Ben_:    You can't look it up by any of the other info I gave you?
Ben_:    I'm worried that TW's inabilty to find my account is somehow related to not being able to get online.  As though the account is inactive so tht modem hasn't been provisioned.
Irina:    I understand your concern.
Irina:    I regret this inconvenience.
Irina:    Please provide me with your Modem Mac id.
Irina:    It is a 12-digit number starting with  00  located on the back or side of your cable modem (the small box with the flashing lights). If there is more than one MAC ID listed we will only need the C-MAC, CM-MAC or HFC-MAC number specifically.

^ that's unedited BTW, the parenthetical phrase was all hers - the small box with the flashing lights.  God, my mistake ma'am.  This whole time I've been troubleshooting my toaster. 

Ben_:   (mac address)
Irina:    I am sorry to inform you that I am unable to locate your account with any of the information you have provided.
Ben_:    Then how do I have the equipment?
Irina:    Let me explain it to you.
Irina:    The issue you are facing is because your 12-Digit modem MAC address is not registered with our Road Runner local office.
Irina:    This process of getting your modem MAC address registered is called as modem provisioning.
Irina:    There is nothing much to worry about. I will provide you with one more alternate solution.
Irina:    You need to contact our local office and get this modem MAC address 001BD7FFABE6 registered with them over phone.
Irina:    Also I will provide you a ticket number, so that you will not have to explain the issue again.
Irina:    Can I provide you the number to call them?
Ben_:    Is it 512-485-5555?
Ben_:    And yes please, a ticket number would be great.
Irina:    The number for the department is 866-701-3588
They work 24x7.
Ben_:    Okay.
Irina:    Kindly hold on for a minute.
Irina:    Please make a note, your ticket number for this session is:RQST00079368472
Irina:    Just provide them the ticket number as I have put in special notes instructing them to do the needful and documented your chat against the same number.
Irina:    You can always visit http://help.rr.com for online FAQs to get more help and knowledge about the products and services offered by Road Runner.
Irina:    Is there anything that I can help you with?
Ben_:    Nope, will be calling immediately, thank you for your help.
Irina:    Thank you for contacting Road Runner Technical Chat Support, again my name is Irina, we value you as a customer.
Irina:    Analyst has closed chat and left the room

I know that was long, but it goes to show that a) I wasn't a dick b) I had given them all the information I had, including the steps I'd taken to solve the issue and c) that I kinda know what I'm talking about.  In the end it didn't matter, I'd have to make another call.

So I called the number Irina gave and I end up with an automated system.  After not finding my account again, I'm transfered to a technical support member.  I use the "call you back in X minutes" option and they do call me back.  I get Amanda who also can't find my account.  She then says, after I give me address, "Austin Texas?"

Yeees...as opposed to...?

"Oh honey, you're in a South Carolina call center."  She apologizes profusely and tries to find the right number.  The 485-5555 number?  I ask.  No, here's one, 202-bla-blah.  That's not Austin, I say.  Oh, well then yes the 584-5555 one.  Okay I said, but I'm worried.  I called that one the first time and they couldn't find my account either.  Okay, she said.  Let me just transfer you there.  The call doesn't go through and I have to call back.  So I call the local number and get Bob.

Bob was the man.  After all this, he asks what the problem is and I say, "I need to have my modem provisioned.  It's not letting any traffic out."  Bob's on it.  Okay, can you power it for me?  (That's tech for turn it off, wait ten seconds and turn it back on.  See, he already knows.)  I do, he sends a configuration file.  I power it again.  He says he can see it but it's not behaving.  He sets up a tech visit.  I say I can bring the modem to the office and swap it out.  "Yeah, but I'd hate for you to waste your time if it's something in the line and not the modem.  I'd do the trouble call and if you DO take it back and it works, just call and cancel."

Bob's the man.

The sad part is, after all this, the only person that didn't have a survey follow up was Bob.  Everyone else made damn sure I had a venue to tell them how unsatisfied I was.

Carry on.



Humans differ from animals for various reasons not least of which is our ability to communicate through language.  All life communicates on some level, but no other animal writes, reads or retains language like we do.  We recount events verbally, we write down events and save it for historical purposes, we spin tales of pure fiction, we pass along instructions.  We also communicate in order to exchange ideas or things.  We sell and buy, barter and trade.  We bargain, haggle and compromise.

Over the past 170 years, our ability to communicate took a couple giant steps forward.  We were able to send signals across great distances to relay messages.  At first it was in short bursting sounds, then voice traffic was possible and eventually we would be able to communicate by sending anything we wanted over thousands of miles of cable and even bounced off orbiting satellites.  For thousands of years, our spoke and written languages have remained within our mouths and ears and fixed to paper.  Since 1940, we've been able to send those ideas and thoughts and requests without opening our mouths and without writing with ink.

Email is ubiquitous.  It's household, it's common, it's no longer a fad.  I still remember the days when people carried pagers and had no email.  To have an email address was a thing of wonder and wealth.  The address was free, the service was free, but the cost for the internet usage was prohibitive and people didn't check it often.  If you had access to email, chances are less than half the people you knew did as well.  To this day there are folks who don't have email or do and don't use it.  They feel it's gimmicky, impersonal and a waste of time.  They'd rather pick up the phone or write a letter or plan a visit.

And that's fine.  The world will always need Luddites to anchor the frantic expansion of technology.  If it wasn't for all the legacy mindsets in the world, we wouldn't still be using fax machines.  And who doesn't love a good fax now and then?

The problem is the half-assed attempts to bridge both worlds and no where is it more common than the small business web site.  Take a look at any web site out there and you will see a Contact Us somewhere on the first page.  The type of contact from that point is varied, but it will undoubtedly contain an email address or a way to send information to the company via a form.  It does include a phone number or maybe a fax, but email is fast, it allows you to write out exactly what you want and it creates a record of your conversation.  As someone who has worked in customer service, I truly appreciate being able to go back in time to see exactly when someone contacted me or I responded to them.

That all falls apart if there is no reply.

If you're a company that has a web site and you run advertising that points to that web site, and that web site has an email address, you must reply to emails the come in to your company.  Even if it's an automated response saying something about calling you instead, do something.  Email is just valid as a phone call and I find that more than half the time, I receive no response from companies using email.  The exception being those with a dedicated problem tracking system that generates a ticket for a trouble call.  But for general inquiries, I'm almost certain that if I send an email it will not be addressed and I'll have to eventually make a phone call.

Why not call in the first place, you may ask.  Two reasons.  1) I don't like the phone.  I get anxious and panicky on the phone and I tend to forget why I called and tend to leave out important information.  My mind blanks out and I end up not getting what I need from the call.  And 2) My belief is that if I email you, you should answer.  If you have an email and phone, you're signally to your customers or clients that you can be reached that way.  If you don't answer an email, it's a signal that you don't value the customer that approaches you that way and that's offensive.

I realize large companies get millions of emails and it's hard to negotiate the trash and spam from the actual correspondence, but there are tools for that.  Mail servers and spam blockers are smart and sophisticated today and overload can no longer be blamed for the inability to respond to requests.

So what's to be done?  Were I in charge of the world, I would force companies that don't reply to emails to remove the option from their site.  If you want people to only make a phone call, only list a phone number.  If you list an email address, you are acknowledging that a response will be sent.  If not, it's akin to ignoring your phone when it rings or throwing a letter away before opening it.

There's no way to fight this, but moving forward, I will at least try.  Every phone call I make from now on after having sent an email will also include the request to remove the email from their site since they don't use it.  Hopefully the trend will catch on and more people will do likewise.  I don't want to punish these people, I want them to act with some social responsibility.  Ignoring people isn't responsible.

Carry on.