Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodbye RCN

Today after work, I made what I hope will be my last visit to RCN's office on Avenue C in Bethlehem PA.

I took the one dysfunctional converter box that I had and turned it on. We now have Direct TV, the 150 channel package at 34.99 a month, plus 3 additional converter boxes at $5 bucks a piece. My bill for Television will be $49.99 a month for one year, and then goes up to a total of $69.99 a month for the second year of the two year contract. We made out with substantial savings over what we were paying RCN for the same product, and all 4 TV's now have all the same channels.

Here is what was eye opening about my visit to RCN.

I was not the only dissatisfied customer. I waited in a line of more than thirty people to turn my box in at 4PM, and there were even more there when I left.

While standing in line, I heard several stories of the horror of dealing with RCN, many that I could commiserate with.

What it boiled down to was horrible customer service, and greed on RCN's part. I know I was not the only one fed up with trying to navigate their automated phone system. After wading through it, you were likely directed to a tech located somewhere in South east Asia for whom English was a second language.

RCN claims they did this whole upgrade thing to better serve the customer. I have no doubt they did it to better serve their profits.
Can you imagine how bad their Internet and phone service must be? Thank God for Verizon DSL.

I saw the U-tube video of the comcast tech sleeping on a customer's couch the other day, right after I saw a commercial for Comcast touting its superior service.
Maybe RCN was trying to catch up with them.

By the looks of the line of dissatisfied customers at the office in Bethlehem, I would say they are not that far behind.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I live about ten miles west of the third largest city in Pennsylvania, Allentown. Now you would think that a city with 120,000 residents and close to a total of a half million living in the metro area would have a newspaper presence of some distinction.

You would be wrong.

If you visit their website, here is one of today's Allentown Morning Call lead stories/headlines:

Kate says dogs will be back

I am friendly with several people who work there, and I know they cringe at some of what the paper has become, but after they published a PDF of Jon Gosselins speeding ticket for driving 78 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, I accepted that all semblance of real news was permanently lost.

Now unless you have been living in the caves of Afghanistan, you likely have been subjected to daily news stories about The Learning Channel's highest rated television show, Jon and Kate Plus Eight.

I will spare you the gory details, but this show is the train wreck of reality TV. Period

What happens on this show, and behind the scenes, is now deemed more newsworthy than say, important things like Health care, or all the crime in your neighborhood.

Really what do you think should be more important, more newsworthy, the fact that there is a gang operating in Allentown doing home invasions and armed robberies of private residences during daylight hours, or a story about Jon and Kate's dogs?

You guessed it, THE DOGS!

And you want to know how really fouled up this story shows the public to be?

People are leaving comments about how Kate made the right decision, sending the dogs to a place where they will get the attention and love they need.

Stop right there. Think about that for a minute.

Wouldn't it be a great idea if Jon and Kate were to do that for their eight kids, and not just the dogs?
How about giving the eight kids the love and attention they need, without faking it for the television audience?

(By the way, if you want to read the most outrageous hilarious blog ever conceived that deals with the first family of media dysfunction check out this one, titled Gosselins Without Pity.)

You know in twenty years we will be reading the tell all story, probably by the same publisher who came out with all those "growing up Brady" memoirs. If you think Barry (Greg) and Mrs Brady (Florence Henderson) had some fun, I am sure there are plenty of Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky residents out there who can't wait to hear what these kids were witness too, if they can find someone to read it to them.

That's my rant for this month.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I hate our Cable provider.

We are one of those families who thanks to the wisdom of our Township Supervisors back in the late 1980s and early 1990s don't get a choice of cable provider. You see, back then RCN and Service Electric paid for exclusivity rights in new developments. (Our house was built in 1991)
The Supervisors eagerly gobbled up the rights fees into the public treasury, trading away the rights of future residents to have a choice. It wasn't just Upper Macungie, all of them in the Lehigh Valley and beyond did it when they could.
The worst part is that when new developments were built, all the utilities (Phone,Cable, Electric) that usually were supplied by above ground pole were put under ground.

That is aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, but it also cost prohibitive to future competition. It is a lot cheaper to tun wires from pole to pole than it is to dig up stretches of a neighborhood and snake a cable in on already existing conduits.

WE asked about getting a different provider, but that will only happen if more than 50% of the residents sign up for it. That is the only way "competition" can afford to come in.

Which brings me to my disgust with RCN. We have lived in Trexlertown for more than 5 years.
During that time our digital cable box that enabled us to watch premium channels had "issues" more than a dozen times. We went extended periods of time (Weeks) where we couldn't watch TV in our family room. If you called RCN customer service, you ended up talking to someone with a decidedly South east Asian accent named "Bob" or "Mary" . Gotta love outsourcing.

They would send signals resetting the box through the lines, and it would start working again...... for a while. Three times I have had to make the twenty mile drive to their office and trade in the box. I did this as recently again as last month.

And that brings me to my latest rage against them.

We received Phone calls telling us to get ready for the big Hi-def upgrade coming Sept 8th.
They sent us a new channel layout to view. The Channels now go from two to over 1000, but there are only actually about a hundred that work. We got rid of all the premium HBO /Cinemax stuff because we rarely, if ever watched it.

Here is the rub. We have 4 TVs in our house. One in the kitchen, one in the Family Room, one in the office, and one in the Master bedroom.

The only one we can watch is in the Family room.

I was at their office, and asked specific questions, and the dimwit at the counter told me all would be well.

Well the dimwit was wrong.

We now need a box for each TV, at a charge of $3.99 a month per box. They also refuse to sell it to you, you HAVE to rent it from them. I checked around, No one is allowed to sell them retail.


RCN also claims that they have to come into your house and install each box on each TV.

This is where I really go nuts. WHY?

You see those boxes they have been trading me? The one I have works no matter what room I move it to. Why can't they just give me three more and let me hook them up?
My wife and I both work full time, and that means one of us has to stay home from work.
We have been through this, the RCN guy makes his own schedule, he shows up when it is convenient for him.

Instead, they want me to let their technician in my home. Did the Township government sign away my right to privacy as well?

Under the guise of improving service, RCN is only stealing from its customers. My wife and I cut back our options and thought we were substantially lowering our cable bill by getting rid of services we did not use or need. RCN found another way to gouge us.

Anybody else as mad as I am?

Thank God I have Bill Curtis approved Internet access, I would hate to see how much RCN would rob me for that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I visit a Yard (Garage) Sale!

Saturday Morning I was up bright and early. By 8 AM I was over at Vallos bakery and picked up crullers and cookies. I also stopped at the Allentown Farmer’s market and purchased some fresh pork chops and soup bones to make for my three puppy girls.
(That sounds sort of gay, huh? Oh well.)

It rained torrentially the entire time, but despite that I made one last stop before returning home. I pulled in at a YARD SALE. But not just any YARD SALE, I parked in front of a notorious home in western Lehigh County. A home that was once the sight of a garage fire, but on Saturday was the sight of a now GARAGE SALE.
Yes, I visited the castle fortress of the renowned Morning Call columnist, BILL WHITE.

There was the usual collection of things to be sold by a family of empty nesters, but one thing that caught my eye was a huge stuffed Pig. I had ideas about purchasing him and naming him either Reichley or Angle, but someone beat me to it.
As it is, I purchased a big stuffed gray rhinoceros and one book. All for the outrageous price of ONE DOLLAR! Don’t ask about the Rhino, but for now I have named him “Ron.”

The book though, was actually three books in one. The author? DR. SEUSS!
The title was “Yertle the Turtle and other stories.” The two other stories were: “Gertrude McFuzz” and “The Big Brag.”

A few years back there was a wildly successful book that was that claimed all they ever needed to know the author learned in Kindergarten.

I like to think that I learned quite a few lessons before I ever went to kindergarten by reading books by Dr. Seuss.

Isn’t it amazing how picking up a children’s book and browsing through it, we adults can trigger long lost memories of lessons learned long ago, and yet somehow forgotten?
Lessons like tolerance and acceptance of others that are different?
Why pay thirty bucks for the latest mental blather from Dr. Phil when you can pick up a forty year old Dr. Seuss at a yard sale and get the same message?

That’s my brain fart for this week. I hope to take Mrs. C to the movies this weekend, and maybe see the new Jennifer Aniston/Aaron Eckhart Movie, “Love Happens.” If that happens, pop back Sunday for my review.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Come Saturday morning, the summer has ended.

It is a simple pleasure of life for me, sitting at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning. three dogs curled up on an over sized bed at my feet, while I read the news online and enjoy my omelet and coffee.

According to the calendar, summer does not end for at least another week, but the silence that hangs down from the gray skies this morning says that is over.

Pumpkins are already starting to appear on doorsteps around the neighborhood, and the leaves, sparse and few on the ground just days ago, are beginning to make their presence notable as the wind deposits them on my deck and porch.

There is work to be done yard wise. For the next couple of months it will be leaf raking, but then comes the heavier chore, snow shoveling.

The dogs, sleeping at my feet for now, will bounce around as I attempt to gather leaves, scattering them as I try and corral the mess to the curb for the Township pick up crew.

They will also frolic in the snow, and afford me more work, as I will have to towel off all three of them before allowing them back in the house.

Summer has ended, but the work is never done. and that makes me glad.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reflections on the 13th Wedding anniversary.

(I have several posts I have composed on files in MS Word, but I am going to do something I rarely do, and post something directly from my personal journal)

Thirteen years ago today, as the sun was setting somewhere behind the cloud cover of Hurricane Fran, my wife and I shared our wedding vows under a tent during an incredible downpour.
We are going to be heading out to dinner later this afternoon, but a few minutes ago I put her hammock out in the yard so she could use it to read in later this evening.
I hung it, and then I lay down in it.

My eyes wandered into the nearby treeline hovering above, where I noticed a squirrel busily building a nest. I watched it traverse back and forth with small branches, and my patience was rewarded when I saw the other half of a happy couple scampering from along the railroad track and join in the building.

We have not had too many squirrels in the last year. All I have seen of them is their rotting carcasses after the reigning head of the local arboreal food chain, the Red Tail Hawk Family, has made them a dinner entree. That's how it goes in nature, somebody always ends up as someone else's dinner. The Hawk family regularly left whatever remained after dinner on the ground behind our deck. I kept it cleaned up because I did not want our dogs snacking on it.

Anyway, I wonder about these two squirrels, building their new home in such a perilous place.
Who knows when Mr. Hawk is going to come back and reclaim his old territory? They are building their home in the next tree over and under from the old Hawk nest.

I wonder who their realtor was?

And are they newlyweds? Are they as oblivious to the challenges they will face in nature as much as my wife and I were thirteen years ago on our wedding day?
We thought we were as ready as we could be, but life still threw us a few curve balls.

We have made it this far, because we faced our challenges together. Watching those squirrels build their home, and exerting so much effort, made me smile. I am not a big fan of squirrels, but I am a big fan of effort. I hope they make it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Three Pigs in a Blanket? No, Three Dogs on a bed

Wow, what a beautiful Monday evening. Around seven o'clock I spent about twenty minutes sitting out on my front porch watching the dogs amuse themselves chasing birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and anything else that dared trespass into our yard. Now they are tired, and I am sitting at the kitchen table writing on my laptop. That is where I took this picture.

I am outlining the story of my childhood buddy, Rags the dog, and trying to figure out where to start the story. The day we brought Rags home, or the day we left his predecessor, a dog named Blackie, at the Vet, because someone had fed Blackie ground meet with glass and he died in surgery.

People are cruel to one another, but not dogs. they establish their territories, and then they abide by them.

Dogs have the right idea. Let's all just get along.