trade-offs

When we decided that Verizon DSL just wasn't cutting it and that we needed to switch to Charter cable for the Internet, we knew that we would also have to switch to Charter for television, even though we were happy with DirectTV satellite. We knew that calling Charter and saying we wanted Internet only would never get past their sales reps. So we now have Charter television as well as Internet.

A few things we've lost. I no longer have the Cooking Channel as a supplement to the Food Network. I no longer have Comcast Sports California which carries the A's games, only Comcast Sports Bay Area which carries the Giants games. But how many A's games did I actually watch last year?

A few things we've gained. The Monterey/Salinas NBC and CBS stations. The STARZ and Cinemax movie channels which we dropped when my company's former CEO cut salaries and DirecTV raised prices. The complete local forecast on the Weather Channel.

And of course, much faster Internet speeds.

The losses are primarily on my side. Terry is happy with the new television package. And if Terry is happy I am happy.


making changes

Over the last few months our DSL Internet speed had gotten extremely slow. We've always been in a marginal location for DSL, but things had recently gone seriously downhill. I work from home most of the time, and Terry works strictly from home when she's not travelling. The slow speeds had an effect on our productivity. In the evenings when we listened to KCSM online we were constantly having to restart the player. Some evenings we had to shut it off entirely and listen to something else. Podcast and Great Courses downloads were painfully slow.

We decided we had to do something. We were constantly getting mailings from Charter cable advertising television, Internet, and phone bundles. So I called and spent a while on the phone with a very friendly and helpful Charter representative. It took me a while to convince her that we did not want phone, but when I explained that we had four lines (our home line, my business line, plus Terry's business and fax lines) she finally got the message.

I had called on Saturday. We were pleased that they were able to install on Tuesday. The installer showed up over an hour after the end of the installation window. But once here he got off to a good start, running a new line for the Internet router in my loft. He obviously ran out of steam, though, because after installing the upstairs television properly, downstairs he just ran a cable loosely around the living room instead of installing a new outlet. But by this time it was after 4:00 pm and he had been there for more than three hours. I pretended I didn't see it and signed the paperwork. The other issue was that he didn't have a DVR, and we had ordered DVR service downstairs. Didn't he even look at his work orders at the start of the day? In any case, I thought I'd call the next day and get this all worked out. That's where Charter customer service became impressive.

He had not been gone ten minutes when the phone rang and I got an automated phone survey from Charter. The last question was, "Were you happy with the installation?" I punched the response for No. I was asked "Do you want to speak to a representative?" I punched the response for Yes. I was transferred to a Charter customer service person. I have to say that I love talking to Charter's call center. It is somewhere in the South, and the people there are most pleasant to speak with. The woman was quite helpful and said someone could be out the next day between three and five to wire the downstairs outlet properly. Then she put me on hold to ensure that a DVR would be available. She got back on the line and said that there would definitely be a DVR on the truck the next day. I was happy. I got on the treadmill.

While I was on the treadmill the local Charter contractor called and told Terry that they could be there in five minutes with the DVR. Terry asked if they could take care of the wiring as well. They said they certainly could. It was fifteen minutes, but so what.

The service man started by running a new cable for the outlet on the correct side of the room. (Why the original guy didn't do that at the same time he ran the cable for the Internet, I have no clue. They follow the same path.) I finished on the treadmill, and after I got out of the shower Terry and I swapped placed so she could go upstairs and take a bath. The doorbell rang and another guy from the Charter contractor was there. He was obviously a supervisor. He apologized and took pictures of the loosely strung cable with his iPhone. He then went outside to help the other serviceman.

It was after 7:00 pm by the time they were done, but they had done the job right and had done the job well. By the time they left the house Charter had two very happy new customers.

So now we have fast Internet which delights us no end. (Speeds can vary greatly, but we knew that going in.) We have cable TV instead of DirecTV satellite, and there are some trade-offs there, but trade-offs we can live with. More on those trade-offs tomorrow.

For the last few months our DSL Internet speed has gotten extremely slow. We've always been in a marginal location for DSL, but things had  gone seriously downhill. I work from home most of the time, and Terry works strictly from home when she's not travelling. The slow speeds had an effect on our productivity. In the evenings when we listened to KCSM online we were constantly having to restart the player. Some evenings we had to shut it off entirely and listen to something else. Podcast and Great Courses downloads were painfully slow.
We decided we had to do something. We were constantly getting mailings from Charter cable advertising television, internet, and phone bundles. So I called and spent a while on the phone with the Charter representative. It took me a while to convince her that we did not want phone, but when I explained that we had four lines (our home line, my business line, plus Terry's business and fax lines) she finally got the message.
I had called on Saturday. We were pleased that they were able to install on Tuesday. The installer showed up over an hour after the end of the installation window. But once here he got off to a good start, running a new line for the Internet router in my loft. He obviously ran out of steam, though, because after installing the upstairs television properly, downstairs he just ran a cable loosely around the front room instead of installing a new outlet. But by this time it was after 4:00 pm and he had been there for more than three hours. I pretended I didn't see it and signed the paperwork. The other issue was that he didn't have a DVR, and we had ordered DVR service downstairs. Didn't he even look at his work orders at the start of the day? In any case, I thought I'd call the next day and get this all worked out. That's where Charter customer service became impressive.
He had not been gone ten minutes when the phone rang and I got an automated phone survey from Charter. The last question was, "Were you happy with the installation?" I punched the response for No. I was asked "Do you want to speak to a representative?" I punched the answer for Yes. I was transferred to a Charter service person. I have to say that I love talking to Charter's call center. It is somewhere in the South, and the people are most pleasant to speak with. The woman was most helpful and said someone could be out the next day between three and five to wire the downstairs outlet properly. Then she put me on hold to ensure that a DVR would be available. She got back on the line and said that there would definitely be a DVR on the truck the next day. I was happy. I got on the treadmill.
While I was on the treadmill the local Charter contractor called and told Terry that they could be there in five minutes with the DVR. Terry asked if they could take care of the wiring as well. They said they certainly could. It was fifteen minutes, but so what.
The service man started by running a new cable for the outlet on the correct side of the room. (Why the original guy didn't do that at the same time he ran the cable for the Internet, I have no clue. They followed the same path.) I finished on the treadmill, and after I got out of the shower Terry and I swapped placed so she could go upstairs and take a bath. The doorbell rang and another guy from the Charter contractor was there. He was obviously a supervisor. He apologized and took pictures of the loosely strung cable with his iPhone. He then went outside to help the other serviceman.
It was after 7:00 pm by the time they were done, but they had done the job right and had done the job well. By the time they left the house Charter had two very happy new customers.
So now we have fast Internet which delights us no end. (Speeds can vary greatly, but we knew that going in.) We have cable TV instead of DirecTV satellite, and there are some trade-offs there, but trade-offs we can live with. More on those trade-offs tomorrow.

the Trinity

During my "writer's block week" of posting quotes without comment I had a nice combination of blog comments and Facebook Likes on several of the quotes. In fact, it was just a tad disconcerting that I got more of those that week than I frequently do on my own original material. sigh Oh, well.

One quote that didn't get any comments was this one from Diana Butler Bass:

Jesus didn't say "Come, follow me only if you assent to all the points of the Nicene Creed."

I found this a little bit surprising, because this is a big deal to me. I am a member of distinctly Trinitarian denomination of which I am delighted to be a part. (As is Diana Butler Bass, by the way.) The Nicene Creed is an integral part of our Sunday liturgy.

But me? I'm an Arian heretic. The Trinity, after all, is a relatively late construct. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all found in the New Testament, but the idea of the Trinity is not. There is one passage in one of the Epistles that may have a Trinitarian reference, but that is not in the earliest, best manuscripts.

Personally, I feel that the idea of the Trinity adds a level of complexity that is unneeded and not necessary, to be redundant.

But what do I know? I'm just an Arian heretic.


Facebook faux pas

I had a Facebook friend request from my colleague in Australia. Normally my strict rule is no Facebook associations with current co-workers. But, I thought, after all he's in Australia, and I don't want to offend him. So I accepted the request.

Next thing I know I have a friend request from our new mutual manager in Houston. ARGH! The last thing I want is for my manager to know what I'm saying on Facebook! I've ignored that request.

The stupidity of my original decision hit me. Facebook knows nothing of geography, and I have no control over who my Facebook friends accept as friends.

But the damage was limited, and my Australia colleague is not a frequent Facebook denizen.

I was talking to my spiritual director about this. She said that for our generation, that was an entirely reasonable thing to do. It makes sense to be hospitable to a colleague, and in our minds Australia is very far away.  A younger generation might immediately appreciate the immediacy of the global internet community, but for us, no matter how tech-savvy we might be, that's not how we grew up understanding the world.

Feeling better, at least, that my initial response was not entirely irrational.


helping virtual friends

The Internet is all about community these days, what with Facebook and Twitter. But I find value in slower-moving communities as well. I love the Pressure Cooker email discussion group on Yahoo! groups. Folks there have helped me a lot. And I've been part of helping others.

One woman, a slow cooker veteran, posted an email saying that she was disappointed with all the recipes for her new pressure cooker that required browning. Several of us responded saying that browning was simply an option and not a requirement. We told her that if she liked her non-browned slow cooker recipes she could do much the same thing in the pressure cooker in much less time.

She appreciated the responses. It's nice when online community can be helpful and (at least comparatively) leisurely.


academic errors

I loved the Great Courses series on Cathedrals. It was fascinating and I learned a lot. But I was annoyed that the instructor didn't know the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. What is at Chartres is a labyrinth. There is a clear but convoluted path in and out. A maze has false directions and dead ends.

In the course Analysis and Critique, a series on writing, the professor said that the shelves at bookstores and libraries where "literally groaning" under the weight of books on management and leadership. I spent many years in the book business, several years as a store manager at B. Dalton. I was there when the store was closed and quiet, sometimes alone (in violation of company policy, but never mind that). Never once did I hear the shelves groan, even when we stocked Peter Drucker's heavy tome Management in the late 1970s.

It grates on me when academics who know better make such obvious errors.


seeing Lent

As I wrote here last week, this is my first Lent in the Episcopal Church since 1999. And it is, of course, my first Lent at St. John the Divine.

Different churches, even within the liturgical tradition, vary their practices in different ways for Lent. At St. John's the differences were primarily physical, and therefore visual. In the liturgy there was the addition of the Kyrie eleison, but otherwise it was what we've used since last autumn. Visually, however, things were decidedly different. There was a different cross, made of darker wood, heavier, with a rougher appearance. The candle holders on the altar were made of wood. The lectionary book's gold cover was hidden by purple cloth. The chalice was clay rather than silver.

And so the journey through Lent at St. John the Divine begins.