Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 'wonders' of technology.

I was visiting family out of state last week and wanted to check my Comcast voice mail. I dialed the number, hit the pound key, and entered my sooper seekrit password. Oops - wrong password. I tried again. Still wrong. One more time, and I had exceeded the number of invalid entries I am allowed. The nice computer voice told me that I was now locked out of my voicemail account and would need to call Comcast in order to reset the password.

Well, no big problem, right? Comcast sometimes takes a while to put you through to a live person, but it shouldn't be too difficult to straighten this out. So I call Comcast and get a live person surprisingly quickly. However, he tells me that I need a pin number in order to reset my password. Apparently, the FCC has assigned every line a pin number to make it easier to track down terrorists while the government is listening in on our phone conversations.

The pin number was mailed to my home at some point and is likely in file somewhere for safe keeping.

So I asked the Comcast guy if I could set up an account online without the pin number and get my voicemail that way; he said yes, so I got off the phone (because where I was visiting, there is a dial-up connection) and got online. Dial-up is, if you remember, painfully, painfully slow, so after some time, I was able to load the correct page and input the information in order to set up an account. However, after I had input my account number, the next screen told me that an online account had already been set up for me, and asked me to input my email. I did so, but the next screen said that that was the incorrect email. Over the next half hour or so (painfully slow dial-up, remember), I input *all* of my email addresses. No dice.

So, to recap, I was out of town and locked out of my voicemail; I couldn't reset the password without the pin number, which was in my house; I couldn't get into my online account because I didn't know which email address it was connected to.

So, I decided to try a live chat with a Comcast analyst. Here is the transcript (you can't make this stuff up):

analyst L has entered room

L>Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is L. Please give me one moment to review your information.

L>Good morning

PF>Good morning

L>I will be more than happy to assist you.


L>the only thing that i would be able to do is reset it but you still would have to wait at least 45 minutes to get in

PF>Could you also help me with the online account so that I can check messages online?


L>do you know the security pin on this account?

PF>I don't.

L>unfortunately i wont be able to reset the pin at this time. i would need the security pin, a secret question answered or either we could call you on your home phone but youre not there

PF>Can we do the secret question?

L>there isnt one set up

PF>OK. What about setting up an online account? Could I get access that way?

L>that would be using your email with your password

L>you can get them that way too

PF>Here's the problem. I tried to log in with my account number and phone number, but I didn't have a password, and when I tried to get help with the password, I found that none of my email addresses worked.

L>i can get you to the internet department who could help you set one up. you will need one when using our online services.

PF>That would be great.

L> moment and Happy Holidays to you!

PF>Happy Holidays to you, too!

analyst F. has entered room

L>Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

F>I am happy to assist you with your concern today.

PF)>Thank you.

analyst L has left room

F>How are you doing today?

PF>I'm good. Thanks for being there on a holiday!

F>Not a problem, we are working on holiday specially for you

F>I understand that you need assistance with your Comcast email account is that correct?

F>I can see here on your account that your email address is

PF>I don't use and have never used a comcast email address. I don't even know how to access that.

F>You need to use that email address in accessing your Comcast account

F>That is actually the email address setup when your service was installed

PF>So the service person set that up? How do I access that email?

PF>This would explain why I don't know the password, either.

F>You can just go to the website

F>You can just click on the Forgot Password link to setup your password

PF>But won't it send the new password to the comcast email address?

PF>Or will I need a pin number or something to change the password?

F>Yes, you need your security pin so that you can set up the password

F>If you do not have your security pin what we can do is just to resend it again to you through postal mail

PF>I don't have the pin, and I'm not at home.

F>PF we actually cannot reset your password with your security pin

PF>I understand that, but I was told that I could go online and set up an online account and gain access to my messages that way. I don't understand why Comcast would set up an online account with an email address and password and not give me this information?

F>Your Comcast email logins was actually given to you by the technician that installed your service

PF>ARgh. So, that is probably in a file drawer somewhere in my house.

F> if you are trying to access your voicemail messages, you can actually just access it from the phone

PF>Sigh. No, I can't. I tried that, forgot the password, and got locked out. At home, it's set to automatically call voicemail without me having to enter the password, so I never use it and forgot it.

F>With Comcast Enhanced Voice Mail, you will be able to access your mailbox and hear your messages - even when you're away from home. You can access your voice mail messages over the phone

PF>Are you able to reset the voicemail password without the pin number?

F>If you were lock out with your voicemail, Please allow the voice mail system to reset and try again within 30-45 minutes

F>Unfortunately we cannot reset it without the pin

PF>But if I remember the password, I should be able to log in in 45 minutes?

F>Yes that is correct


(I still can't remember my password, and I can't get into my voicemail until I get the pin.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"The adventures of a sort of shiksa during the Festival of Lights," or "Hanukkah is getting the shaft again."

Not only did Bean ask for (and receive) a Christmas movie for Hanukkah (which I'm never sure if I'm spelling correctly or not), and not only did we watch it tonight, and not only do we never get home in time to light the candles at dusk (we light them around 7 or 8) - but I'm eating pork. The theme here seems to be, just how bad can we be at this?

(Nevertheless, we are having fun.)

How I became disillusioned by a children's book.

I was in Barnes and Noble tonight for an exceedingly long time, as my child played with his friend and I chatted with the friend's mom. We were having a good time, talking and browsing, and looking over the books that we'd read as children. As we looked, I came across The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. The cover illustration reminded me of the book, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve, which Bean owns and which we love. So I picked up The Three Snow Bears and flipped through it. What I really like about Brett's books are the illustrations, so I spent some time enjoying them before I made it to the back flap, where I found the following:

"Jan Brett and her husband...traveled to meet the Inuit people, where wonderful experiences awaited them.

An Inuit family welcomed them, the mother wearing a beautiful warm parka she had made. In a school, Jan saw the many intelligent, proud faces that became her inspiration for Aloo-ki. And in a town called Pangnirtung, famous for its people's art, Jan marveled at images of Arctic animals in Inuit clothes and felt a door had opened."

I suppose this could be read in a positive way - "intelligent" and "proud" are certainly good adjectives - but to me, it comes across as othering. Compare the language above to that on the back flap for Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?:

"Jan Brett and her husband...went to Norway for her story, based on an old Norwegian folktale. They traveled all the way to the northern province of Finnmark, where polar bears live and the northern lights radiate across the sky.

Special thanks to the Brookfield Zoo...and to Dr. Lee Cera and the staff for their introduction to Kinapak the polar bear and for providing slides and photographs of Kinapak from his birth to the present."

Somehow, the animals and the zoo staff don't come across in quite the same way, do they? There is less a sense of "Wow, through the wardrobe door to magical adventures" in the second description, no? So why couldn't that first description have been written like this:

"Jan Brett and her husband...went to Iqaluit for her story, which was inspired by Inuit art. Jan sought to recreate in the story the richness of the art and handcrafted clothing that she had seen there, and modeled Aloo-Ki after the children she met at a local school.

Special thanks to the people of Iqaluit who welcomed Jan and provided her with such rich inspiration and ideas."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

-1 degrees.

Me: "It's minus one degrees!"

Bean: "What does that mean?"

Me: "It means it's one degree below zero. It's less than zero degrees."

Bean: " is that possible?"

My question exactly. How is it $%#*ing possible that it is so cold? And if it feels this bad now, how on earth are we going to last through February?