CYNICAL? HAVE A CHAT WITH YOUR CABLE COMPANY! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Charter’s Best Cynic

I was having a normal day until I realized that for no particular reason, my cable company raised my rates another $5. They are known for not having contracts. What that actually means is they can raise their rates whenever they want. They never lower them. We live in Uxbridge and we don’t have a choice about our cable service.

We have Charter or nobody. We can’t get any other company, not even the telephone company, to serve us. I’m sure someone got a not little extra gift from them to set us up with only one company and no competition or hope of competition.

In theory, we can get DirectTV, but this is a heavily wooded area, so almost no one has a clear patch of south-facing sky to use to receive the signal … and working — these days — with DirectTV might actually be worse than working with Charter/Spectrum (it’s really the same company using two names). I grant you it’s hard to imagine anything worse than Spectrum, but if anything is worse, DirectTV is probably it. And you have to go through AT&T to use them, so you get a double whammy.

Spectrum is very big on advertising how they don’t have any contracts. This makes it sound as if you have the choice to choose another company, but there IS no other company in the area. What it really means is they can raise their rates when they feel like it and we can’t do anything about it.

Great deal, isn’t it?

I remember when Charter strung their first wires on our street. I think I was one of the very first people to sign up with them. We have been loyal to them because we have no choice. Even so, after 19 years, you’d think they might actually care in some way that we are customers that have been with them a long time. But there are no discounts. I cut out cable TV about 8 months ago, so they raised the price of the cable itself to $76 and doubled the cost of our telephone.

You’re welcome, Spectrum or Charter, or whoever/whatever you are. I can tell how much you care about us.

WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #46

From Fandango:

“I was watching “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week and he and his sidekick, Guillermo, paid a visit to the New Yorker magazine in an effort to get a cartoon published in the magazine. Neither was successful, but Jimmy came up with this cartoon, which serves as the inspiration for this week’s provocative question:
CDAE46BB-E23E-40BF-BDB9-14331575A5F4The cartoon shows a picture of a young man sitting in a jail cell with headphones on. He’s busy using his smartphone when the prison guard apparently advises the guy in the cell that he’s entitled to a phone call. The guy then asks the guard, “What’s a phone call?”

So here’s the question:

Question of the week #47

I grew up before mobile phones — or at least before mobile phones became popular and common. Garry and I were among the earliest users of cell phones. Garry was always out in the field and he really needed a phone. Even back then … the early 1990s … there weren’t many functioning payphones. Most of the booths had broken or entirely missing phones.

The first phone I bought for Garry was the size of a brick and weighed at least as much and possibly more. On the other hand, that phone could connect with anyone anywhere. It was very much like the big “field phones” the telephone technicians used.

One day, the Blackberry came out and for years that was our phone. Garry loved his Blackberry. It had good sound and he could actually hear when he used it … and he could read (and send) email. I had a phone too, which was good because I was always looking for a job and I needed to find a quiet corner to set up interviews. Sometimes the phone WAS the interview.

Texting hadn’t arrived yet and phones were not miniature computers. They were small, portable telephones that also had email and calendar. Which was what I needed.

And the granddaddy of them all:

The standard black dial telephone

But how do I feel about taking on the phone? There was a time when the phone rang and I knew it was a friend. Or someone who wanted to talk to a parent, a brother, a husband, even your child.  But now? The phone is nothing but a noisy, device large used to try to scam you out of money or steal your personal information. It’s rarely fun.

I have three or four people — close family and dear friends — to whom I enjoy talking. Otherwise, I’d rather use email. The joy of email for me is its wonderful silence. My cell is always dining and ringing and jingling and binging and bonging. It never stops updating so as soon as you think you know how it works, they decide it needs to be fixed. When it is actually broken and needs to be fixed? That’s a wholly different story and usually costs you money.

With the exception of good friends and family, I don’t want to use the phone. I have to beat myself up to actually make a phone call, even if it’s important. Email is great because I can ignore it until I feel like doing something about it. I never learned to text, probably because that would mean I’d have to leave my phone on and people would actually CALL me. I don’t want them to call me. I’m very happy to not have something ringing all the time.

The thing I don’t understand about mobile phones is that they never shut up. They are always making some kind of noise. It’s like being on an electronic leash: you are never out of touch. It’s why when people ask if I have a smartphone, I say “no.” I do have one. I just don’t use it any more than I have to … and I do NOT give out the phone number.

My favorite calls are from Indians or Pakistanis who say their names are “Bob” and they are calling from Texas. And they know a Nigerian prince. Moreover, if you give them all your personal information, you can inherit a fortune and never have to worry about money again.

My all-time favorite call was a woman who called to ask for money to be collected for women who’ve had breast cancer. The money, she averred, would be given directly to people who had cancer and needed help. I told her she could call me back when my check was ready.

Modern telephone technology has taken all the fun out of making phone calls just as “modern airplanes” have taken all the romance out of travel. From all of this, I have concluded that progress is good but not every change is going to improve your life.  The only thing I hope for is that people will get tired of living on their phones and start to consider the possibilities of conversations.

And sometimes, enjoy the amazing possibilities of quiet and even silence.

WHAT COMPUTER TO BUY IF YOU DON’T HAVE MONEY? Marilyn Armstrong

My granddaughter is in college. Twice. She’s studying to be a beautician AND a psychologist (online). She’s a bit busy which is fine because it keeps her away from men. She has really terrible taste in men. But at her age, so did I. Actually, thinking about it, most of us had terrible taste in a lot of things, relationships being just one of them.

iPad

What she would like and I wish I could give it to her, is an iPad. I simply don’t have the money. If Garry had not co-opted my Mac for his voice recording work, I could give her that, but it’s taken. I actually, for the first time in my life, have only one computer. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have a broken one in my closet in the bedroom. It needs a new battery, but I can’t find anyone who knows how to get one. It wasn’t a mainstream computer and there weren’t many of them made. So it’s in a case at the bottom of my bedroom closet. Not too useful.

Macbook Air

Garry has an iPad that he doesn’t use much, but Garry keeps things. He doesn’t give them away. He saves everything, including things he hasn’t had any actual use for in 50 years like his Marine Corps dress uniform into which he can still fit.

I was thinking of getting her a Chromebook. Garry has one and he uses it all the time … but he doesn’t have to write papers for school and Chrome only has Chrome documents and stuff like that. I do not know if it would handle the workload she has got.

In return, she would like to paint our front door. She likes to paint. Actually, she has always liked to paint but I must discourage her from getting excessively artistic. That door will need to be painted again and again over the years and she may not be around to augment her artwork.

Chromebook

Anyone know enough about the Chromebook’s OS to tell me whether or not it’s up to managing a college student’s part-time work? This would be the “lightweight” computer. The heavy one is one of my old laptops that has a dead battery. Effectively, it’s a desktop computer.

I have no idea what it would cost to replace the bad battery. Another question I need to ask … but out here in the boonies, it’s hard to find someone to ask. We don’t have a lot of computer experts lurking around and those who are lurking are basically … well … me.

Maybe second hand? They rebuild iPads, so maybe?

All input gratefully accepted!

THAT POOR HORSE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Jaded

A poor tired horse looks jaded. That’s the origin of the word. It has come to mean “worn out” or “bored with everything.”

Lately, it also means fed up. Exhausted. Too much news, too much hassle, too much of everything.

I’m jaded with the news, jaded with the tragedies we seem to promote and then deny. It used to be that when you got like “this,” you could flee to some deserted part of the world. An empty beach on a warm sea or ocean maybe. But where is there a deserted anything anymore? Is there anywhere to go where you don’t get the news? Short of going back to live in a dark cave which, I admit, isn’t awfully attractive, I’m not sure there’s anyway “out” for anyone.

We live in a world where privacy and peace are banished. Between social media and more television channels, radio stations, and Alexa, there’s no escaping.

Phones

It’s why I loathe mobile phones. Who needs to be in constant touch with everything and everyone? Don’t we get to have a little quiet time or is that forbidden?

This morning I saw a new SimpleHuman invention: Alexa linked faucets for your sink. you can make your kitchen sing from anywhere in the house and if that’s not enough, you can adjust the sound levels at your bathroom mirror while your electronic toilet device measures your output.

The toilet? The sink? The mirror? All of them will all give you the news, too. It somehow fits that the toilet will give you news. That’s pretty much where it’s coming from anyhow.


“Hey, Alexa? Tell the toilet to give me the news. Then, when it’s done, please flush!”

TIME AND TRAVEL – Marilyn Armstrong

First of all, no one can travel to the future unless they are returning from the past. Everyone who’s anybody knows that. It hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t go there. You can’t go sometime if it never occurred.

nasa time machine

One-way time travel sounds ominous to me regardless of direction.

You mean I can’t come home? Ever? I have to go forward or backward and it’s a final decision? Without any hope of returning to my time, my friends, family? My world? In which case, no thank you. That’s too high a price to satisfy a bit of curiosity.

With all the issues of the present, this is my time. It is where I belong, for good or ill.

THE JOY OF MEDICARE – Marilyn Armstrong

I belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage Value Added PPO group, which is a Medicare plan that offers extras but costs just a tiny bit more than basic Medicare.

Last night, in a moment of mindless stupidity, I decided to register for my medical plan. Usually, I just call them, but it was after hours and I just wanted to look up the price of a  medication. Which I could do online. If I registered.

This is the cutest little Tufted Titmouse I think I’ve ever seen.

No big deal, right? Fill in the form and voila, registered. Medicare was even easier. You could just call them and do it all by phone. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to register for Medicare in the five years I had straight Medicare before I switched to the BCBS Value Advantage plan.

I entered most of the registration information at which point I was told that I had “timed out” and would have to do it again. So I tried to do it again BUT it would not let me because it already had my ID and password — basically everything except my Medicare number.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse – He’s blue and yellow!

I have a week coming up of major medical exams — heart and head and back and more about my eyes.

I was going to die as a result of software glitches. I could cope with being eaten by an alligator or a Gila monster … but SOFTWARE? Seriously?

I tried to call them to fix it but got the “closed for the weekend” message. Starting October 1, they are open 24/7, but this isn’t October. Close, but no cookie. I ultimately discovered that the databank is closed all weekend because they are setting up for the incoming members for 2020, but I didn’t know that until later.

Finally, I finally managed to connect with someone who informed me that my membership had expired.

What?

Expired?

I pay my Medicare/BCBS advantage plan straight out of Social Security. When I was told I belonged to Aetna, not BCBS, I gurgled. I’ve never worked with Aetna AND. I had the BCBS card in my hand. It was blue, blue, and blue. A Blue Cross. A Blue Shield. A blue card. All the ink was blue. \

I had the wrong department and the person I was talking to didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m not even sure she knew was software is. The right department was closed until Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment early in the day.

By now, after 2 am. I was tired. I knew I’d be even more tired by morning. At this point, all I now wanted was an assurance I was signed up and hadn’t somehow inadvertently or via glitchily cancelled my medical plan.

Forget the price of medications. I was too tired to keep on keeping on, so this morning I got up and called the number that was supposed to work, but it was closed until Monday. Of course.

I also got transferred a lot, but at least not disconnected. Everyone was enormously polite, friendly, and unable to help me. At all.  Of course, no one mentioned that the databank was down, too. That was the guy at Medicare who told me. How come HE knew but the people at BlueCross didn’t know?

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. So after I had coffee in hand, I tried calling in a prescription. I figured if I wasn’t signed up, they’d tell me because my card wouldn’t go through. Nope. It went through fine, no problem. Not only did it go through fine, but it went through for a medication that had no refills left. I have to call back and make sure she has the right number. Regardless, it was the first good news of the day.

Having tried every single number for BlueCross and getting nothing but people who didn’t seem able to access my type of BCBS care, I chanced upon the 24/7 number for Medicare. Even though I have an Advantage plan, it’s still a version of Medicare, so one way or the other, I had nothing to lose by trying.

And this is why I love Medicare. Not merely are they REALLY open 24/7 all year long, but they are consistently helpful, polite, and cooperative. If they don’t have the answer, they will find it, no matter how long it takes. And they never put me on hold.

I explained that I had had a software glitch with BlueCross and with an early doctor’s appointment Monday, I didn’t want to find myself dying due to a computer glitch. That would be too pathetic.

The guy at Medicare checked and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no problem. You are paid up and everything works.

So for all you people who are afraid of Medicare? Don’t be. It’s great. It really isn’t one of those messed up government agencies. In fact, I am convinced it is the ONLY government agency where everything actually works just like it is supposed to work.

Now at least I know I would not die from bad software and be buried in an Amazon box.

You all will LOVE Medicare. I promise.

To make things even better? The birds have already begun to return. There was a flock of Tufted Titmouses on the feeder this morning. Where there’s a Titmouse, can the American Goldfinch be far behind?

WORLD SHARING AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 9-16-19

Fall is beginning to show up and we’re supposed to get a couple of cold nights. If it doesn’t start to rain nonstop, maybe we WILL get a little bit of Autumn. It would be nice. it’s my best season and the most photogenic. Lots of trees, lots of maples. Mucho color!

Are we losing the art of listening in comparison to simply hearing?

There is a time to seriously listen and times to be quiet and let the noise of the world fade to silence. Garry and I spent thousands of hours talking in the many years we courted without getting around to marrying. We still do, as long as one of us isn’t seriously reading, watching baseball, writing, or editing.

Garry and me – Thank you Rich!

These are private times and interrupting a writer in the middle of creating is a no-no.

As for “just hearing”?  If it’s chit-chat, I don’t listen or at least don’t listen much. I also don’t listen to most television shows. It has to be worth listening to before I bother to pay attention. I spend a LOT of time writing, editing, photo processing, and reading. Not much time left over.

How often do you openly discuss with friends or here in WP with your readership topics that make you feel uncomfortable or might be taboo or stigma-laden?

We discuss pretty much everything when we are in the mood. Not all the time. The noise would drive us all crazy. We are full of ideas, but sometimes the world also needs quiet and a little peace.

We argue about the existence of God, whether or not we have souls, and which version of Star Trek is the best (ORVILLE!!).

Republican talking points are off the table. Probably permanently.

Do you think that these discussions should be freely discussed and written about more?

What subjects? Which discussions?

Did you have a nickname as a child and if so, what was (or what is it now)?

No nickname. Wanted one. Nothing fit.

Why is there still ‘stuff’ we simply just don’t understand despite our progressive world?

Because there is a LOT of stuff and we’ll never know ALL of it.

Meanwhile, most of us pay little attention to anything scientific or technological. If they discovered some amazing and complicated body in space and it ran on page 23 in the New York Times, how many of us would ever read it, much less understand it?

About the stuff we already know, most of us understand very little and care less. We use it. We know how to plug it in and turn it on, but how does it work? I love the old grandparents who don’t know anything about computers while their wise children tell them the basics.

My granddaughter knows how to turn on her computer, use what she needs, and turn it off. If ANYTHING goes wrong, it’s: “Gramma, I have a problem.”

Thus we believe “using a computer” means being able to turn it on, enter a password, and using a mouse. We have no idea what is going on behind the GUI or what WYSISYG means. I’m not going to be making any fabulous new discoveries because I’d rather reread a Terry Pratchett novel.

How many people understand how these basic items work?

At least we are creative. If you don’t do physics or math, creativity IS discovery.

So. Summing up. With all the stuff going on, the vast majority of human beings are not involved in making new discoveries. I could literally be staring at the latest, greatest Truth of the Universe — and I would probably flip the channel. We aren’t discoverers because most of us don’t have the skill-set, education, or interest. We spend our time messing with cell phones, tweeting, or watching cat videos on YouTube.

I find it comforting that we are stupid by choice rather than via inheritance.

What is your most essential kitchen tool?

Coffee maker and we just (finally) got a new one. I totally love it. Gotta have the brew. That probably means I also need the fridge because where else can I keep the half-and-half?

Who is one blogger you really admire and why?

I admire many people for various reasons and even if this were a competition, they are each so unique, I couldn’t possibly pick one. I’m not even sure I could pick a whole slate of candidates.

Would you rather double your height or lose half your weight?  (In response to last week’s double your weight, half your height query). 

So would I rather be 10 feet 3 inches tall or weigh 80 pounds? Really?