Saturday, May 31, 2008

A few more Comcast thoughts

I really don't mean to turn my blog into a "How Comcast Screwed Me" blog but there was a post to my CPLUG message and it made me think a little more. After I wrote my response I figured that it was interesting enough to add to my blog here.

From what I was told by comcast is that they are using QAM for everything now and I need a set top box for them. Even if channels 30-70 are being broadcast on the line in ATSC I'm sure they are still filtered out at the pole. The kicker is that it was the day they were "fixing my internet" to get me more speed. They checked my box and found nothing wrong and then the next day I got a call from someone else saying they *did* find something wrong at the pole and were sending a truck out to make adjustments at the pole. Ironically I think the guy that called me to tell me they found a problem at the pole was Bill from the ComcastCares department. My theory is that corporate or the local office tricked Bill into being used to limit my TV rather than fixing my internet because I was specifically told by the local office that they found nothing wrong with my internet and that no adjustments were going to be made.

Anyway you look at it Comcast is still Comcast and are professionals only at screwing their customers. When the local sales guy called me he confirmed this by saying "FCC mandate" multiple times and trying to hide behind a law that doesn't even apply to them. They play this game all the time because 95% of the people they call don't have a clue about it and only see Comcast's commercials saying there is a digital transition happening and that comcast is working hard to have it not affect their customers. I guess to them its worth the risk of ending up telling one of the 5% that understand because they'll make up losing those customers by the ways they are screwing the 95%.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Do you remember the time, when the purpose and the rhyme, was to see the souls affected.
But now its to man, every purpose and every plan, to whom the praise is directed.
We live out dream, make the crowd scream, but turn to yell at the sound man,
Since where and when did we stop checking the word and begin to start checking the sound scan.
Remember when shows were for souls and rhymes were for flows.
Now we spend one minute to pray, if even that for each day, but spend 2 hours checkin our clothes.
what happened to the passion we was having that was sparked in the begining.
but we're quick to cry, point the speck in your eye, but even quicker to justify our sinning.
we're wuick to diss and raise the fist to justify the things that we do.
but for every finger we point at them, just remember freind there's 4 more pointin back at you.
how and when did it all begin as ministry turned to industry.
cause did jesus need a manager, record label, ditributor, or even a boooking agency.
when troubles came, did he call upon the name, or turn to a lawyer to handle it.
why do we ask God last, ignore the past, but be the first to ask our management.
cause next to him, our glory's dim and truely pales in comparison.
why does every move we choose seem to revolve around
we can get our groove on, but yet worry about comin on to strong.
yet we water it down so much there aint even nothing left to chew on.
souls become sales, and sales become a salary
give the crowd something to feel, whine about keepin it real,
but dont try to keep it to reality.
yet when its all over and the mic is hung and its all said and done.
it wont matter how many battles i won, but only the souls that i have won.
on the other side, will my silly pride cause me to hold my head up proud .
If I wont have beef with you then, tell me freind, why should I have a beef wth you now.
At the end of my life when I held that mic did I really truelly deserve it.
Forget if i was phat, Forget if i was whack,
I want to hear well done my good and faithful servant.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's up with Bob?

It's been a while since I made a post that was really about me and what's going on with me. I think that the biggest reason for this is because I have Twitter now so people get the play by play and I can vent all through my day and, as a result, my blog has kind of focused more on the in-depth thoughts that go through my mind. I think that maybe I should just do a general update so the 1 or 2 people that actually read my blog have an idea of what is going on.

First of all, I am now 28 since yesterday was my birthday. It was, again, a heavy reminder of how much my family means to me. At midnight my mom, dad, and sisters raced to make sure they were the first ones to get a happy birthday wish to me via SMS. Well, my dad and Kari were disqualified because of a false start (I got their text at 11:59 on Friday night), Lori was the first and then my mom was second. I also got a birthday card from my grandparents. I'm honestly really glad that I had those because that was the only birthday wishes that I received with the exception of one that kind of shocked me but made me smile. There were a few messages that I got on Facebook and I totally do appreciate them but its tough that none of my "real life" friends thought to wish me a happy birthday. The one other real life wish I got? It was Tiff.... I hadn't talked to her for months and since we broke up years ago I think there were only a handful of times that we actually talked on IM. It was nice to know that I still exist to her and it really did mean a lot. Anyway, it's not the end of the world that no one wished me a happy birthday because it really is just another day (I worked anyway -- nothing special). People forget -- and I'm just as guilty of forgetting things like that.... There are a few people that I thought would have that didn't and then the last person I expected did..... Oh well.

So yea, I'm 28.... it's still something that is hard for me to comprehend. I still don't think it's fully registered in my mind that I own a house and that I run my own business. Actually, aside from the fact that my body is falling apart, I still don't feel like I'm an adult. My body definately knows it tho..... I grew up yelling at my mom for always taking Ibuprofen and now I carry a bottle in my pocket. Mentally I'm doing ok, I guess. There have been a lot of really trying things recently and sometimes I don't fully understand what my place is and why I am where I am but then I usually remember shortly after that God is in control of all of this. I've been having a few "down spells" but they typically only last a few hours and they really aren't anything drastic at all..... My emotions have been going through weird changes tho. I think it's weird how I've recently started feeling about certain things and certain people. I have noticed that I am developing a deeper care for people in general. That leads to the next new thing in my life.....

On Monday I was accepted as a member of the Linden Volunteer Fire Department. I received my gear and did some training on the trucks and breathing equipment on Friday night. Soon I will start about 6 months of classes to become a certified firefighter. This coming Saturday will be my CPR training and then I will be officially able to ride the truck and go on calls. I will not be able to enter burning buildings until I get my certification but I will be able to go to motor vehicle accidents, brush fires, and I'll actually be able to go to structure fires but can only help outside of the building. It's something that I am actually really excited about but I'm also extremely apprehensive of the things that I know I will be encountering such as dead bodies and mangled bodies. I've already heard a lot of what people have seen and it's going to be really tough for me but it's something that I know I need to deal with because there are people that need my help. Maybe I'll encountered people that I can't help and that will be tough on me but I can't just not become a firefighter and not be there for the people that has lives that I might be able to save. I guess that's the biggest reason why I joined.... because there are people that I might be able to help and, to me, helping others is the most important thing in my life and I think it's something that should be important to everyone else too. We're all in this world together and we can all get through it easier the more that we work together.

Another interesting thing that I never thought I would ever be saying is that I am looking at the possibility of getting a motorcycle or scooter. I honestly didn't think it was something that I would be able to do because of the fact that my dad was in a serious motorcycle accident in 1985 and was given only a 10% chance of living. He is very apprehensive about anything motorcycle related (understandably so) and he has had some panic issues and it's not something that I would want to put him through but he said that he thinks he can handle it and yesterday we were actually talking about different bikes and stuff and I think that may have helped because I could hear some excitement in his voice. I know it was always a passion of his so maybe he is somewhere excited that I'll be riding undeneath all of the fear that has come as a result of his accident. To be quite honest, it's not something that I really want to be doing but this is really coming out of necessity. Gas is up to about $3.85 around my house and it's hit well over $4 in most places that I go and I simply just can't afford this. I drive about 600 miles a week on average so the gas prices are a HUGE impact on my life. I was looking at a Kawasaki Ninja 250R which, from some reviews I read, can get up to 75mpg and it's also one of the few 250cc bikes that can actually keep up with any traffic. My dad also said that my uncle has a Suzuki 350 from the 80's that he might be able to sell cheap but that's going to depend on what the gas mileage of it is.... From what I had looked at related to current bikes the Suzuki's really didn't get good gas mileage at all. Sure, they got GREAT reviews on reliability and performance but those are the least of my concerns. We'll see where it goes, I guess. I still need to get to the DMV and take the motorcycle test and get the endorsements and such. Not sure where all of this will end up but the fact that its a very strong consideration of mine is, well, totally unexpected by me or anyone else. I guess it's true that mother necessity produces the best results.

The birds are still doing well. Last week I started leaving them out of their cage around the clock. They still stay in their room, of course, but I'm not putting them in their cages at night anymore. I'm hoping that in the next couple of months I might be able to get some money and time to start converting the small bedroom into an aviary type room. Basically I just want to have non-carpted floors and I want to put a lot of ropes and stuff for them to climb and I also would like to seal the floor and walls and allow for a shower head type thing so that they can play in the water when they want.... it would probably be something I'd put on a timer somehow.... I also want to put some decent air filters in the room and ventilation, etc.... You think that dogs and cats are bad with pet dander? Try 3 birds. I really want to get started on that but money is really tight. We'll see what happens.

Business is doing pretty well, I guess. I picked up a couple new customers which may not have a lot of work for me but at least it's something and, of course, they can always grow into needing more work. I'm really not sure where Ransom Tech Services is going to end up but all I really want from it is to pay the bills. It would be nice if it would grow a little bit and I might consider taking on another employee or two if it would grow but those aren't things that I'm really looking at right now... I just want to be there as much as I can be for my customers. My feelings on business are that having good relationships and almost friendships with your customers is the best thing you can do and that's exactly how I want to keep Ransom Tech.

I guess that's really about all. I am still trying to figure out where God wants me as far as churches are concerned but I already blogged about that a little bit ago and there isn't really much to report.

I hope everyone has a really great Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comcast's FCC Smokescreen

Today I received a call from the regional sales manager (at least I think that was who it was) at the request of Bill and/or Frank so that he could better explain to me what was going on and how they were not misleading their customers. He did accomplish that and he set it straight that they are not removing the stations that I lost from analog at this time but that they are in an analog package that costs around $50 per month. Sounds pointless? Well, it's not if your Comcast.

If you think that the concept of a set top box is solely to give you a better quality and user experience, you're wrong. While those things are very true there is another aspect of this that people don't realize. If you subscribe to a service that is one way then your experience can not be interactive and, of course, interactive experiences are generally better. Another thing is true if a service is one way communication: there is no way to raise an income above the base subscription level. Now think about your set top box. How many Pay Per View movies and events are on there? How many additional services can you sign up for or order at the press of a button. The difference between a customer with a set top box and a customer without a set top box is very different to Comcast. It makes it a little clearer on why for me to continue the service that I had (or at least thought I had) without a set top box Comcast would want to charge me a much higher fee than if I get a set top box. Additionally they also are collecting a monthly fee for each TV connected instead of just a signal that can be sent to any TV in my house without extra equipment.

So what's the answer? Is Comcast falsely advertisting? Well... the answer is no. Because of the fact that I *CAN* still subscribe to the channels I had been getting via an Analog signal then I am "not affected by the digital conversion because I am a Comcast customer" .... The uneasy feeling comes in finding out that the pricing goes up for people in my scenario.... Oh... and I was specifically told that they may still remove the channels above 25 from analog signal later anyway....

Are you ready for this one?

Here is what completely pissed me off to no extent. The words that I had been waiting to hear to confirm that Comcast IS using the digital TV conversion as a way to fool people came not once, not twice, but AT LEAST 3 times in this conversation. What were those words..... "Due to the FCC mandate"..... Oh yes.... Comcast is telling their customers that all of this is because the FCC is mandating them to switch to digital signal. The first time I heard these words I stopped him and said "Sir, I know exactly what the FCC is mandating and the mandates are in the 700mhz over the air frequencies and DO NOT pertain to your signals broadcast on your own network" .... Apparently I caught him by surprise and he said "well, yes, your correct" .... Now he continues on to tell me how Comcast is doing me a favor because they are going to receive the channels digitally and then convert them to an analog signal for their analog customers. Does this sound like they are doing you a favor? Well, to someone that doesn't understand the technology, I'm sure it does. But if this is a true statement than that means that Comcast has been using an analog antenna to receive the signal from the TV stations and then they push the signal through a cable and just charge us extra for the same thing we could get with a antenna on our roof. Bull. Not to mention that there is no market that has 25 over the air stations that someone can receive. Regardless, I am being told to buy a story about how we live in an age of sattelites and growing technology and Comcast still receives the signal to their network using tin can and string technology. While it's true that the picture quality can certainly make you think that its primitive I think the reality is that the entire story was bull. The beauty of this story is that no matter which way you look at it Comcast is horrible. Either they are using technology that is older than dirt and they haven't been upgrading their system like they have continually been telling us OR they are outright lying to their customers in telling them that they are doing us a favor by converting signals for us.

But you think it's not bad enough? Well, try this on for size. After I explained to this guy that I knew what the FCC mandates where and that I knew they did not affect Comcast's signal on their network he continued to tell me the same exact story twice more. Either this guy has an EXTREME short term memory loss or he has been programmed to hide behind a false FCC mandate so deeply that he can't even break out of it when someone calls his bluff.

To be quite honest with you if this guy would have explained that all of the channels I had could be subscribed to via an analog signal for a higher price I probably would have been upset that it was going to cost me more money but I wouldn't have been pissed or really even thought much about the shadyness of the situation. It was the moment that he pulled that FCC mandate out of his hat that really, truly, reminded me of what the true motive of the company that is Comcast is: Fool your customers into staying with you instead of actually being a decent company and making them want to stay.

I want to again stress to everyone that @comcastcares (Frank), Bill, and their entire team is REALLY working wonders for Comcast customers. These people TRULY do care about their name and about their customers and I can only hope that corporate would start to learn from these guys who are trying to be as open and honest as they can be and are going WAY out of their way to help people. I just really hope that someday we might see some evidence that Comcast as a corporation wants to adopt the same policies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Comcast DTV lie?

Every Comcast customer has seen these commercials but is it really accurate? Sure it's accurate if you have digital cable with a set top box which is the same scenario if you have Dish Network or DirecTV. But about the people who still have the regular analog cable packages? I've been trying to figure out the answer to that question for about 2 weeks now. @comcastcares and Bill (a member of his team) have been looking into this as well.

What happened was about 2 weeks ago my MythTV system started recording some shows as just total static. I had initially thought that one of the tuner cards had gone bad in my server but later found that the recordings of static were only on the shows on channels above channel 30. As a result I found that it wasn't a bad tuner card but, rather, that I was not getting a signal from Comcast on these channels. Interestingly enough this occured about the same day that Comcast did some work on the pole near my house to improve my internet speed. Fortunately, my speed certainly did improve so at least I have one good thing. What is becomming extremely frustrating is that Bill has been trying to get in touch with the local Comcast office and they aren't returning his calls. There is no solid answer on what happened. The initial report that Bill had given me was that those channels were, in fact, converted to digital only. Now there are people I know in Front Royal that still get those channels without a Comcast set top box but if the signals were converted to ATSC it would explain that because she has a newer TV and I have older analog-only tuners in my system. Could I upgrade my tuners? Sure but that isn't the point. They are advertising that NO ONE that is a comcast customer is affected by the DTV transition. False Advertisting?

UPDATE: 3:10pm

I just got a call from Bill and he had an answer to what was going on. Basically Adelphia cable used to have all the channels on their analog package and when Comcast took over their packages were different. Essentially what I was told was happening was that every analog customer was receiving more than what they paid for and they were fixing the "problem". What really upsets me is that there is no way to get these channels on analog because now you only have the option of signing up for digital cable.

I'm extremely upset with this. I don't know if it can be called false advertising or not but one way or another it's shady. I canceled my TV service with them. It's time to go back to REAL TV -- aka sattelite.

Quite honestly if I had another viable option for internet I would be going another route for that too just because I'm tired of the games that this company plays. I could have had another TV service set up by now if I would have just known what was going on -- or imagine the concept of a warning that this was going to happen.

I continue to appreciate the help the Frank and Bill's team has been offering to people but it's obvious that Comcast is still the same old Comcast.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

WTF Comcast?

Ok, Comcast..... how about the left hand works with the right?

A few weeks ago I blogged about how @comcastcares was really helping me out. I ended up with the 16 meg plan and after the upgrade things where sailing right along... I was seriously impressed..... well, at least for the first week.

The past few weeks have caused things to be getting slower and slower and I mentioned it on Twitter and, again, @comcastcares jumnped in to help. The following day I had a call from Bill at Comcast who set up a technician to come out and take a look at the situation. I wasn't able to be home but he said that they wanted to check things on the pole because thats where they believed the problem to be. Great!

Yesterday the tech called me to try to find my house which is totally typical... it took me a week or so before *I* could consistantly find my house. He said he was going to check it all out and then he'd get back to me. About an hour or so later I received a call from some woman at Comcast who asked if the tech had called me back and I said he hadn't. She said that he should have but she said that, regardless, the tech had reported back that they found nothing wrong. Quite honestly, I was not surprised. It really pointed more to the fact of what I thought it was: traffic shaping. I dont think anything is "wrong" with their system but that their system is designed to give me crappy speeds. So, whatever.... its the same old Comcast to me.

..... but wait!

Today I received a call from Bill again but I wasnt able to take the call. In the voicemail message he explained that the technician did find a problem at the pole and that they needed to send a truck out in order to adjust the issues and that they would most likely be doing so tomorrow before 5:00pm.

Well.... what? My gut feeling is that I should believe Bill. But what about the call from the woman from Comcast and why didn't the tech call me if the woman said that he should have? I dont think I totally understand it but my theory is exactly what I wrote in my Comcast vs Comcast post. I think that Frank and Bill are the people that are tasked with getting Comcast a better image - and in many ways they are. The problem, however, is that the core of the company still operates on the "smoke and mirrors" concept and is just as shady as it ever was and will most likely continue to be. I really appreciate all that Frank (aka @comcastcares) is doing and I respect it in huge ways.... but after seeing this episode I feel like its only a matter of time before either everyone realizes that he is the only way to get things done with Comcast and he is no longer able to do it or the company it's self stamps him out because they really don't see a point in keeping customers happy if they can continue doing what they are doing: forcing customers to stay with them.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A New Direction?

When I moved to VA it was a total miracle the way that I found New Life Christian Church. At the time I had been complacent with the concept of church. Going to church was a complete chore to me when I lived in PA and the only reason I looked for a church in VA was because it was "the thing to do". When I found New Life I quickly got involved and enjoyed every moment of it. It was something I really wanted to get involved in because it was the only church I ever saw that destroyed the concept of church and broke the traditions that hold the church captive. Mostly, the entire church seemed to have the exact beliefs that I've had my entire life but was always shunned for.

For the past 6-8 months things have been changing. I've spent a lot of volunteer time building an IT infrastructure for New Life and in a matter of a few weeks decissions were made that rendered everything I did useless. It was then that I realized the tug that I had been feeling that I needed to back away from volunteering as much as I had was a reality. It was confirmed by a couple people in conversations with key staff members and was told by another one that they don't understand why I still do so much and deal with the crap that had been placed on me. In the beginning of 2008 I began the withdrawl from maintaining the majority of New Life's IT systems. Here in May I'm don to only about 10% involved in their IT.

I've continued to attend New Life on Sunday mornings but its become more of a chore. Maybe some of it is a loss of passion in myself but I'm noticing that, at the same time, New Life seems to be losing their passion as well. Maybe its not a loss of passion in general but the focus of the passion has changed. There is no doubt that a lot of this may be the result of the dozen or more staff members that have left in the last year or two. In many ways I think these people decorated the core of what New Life is and the loss of those people have exposed that core. Now this is absolutely not to say that that core is wrong but that core is not the same as the core that God has developed in me. In some way I feel that I was misled. There is an important place in God's Kingdom for all churches but its important that each person be linked in to the core of what that church is. If the core of the church is many of the traditions of "church" but you cover that core up then you lose that connection with the congregation. What you present yourself as needs to be equal to your core.

So here I am in May realizing that I need to go in a new direction. The things that are know is that New Life has an amazing purpose and that I was there for the time that God needed me there. Where is God leading me? No clue. Ill just let Him guide me.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Saturday, May 03, 2008

It really was a ski area

Since I've moved out here to Linden I have always wondered why there aren't any ski areas in these mountains. Additionally I have always noticed an area at the top of the mountain across from I66 from me that totally looks like a ski resort.

Apparently.... it WAS a ski area! I somehow ran across this: Lost Ski Areas: Ski Cherokee

This is quite upsetting and not only because I would love to have a close place to go skiing. The most depressing part about all of this is that the land is now being auctioned off for more homes and developement. I've only lived here a year and I'm incredibly irritated already by the developement that is happening around me. I moved here and I bought a house that was already built and there are still about 100 homes in Linden alone on the market but yet they need to keep building. Nothing matters except profit and people will destroy anything if it'll make a buck. In doing all of this there is absolutely no need to respect the people that have grown up in the areas they are destroying.