December 26th, 2005


Started the day working

Until I remembered that today is "Christmas Day - Observed". I'm on call, but unless the pager beeps I have the day off.

So I did all the grocery shopping I had put off until the ugly annoying Jesus muzak had been turned off for the year, and was quite amazed that the big newly-remodeled and expanded Safeway on Bernardo off El Camino was COMPLETELY OUT OF MILK PRODUCTS! Including egg nog. So I went to Albertson's down the road, and they were fully stocked in that department. However, they did not have a single checker working - everyone had to use their self-checkout stations, which are seriously broken. It took 10 minutes for me to buy 6 items, because the attendant was busy fixing the other machines, and the stupid program requires an attendant to log in if you remove an item from your queue, and the receipt printer jammed.

Starting tomorrow, I'm working the rest of the week, except Friday, when I will make pigs 'n' blankets for farmount's party, and am looking forward to going to scenic Livermore to give scendan and hopefully also _oy_ their souvenirs of Thailand. I spent an hour or so yesterday preparing those, Plan A was to pick one out for each of them and put it in a pretty box, but in the end I decided I would let them choose for themselves.

I'm wondering, which is more humane. Take my poll:

When giving gifts from a collection of similar items, it is better to:

Let the recipients choose for themselves
Pick one for them, guessing at which one they would like best
Let them pick one out of a bag blindfolded
Pick one for them at random
None of the above, you idiot!
All of the above

The items come in blue and brown. Which would you prefer?


BTW, it is not a pony or a plastic rocket ship (sorry _oy_). It is smaller than a breadbox, and way smaller than a church door. It can be eaten, but I would not recommend that. Some assembly may be desired, but not required. I have no evidence of it being popular amongst Jedi knights, hobbits, Browncoats, Federation officers or Empire Stormtroopers. On the other hand, I have no evidence that it is not. It is not mentioned in the dark Tower books 1-6. Can't say for sure about book 7, since that is still in my bookcase waiting for me to resume weight training. I just thought of another Tolkien hint, but that would give it away, so I won't go there.
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Thai Travelogue, Part IX - Chengdu China

Click for Photos

Monday, November 28

The flight from Bangkok arrives at 2:55 PM, on time. The customs slip said to go through the red line if you had any radio devices, and I had a portable short wave receiver in my day pack, so I went through the red line. I showed the nice lady the radio and she said as long as it was for personal use, I should go through the green line, which I did. Passport control was also a 10-second operation, as soon as they found the page with my visa.

This trip was for business, and much of what I did there and the comments I have about it are not appropriate for public distribution, so this will be comparably short as travelogues go.

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Can You Hear Me Now? No? What? Huh?

Been spending so much time on my travelogue, haven't done much posting in real-time. But this little adventure is worth telling about.

When I was in Thailand, Cingular turned off my cell phone. It had nothing to do with being overseas, they just screwed up. Nobody could leave messages - anyone calling would get a message saying my phone was not accepting calls. Thanks to the time zone difference, their customer service hours were not hours I could call. SO I used their online email form.

It took a week for them to get back to me, and all they understood was I was in Thailand. I wrote back telling them that it didn't matter where I was, my voicemail should always be active. Another week passed, and they gave me the same stupid answer - that my phone was not provisioned to receive calls in Thailand. At this point my phone had been powered off for almost two weeks, and it wasn't on anyone's network. Voicemail should have taken all my calls.

So I wrote back saying they needed to escalate this to a manager, and I will be canceling my service when I get home because they are in violation of their contract.

Every day I am calling my cell phone number to see if it is active, and about four or five days later it finally is, and there is a message from a nice man of the African-American persuasion saying he's forwarded my phone to voicemail, so it's working now. I also get email from him a day later.

I get back home and sign up with Verizon, mostly on the basis of their "Can you hear me now?" ads, and partly because I already know T-mobile has no signal where I work, and Sprint/Nextel only sells those obnoxious walkie-talkie phones. I hate those things.

And I call Cingular, and tell them I expect them to not charge me for the month I was not given service, and I would not be paying any termination fee since they had broken the contract by not providing me with service or any help the restore it. They said they would credit me for the month, but refused to do anything about the termination fee, even after I went up three people in the bureaucracy. Not important, I'll let the credit card company fight it for me when I challenge the charges next month.

Anyhow, I get this spiffy new phone for Verizon, it has a nice big clear screen, gorgeous audio, a built-in MP3 player - all I need to do is shell out $40 at Fry's for a fingernail-sized SD memory chip. It's a Motorola, so it fits all my accessories except the battery. And it takes some fancy software tapdancing to get my phonebook ported in from the Cingular phone.

And that's when the trouble starts. The software which let me upload my own ringtones to the Cingular phone doesn't support the Verizon phone. And I can't upload my thumbnail photos of friends to link to their phone numbers. I can only use photos taken with the phone, or downloaded for $$. This sucks.

And then the real trouble begins. I'm at work, the phone shows 3 bars of signal, and I get a message that I have voicemail. The phone never rang, and there's nothing on the recently received list. So call my cell phone from my work phone, and it rings just fine. But over the course of a week, this problem happens four more times - three at work and once at home. I call customer support, they have me make one change on the menu which made sense, but it didn't fix the problem. So I take it in to the local Verizon office. They check it out, there's nothing wrong with it. So it must be the signal at work and home is low. Bummer, but I'm still within my 15-day warranty, if I bring it in with the box and all the accessories it came with by the following day. Which I do. They give me the refund, and tell me the phone number will stay active so it can be imported by whichever service I choose.

After some serious web research, it looks like all the companies are now pulling this crap where you have to use their ring tones, but as long as I keep my Cingular phone, I can continue hearing the Hungarian National Anthem for messages, Stars and Stripes Forever when my friends & family call, etc. So it's back to Cingular, where I get the exact same contract terms as I had before, only this time they only need a 1-year sign-up.

Then the real fun starts.

I ask to have overseas long distance enabled (so I can call my Thai girlfriend). They have to call someone at the international office, which means being on hold for 15 minutes. As soon as they connect me, the woman at the other end of the line says since this is a new contract, I need to answer some "security" questions. There's another 10-minute wait as she brings up my info.

After the usual SS#-related question, they ask where I've lived. I can't remember the last place I lived. I know the street but it's been a year, and I haven't even thought of that address for months. I tell her as much. She says it's a multiple choice test - she will read me three addresses, and I tell her which one I've lived at. Fine. Then one in the first set was the place I lived until the end of 1999. The next one was where I lived in the mid-80's. And the final set didn't have any place I had ever lived. I passed, apparently, and they enabled my long distance calling.

Now I want to know how I can unlock the phone to be able to use it overseas. The nice lady at Cingular writes the name and number of a company called Mobile Kangaroo on the back of her card and tells me to see them. Apparently Cingular doesn't do this work - which their web page says they do.

So the next day I look them up on the web, they have a store just down the highway from me, so I go there, and in about 5 minutes they unlock my phone. Not only can I use it overseas, I can use it on any cell phone system, as long as I have a legitimate SIM chip. This service cost me a mere $28.

So now I'm back to using my old phone on the old network under a new contract.
"Mommy, mommy, why am I running around in circles?"
"Shut up, or I'll nail your other foot to the floor!"

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