Category Archives: rants

Consumer Confidence

My internet connection has been down for a while, which would normally have done wonders for my productivity, except I was laid up with the flu for a few days and got nothing written anyway.

Normally when the internet goes down, I ride it out–it generally takes a while, but I have some oddly misplaced faith that the system will right itself.  This time, that didn’t seem to be happening.  I needed to call Comcast, but typically, I didn’t have Comcast’s number handy since that’s the sort of thing I would look up online.  So I finally placed a call to Comcast from my office in Rockville, where I could look up their number then call them on my cell phone.  My phone call went something like this:

Comcast:  Thank you for calling Comcast.  Please state the nature of your medical emergency.

Me: Yes, my internet doesn’t work.

Comcast:  Did you try jiggling the handle?

Me:  . . .

Comcast:  Ha ha! I kid!  Seriously, did you?

Me:  The problem isn’t on my end.  Everything here is working.

Comcast:  I will be TOTALLY happy to help you with that! Please log onto your Comcast account and someone will help you immediately.

Me:  Um.  My internet doesn’ t work.

Comcast:  The what?

Suffice it to say, the problem has not yet been fixed.  While I had them on the phone, I asked to speak with someone about a problem I’ve been having with the OnDemand function of my cable, a feature that hasn’t worked on my system since a cable technician came over a year ago to fix a different problem.  They referred me to their Live Chat function, where I had the following talk with a technician:

Comcast:  Hello, I am DUNBAR3233.  How are you today?

Me:  Good, thank you.

Comcast:  I am glad to hear that.  I hope you are having an outstanding day.

Me: Thank you.

Comcast:  Are you having an outstanding day?

Me:  Can we get on with this please?

Comcast:  I am happy to help.  Please state the nature of your medical emergency.

Me:  That joke has been used already.

Comcast: …

Me:  My OnDemand doesn’t work.

Comcast:  I am sorry to hear that.  We at Comcast sympathize that you cannot watch episodes of America’s Most Violent Cake Wrecks on demand.

Me: Me too.  Anyway, can someone come fix it?

Comcast:   Account number, please.

Me:  I’m not at home.  I have no idea.

Comcast:  That is not a problem.  I have your account number here, along with your sixth grade report card.  Ha ha! You failed math! No WONDER you can’t get your OnDemand to work.

Me:  Get on with it.

Comcast:  I am happy to help.  Please turn on your television and cable box.

Me:  I told you before that I wasn’t at home.

Comcast:  Is there any chance your home is being burgled at the moment?  Perhaps the robber could turn on the television.

Me:  No, he’d probably just take it.  Never mind, I’ll call back when it’s more convenient for you.

I love my cable provider.

No (TV) News Is Good News

I’ve had it.  I just can’t watch television news any more. 

I tune in each morning to get the headlines and the weather.  Instead, I get  newspeople who are more consumed with their own fake laughter, dumb banter, less-than-witty repartee, and projecting phony moral outrage than they are in giving me the headlines.  It’s not about news, it’s about events and personalities.  So instead of getting information I can use, I end up shouting at the screen and spilling my coffee.

Like Cardinal Ximinez, I stupidly keep giving the news channels three last chances, hoping I’ll tune in tomorrow and things will be better.  They never are.  It’s too much about ratings and winning time  slots than providing the news; consequently, it’s all about the outrage, not the coverage. And don’t try to talk me down, as I am no longer prepared to be rational about my annoyance.  I’m to the point where everything bugs me.

First up, there’s the new spin on the old “if it bleeds it leads” policy, focusing on some completely random incident and how it might just possibly kill you and everyone you love.  My favorite:  “Coming up, the latest on spontaneous combustion of wood chips at a local playground, and what you can do to keep your family safe.”  This report is immediately followed by incredulous stares and oh-so-objective handwringing from the anchorpeople that the government is doing nothing to regulate the use of wood chips on playgrounds.  And I wish I was making that up.

Next, it’s a panel of “experts” called in to debate the economy, or foreign policy, or health care, with a panel composed wholly of . . .  journalists and other newspeople.  I have nothing against journalists, but just because you’re a reporter who’s beat includes the local police station doesn’t mean you’re an expert on public safety.  I don’t mind having a round-robin discussion in which everyone gives their opinion on the chosen topic, but these talking head sessions are too often presented as providing viewers with the facts — which, to make the circle complete, then get reported by other media outlets as such.

And, of course, there’s the the endless rounds of dumb banter as reporters transition between stories, injecting unfunny commentary in the name of witty repartee, and then laughing waaay too hard at anything anyone says.  Worse, though, is the editorializing that is often almost casually dropped in following a story, as the anchors discuss the issue for just a moment among themselves (why they do this, I have no idea). 

In this department, the last straw for me was a moment on the increasingly vapid Morning Joe on MSNBC (yes, Joe, we know you were a Congressman, and cast LOTS of tough votes, and ran successfully for reelection, and defied your own president and yadda yadda.  And we know so because you tell us at 26 minutes past every hour, every day). 

Immediately following a piece on waterboarding, Scarborough engaged Meet the Press moderator David Gregory in a brief discussion on the letter of the law.  Here’s Scarborough’s outro on the piece:

…history has shown over the past seven years that actually it [waterboarding] is very, very effective. Let’s tell the truth. Let’s talk about what information we got with waterboarding and then we can debate it  . . . It’s effective but is it worth it . . . Maybe it would have been better for a couple of other cities to burn . . . um . . . instead of waterboarding and we can have that debate.  If you’d like Washington DC and Los Angeles to be obliterated by a nuclear blast I certainly respect your opinion and I think we should just talk about it.

(Video of this conversation is here.  Joe’s rant starts at about 3:10.)

Forget the politics of the issue; that was just a plain dumb and irresponsible thing to say. And it’s dumb because Scarborough was just riffing, channeling Michael Scott from The Office and not really thinking about what was coming out his mouth even as he was saying it. 

That sort of casual badinage might be the way things work now, but it’s not working for me any more, any where. 

I’m done.