Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Time to Update Your Bookmark

You didn’t think I was gonna stay here very long. Did ya ?

I just moved. To here. All the posts moved with me, but the comments decided to stay. I hope you will want to move with me. Here is the new RSS Feed.


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All the roadrunning


As of this 27th June, I completed 29 years of a mysterious journey called life. It kinda makes me nervous as I think about it. It is not that I am getting old, but the total lack of a worthwhile achievement so far makes me diffident. It makes me wonder whether my dreams in my younger days of becoming a successful adult has all been just a flight of fancy.

A million miles our vagabond heels
Clocked up beneath the clouds
They’re counting down to show time
When we do it for real with the crowds
Air miles are owing
But they don’t come for free
And they don’t give you any for pain

But if it’s all for nothing
All the roadrunning’s
Been in vain

Actually things are not that bad, Binil sent me an invaluable birthday gift.

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I am writing this blog in Firefox running on Ubuntu loaded into a VMware installation. I am surprised at the ease of installation and everything worked well right out of the box – the way Windows used to be (before Vista). I always installed Linux in a separate hard drive partition (without a virtual machine) . If I could manage to get the partitioning right (without deleting my windows partitions) I would consider myself lucky. Once I boot into Linux I would be usually at sea. It wont be usually more than an hour before I reboot into Windows. Ok, ok I am a loser. After a few days or months, the Linux inspiration would come again (usually after reading Slashdot) but I would be too lazy to restart my machine to boot into Linux. I keep postponing my Linux learning program and then one fine morning I would delete the Linux partition after a few months and regain that space as a FAT32/NTFS partition.

With VMware and Ubunto all this changed. Everything worked fine. I am browsing the internet without having to type in Regular Expression-like crpytic commands to configure the network settings. I just opened up Firefox and start browsing away. I am glad I tried this option. I highly recommend the Windows geeks to try Ubuntu on VMware.

P.S. The title of this blog is a rough translation of Ubuntu.

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One year in USA

Last week I completed my first year of stay in US. This has been the longest period I stayed away from home. Before this, the longest period I stayed away from home was the 9 months when I went to Odessa to study medicine. Although both these periods have been emotionally taxing for me, I am doing much better here than my stay in Odessa.

I have become much more independent than I was before. I have learned to do things on my own but it was mainly because there weren’t anybody to do them for me. It was a tough experience but it makes you stronger mentally and emotionally. I am not claiming that I can survive anything now, but I think I can do much better than I did any time before. I am doing a bit of exercise to keep my health from deteriorating the way it was. Sometimes I get to play badminton and tennis. I am finding some time to see some movies which were in the waiting list for many years. I am reading more books. I have learned to cook a few dishes. I have learned to negotiate without being cheap. I have learned to be stern without being rude. I also learned to brag about myself in my blog.

It was a tough year, but I am glad for the lessons learned (and the money earned ;-)).

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I am back into the reading groove. I am really completing the books that I start reading and that is something that hasn’t happened much in the recent past. I was always a voracious reader. A small mountain of Balarama and Poompatta was my best friend when I was a kid. I had read all the Tintin adventures and most of Asterix & Obelix comics by the time I was 10 years old. Hundreds of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Famous Five, Secret Seven books were devoured with a passion not shown for anything else. I had read the Illiad and Odyssey before my classmates even knew they existed. In college I shifted to Sidney Sheldon, Frederick Forsythe and Jeffrey Archer. While struggling with my engineering studies I got interested in computers and programming and slowly I moved towards technical books. This caused a slight change in my reading habit – I started to quit reading books in midway. Since tech books are usually dense and would require a good amount of concentration and effort to read the reading process would be slow. By the time I read a few chapters I would grow interested in an another book. So I would leave this one and move to another. I remember having read somewhere that the habit of browsing the internet a lot tend to shorten your attention span and ability to concentrate. This could be true since we are always moving from one webpage to another and from one window to another (ALT + TAB). The page has to be really interesting to us to make us stay there for more an a few seconds. Whatever the reason, I found my reading habit disappointing – I was never reading a book to completion. The Tipping Point was the first book which I read fully after a long period. Recently I have started reading fiction again which has brought back the tendency to finish the book. I am carefully limiting my fiction reading to a few carefully chosen titles (due to lack of time) and I am planning to write reviews of the book I read (both fiction and non-fiction). I have already written a couple of reviews (here and here) but I intend to do this more frequently. I just wrote the first review (Running From Scissors) but I thought I would write about writing reviews first before actually posting the review to give my dedicated blog readers (yes, all 3 of them) a little context.

You can see a list of books I am currently reading here. All the reviews would be under the “Book-Review” tag.

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Morons Inc.

After all these, I thought I would be spared from any more agony from Comcast. But alas, today I got a call from a Comcast customer service representative in the afternoon.

Comcast rep : I am calling to confirm your service cancellation request.

Me : WTF ? I haven’t asked for a service cancellation. Atleast not yet (wait till I have another option).

Comcast rep : Well, we have a request to disconnect your service at [my address].

Me : The address you said is correct, but I havent asked for the disconnection. I just moved my connection from my old apartment to this address.

Comcast rep : Oh… I think I got where the problem is. The disconnection request is for your old address. Our people must have entered the current address instead of the old one….

I am tired of your service, comcast. Why dont you just go to hell and take your “customer service” reps with you ?

God, please.. please.. have another ISP start service in Seattle…

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Comcast should be Outcast

Comcast is my Internet Service Provider (ISP). It was an easy choice. Not because they are the best but because they are the only cable ISP where I live. I had trouble with them starting on day one.

When I moved to Seattle, I was living with an Indian family who had only a dial-up connection. I am a heavy internet user so dial-up wouldnt work for me. I did some research and found that comcast was the only cable ISP in the area. So I called them on a saturday to get my new connection set up. I was hoping that I might get the connection on that day itself or maybe on sunday (if they work sundays) or the latest by monday. I was in for a suprise. They wouldnt be able to give me the new connection until next friday. A 7 days wait to get a new connection !!! The lady on the phone was a bit rude – she said, “This is the earliest appointment that we can give. If you cant wait for 7 days you should probably go for another provider”, knowing pretty well that there aint another provider. Having no other choice I opted for the friday appointment which meant that I would have to take half a day off from work to wait for the comcast service guy. I think that if they have so many new connections to give they should be hiring more people instead of making people wait for a week to get a new connection. Comcast has a $99 installation fee and they charge $57.95/month for a 4Mbps connection (there was an introductory offer of $33 for the first 6 months). If you need a 6 Mbps connection you should take the cable TV and phone connection also!!!! In contrast, Cox (which was my ISP in Tucson, AZ) waives the installation fee and charges $59.95 for a 12 Mbps connection. For an additional 2 bucks you get a 3x faster connection. To understand what kind of morons are at comcast see their appointment schedules – 8 am to 12 am / 10 am to 12 am / 2 pm to 6 pm / 4 pm to 6 pm. WTF ?

That week was a slow one, as any internet addict would be able to understand, and atlast it was friday. I was all excited to get connected again(trust me when I say that – I was really looking forward to that day). The appointment slot was 10 a.m to 12 a.m. A prayer meeting was going on in the house where I was living so I stayed in my room. I waited and waited but nobody turned up till 12.30. So I called up comcast and asked them what was going on. The customer service guy told me that the service guys had come to my house and somebody at the house told them that nobody by my name was living there. I was very surprised to hear this. I had them verify the address in their database. It was correct. So I asked my house owner whether the comcast people had come while I was in my room but he hadnt seen anybody. What actually happened was that a person who came for the prayer meeting (he was not aware that I was living with that family) was standing outside the house when the comcast guys came and he told them that nobody by that names lives there, so they left without even calling on my phone (they had my number in their work order). So I called up comcast again and asked them why the service reps didnt call me on my phone number. They said the service guys could only make calls to local numbers (my cell number was a Minneapolis number) so they were not able to call me. Isnt it ironic that a company that provides phone service gives their service reps only local call access ? Even if the service reps had only local call access, the people sitting in the local office could have called me. They were aware of the situation because the service reps call the local office after each work order to update the status. They didnt, and I think they couldnt have cared less. I asked them whether it is possible for the service guys to come back and install the connection. “No way”, came the answer without any hint of sympathy, “you need to reschedule your appointment. The earliest appointment we have is next saturday !”. I wouldnt be able to express in words my disappointment I felt at that time. But there was nothing I could do. So I waited 2 weeks and paid $100 as installation fee (most ISPs waive the initial installation fee) and lost a half day leave to get the elusive comcast internet connetion. End of part 1.

The second time comcast showed their ugly face was when I moved from this house to an apartment with a roommate. Same 1 week wait period to get an apointment. According to my contract I should be charged only $10.00 for each transfer of location, so I really didnt bother to ask the customer service guy how much I would be charged. On the day of the appointment I didnt take any chance and waited outside the apartment. I was afraid the service guy would knock on my door and run away before I had a chance to open the door and then say that nobody was home. So the guy came, connected the cable and setup the connection and asked me to sign the work order. When I looked at the paper, it said I am would be charged $99.99 for the connection transfer instead of $10.00. So I called the customer service to clarify it.

Customer service : “Blah..blah…blah… how may I help you?”

Me: “Why am I getting charged $99.00 for my connection transfer?”

Customer service : “That is our normal fee for this service”.

Me: “Well, if that is the case I dont want the your service anymore.”

Customer service : “Why ? What is the problem ? Can’t you afford $99 ?”

Me : “Do you want to get out of me whatever I can afford ?”

Customer service : “Err…”

Me : “According to my contract I should only be charged $10 for a connection transfer”

Customer service : “Oh ! Let me verify that”

A small wait period….

Customer service : “You are absolutely right. I will make the change to your bill”

Me : “Thanks”

Customer service : “Thanks for being a comcast customer. Have a nice day !”

Two days after the connection transfer I am not able to connect to the internet. I called the customer service and they told me that the technician who came to transfer my connection forgot to register my modem with comcast and hence the service was disconnected !!! And to think that they wanted to charge me $100 for that “service”. Anyway they fixed the problem and I was online again. End of part 2.

I got an apartment on my own and wanted to transfer the connection to my new apartment. This time I called them in advance so that I wouldnt have to be without internet for one week. I got an appointment for the following thursday. Since it was a working day for me I asked them whether it is sufficient if I leave my key with the apartment folks and they can open the apartment for the service guy when he comes to set up the connection. “That would be perfectly okay” was the reply. I called the apartment manager and she agreed to open the apartment for the comcast guy. On thursday morning the service guy called me at my office.

“Sir, I am waiting at your apartment to set up the connection”

“Great, the apartment manager would open the apartment for you. I have left my keys with her”

“Okie, that is fine. Let me talk to her”

10 minutes later he called me again.

“Sir, I cannot do it now because the manager is not willing to stay with me in the apartment till the set up is over. She says that her assistant is out for an apointment and so she cannot leave the apartment office open.”

“Why do you want the manager to stay with you ? She would open the door for you and you can do it. You have my permission to enter my apartment”

“That is not possible, Sir. It is against comcast rules”

“Well, if you had such a rule why wasnt I told about it when I called for the appointment ?”

“I am sorry Sir, but you will have to talk to the customer service”

So I called the customer service. It was a lady. In the beginning I was very angry and almost shouted at her.

“Blah.. Blah.. Blah !@#$$%^&^&”

“Sir, you are not allowing to me to talk”

I calmed down a bit and explained the situation to her.

“I was not told that you had a rule that somebody should be present for the whole time that your technician was in my apartment”

“That is our policy”

“But your technician has my permission to enter my apartment to set up the connection without supervision”

“We have our rules. We cannot do whatever you asks us to do.”

I was at boiling point by this time but I controlled myself as much as I could.

“Well if you had a rule you should have mentioned that to me when I called for the appointment. I would have arranged for somebody to stay there or I would have stayed there myself. It was not my fault that this happened and I should get the connection today.”

“Well, it is nobody’s fault. Would you like to reschedule your appointment ?”

It is comcast’s fault ! I can understand that the person who took down the appointment forgot to tell me about it, but I dont want to reschedule my appointment. I want it done today. I have talked to the apartment manager. Her assistant is back in office and so she is willing to stay with the technician now. You should ask your technician to come back and fix it.”

“That is impossible. Would you like to reschedule your appointment sir ?”

“I want it to be done today (on the verge of exploding). It is very important to me that I get the connection today”

“Well, we have our rules and it is not possible to install the connection for you today. If it was so important for you then you should have stayed at home when the technician came

“????? (what can you say to that ?)”

“Would you like to reschedule the appointment ?”

“No, I think I will cancel my service”

“I would be more than happy to do that for you , if that is your decision.”

“?????? (I was completely taken aback by her indifferent attitude)”

“Would you like to cancel the service and maybe opt for a different service?”

Now I was definitely on the back foot.

“But there arent any other cable providers in my area (I was almost in tears, it was a mixed emotion of anger and helplessness)”

“Well, you have Verizon, Clearwire etc ”

“Thanks, that is nice to know….(sarcastic tone)”

A period of silence…

“I would like to reschedule my appointment”

“Ok, that would be next week…”

“Ok, that is fine, but I would like to talk to put down a complaint about this issue”

“Well, I am the complaint person”

“Then I need to talk to your manager”

“My manager isnt waiting around to answer your call. I will ask him to call you back. There is a 24 hours wait period for that”

“Okie, that is fine. But I want to talk to him”

“Ok sure, thanks for being a comcast customer and have a wonderful day”


It has now been 1 week now and the manager has not called me back yet. End of part 3.

I sincerely hope there wont be a part 4.

In this era of customer-oriented service where companies virtually fall at the feet of customers to get new business, ironically, comcast values individual customers less than a penny. If you think my issues were not a big deal, see a real big one here. They doesnt understand that their huge customer-base is made of individual customers like Frank & me. Like all companies that didnt know better than to ignore their customers – those who forgot that the ocean is made of many small drops of water, that a long journey is made of many single steps – comcast will soon be history. I will light a candle for that. I will pray on my knees for that. Verizon will soon be introducing a whopping 15 Mbps fiber optical internet connection in my area soon. Am I hearing the bells toll in the distance?


The dialogues between customer service and I are not a word-to-word transcript of the actual conversation, but it was jotted down from my memory.

P.S. If anybody is interested in getting more details or would like to verify the correctness of these incidents or would like to share their thoughts, please put a comment here.

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