Monthly Archives October 2011

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Visual Basic Hell

By M Davies   /     Oct 31, 2011  /     Technology Hates Me  /     1 Comment

Today/Tonight I had every intention of writing about the time I was nearly fired from my job due to my Blog, but I'm running short on time. There's the understatement of the year. It will have to wait for another time. Perhaps tomorrow if I'm feeling up to it.

I'm actually not feeling so hot emotionally right now. I'm kind of down in the dumps about things….things that I can't talk about here….yet. All of my lack of sleep and stress are starting to catch up to me which is making the situation worse.

I'm nervous because I have a VB.Net project due tomorrow as well as a quiz and I waited until the last minute to start coding/studying. I had every intention of starting it this weekend, but I had my first on call which was absolute hell. Now I am freak out last minute mode with school work and hope that I can finish. Even if it means pulling an all nighter. At this point, like it matters if I get 4 hours of sleep or 1. I feel like a miserable groggy grump either way. I have been known to pull magic out of my ass when my back is against a wall. Hopefully, I can summon some of it tonight.

Sending good karma my way would be appreciated.

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NEPA Blogs Flapdoodle

By M Davies   /     Oct 31, 2011  /     NEPA, Youtube  /     0 Comment

(Mirrored post from NEPA Blogs)

A few years ago, Mark Cour of Wilkes-Barre Online/Circumlocution for Dummies came up with the concept of the "Flapdoodle" (as he calls it). I admired him because he had several informative videos posted on Youtube which showed various photos set to music in a slideshow format. The definition of flapdoodle, according to Merriam-Webster is simply nonsense. His video (below) "All the Madmen" is anything but. Featured in the video, are all of the popular NEPA Bloggers in 2006, a history lesson of blogging/bloggers in Northeastern PA if you will. Sadly, my personal blog is missing from the video as I was nearly dooced from my job around the same time this video was created.

He is my inspiration for creating the below NEPA Blogs flapdoodle 2.0. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed creating it. The theme of this video is "Changes", because in order to remain relevant you need to accept and embrace change. I'd like to think that I've helped NEPA Blogs change for the better, but that's for you to decide.

~Michelle

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10/28/11’s Friday Five

By M Davies   /     Oct 28, 2011  /     Friday Five  /     0 Comment

Friday 5 for October 28: Repellent

    1.  What’s something you enjoy eating that many others would be grossed-out by?

I have an absurd obsession with peperonici that started when I was pregnant with Owen.  I will eat them on sandwiches or straight out of the jar. 

    2.  Which of your personal traits is most likely to make others want to avoid you?

Probably my tendency to be a smart ass and my cynicism.  Some people tell me that it cracks them up, but I think it can be down right off putting at times.  Oh well, I'm not changing.  Learn to love me or hate me.  The choice is yours.

    3.  If you could wear a bracelet that had the power to keep certain kinds of people away from you, what kind of people would you repel?

Morons, Idiots and the Computer Illiterate.

    4.  We are all capable of overcoming our biases, of course, but what’s a physical trait (in others) that pretty much turns you off?

I don't think that these are physical traits, but I'm going to mention it anyway…. Anal retentiveness to the umpteenth degree.  There's someone that I work with right now that makes my life a living hell because of their OCD tendencies.  I was once told I didn't know how to use a stapler because of the way I stapled papers together.  I also don't appreciate controlling types.  I do my thing, you are entitled to do yours. Don't force  your ideals on me or tell me the way that you think that I should live my life.

    5.  When you feel a case of the blues coming on, what do you do to fend off the bad feelings?

I usually try to think of a time in my life that I had things worse off than in the current situation.  Sometimes that isn't always easy to do if things are pretty bad, but it helps to put things back into perspective.

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PennDot? More like PennDon’t.

By M Davies   /     Oct 27, 2011  /     NEPA  /     1 Comment

Here's something that shouldn't shock anyone in this area….Pennsylvania has Worst Bridges in the Country (courtesy of WBRE).  I found a similar article over at the Pocono Record here.  One of the commenters on the Pocono Record article posted a link to a website called "Transportation For America".  I followed the link and there is a Google Map searchable by zip code that shows all of the structurally deficient bridges within a ten mile radius.  Of course, I then plugged in my zip code to see what was unsafe near my 'hood.  Here are my findings:

By my count, there are 10 structurally deficient bridges in a 10 mile radius of my house.  However, I don't think this list had been updated in a while.  Some of the bridges have already collapsed in and around the Noxen area from Hurricane Irene/Lee's flooding. 

What  alarmed me the most about the deficient bridges was there was one that I travel over several times per week:

I knew the bridge was not in the best shape, but damn…it was built in 1932?  Don't you think it's time for an upgrade, PennDot?  Did anyone evaluate the amount of traffic flowing over it daily?  There have been major revolutions in the automotive industry since 1932.  Like for example, we don't drive horse drawn carriages any more.  This bridge was not built to handle the amount of traffic currently going over it.  Yikes.  With my luck, it will cave in the second my car drives over it.

Then there's this:

Not a bridge, granted…but a big fucking crater left behind on RTE 29 North from the Hurricane Lee Flooding.  This is in the vicinity of the Ceasetown Water Treatment plant (after Moon Lake Park).  Don't kid yourself.  It may not look too impressive in this photo, but that crater goes down a good five feet.  I'm 5'4", 5'6" in heels, and if I stood at the bottom of this thing, not only would I ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes, but the hole would be taller than me.  I am really worried that someone not familiar with the area will not realize its there late one night as the area is not well lit.  There are signs, cones, saw horses and etc setup, but I feel like there should be another pile of dirt/rocks on the other side of the hole.  Just in case. 

It may just be my imagination or lack of sleep, but I could swear the crater gets bigger every time I drive by it. 

It's supposed to snow tonight and possibly again on Saturday.  There is enough room for a plow to get through the area, but what happens if it is icy and you lose control of your car?  Can't there be a temporary safer fix be put into place….at least until a permanent fix can be done.  Why not fill it with boulders and sand or something…ANYTHING to make the area more safe.  I realize that a lot of roads in various areas were affected by the flooding, but this is a major artery between West Nanticoke, Hunlock Creek and Sweet Valley.  Can we please fix it?  Or at least bump it on the list by two or three.  I'll take anything at this point.

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Customer Service (or, lack thereof)

By M Davies   /     Oct 26, 2011  /     The WTF File  /     0 Comment

I'm growing tired and wary of Corporate America and their customer service policies these days, and no, I'm not going to go all #OccupyWallStreet on you with this post either.  What is Customer Service?  Let's break those words down.  Shall we?

Customer:  I am a customer, therefore, I am potentially buying or have bought your product or service.  You should treat me with the utmost respect because I pay your salary.  I do not appreciate being told lies.  If you don't know an answer to something, be honest. 

Service:  I need assistance with SOMETHING.  Whether it be my bill, a problem or issue with a product or service you are providing to me or both.  My expectations are that the person on the phone that I am calling into should have the qualifications to handle my concerns.  I can understand being transferred one time to speak to the appropriate parties, but it should STOP THERE.

Ok, so maybe this isn't the most full encompassing definition of customer service that can given.  But I can certainly tell you what it's NOT. 

First and foremost:  Companies are making it increasingly difficult to even get a LIVE HUMAN BEING on the phone with their absurd phone menu trees.  Let me just tell you that this gets my blood boiling all the more before I get a person on the phone.  I've found a work around for that which I will share with you.  It's called GetHuman.com.  Type in any company name and it will give you the telephone key sequence to get to a human in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

I have some short stories that I will tell in regards to poor customer service below.  Maybe you can help me comprehend how companies get away with this asinine lack of service and still remain in business.

Double Tree Hilton, NYC

I stayed here for 1 night on September 17th.  I pre-paid for the entire balance of the room on my credit card a full month in advance of my stay.  When I arrived to the hotel, the room type that I booked was unavailable, however a smaller suite was available.  I didn't want to cause a scene there, so I graciously accepted the smaller suite room as well as several comp'd drink cards, a fruit tray, bottle of wine and etc.  Here's what I don't get:  I put my cell phone number on the reservation as well as my email address.  Why didn't anyone bother to notify me in advance to tell me that they were overbooked?  Little things like that could have saved the awkwardness of the staff of telling me at the front desk.  The difference in price for the rooms was $100.00 which was promised to be put back on my credit card the following week.  I checked my bank account twice a day for 7 days and no refund appeared.  I called the Hotel back and asked where my refund was and they told me that "it can take up to two weeks to reappear in your account".  Why wasn't this more ACCURATE time frame given to me at the front desk upon check in?  They schmoozed me over making me believe the money wouldn't be gone for long.  As of last week, I still did not have the refund in my account.  That's right….A MONTH LATER….STILL NO REFUND.  I called the hotel and launched into bitch mode.  The person I spoke with told me that he would call Hilton again and get the credit pushed through, and to keep checking because it should be in my account by the end of the week.  Lucky for him, it was.  Were they secretly hoping I'd forget about this money?  I shouldn't have to keep calling to harass staff members about something that is rightfully mine.  You took it, you shouldn't have, now give it back. 

WalMart

Back in June, I purchased a swing set from Walmart.com.  I am not proud of this.  We don't own a truck for moving large things, and borrowing one from family always proves to be such a big hassle.  I figured that I could have it delivered and cut the middle man out.  After the order was placed, I was given a tracking number and estimated delivery date from a 3PL (third party logistics provider).  They did have an online portal to check the status of tracking, but it was almost never up-to-date.  I decided that I should call to find out what was going on.  That's when the trouble started.  Between Walmart and this 3PL none of them could tell me where the item was.  Walmart was telling me that the item had shipped and the 3PL was telling me that Walmart never shipped the item.  Who's on first, what's on second?  How do you lose a 200 pound box?  One of the companies (I forget who) put a trace on the box and figured out that it was in fact never shipped from Walmart.  I was on the phone faster with Walmart than you could say "Supply Chain Fail".  I had also noticed in this 1-2 week screw up time frame that the price of the swing set had "rolled back".  Walmart issued a partial refund for the difference in price and for the shipping costs since it was OBVIOUSLY their screw up.  I think I was also given 25% off of my next order on Walmart.com (fat chance of me ever ordering from there again).  A new swing set was shipped.  This time the 3PL seemed to have received the item and released it to a local delivery place.  Said local delivery place "Central Air Freight" out of Hazleton, was supposed to call me to arrange a delivery time.  Except yet again, the swing set got "misplaced".  A guy from Central Air Freight checked all of their docks in both warehouses and were not able to turn up the item.  Then when they did an inventory, they found that they were shorted the item from Walmart.  Livid does not even describe my mood at this point.  It was somewhere beyond that.  Once again, I'm on the phone with Walmart trying to get information and this time they swear up and down that it is gone and in the hands of that local delivery place.  They even offer to call there for me, but it was a weekend, so they were closed.  They were going to investigate the situation on Monday.  Meanwhile, it's nearing the end of June and I still don't have the swing set in my possession.  Finally a day later, someone from CAF calls me and says that they found the swing set and will deliver it the next day.  This was the Tuesday before the 4th of July.  The swing set was delivered, I'm happy to report.  However, not before the guy driving the truck calls me FROM THE ROAD asking me for directions.  Hmmmmm.  Order of operations:  1.  Make sure customers will be home on this date.  2.  Get list of deliveries.  3.  Make sure directions are available.  4.  Put seatbelt on.  5.  Start engine.  6.  Start driving.  How is it that step 6 came before step 3?  The message the driver left me was basically a threat.  "Call me back with directions or I will have to reschedule this."  Oh hell no you aren't.  I don't care if I have to rent a fucking U-Haul and meet you on the side of the highway, that swing set will be in my possession by COB today.  Jackasses.  The whole lot of them.  Its sad that I have to manage Walmart's supply chain for them from the comfort of my living room.  BTW, this is not the first time I've run into issues with Central Air Freight.  I had similar problems back in 2006 getting baby furniture delivered from JCPenney's.  This is when I lived in the city.  There should be NO EXCUSES for not being able to find something in an urban area.  Rural I can partly understand because everything is so widely spread out.

Frontier (aka Big Red Telephone Company)

If you have been following my blog for the last month or so, you'll know that I was without power for 5 days after Hurricane Irene's crazy winds.  I was also without phone service for the first 48 hours as well.  I was surprised that Frontier was able to repair the lines so quickly when UGI was not.  I guess its all about the numbers.  UGI more than likely has a larger customer base than Frontier.  Anyway, a week or so later, NEPA was subjected to the tropical rains of the remnants of Hurricane Lee.  I'm sure you've read about this in the newspapers and seen it on the news by now.  I don't have to tell you about the devastation of the area.  There were several power outages during this natural disaster as well.  Sweet Valley lost power somewhere around 4 or 5am during the night of the historic river crest.  Thankfully, it was restored back within an hour, but something perturbed me.  My phone was also dead.  I noticed this when attempting to call UGI to report the power outage.  The phone I was using was of the non-cordless variety so there was no reason why it shouldn't have worked.  Is this a new trend now?  We are going to lose phone service every time the power goes out? I called the Frontier repair department and reported this.  The person that I contacted at Frontier, seemed knowledgeable, but yet treated me like an idiot.  "Are you sure you weren't using a cordless phone?"  Um yeah….  I think I'm smart enough to know the difference.  "Did you plug in a phone to the NID?"  Um, no it was 4am and pitch black outside.  He then submitted the trouble ticket and stated that I did not need to be home for this problem to be fixed.  The next day a repair technician showed up to check the lines outside.  He told my hubs that "someone reported crackling and hissing on the line".  How does someone confuse "losing dialtone when the power goes out" with "a phone line making noises"?  I have no idea, but the guy I spoke with did.  Once the field tech knew what the correct problem was he left.  Why did he leave?  I can tell you why.  The problem is at the remote or local central office.  There is no battery back-up at one (both?) of these locations.  Or maybe there is, but its not functioning properly.  I could have told the repair tech that over the phone, but I figured let the kid do his job.  If my memory serves me correctly from my years in telco indentured servitude, the Pennsylvania PUC requires that no dialtone issues must be fixed within a 48 hour window (EDIT) 24 hour window.  I will be counting hours should my phone service go out the next time the power goes out.  You can bet your sweet bottom on that one, Big Red!

CVS

This is actually a story from a few years ago.  My son has asthma pretty bad.  It is worse during the winter months and during allergy season in the spring.  He was suffering pretty bad a few years ago, so I took him to the doctor who prescribed him Albuterol…in inhaler form.  I took the script to CVS to fill.  The doctor's office was going to call in the Albuterol prescription.  When I got to CVS later that afternoon, they told me that the doctor's office never called in the prescription.  I called the doctor's office back and they swore up, down, left, right and upside down that they called in the prescription.  The hubs agreed to go back to CVS and get the prescription for me as I had both kids at home and did not feel like getting them all bundled up to run into a store for five minutes.  He came back with the prescription, but noted how expensive it was.  He told me it cost $60 dollars!  I immediately knew something was not right, because our prescription plan had 3 tiers, and the top tier was $35 dollars.  I took the prescription from his hands and opened the bag.  Yep.  It was wrong.  The prescription was for "Owen Davis" from Wilkes-Barre.  Ironically, it was Albuterol, but in a powder form which would be used in a nebulizer.  What the actual fuck?  How did CVS let me husband leave the building with a prescription for THE WRONG PERSON?  Is there no quality control in this place?  How many other people have left the building with the wrong prescription?  I mean thank god, I actually knew something wasn't right, but what if someone didn't check and ingested or administered life threatening/altering drugs.  I can't even imagine the consequences.  Through my contacts, I got the phone number for the regional manager of CVS and reported the issue to him.  I hope that whoever handed this out was disciplined.  Fast forward to this week.  You've seen my previous post about how CVS annoyed me with getting the correct time to pick up a script.  Here's the rest of the story:  They omitted a prescription on my order.  No one bothered to notify me that the prescription in question was expired.  Then again today they omitted another prescription for my son.  It's just ridiculous.  Its one thing if you tell me about not having it in stock, or that the refill is expired.  It is completely unacceptable to say nothing.

Alright, I'm done ranting for now.  All that is left to be said is that I will not be taking poor customer service laying down any more.  I am not afraid to ask for management, take my complaints to social media or the blogosphere or go zero to bitch in 10 seconds flat to the rep that I speak with.  If you are going to give poor customer service, then I'm going to be a poor customer.  It works both ways.

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