Simply addicted

Oh. My God. Is this blog still alive? 🙂 Sorry, bad joke. Mea culpa because I have been bad about updating my Facebook page & my blog! Well, the title of this blog post refers to my current addiction to the show, The Office. Holy Jesus, it’s sidesplitting-ly funny. Thankfully, John (Matt’s friend) has 4 season DVDs and you bet I scored 2 of those from him. I can’t believe it took me this long to get into it. Dwight is simply ridiculous and Michael is just plain crazy. lmao. Okay, enough of that.

It’s Fall Break and the nice thing about being part of the school system is that I get to taste a little bit of the Fall Break fun. lol. This means I’ve got a 3-day weekend and I’m really happy because I can start planning  my mini-vacation. It, of course, helps that payday coincides for both of us so Matt & I might finally treat ourselves to something. Matt’s kvetched about my techy talk on this blog and that got me thinking that perhaps it was time to start a separate blog dedicated to talking about my trials with my computer software and hardware. Courtesy of Microsoft DreamSpark, I’ve currently got Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and the Microsoft Expression Studio group of programs on my laptop. I am looking forward to learning about designing and coding which will be difficult because I’m somewhat horrible at learning new hobbies. So, here’s to self motivation. 🙂

Can’t understand the Vista loathing

Okay, let’s me just say this: I’m clearly a biased dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft user and I cannot fathom transitioning to Apple’s world. Nevertheless, I have used Macs and I will allow that they are definitely cuter than Microsoft’s offering. Still, I do think that their latest OS (operating system) stands head & shoulders above XP. I cannot get enough of how snappy my system is and I’m completely sold on their instant desktop search function. I no longer have to dig for programs or my files. I guess the difference between someone who would hate Vista and myself is the fact as much as spending hours troubleshooting can be frustrating, it’s incredible rewarding to me. With Vista SP1, I haven’t put in as many troubleshooting hours as I have put into my XP computer. I love Vista’s ability to self-diagnose issues and it gives me the feeling of complete control over my system. I don’t care that they ‘cribbed‘ some design elements of Macs. Heck, imitation is a form of flattery, no? 🙂 Anyhoo, I just wanted to add a consumer voice to the fray and tell Microsoft that I think Vista does rock. I am not a ‘regular’ user and yet not quite a ‘power user’. I do think the User Access Control needs to be toned down a bit because I can see how irritating it gets. I have it turned on right now, but for software installations, I tend to have it turned off because I know/trust the programs I install on my laptop. I love the improved version of Outlook 2007 so much so that I didn’t even bother installing Mozilla Thunderbird on my laptop. I don’t have any third-party media players (VLC, Creative MediaSource Player, etc) installed because Windows Media Player does a fabulous job of cataloging my modest music collection. Enough of my rant. I just wanted to say that I am really looking forward to their next version of the Windows Operating System dubbed “Windows 7“. My plan is to put this laptop through its paces and give its dead or dying body to Matt (lol. Kidding). I definitely see myself upgrading this laptop, but not anytime soon. I need to recover from the, ahem, financial mayhem. 🙂 There are a few issues with  my laptop that are mostly cosmetic. For instance, my mouse cursor is really small and Vista has made it supremely easier to personalize your PC. So, right now, I changed the color to something other than white and made the cursor larger. I would like to give my cursor a special color so I’ll root around my PC and find that option.

Enough of my mini-rant. My weekend has been relaxing and just sleeping in. I did worry a little bit about work and things I needed to do, but I intend on making this week a highly productive one. I’ve got a supportive work place so there’s nothing stopping me. With that, cheers!

Getting poli-ticked off. :)

It’s about time I said it: I’m not a Sarah Palin fan. Neither am I enamored of John McCain. In fact, I slightly abhor conservative pundits like Sean Hannity who are clearly in the GOP’s pocket. However, in terms of who’s policies will leave the US in the black, I’d have to go with conservative principles of less government spending on things that a responsible people could conceivably afford to pay for. This election has already been won by the usual suspects i.e. the Republicans because I just have this gut feeling. The Republican machine is an expert at smear tactics and right now, they are pulling out all the stops. As their “pitbull” a.k.a. Sarah Palin said, the shoes come on and the gloves come off. Before anyone thinks I’m being disrespectful, she called herself a “pitbull” on national TV. It’s a sad truth that she was picked for the single purpose of getting everyone in a tizzy and in a way, I think she has not arrived at this important position of contender for vice president in the right way i.e. by dint of hard work, etc. She was doing a darn fine job in Alaska from all accounts, but I am nervous about her being vice president.Don’t get me started on John McCain’s blatant disregard for his opponent during the two debates. He is really becoming crochety and it’s showing. I’m not going to post any “facts” or whatnot. Feel free to do your own independent digging and come to your own conclusions. I’ll leave you with some links:

  1. Memeorandum = Political news site/aggregator (right or left leaning depending on issue of the day)
  2. Google News = unbiased news aggregator
  3. NYTimes
  4. Yahoo News
  5. CNN
  6. BBC
  7. Google
  8. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter
  9. Project Vote Smart
  10. FactCheck
  11. FedSpending
  12. OpenCongress
  13. OpenSecrets

There is a lot of information out there and it’s almost like drinking from a firehose. Anyhow, enough of politics. Work has been sporadic. Or I guess I should say I haven’t been as productive as I could have been. It’s been raining for the past 2 days and for some reason, it feels rather gloomy. That’s all I have. I’ll be upbeat tomorrow. 🙂

In honor of a college town

Alright, I’ve bought into the football fever. I don’t have any tickets, but I do plan on wearing a certain color that honors the place. lol. I’ve got the awesomemest dress that totally brings a certain light to M’s eyes whenever I wear it so it’s definitely on my to-wear list. lol. TMI, but heck it’s my blog, no? M & I visited J & J a couple of days ago and she made a kick-ass Asian-inspired dish of rice and the vegetables that could be found at a Restaurant. I daresay hers was better although she didn’t quite beat Inoko Express yet. lol. M & J (her husband) got to working on their GIS stuff (I finally broke down after M’s harrassment and installed ArcGIS on my laptop). I’m only kidding about the harrassment part, but I did finally install ArcGIS on the laptop so that whenever we visited, they (J & M) could do school work while us ladies cooed over Benjy bear. 😀 He’s the sweetest kid and I just love taking care of him be it by just holding him while his mom does housework or whatever. I can’t wait to get more pictures of the little one.

I’ve got some footage of the school’s marching band that I’m going to upload on my Facebook page versus putting it on here because it’ll be a dead giveaway about my work place. lol. As if I don’t already talk about everything, but my social security number. Ah well. 🙂 The students will begin their dissections today so I am looking forward to the formaldeyhyde goodness (NOT). That stuff burns the eyes so we got a Formaldehyde sniffer to ensure that we are not being exposed to more than recommended formaldehyde levels. I like my boss because she’s super aware and concerned about the safety of her workers and students. That’s all for now. Cheers!

Accessories for my Preciousssss, err laptop and more about ETFs. :)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future. 🙂 I kid. This is the mouse that I shall grow to love when my laptop gets here. One thing I don’t really like about HP’s laptops is that the too-slick touchpad. My hands gets rather sweaty so I will need an external mouse. My choices were simply between any Microsoft or Logitech offerings (trusted brands). From there, I narrowed my search to ease of use. If you recall, my HP dv9700t customized notebook will come with bluetooth so I decided to get the Logitech V470 Bluetooth Cordless Laser Mouse. It was a bit pricey, but I am looking toward the future with the purchase of high quality components that will come with solid warranty support. I’ve been toying with getting a dedicated laptop bag, but I will hold off on that and create a makeshift laptop bag from the items we have at home. Yesterday’s post on cell phone contracts led me to check out what AT&T’s wireless service agreement says about early termination fees. Here is the relevant bit excerpted from the “Service Agreement” in the paragraph titled Changes to Terms and Rates:

“[…] You understand and agree that State and Federal Universal Service fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government’s or our calculations. If we increase the price of any of the services to which you subscribe, beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan brochure, or if we materially decrease the geographical area in which your airtime rate applies (other than a temporary decrease for repairs or maintenance), we will disclose the change at least one billing cycle in advance (either through a notice with your bill, a text message to your device, or otherwise), and you may terminate this agreement without paying an early termination fee or returning or paying for any promotional items, provided your notice of termination is delivered to us within thirty (30) days after the first bill reflecting the change. […].”

It’s a bit confusing, but from what I understand from the entire contract, the following conditions have to be met in order to cancel your contract without paying an early termination fee or ETF:

  1. If you signed up today, you have a 30-day grace period in which to cancel your service. Obviously, the majority of people are past that 30-day window.
  2. If there is a price change in services you subscribe to. However, they put a caveat there which is “beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan“. Now, I have the lowest rate plan ($39.99 a month) and I have no idea what the limits to which they can raise the prices to. I intend on calling a customer service representative to get this cleared. Anyway, I currently use the pay-per-use text messaging service and have the internet/MMS on my phone turned off. My current text messaging fees are 20 cents for each incoming and outgoing text message. The way I’m reading this contract, my plan says the fee per text message (incoming and outgoing) is $0.20. If they raise that fee, I have legal standing to demand to be released from my contract. The other caveat to demanding your release is that you have a limited window of opportunity in which you can do this.
  3. According to the contract, you have 30 days from the first bill that reflects this price increase so you have to diligently check your bill in order not to miss this window. From reading tips online about how to cancel your cell phone service, the key things to remember are: staying calm, having the relevant sections highlighted, having your paperwork i.e. bills in front of you and remembering to escalate your call if the CSR is being a twerp.
  4. Nevertheless, there are extenuating circumstances that the determined individual could press in order to get released e.g. moving (if you can prove that your coverage will suffer) and see this CNN blog about other viable excuses e.g. active military duty and such.
  5. Another confusing part about this whole business is the part about “returning or paying for any promotional items“. Does this mean I would have to return my Treo which I got at a discount because I signed up for the 2-year plan? I suspect so. Nevertheless, if you get to that point in your negotiations, my advice to you would be to simply save your contacts to your computer if you have a cool phone like mine (lol) and agree to return your discounted phone. Since you will be potentially signing up with a different phone company, you will be getting a discount on your new phone so don’t be too worried. If you have installed a lot of paid applications on your phone like I have, make sure you have your installation files saved somewhere. If you are lucky, you will get your exact same phone with your new carrier. If not, your files will be useless.
  6. Finally, part of this depends on the customer service representative’s disposition. You see, some people have had their cancellations take place in less than 10 minutes. Some like Ely Rosenstock had it extended over days. Some get stymied and some end up getting discounts or refunds in order to stay with the plan which is not a bad idea anyway. What am I saying? Be nice and hope the CSR is nice too. lol. I mean, I can definitely testify to the power of being nice to reps. If you have less than 6 months left or if you could live with their service for awhile, stick with them and when your time is up, your service agreement will “automatically renew on a month-to-month basis” until you leave or AT&T kicks you out. 🙂

Speaking of being nice to customer service representatives, I learned the hard way how not to be behave. 🙂 I screwed up on an order and I called the hotline. My first mistake was being a bit combative and trying to “bully” the representative into giving me a discount by concocting a story about how it was the company’s fault. Well, she clearly pointed out to me that the fault was mine and she remained steadfast in her refusal to grant me any discount. Well, I ended the call and had a cooling-down session with myself. I slept on the issue and the next day, early in the morning, I called the hotline again. I got a different CSR and I was genuinely apologetic about my mistake. We talked about options and I suggested the option which was most pleasing to me and she agreed with me. She agreed to give me the discount and I was amazed at the difference in response. For the record, this happened with my laptop order. I forgot to add the TV tuner option and now I will be getting it at a discount. I will have to return the laptop back to them so they can put it in, but I won’t be paying the full price for it. So it does pay to be a nice person. I get ashamed of myself sometimes because I read articles on the web that talk about how the customer is always right. Well, some customers are idiots/bullies/inane/smart and I happened to fall into one of those categories (hint: not smart) when I first called the hotline. So, with that expose on cell phone contracts and calling representatives, I’ll be signing out!