Monday, October 19, 2009

Knicks Game

We won tickets for a Basketball game. It was for the New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Clippers, but hey they were free tickets so who was I to complain. The problem was I didn’t know who to root for. The current area I was living, or where I had lived most of my life. Considering neither of us had never been to a basketball game we went with the intention to just enjoy it.
The funny part was that the night we went into the city was also the night of the santa pub crawl. So hundreds of people dressed like Santa wandering from bar to bar all a little tipsy makes for an interesting sight. We had never been to Madison Square Garden, and they keep threatening to tear it down and replace it so I guess I am glad to have got the chance to see it now. It was pretty obvious that it was an old place because it is the first arena that I have been to where it is hard to find a concession stand. The problem is that when we tried to buy stuff while there everything was expensive. When L. bought a soda and popcorn and handed over her credit card she was surprised that it was $14 because the only way to get it was as a surprise bundle that included an ugly orange christmas hat. The giant foam finger ended up costing $15 and a little refrigerator magnet was $10. The more I see people wearing team branded clothes and how people get in competitions of who can be decked out the most the more I feel sorry for them. All they want is to feel part of a group, and the company owning the team knows this and takes advantage of them by charging twice or three times what something should cost. The problem is that true sports fans can’t seem to see that the company owning the team doesn’t like them and is taking advantage of them more than a con artist ever could.
As with all other games I’ve been to there seems to be more work going into keeping the crowd interested and on their feet routing for the home team. There were contests between randomly chosen seats, a drummer during a break, a talent contest for kids, t-shirt cannons shooting shirts into the stands. This is in addition to the normal cheer leaders. I was actually interested in watching the game since I like playing basketball so all these things seemed a little annoying but I guess they have to something during the breaks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saving the World

Of course I say “Saving the World” jokingly. As part of the new group I am in at work the focus is to develop software for emerging economies. Basically, Africa. But, working at a large company leads to a lot of meetings and less getting things done. However, our group is trying to work with Unicef so I got to go to their building. Now I knew they were part of the U.N. so when I headed into New York City I thought I would be heading into the famous U.N. complex and get to see all the stuff that all the tourists doesn’t. Unfortunately for me, Unicef has their own building right outside the U.N. complex.
I was there for a conference called the Open Mobile Consortium. It was a conference put together by Unicef for all the people doing studies in Africa to talk about problems and what works. The funny thing was that most everyone there were college students from Columbia and NYU. More specifically everyone I talked to were ethnographers. I was referred to as “The engineer”. Coming from working for computer companies most of my life I found it hilarious that they all thought that field work was easy, it was the engineering that was hard. Of course, still being students they did not have all the run-ins with lawyers that you have to worry about when working for a company. Lawyers lead to reams of paperwork to make sure that no one feelings are hurt when you ask them a questions.
Most of the applications that people are working on were SMS systems were users would text messages to servers that would parse the text, (usually health care information) and store and process it. These kind of programs make sense since most of the technology right now in Africa is centered around cell phones.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Canceling my Phone (or “Lingo is Evil”)

I had figured out a way to get cheaper phone service so I needed to cancel my current phone service. The problem is that the billing department wouldn’t answer their phones and tech support wouldn’t cancel my account. I ended up canceling the credit card they were charging monthly as the only way to cancel the account after calling many times and sending cancel letters. Of course this made them send back a letter saying if I didn’t pay for the account they would report me to the phone regulatory board (NTDE) So instead I filed complaints with the BBB (better business bureau), FTC (Federal Trade Commission), and NTDE. I actually got a response back from the CEO of the NTDE saying they would look into it. With no way to end up in collections when trying to cancel Lingo, I would warn anyone to not sign up with them and I rate them as one of the worst companies because of this (their service while we had them was not the best either.)
Attached is the letter that I sent to everyone, that got such a response:

This is a complaint about one of your member companies using the names
"Primus Telecommunications" and "Lingo". The company has made it
impossible to cancel an account with them. These are bad business
practices that tarnish your groups name and create bad data (from dead
accounts unable to cancel), which leads to false reports in your
database, making its value decrease.
There is no way to cancel the account through their phone system.
Calling into tech support, I was able to get a person in under 5
minutes; but calling into customer service states that to many people
are waiting and to leave a message. Messages (contact info and acct
number) left over 3 months ago still have not been answered. Using
email support returns an email that canceling over email is not
allowed and gives a secret phone tree selection for customer service.
Using the hidden phone tree menu choice I am on hold for 20 minutes
then a message to call back during business hours, no matter what time
of day I called.
I have had to resort to canceling the card they are charging just to
cancel the account and have been forced to report them to the Better
Business Bureau (ID# 8069789) and Federal Trade Commission (ref#