The (Ongoing) Saga of Comcast

TL;DR: The company has a multitude of contact methods for me that were entered when I created the service account, but will only contact me to provide account access via methods that I can cannot access unless I already have account access. And they are charging me overage fees in the meantime.

A roommate, under whose name the old cable account was under, moved out. We began paying with a different card.

Comcast enacted a new limit on the amount of data we can use per month, which we hit in the first couple weeks. They charge some additional fees for overages or you can, allegedly, pay a $50 flat rate fee to go back to the old unlimited. In order to add that $50 add-on, it required changing the account, which can only be done by the primary account holder, the roommate who moved out.

So, we call up the roommate, he flies back to San Francisco from Los Angeles for a day to go in-store with me (the only way to make this change, apparently). They close his account, open a new one in my name under a new, alledgedly better, plan. This new plan is part of a bundle that includes telephone service (which we will never use) and I’ve explicitly asked for this unlimited data add-on to be applied (and told it has been). I am sent home with a modem to set up, and I leave the store content.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Housemates begin receiving pop-up warnings that their data usage has hit the limit. That’s surprising as, we’ve added the unlimited data add-on. I head over to Comcast’s website to create my web account to log in, and find that I already have a web account “configured” for my service. I don’t have the password.

After entering in appropriate identifying information associated with the account, the password reset link actually leads to a live-chat. Live chat asks me some more identifying information before sending me an email verification email (which I’ve yet to receive but it’s only been about an hour so far). That email verification email is not, I am told actually my password reset email.

In order to reset my password, I am told, I will need to provide my PIN. After providing one I am informed that in fact my PIN has not been configured. Reminder that at this point they have my name, address, last 4 of social, telephone number and email address already on file from when I created the service account. They say they will need to call me to give me a PIN and have me create a security question.

They proceed to call… the landline they added to my account that is not in use and has no phone plugged into it. When pointing out that they have my primary phone number already in their account they claim there is an FCC rule that prevents them from using it. They never had any issue using my cell phone before when the account was just internet. They’ve also called me on that number 5+ times to get me to take a survey about my instore visit since then.

The other two options for getting a PIN, which, reminder, I would have been able to set up if I had been allowed to create my own web account instead of having it sneakily done for me in-store, are via email at this comcast email account that was setup without my knowledge in store that can only be accessed by logging in with a password I do not have that can only be reset by using the PIN. Or by US Mail in 5 to 7 business days.

The company has a multitude of contact methods for me that were entered when I created the service account, but will only contact me to provide account access via methods that I can cannot access unless I already have account access. And they are charging me overage fees in the meantime.

I’ve sent the content of this blog post to FCC Consumer Complaints along with a bunch of screenshots of our conversation, which I am told is the best way to get Comcast to get a somewhat more powerful representative to get in touch with you.

In the meantime, digging up a working landline phone and a cable to plug in and try when I get home.

Update 1: They called me, on my cell phone, to tell me I owe them money. I explained in short the story above as pertains to letting me into my account to add a payment method. They cold transferred me. New person needs the exact number I owe (dollars and cents) to continue along the process of letting me reset my password (that I never created or was told existed). Obviously I did not write down the exact amount. Person who created my account in-store apparently did not enter in any identifying information. Also, account numbers are considered secrets.

P.S. Wow, this is what got me to write a blog post after multiple years?

The Wind

The past couple weeks in SF have been windy. I feel like this is usually something I don’t mind but lately it makes me wish for escape. It’s a strange thing to have a weather phenomenon move you nearly to frustrated tears, but there it is.

It comes from a few factors, of course.

The tree outside my bedroom window constantly scratches the glass making all manner of noises all day and night. Whether it is the sound of plastic crumpling, metal scraping on metal, or somebody opening my door, the thing just doesn’t stop. Wakes me up startled at night and I am generally a heavy sleeper. I’ve talked to the landlord about it, so hopefully it will get trimmed soon.

My hair is a little too long and gets in my eyes. My usual pleasant and relaxing day activity is walking through my neighborhood reading a book on my way to lunch. The wind constantly blows my hair into my eyes while I am trying to read. Not relaxing. Not pleasant. I’ve taken to wearing hats more often but am considering cutting my hair.

It just makes noise all the time. Not soft breezy noise, but rather gusty random white noise. My house is old, has rattling windows, chimneys. Shuddering noises are the result of every gust.

As I am sitting at the park writing this in warm sunlight, it blows chilling through my sweater, flaps the edges of the blanket I am on, and I’ve pretty much given up on my hair.

Go away, wind, you’re not welcome here anymore.

P. S. Currently home and wind is not blowing, blogging miracle?

P. P. S. NEVERMIND

Yes, I Have A Mustache

Neither my first nor my last, but at current I have the largest mustache I have ever had. There are many pros and cons to the whole thing, but I’d have to say the biggest thing you notice about having a mustache is that 90% of your conversations with people are about your mustache.

All the time.

The number of times I’ve heard “that’s getting long enough for you to wax,” “you should totally wax that thing -little twisty finger motion-,” and “you should curl that,” is beyond counting. To respond: yes my mustache is long, I do wax it occasionally and I don’t like how it looks curled.

Just thought I’d share that. Won’t change anything, but there it is.

How To Get Banned From PyCon

PyCon was great for me this year. Before the conference, I had made a pact with myself to go to more talks, be less jaded, and to talk to more new programmers. All those were things I had trouble with last year and this year was so much more inspiring for me because I changed my attitude. But this isn’t the tale of all the great conversations I had, it is the story of how I got banned from the next two years of PyCon, I’ll let you make up your mind as to whether it was justified and what it means.

Some background on myself. I’ve been going to PyCon for 4 of the last 5 years, EuroPython for some years before that, and plenty of other open source conferences. I’m a loud guy. I tend to make friends quickly because I am honest and generous but I also tend to lose my filter after prolonged drinking and find humor on the edge of acceptability rather… humorous. I share these traits with many of the attendees I know, but there are also many I politely try to steer clear of because I know I will annoy or offend them.

This year, like every other, involved much late night revelry but to my knowledge there weren’t any other incidents besides mine that necessitated any serious consequences. I’d also like to point out that those organizers that dealt with me (Jesse and Jacob) were the model of tact and respect and answered every question I asked, certainly the whole affair was as difficult for them as for myself.

On to the Testing in Python BoF, the scene of our story. This event has been occurring for years and in recent ones has become somewhat infamous for attracting a very… enthusiastic crowd of hecklers. For the most part the attendees appear to be in on the joke with many humorous presentations and many bottles of whiskey and beer making the rounds. This year, by just about any measure, you could say it got out of hand.

I haven’t gotten completely clear stories on the first infraction, and many people’s memories of the event are hazy, mine included, but at some point in this scene I made two mistakes: I shouted a heckle at a female friend of mine that upset some bystanders and possibly her at the time, and I lit up a pipe to smoke something that is legal in some states but certainly not in a crowded hotel event space.

On the offensive remark I have very few details, but those I was given was that it was something like “you’re the hottest.” That doesn’t sound very bad to me but I suppose that could have been a polite paraphrasing of what I said. I don’t condone those actions and without more specifics I can’t really compare it to the various other sorts of heckles being thrown around. I am also apologetic for any offense caused to my friend and the bystanders. I know I can be testing of people’s limits.

Towards smoking in a crowded event space, obviously that was a dumb decision on my part and I am glad that to the best of my knowledge it didn’t result in any fines or legal trouble for the conference (though I am sure it still required action on their part). To add some perspective, however, the heavy drinking of outside alcohol is also not allowed. I realize a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and in this case that line was chosen at me.

There was a lot of talk this year about the conference’s Code of Conduct. It’s goal is to make sure the conference remains open, welcoming and safe for all attendees, plenty of which are children. I think everybody agrees on the goals of the document, but sometimes the rules can be difficult to interpret.

For example, during one of the talks on Sunday a woman took a photograph of two men who had been joking to each other by lightly sexualizing some computer jargon and she tweeted about it citing their remarks as offensive. I don’t have any more specifics about it than anybody else who saw the tweet, so I can’t judge for myself how inappropriate they may have felt to me. However, some short time later the same woman tweeted positively about playing Cards Against Humanity, a game self-described as “despicable.”

If you’ve never seen or played Cards Against Humanity, it is a hilarious game that can easily be said to be inappropriate in any public setting. On one hand, deciding to join this aggressively offensive card game is a choice, where as who sits next to you in a conference talk is not. Then again, this game was played every night of the conference (and likely is being played as I write this) and anybody who used the hotel lobby’s bathroom next to where it was set up might easily overhear offensive terminology. Probably even more so than by joining in at the BoF where so much of this story culminated.

Gray areas. Guys are pretty likely to make dick jokes when in the company of like-minded individuals, how far from conference grounds should they be before that becomes okay? Is it only a problem if somebody hears and is offended? Humans are part of this process to make these difficult decisions, hopefully in as unbiased a way as possible, but humans don’t always agree.

I’m not fighting the decision to ban me, though I’d love to continue going to PyCons, but I do question it and what it means for people like me. If anything, I hope talking about it reduces these sorts of incidents without anybody feeling like their rights are being reduced as well.

P.S. There’s an official response, appears to just be making sure their position was official on the substance use.

P.P.S. Apropos Penny Arcade post from yesterday.

Injury Recap

Quick injury story for those interested and asking:

i got my tire caught in the muni tracks. i was going rather fast downhill (sanchez to 17th) and made a left turn too widely. i’ve made the turn a hundred times but i was drunk so over-confident that my angles would work out… they didn’t. spent a day on the couch feeling like shit and the next day a good friend drove me around to dr appointments all day for x-rays, ct scans, etc. gist is that i have a fracture in my elbow (doesn’t really hurt that much and i have decent range of motion, but i can’t really rotate my arm comfortably like one has to to make your hand flat on a keyboard) and apparently a few small fractures in my face (eye/temple area, makes it hard to chew, squint, laugh, that sort of stuff and swelly, though that’s gone down a lot, also makes my snot bloody).

i’m “prescribed” large doses of advil for the pain and the swelling (the stuff works pretty well when you take way more than the “maximum” dose), wearing a sling as much as possible, some antibiotics to keep the bleedy sinus parts from getting infected (to be taken every 6 hours, which means i get to wake up at 6am every day for at least long enough to down a pill), but not really a lot else. once i figure out how to strip any personal info out of them, i’ll upload my x-rays and ct scans and give out a link for anybody into that sort of stuff.

oh, and a picture of my swolleny face

Patience

Many things take longer to do when you only have effective use of one arm. Typing, for example, or scooping ice cream (luckily eating ice cream is not very severely affected). I am learning this currently because I fractured some part of my elbow and my face in a bike accident earlier this week.

My arm actually seems like it will be significantly more usable soonish, at least it is feeling much much better than the first day after the accident. My face, it turns out, is the worse injury. Apparently I fractured something near my eye which is causing some amount of bleeding into my sinuses. Makes for gross tissues and I can’t comfortably open my mouth very much or sneeze, holy shit does sneezing hurt.

It apparently takes a while for this stuff to heal, so I’m settling in to a sedentary lifestyle for a little while. This is also the first significant bone-y injury I’ve had in my life so it’s giving me a little bit of a sense of mortality.

From One, Two

It can take a little while for certain kinds of feelings to catch up with me after a breakup. It’s been a few weeks now, so I suppose it is about time.

We’re adults now, we’ve learned to be honest when we care about someone, and we can look upon our dreams with sad eyes when they begin to fade. Still, we are rarely as strong as we appear from outside.

Obviously we survive, and we grow stronger, and we put up walls that we just have to tear down again, and if we’re lucky we learn something. Surely we aren’t fated to be repeat this cycle forever. Surely our caprices, selfishnesses, prides and insecurities will someday transform into their opposites.

Coping mechanisms: I have taught myself many, but writing was the first.

Albums not to listen to shortly after a breakup:

  • Tegan and Sera – Hearthrob

Albums to listen to shortly after a breakup:

  • Beck – Sea Change

America the Beautiful

Earlier today I asked a question on twitter, I wanted to know if there existed a mashup of something like Kayak’s lovely “Explore” interface and a listing of the random small-town events across the U.S. that I might want to go to. The idea being to get away for a weekend and see something unusual, relatively cheaply.

I found decent website http://www.topeventsusa.com/ and did a quick look through them and turned up this minimally curated list. States that didn’t make the cut were either California (where I live) or only had events that did not trigger any emotional response in me.

(If you have any suggestions from your small hometown, leave ’em in the comments.)

Alaska

Alabama

Arizona

  • March, Cowgirl Up!, celebrating women in cowgirl stuff

Arkansas

Delaware

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Massachusetts

  • October, Topsfield Fair agricultural fair, pig races, sand sculpture

Michigan

Mississippi

Misouri

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Mexico

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

  • November, Chitlin Strug, food festival for chitlins, includes hawg-callin

Tennessee

  • April, Mule Day week long celebration of the mule

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

On Hold

Like many people, I dislike chores. My general approach to most things in life is to batch process things, I pile stuff up so that I can do it all once infrequently rather than doing it a little at a time. Usually this works pretty well, but every so often laziness overcomes responsibility, the system breaks down and I end up in holding pattern.

Over the years I’ve realized that my mood is very affected by my environment. When I have piles of dirty laundry and am wearing the shirts that I don’t particularly like, my mood switches to one where I am effectively writing off the day: I’m waiting for things to change before I start trying again.

It is a frustrating mood to be in, because by its nature it prevents change, as more work piles up the initial kick required to surmount the hill encourages one to put things off further, and onward it goes.

It’s a common pattern, probably a decent number of programmers run into it in their work lives: if you aren’t starting with the best footing, why start at all? A frequent example I’ve heard from many people is that since some piece of work will require a big chunk of time to complete, it isn’t even worth working on it until you are going to have that big piece of time uninterrupted.

Most of the time this is probably just an excuse, ammunition for procrastination. In reality many things probably don’t take as much time or effort as we remember them taking.

After procrastinating a while by reading wikipedia’s list of biases in judgement and decision making, I feel I should make a larger effort to remember overcoming that hill so that next time it doesn’t look so big.

It’s The Screamiest

A couple weekends back I participated in Art Hack Day with a bunch of neat people. If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is a weekend long hackathon “for hackers whose medium is art and artists whose medium is tech.” I had a bunch of ideas going in and tried to work with a few people but in the end only finished one of the projects. It’s a database of screams, with a phone interface. Meet Scream Phone.

The first goal was just to gather a bunch of screams so that other projects could use them as original content (the theme was “Lethal Software” so it seemed useful to have some screams available). In general I had the feeling of “if you build it, they’ll figure out how to use it,” and it worked. My gathered screams got used by the Noisebomb project.

When other projects fell through I decided to give the excellent Twilio API a shot and make a quick Google App Engine site to host it all. It also gave me a fun chance to spray paint all over a wall in an art gallery (a very satisfying experience).

It’s still running, so feel free to call in and add your personal scream to the database. You can get the code on my GitHub.