Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Dad Update

My Dad's not really any better....but by the same token he's no worse after five days in the hospital now.

Tomorrow my dad will be undergoing a procedure when they basically vacuum the lungs out. If this works the doctor is hope his quality of life, at least for now, will improve. With his age and current condition it is of course risky, but as my dad just said, he can't go on like this. he can't go from his couch to the kitchen without gasping for breath even with his oxygen tank.

I've have be so down these past five days, particularly after all the trouble Scott had, I feel emotionally bankrupt or at least overdrawn.......

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Update on my Dad

FINALLY heard about my Dad just now, he took a nasty fall and has a bad case of pneumonia, which is bad for someone his age, plus he has the emphysema.

For whatever reason, my brother thought it not prudent to call from the hospital....I just called him at home about 20 minutes ago. Funny, as when we were IM'ing this morning he was stating how much it sucked knowing my dad was n the way to the hospital but not being able to talk to someone.........

I will call tomorrow to check on him, he'll b on meds fr 24 hours at that point so there will be a better indication of how he's going.

That damn light......

So.........after hearing from my brother this morning, we IM'd back and forth for awhile, and he located the hospital my Dad was taken to using Google and such as I had suggested. This was after he called my dad's girlfriends cell phone provider in an attempt to have her contacted as we did not have her cell phone. He talked to a supervisor who barely spoke English, and after she would not him after `15 minutes of trying to explain the situation he hung up in frustration!

WHAT IS WRONG WITH COMPANIES THESE DAYS - If you are providing service in America is it too much to expect to be able to talk with people who speak clearly and understand the language???

Hospital identified he then headed off promising to call me. Well, that was over 2 hours ago and it's about a 40 minute ride to the hospital!

LAST TIME this happened it was hours before I was called.......THIS IS MOST FRUSTRATING!!!!!!

Light at the end of the tunnel

Just when you think you can see the Light at the end of the tunnel.......

Scott has been doing much better, out of the wheelchair now, and doing very well! I just got a phone call from my brother in New Jersey, when he returned to his house this AM He had a message form my dad's girlfriend saying my dad fell, wave having trouble breathing, and was on his way to the hospital. He's been unable to get in touch with her yet.......

Being 710 miles away with no news is VERY FRUSTRATING!!!!!!!!!! I feel like my head is going to explode!

On blogs, no one can hear you scream......................

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paycheck Part II

So, here it is Tuesday and no pay yet for me.

Seems that for whatever reason they transferred me back in April to another division (which in theory should have stopped my paychecks five checks ago!) I have been transferred back, and an issue to pay 'out of cycle' has been entered, which means by Thursday latest I should see my pay.

Fun times! Fun times!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Paycheck Snaffu

So, Friday I did not get my two weeks pay. I suspected there might be an issue as I was scheduling some bills online and did not see my direct deposit from work. Over the weekend I logged into the payroll system and saw that this was not a direct deposit issue, but something else; there was NO money queued up for the past two week pay period!

The X gets an automatic direct deposit when I get paid. Technically I am in violation of my child support agreement with the state of Michigan right now.

So, I got onto our work IM this morning and asked my boss if perhaps there was something she forgot to tell me, since I had not been paid. She was shocked and said I must call the payroll center. I informed her I spent 10 minutes yesterday navigating through all their voice menus. I finally found a selection that said "Press 2 if you have not been paid". I pressed 2 and was disconnected after being told they were only staffed weekdays. They could not have started off with this tidbit of information when my first selection 10 minutes ago was "I want to speak to a representative"??

So, at 9 AM when they opened I called the company payroll center, something else they outsource, and after 10 minutes on hold, I was told I was 'removed from the system at the request of the business'. That was all they could tell me. That and they could not help me and I had to call someone else.

"Who should I call?" I asked.

"Someone else." came the reply, though they could not tell me who!

So, after counting to 10 several times and waiting for the red haze surrounding my vision to fade a bit, I contacted my HR rep in Ohio, or tried to. After leaving voice mail I called her boss who got the ball rolling.

Well, after e-mail had been going back and forth all day, and they identified the problem, I still have not seen my $$$$

Oh, what was the problem you may ask? Evidently I was transferred to a division the payroll center (this one anyway) does not serve so they just dropped me like yesterday's news.

I have asked if they can tell me just how this happened. We shall see what transpires........

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Picture

Scott drew the following picture for me for Father's Day - This is so much cooler than a card from the store!!!

Click the picture above for a larger version in a new window.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review: AT&T U-verse
Fiber Optic Service

Note this was written on May 3, 2008 but I am justgetting around to posting it now......

I recently switched from my current phone, Internet, and TV providers. I used to have AT&T DSL for Internet and AT&T for local/long distance using traditional phone service. Dish Network was my TV provider.

On April 30th I went with AT&T's U-verse offering which is all three of these services delivered over a fiber optic cable. One service, one bill each month.

It should be noted that Dish Network served me well for the going on the five years I have had the service at the previous and current house here. It is also worth mentioning that you can't miss what you've never had!

AT&T showed up in their allocated service window, around 9:15 AM. They tell you to allow 5 to 8 hours when having all three services installed, but my network, since I am a geek, was all setup for them to drop there equipment in place, and my phone wiring easily accessible and some of the existing cabling that the Dish Network was using could be reused as well. The total install took just over 4 hours and was very professionally done. The X wife was having her house done too, and while she is no computer expert, she was up and running quickly too. The folks that come on site are highly trained for those with little to no computer skills.

So, how does it compare with my previous services? Read on to find out!

Comparison: Dish Network .vs. U-verse TV:
Dish Network was running me $75/month, I had no major premium channels such as Showtime, no HD service and a total of 250 channels, and a DVR for recording. I did have a smattering of lesser tier movie channels like IMC, Encore, and TMC.

Under U-verse, the TV portion of my fiber optic service is 300 channels, 39 of those in HD including all my local channels which Dish could not offer in HD. I have a PVR that can do 120 hours. Using a web browser from anywhere in the world I can tell the PVR to record as show right off the program guide, see what is scheduled to record, and see a list of all items already recorded. All TVs now do picture in a picture; none of them did that before. As I said this is $5/month cheaper but to really see the value of it you'd have to add in about $20 a month for the HD service from dish (again though no local channels in HD), plus another $15-$20/month for all the movie channels I am getting now, such as Showtime. So value wise I am saving $45 or so a month.

The new service has video on demand, Dish Network did too but it was pitiful compared to the number of films, shows, specials, and such that are available free on this service, plus of course you can rent movies as well. Many of the free offerings are items that are available for rental at local places like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video; I am seriously thinking of cancelling my Blockbuster monthly (Netflix type) service; there is just no need with this.

Another point worth making is that the visual quality of regular non-HD channels is so much better than it was with Dish Network.

Comparison: Internet (DSL .vs. U-verse Fiber )
On the Internet side, for the same cost of my previous service it is faster. Previously I had a 2.5 Mbps download and 512K upload and now I have 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. On fast web sites pages just flash onto the screen. There are some decent offerings on their portal but nothing major enough to note mention over my previous AT&T DSL Portal.

Comparison: Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) .vs. U-verse IP Phone Service
On the phone side for the same cost there are so many features I did not have before such as voice mail (which I can also access with a computer and forward voice messages to others), Call Screening, Call Forwarding, Do Not Disturb Me (People calling, unless on an approved list, will get a busy signal), Locate Me (the system will try me at up to four other numbers), Anonymous Call Blocking, and more. I can also place calls from the computer if I wanted to or dial off of the TV too. Call accounting which shows calls in and out, missed calls, etc. can be done on the web or TV. An interesting note: I just got an email while posting this that I had a voice mail message waiting so I listed to it from my PC.

The Hardware:
Tying these three services together is a Residential Gateway which you can log into. It features four traditional wired Internet ports, 802.11 g wireless access point capability, and a bridge for your current phone systems so you retain your current phone equipment. There is also a USB port. You can login to this gateway on your home network using a web browser and control many settings, including firewall, from this interface which will also display a map of your home network and allow you to setup file sharing between devices that support that. The interface can be set to experts, for example being able to tweak all settings for the firewall, add routes, etc. or a wizard based one, when you would pick a game you might play on-line, and the system automatically sets up the firewall for that.

The units that connect to the TVs are so much smaller than the Dish Network units and each of these have USB ports and a full complement of A/V outputs including an HDMI port. The Dish Network DVR records 100 hours while the AT&T unit does 120.

The pictures below show the DVR and non-DVR units; note the AT&T units are the same size while the Dish Network units are different and, particularly in the case of the DVR units have a much larger foot print.

Negative Points:
I have to be fair, while I am deliriously overjoyed and thrilled with this service far beyond my expectations, there is some minor nitpicking I can do.

Dish Network .vs. U-verse TV
You can tell the U-verse in still relatively new. While the hardware is indeed state of the art, the firmware needs work. For example, the program guide is not as polished nor is the search facility. On the Dish Network you could be watching a show, or highlight a show on the program guide, hit the search key on the remote, and then all occurrences of that show would be listed which made it much easier to tag them for recording. On the U-verse setup you have to bring up a search window and enter each character using the remote. While it does start auto-populating possible shows for you to choose from with each character you enter, depending on what you are searching for you may have to enter quite a few characters before the show shows up in this list.

On the other hand though once you have a show or movie selected, there is an option on U-verse where you can search on the listed characters real names and then bring up a list of anything else, be it from the program guide or video on demand, that they are in.

Changing channels is instantaneous on U-verse, there can be several seconds delay on Dish Network, but, Dish Network periodically caches the program guide, so moving day by day forward for the 8 days it stores is much quicker. Once you get a day ahead of present time with U-verse the guide has to obtain the information and this takes several seconds.

On the other hand, U-verse's guide goes for two weeks into the future .vs. the almost 8 days the Dish Network does. There is supposed to be a major upgrade to the gateway and TV units by the end of the summer; I will write of my experiences with that when it is available. One feature I am eagerly looking forward to the ability to watch recorded material off of any TV in the house instead of just the TV with the DVR attached to it.

Another negative point of the U-verse experience is you can't watch TV in slow motion which you can do on the Dish Network; a minor point to be sure, but a minor point nonetheless.

Phone System:
One downside of the phone system is its IP; if your power goes off so do your phones. Te be fair, AT&T installs a battery backup system that will provide 4 hours of power. Beyond that though and you would not be able to dial out. Of course if you have a cell phone this should not be a major emergency, but, it is a point worth noting.

If you have this service available, go for it! There are different tiers, so, for example I could be saving more. If I did not get HD service, that would save me $10/month, and I could have gone with less channels. But, since the next channel offering is 200, and I had 250 with Dish Network, I did not want less, and let's face it, for a few dollars less that what I was paying I am getting so much more. I did not do this to save money but to enhance my services. You could certainly save more than I did or spend more since they have packages with 400 channels and Internet as fast as 10 Mbps downstream.

June 14th Update: As mentioned above I had originally wrote this over a month ago. Revisiting my decision I am still happy with it, though the immaturity of the interface and the shortcomings mentioned above for the guide and searching can be quite annoying when used to the features Dish Network have. I can only expect AT&T's interface to get better, but, I must say that after having it six weeks without any tweaks thus far makes me worry their top priority is of course sales and existing customers will just have to wait patiently.

Friday, June 13, 2008

760 miles later.....

....and I am back ....did you all miss me??

I left for Cincinnati 6:30 AM Monday morning opting to drive the Mustang instead of flying. It's a five and a half hour drive and with airport delays and such I just decided to drive.

I was in management meetings all week, and arrived back home last night.

While it's good to be back, I got really ticked at the kids who were watching the Tails Kitty for me; they had not picked her litter box all week and it was an absolute mess, I felt so bad for the poor cat and so angry with the kids who used the excuse "Mom did not remind us".....

For those who have been reading my ramblings you know when I approved the requisition for procurement of one feline unit they had promised they were going to do that. Needless to say they have to be constantly reminded to do this simple chore and from talking to their Mom today they also do they same with the Guinea pigs at her house.

So, instead of just picking up kitty and going home and relaxing which I really wanted to do after driving for five and a half hours I had to stop at the store and procure litter and take care of the cat box. There will be some TBD repercussion on the kids for this, strong enough to insure the daily chore is done.........I just have to decide what it is going to be. Perhaps I will not let them flush for five days.........that punishment would certainly fit the crime and give them a real idea of what they did to the cat.

In reflection later last night I realized that I was so upset it spoiled the memory of my perfect dinner on the way home (White Castle!) which I have not had this year. This is one 64 miles away from here and it was on the ride home.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Status Updates - Scott and I

I thought I would catch everyone up since I have not posted in almost a week. This is because.....

(Insert fade or ripple effect typical of bad 70's TV sitcoms indicating a flash back......)

I went to bed last Thursday evening feeling fine; I awoke at 4:30AM Friday morning feeling like I was choking on a pillow. My throat and sinuses were so sore and completely clogged, and I was running a fever.

I made it through the day and then spent the next four days feeling terrible which made taking care of the kids (Friday was the start of my week) a major chore. I ordered pizza and got Chinese take out, and Sunday, since it has been traditional and I know the kids really enjoy it, I did grill steaks for us though going to the store and making them was exhausting and felt like some major effort instead of the simple chore it normally is. Thanks to the X who came and brought corn on the cob and helped with the cleanup. The other four days nothing was cooked. I missed work Monday and Friday, though I did do some work from home I was too ill to do the whole days.

Today I feel pretty much recovered though my blood sugar is still north of 25 points higher than it should be; stress and illness really wreak havoc with your blood glucose levels when you are diabetic. For the first time in over a week, I was able to ride the exercise bike over my lunch break too.

Scott was feeling better with less dizziness Monday and, for the first time since May 2nd, made it through a whole day of school. Tuesday morning he woke up feeling more pain in his headache and more light-headed and weak. He only made half a day at school.

This morning he was so bad pain-wise, plus light headed and feeling very weak, he could barely rise so he did not make it into school. He has been struggling with trying to finish out his sophomore year of high school so he can go into the next grade come the fall. His mom has been busy working with the school to make arrangements for Scott having his tests staggered, and some of the work not done because of his absence dropped from the grading for his classes, so, [providing he gets some of the past work in and does OK on his finals he will pass, but, he will be going to school at least a week after it is over for everyone else since right now he's only going to do a test a day.

Scott is still going to the Chiropractor and we are anxiously awaiting word from the University of Michigan Medical Center as to when he will be going down there; I am just hoping it won't be next week when I must travel on business; the X is going to have her hands full enough (which I feel very bad about) having to deal with the kids herself.