Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Once again, Comcast has taken time from me I can never get back. In the mail on Monday, I received two digital converter boxes which I needed to install in order to be able to continue to receive all the digital channels. Following the directions in the box, I installed the converter box on the TV in my bedroom as well as a TV in my basement. I received an error message on both TVs telling me that I had to call Comcast to active the digital box. I called Comcast and after 10 minutes waiting for a technician, I was able to activate the digital box and use the Comcast remote (which is a cheap piece of junk) in my bedroom, but I was unable to activate the box and use the digital remote for the TV in my basement. I tried all 12 codes listed for Sony (the brand of all my TVs) but none of them worked. I also tried to capture the code from the TV using the Comcast remote but that did not work, either. The technician told me that Comast has found that some of the remote have been faulty and did not work, and that she would forward my call to Billing in order to have a new remote sent to me.

I then sat on hold for 32 minutes and a then a person from Billing tried to help me. He asked me if I had followed the directions to program the remote, which I told him I had and that I was walked through the programming with the previous technician. I told the technician what the first technician had said to me, that Comcast was having problems with some of the remotes that were sent out. He said that was untrue, that Comcast would never knowingly send out remotes to the digital boxes that were defective. He asked me to try one more time to program the remote, and I obliged. I repeated the attempt to program the remote which did not work. I said to him that I was done doing anything more with the equipment that had been sent to me and that I wanted a digital box and remote sent to me. He said that he would, and I told him that I was going to throw out the equipment that did not work. He told me not to do throw the equipment away as I would be charged for the equipment. I asked him what I should do with it. He then told me that I could drop it off at a Comcast center, or be sitting at home and wait for a technician to get it, or I could ship it back via UPS.

I told the tech that under no circumstances would I take time out of my day and drive to a Comcast center, nor would I wait for a technician to get the box. I told him I would be happy to put the box and the remote in a plastic bag and leave it on my front porch for a Comcast technician to pick it up. He said I should not do that as if the equipment is not picked up or is missing when the technician shows up that I would be charged $30. He once again offered to send me the pre-paid shipping paperwork, which I told him to do. I told him that the defective box will sit in my basement until a UPS delivery person comes to my house, and I happen to be here, so I can give it to UPS.

On Monday night, I spent an hour and a half trying to get these two cable boxes to work and at the end of it all, only one set of the equipment Comcast sent to me works. I am then told that I have to be further inconvenienced and take the time and effort to return the defective equipment to Comcast. I told the technician that I will be happy to leave the defective box on the porch for Comcast to get it and I was told not to leave the box on my front porch. I was then asked to take up my free time and take the box to a UPS store and ship it back to Comcast. I will not do either. The defective box will sit in my basement until a UPS delivery is made to my house, and I happen to be home when it happens. I will not be charged for this defective equipment. If Comcast really wants the equipment back, they can come get it at my convenience.

To their credit, both the people I spoke to tonight were polite and apologetic, but at the end of the day, I was sent defective equipment. I was asked by a company to whom I am paying for a service to be further inconvenienced to return their defective equipment. The defective box will sit in my basement until I happen to be home for a UPS delivery, or until the sun grows cold. Hopefully, the next digital box will work. I do not want to repeat again what happened to me Monday night.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

East of the Equator

OK, I have had to do a lot of explaining the past few weeks. Since Deirdre and I moved into our cottage, I have made some postings on this blog as well as on Facebook describing our time there. I have had a few colleagues at work and Navy friends who have been perplexed by the name of our cottage on Lake Huron. Our cottage is aptly named "East of the Equator, which is a magical place where it is always a quarter past five." I served as a Surface Warfare Officer for 22 years, shot more stars and sunlines than I can remember. For two years, I was the Navigator of USS FLETCHER (DD 992), a SPRUANCE class destroyer, which required me to take and pass a Navigator and Celestial Navigation course. I am well versed in celestial and terrestrial navigation and I know that technically, one cannot be east of the equator. Well, there is such place just east of the equator if you want to disconnect from the world, watch the sun rise each morning, the moon rise at night from time to time, run your German Shepherd Water Dog into Lake Huron so he can chase Chuckit, and get 90 cent drafts of Killian's Red in a frosted mug at the VFW. Our cottage is a place where we can unwind, unplug and relax. There is a clock over the stove that has nothing but fives on it. At our cottage, it is alway a quarter past five, just east of the equator.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jos. A. Banks

Today, I freshened up my wardrobe for work. Jos. A. Banks is sort of like the Art Van of men's clothing: there is always a sale. A little more than two years ago, just before I started my civilian career, I went to Jos. A Banks to get a new uniform: business casual. With Deirdre's help, I purchased dress dress shirts, pants, socks, and shoes, so I would fit into my new work environment. Since then. I have picked up a few new dress shirts and pants along the way, but I had not purchased any short sleeve sport shirts. Well, I was a sucker for a mailer I received a few days ago, which offered 40-60% off sport shirts. I went to the nearby Jos. A. Banks to look at the sport shirts. As luck would have it, shoes were 25% off as well. After looking at a couple of shirts, I purchased five short sleeve shirts, a pair of Johnston Murphy shoes and a pair of Cole Haan shoes.

I am a little funny about shoes. One of the pairs I wear to work were the shoes I wore when I graduated from high school. They are brown Sebago loafers, and they have been resoled more times than I can remember. However, the leather is still good (probably because I polish them often) and if I did not tell you that they were 30 years old you would never know. I also sometimes wear a pair of 20 year old black Bates dress shoes. These black shoes have also been resoled more times than I can remember, but they are aging well. I have added two new pairs of shoes to my collection and I am ready to start breaking them in as the summer progresses.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The origin of East of the Equator

I have been writing this blog for almost three years and recently I have had a few people ask me what I meant by the title, "East of the Equator." As most people know, and equator is a dividing line of a planet or celestial sphere, marking the point where north becomes south and south becomes north. Clearly, one cannot be east of a line that marks the north and the south. So, here is the tale that tells the origin of the term "East of the Equator."

When I was stationed aboard my first ship, USS NIAGARA FALLS (AFS 3), my ship left Guam (its homeport) and we deployed to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf for 6 months. During those 6 months, the ship supported a carrier battle group, and this required my ship to make frequent trips to Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. Diego Garcia is located about 7 degrees south of the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Dee-Gar, as it is also called, was a place where my ship could pull into port for a few days, get food and supplies for the battle group, then head back north to replenish the battle group. At one point during this deployment, we pulled into Diego Garcia for a six week long stay, where repairs would be made to the ship as well as to allow for a brief rest for the crew.

While we were there, the Wardroom (the officers of a ship form the Wardroom) was given access to a mobile home located a few hundred feet from the Officer's Club. Because of its position in the world, sunrise and sunset times do not change much during the year, and because there is no industrial pollution anywhere near the island, the sunrises and sunsets are usually spectacular. Me and my fellow officers would frequently go to the trailer for a beer, head to the Officer's Club for dinner, and then return to the mobile home, which had a commanding view of the Indian Ocean as well as a small deck that ended at the water's edge. One of my responsibilities was to keep the trailer stocked with cold beer, soft drinks and snacks. Many an evening were spent at the trailer, enjoying a spectacular sunset and a cold adult beverage.

We ended up calling the trailer "The Hooch," as every good watering place needs a name. It seemed like time stood still on those evening spent at the Hooch, and it always seemed like we arrived at the Hooch a little bit after 5PM. One evening, we joked that at the Hooch is is always a "quarter past five," meaning that it was always beer o'clock there. I then mused that any place where it is always a quarter past five must be a mythical or even magical place, and the term "East of the Equator" was born. Since you can't technically be east of the equator, I thought if I invented such a place, then I can make it any time I want there.

Fast forward 24 years, and Deirdre and I are the happy owners of a cottage in Au Sable Township, with 50 feet of beach front on Lake Huron. Au Sable Township is located about 3 miles south of Oscoda. Many of the cottages along US-23 are sometimes given names by their owners and have a spiffy sign that has the aforementioned name of the cottage. We decided, even before we owned a place, that we would call the cottage "East of the Equator." We have a design in mind for our sign, we just now need to find a craftsman to make it for us. Look for more updates about our time at the cottage, East of the Equator, where it is always a quarter past five.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last night, following a wonderful weekend in Oscoda, I started on an update to my blog. I typed a few paragraphs and realized that I needed to go to bed. I thought I saved my draft post last night. However, I looked for it in vain this evening. Clearly, I did something wrong and did not properly save my text. I will re-write my post tomorrow night. It has been a tough day for me vis-a-vis technology. I lost a long and witty blog post, and my BlackBerry phone has stopped working. I am heading to the Verizon store after work on Tuesday to get a new phone. Grrr...