Mother of a problem

Mum rang me the other day.

Mum ringing me wasn’t an unusual event, and I often rang my mother too, but lately there have been a flurry of phone calls announcing the same thing.

The Internet wasn’t working again.

It hadn’t been working for a while, and now she was cranky.

After the saga with the first modem, mum wasn’t too keen now on updating her unreliable prepaid modem to join the ranks of the net-savvy cyber senior citizen with super-fast ADSL2. Better the devil you know than the devil that doesn’t go.

I’d installed this second modem myself the other day, and it was working fine until I rang tech help to get the configurations to set up the email. I knew I was in trouble when the foreign operator asked me to open up Outlook Express in Windows 7.

After a couple of hours with no joy, I was starting to get a sense of deja vu, so I went home. There was no point in beating my head up against a wall any more than was necessary.

Mum got herself organised after she rang me. There was little I could do and no amount of headbanging was going to fix the problem. The next day she rang the second-level tech support and they told her that they would send somebody out to check the line, which appeared to be the only common denominator in this sorry saga.

It was a good thing that mum was home when the linesman came to check the outside line, because he then checked inside and found an old phone plugged into a phone jack in mum’s bedroom.

I remember mum telling me a few months ago that she wasn’t using that phone anymore and had turned it off, so I didn’t give it a second thought. Mum had turned it off alright, she just hadn’t disconnected the phone from the jack in the wall, and as it didn’t have a filter on it, was affecting the ADSL signal coming down the line.

A simple error that had been missed by everyone, including myself. A valuable lesson not to take anything at face value, even if it’s my mother. I could have saved myself, my mother, countless filipinos, and four second-level techs hours of grief,  hair-pulling, and possible swearing with the mute button engaged.

It’s a good thing I didn’t send off that letter of complaint on behalf of my mother to the Telecommunications ombudsman.

Dental Dilemma

I went to visit the dentist the other day.

I’m not really a fan of dentists, as it usually involves more than one needle, copious amounts of rinsing, and foul-tasting I-don’t-know-what poked and prodded into those cavities that are demanding attention.

This particular visit was the first of three or four visits, and was a 3-hour appointment. Personally, I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep my mouth open for 3 hours, but my husband, bless his sarcastic soul, assured me that I would have no problem keeping my mouth open for the required time, as I had no problem talking with a mouth full of marbles, or under wet cement.

I had been seeing this dentist for a couple of years now, and I liked him because of his jovial nature and his penchant for playing classical music and singing at the top of his lungs during the consultation. Anything to take my mind off the the dreaded injection, as far as I was concerned, was a good thing. He would stop singing every now and again to ask me a question, and every now and again I would answer him, depending on the degree of difficulty getting around whatever he had stuck in my mouth at the time.

I reiterated to him my query about being able to keep my mouth open for a long period of time, and he told me that he had booked me a longer appointment because he knew that I liked to have a ‘bit of a chat’ in between instruments and rinsing. I squinted at him through my eye protectors and asked him if he had been talking to my husband.

The job at hand today was to put veneers on some of my top teeth to lengthen them, as the drugs I had been taking over the years had worn them away somewhat, and they needed strengthening. He finished the first one and stepped back to admire his handywork.

‘Not bad.’ he said, ‘You look just like Nanny McPhee.’

‘Nanny Mcphee?’

‘Yep.’ he grinned, ‘Take a look.’

I looked into his portable mirror. Sure enough. I had a perfect tooth, at least 2.5 mm longer than all the rest of my front teeth and poking prominently south. I looked like Nanny McPhee alright, all I needed was  the wart and the funny hat.

I closed my mouth and glared at him. ‘You are going to make the rest of my front teeth look the same,  aren’t you?’

‘I’ll have more of a chance if you stop talking.’

He worked away for another 45 minutes, singing loudly, until he finished my left canine.

I felt it with my tongue. It was really long and very sharp.

‘You look like a dog with that tooth.’  He stepped back, amused.

‘That’s not something you should be saying to a woman before you put your fingers into her mouth.’ I snapped back.

He grinned at me over his dental specs. ‘Yeh, I just thought of that as I said it, but it was too late to take it back. Please don’t bite me.’

I took another look in the mirror. I looked like my 14-year-old Maltese,  who only had one canine tooth left. I lowered my head and smirked. ‘I will consider your request.’

My dentist hesitated for a second before he continued. ‘I’ll file that one down a bit before I do the last one.’

I did end up biting him a bit later on. But it was an accident.

He told me that I looked like Elle McPherson after the last tooth was finished, but I didn’t believe him.

I can’t wait for the crown and the bridge next week.

Lists

I’m a list maker. I’m a etcher of all sorts of bits and pieces to alleviate the strain on my short-term memory.

Shopping lists, bill paying lists, things-I-need-to-remember-the-next-day lists, medications lists, dog medication list (yes, she has one), chore lists. Everyday stuff that needs to be ejected from my mind before I become a borderline OCD.

I’m a closet compiler, that’s for sure. I know this because I’m also a collector of notepads. I never know when I might need one. Even if I’m not making a list, I’m thinking about a possible category the subject at hand might go into if I were to be making a list in the near future.

I sometimes make mental lists about the things that I see, if I’ve got the room.  My mental lists are often influenced by my circumstances at the time and my tolerance levels.

For example, ‘the things you see when you don’t have a gun’ list – ie,  the irritant that cuts you off in traffic or the loser that takes all day at the ATM because they can’t remember their PIN number, won’t move out of the way and press ALL the buttons until they lose their card. I’m not going to action that list by buying a gun, of course, but it’s nice to muse over the possibilities before moving on.

Who can resist making a  ‘waste of oxygen’ list? The evil-doers of society on the 6 o’clock news could almost certainly be slotted in here, but I’m also thinking about adding a politician or two for my own personal satisfaction.

There’s also the teeth-grinding, jaw-clenching  ‘I want my 15 minutes of fame’ list. The things some people will do to get a bit of free air time may also make them suitable candidates for all of the above.

Another favourite of mine is the ‘annoying relative list.’ Let’s face it, we all have our family skeletons. I’m still getting over last Christmas.

And what about the ‘people-I-would-like-to-slap-silly’ list? Once again, all of the above – along with that annoying woman down the road who smiles at me a lot, but  in all likelihood, has a cauldron brewing in her basement.

Of course, I don’t spend all of my time mulling over the morbidity of the human race, I’m also putting together ‘the things I’ll do when I win lotto’ list, and ‘the things that make me happy right now list’ both of which are growing steadily.

Lists can make sense of things that may not seem sensible at the time. It can also be an unconscious reaction to the often chaotic and frenetic world around us.

I don’t think I’ve lost the plot just yet, but there is more than likely a long list of people that don’t understand me.

Ads of nauseum 2

It’s official! I am declaring my own personal war on television and Foxtel advertising.

I have decided to record my favourite programs on my Foxtel IQ, have a life, then go back and press play later on and zap those darn ads into oblivion.

I had this lightbulb moment while enduring yet another 10 ads in a row, pretty much the same 10 ads I had seen in a row not 15 minutes beforehand. If  I was going to have to endure these darn ads, then why couldn’t  I be given some variety? Or even better, why did I have to endure them at all? I had to take action before I lost my sanity somewhere in between A Current Affair and The Mentalist.

Personally, I would have liked to go back to the good old days when Foxtel first started out, and had that ‘sweet deal’ with the government and weren’t allowed to show any advertisement for the first couple of years. After that, I guess it became open season. But while the memory of this no-ad utopia is dim, the newest offering by Foxtel is, at least, relieving some of my ad-nauseum.

With the latest Foxtel IQ I could record to hard drive without having to go out and buy another hard drive or media centre. Finally, the answer to my prayers.

While I may not be able to get the  instant gratification of my shows in real time, the gratification of pressing the ‘fast-fast-forward’ button and sending those blasted ads into digital disarray will be mind blowing.

I can also press ‘delete’ when I’m finished watching what I want and get rid of those pesky parasitic promotions for good.

I feel good already.

The vet lament

I took my dog to the vet specialist the other day. Yes, my dog has a specialist.

My dog was referred to the specialist by my vet, who seemed to be reluctant to take the treatment any further until she had a professional opinion. Up until that point I thought that she was the professional. For her professional services so far, my dog has had examinations, antibiotics, more examinations, urinalysis, blood tests, and a final operation to remove the source of the problems – bladder stones. All of this treatment has cost us just on $2,500.

When the vet suggested that I take her to a specialist, all I could see were dollar signs. Vet specialists don’t come cheap, especially the ones at this pet hospital. They’ve cornered the market on vet specialist venues, that’s for sure, as it is the only one on this side of the city.  The only other one that I know of is 200 miles out of the city.

My vet faxed off the referral and the history to the specialist, and gave me the number to make an appointment.

The big day arrived and I bundled all of my dogs onto the ferry and then into the mainland car. This was not just a trip to the vet specialist, this was an all-day epic adventure. When one dog goes to the vet, the other two go for moral support. It works for me – and them.

The center was an intimidating large, white building with equally large automatic glass doors that opened onto a large, pristine reception area. People and dogs of all shapes and sizes were scattered throughout the waiting area, and 4 receptionists manned the large desk situated at the front of two entry points to the consultation rooms and the pet hospital.

I eyed the receptionists sitting under the fancy downlights and walked up to the last one, keeping a close eye on Angus and the Collie up the other end. Angus, my Bichon male, thinks he is a German Shepherd and will have a go at anything, regardless of size.  Ruby, and my Maltese cross, Dylan, wrapped themselves around my legs in terror, and then tried to pull me out the door. The receptionist looked down over the counter at my crew and smiled. She asked me if they were all here to see the specialist. I shook my head vigorously, and made it perfectly clear at this point that although I was taking all 3 dogs in, there was only 1 dog that had a problem. You only had to mention an extra dog’s name at this place and they’d charge you another consultation fee.

Pretty soon we were all trotting up to the consultation room with a man in a white coat. Ruby, my Bichon female, and the object of the exercise, took one look at the examination table and tried to crawl under the medicine cabinet. She’s seen too many of these in the last 2 months and she is not stupid.

The specialist rattled off some of the tests he would be doing in this session. After he got past ‘ultrasound’ I switched off. I started to mentally calculate how much spare cash I had in the bank and hoped I had enough to cover it all. I looked at Ruby. She was wagging her tail at me and looking up at me hopefully. I knew how she felt. I wanted to get out of there too.

I sat back out in the waiting room for about an hour for what should have been a half hour ultrasound. I started to conjure up all sorts of expensive scenarios, so I was pretty much resigned to my fate by the time they called me in.

My dog was what they called a ‘struvite dog.’ She was a dog who manufactured struvite stones in her bladder. It was a fault in the bladder and she was going to be predisposed to producing these stones if she was on the wrong diet. Her condition  would need life-long monitoring, tests, urinalysis, medications and special diets. I walked out of the consultation room in a daze.

When they gave me the bill for what would have been just under an hour’s work, I nearly fell over. There wasn’t any change from $850. One bottle of medication cost me $89. And it’s not over yet. They will be sending me out more medication in the mail, and some pH test strips for the privilege of following my dog around to collect her urine.

They also want me to go back and repeat all of this in approximately 6 weeks.

So far, Ruby  has cost us pretty close to $3,500 in 2 months. This is more than my Maltese cross has cost me his whole life, and he has just turned 14.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog to bits. She’s a good natured fluff ball of love. But she’s coming with a price tag.

I now know that I’m in the wrong profession. Why couldn’t my parents have seen the potential in me bringing home anything that lived and breathed to look after and encouraged me to be a veterinarian? I will never know.

My only consolation in this sorry tale is that I have pet insurance. I will get 75% of my outlay back eventually. But I’ve got to come up with the funds first.

I will, however, take care of my dog. She is a beautiful little soul whose main orientation in life is to love me unconditionally.

It is a fair swap, I think.

Tech help melt 2

I went over to install an ADSL2 modem at mum’s place the other day.

I’ve had ADSL2 since I moved to the island, and apart from a few minor hiccups that involved tech help, I haven’t had too many problems with connection and download.

I’d been touting the benefits of ADSL2 to my mother since I’d cleaned up an old laptop and given it to her. I’d also gotten her a prepaid modem stick to start her off, so that she could get onto the Internet and Google to her heart’s content. As I’m not a fan of prepaid wireless modems, I’d been ‘encouraging’ mum to get onto ADSL2, particularly as she had been having connection problems.

When her old laptop died, I gave mum a newer, faster version, and talked her into a good ADSL2 deal with a national telco. I arranged to have mum signed up to receive a modem that I would then connect for her.

I’m no computer genius, but I’ve connected a few modems in my time, for myself and a few older people that live on the island. So far I hadn’t had any problems. It was all pretty straightforward.

The modem arrived in record time, and I decided to go over one afternoon to install it after a doctor’s appointment. It wouldn’t take long. I would be home before dark.

It all went really well at first. The modem was plugged in, the ethernet cable was connected to the modem and the laptop, and the phone line and the line from the modem were connected to a splitter that was plugged into the phone jack. All straightforward stuff. Installation cd was humming away until it got to the point where I put the password in.

Nothing happened, except for a big blue screen that popped up telling me that a connection couldn’t be established. I tried again. I put a different password in, then the original one. Nothing but the same blue screen every time.

Great. I would have to now call tech help and speak to a Malaysian operator that I could barely understand.

As predicted, a Malaysian accent introduced themselves and asked me for my details. I explained to them who I was, who I was helping, and what the problem was.

At first, the operator couldn’t  find my mother’s account and had to put me on hold while she tracked it down. I suspect that the modem got out here so fast that they didn’t have time to process it through all of the necessary channels. She eventually found it, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I began to get a bit concerned.

An hour later and we still didn’t have a resolution. The tech help decided to go into the device manager to view my network controller. I told her what was there. She asked me if a different adaptor was there. I told her it was not. She then told me that as I didn’t have the network adaptor that was on her list, I didn’t have a working network adaptor, and I would have to download something to get it working. I told her that this was going to be a little hard, as I didn’t yet have an Internet connection, and if I did, I wouldn’t need to download anything to fix it in the first place.

I rechecked the status of my network adaptor and my computer confirmed that it was working properly. I told her that I a reasonably sure that this was not the issue, and she put me on hold while she went to consult with somebody else – more than likely another equally confusing Malaysian tech person.

Twenty minutes later I was being told that I was being transferred to the ‘second level’ of tech support, but it would cost me $99 for this service. I asked her why I had to pay $99 for a problem that wasn’t mine, since my computer’s adaptor was working and I had connected it according to the cd’s instructions. She told me that she couldn’t help me any further, and said again that I would have to speak to ‘the second level’ tech help. I started to rant something about not having to pay for something that wasn’t my doing, and I got put on hold.

Twenty minutes later she was back, repeating her spiel about the ‘second level’ tech help. I sighed and agreed. Anything to get rid of this woman and get home for the evening.

Fifteen minutes later an English voice asked me for my details. I relaxed a little and I explained the problem. They checked the line. We checked the modem settings. We reset the password. They checked the line again. Nothing worked.

I suggested that a new modem should be sent to me, since this appeared to be the problem.

He hedged at this. Apparently the terms and conditions of my $99 service fee were that they had a week to fix the problem, and they were going to use all of it.

I went home after this. There was nothing more I could do. The whole exercise took almost 4 hours. I didn’t make it home until 7.30 pm.

For the next 7 days, after some tweaking, my mother’s Internet worked a little, dropped out a lot, turned itself off, and froze.  We were given the ‘second level’ direct number, and were on a first-name basis with at least two of the employees. We called at least twice a day. They called us back just as many times with possible solutions.

In the end they conceded that this may indeed be a modem problem, as the line looked okay, and I got my $99 refunded.

I’m now waiting for the other modem to be sent out.

Mum’s pretty ticked off and she no longer believes me when I say that ADSL2 Internet is a good thing. I can’t blame her really.  I would have thrown the modem out the window.

I’ve told mum to let me know when it arrives, so I can arrange to be free for a whole day, just in case.

Salesmen suck

I went out and bought my husband a new television recently. Sounds like a simple enough exercise, right? Well, you don’t live on an island.

Up until now, we have only had 1 televison in the house, so it often turned into a bun fight when favourite shows were on at the same time. My husband was getting sick of watching his movies on his laptop, and often mentioned it in a loud voice whenever my television programs were on as he was passing through the loungeroom.

I decided that I would get him a television for the bedroom that could play movies from a USB stick. That way, I’d get to watch my shows in peace. It was a good plan

I took my USB stick loaded with movies with me to the store to test it out on some of the display stock, but the salesman wasn’t too keen on me sticking my potentially corrupted USB stick into the port of one of his televisions. He assured me that he knew which television would play my movies, and which would not.

I eyed the Sony in the corner, but he steered me away from that  to the store’s generic model and told me that it would definitely play whatever movie I wanted it to. I asked him if he had seen this television actually play movies in this fashion, and he said that he hadn’t, but showed me a printout that gave the specs as being movie player compliant. As the price was right, I decided to bite the bullet and lug the oversized box back to the island.

Getting it back to the island involved transporting it in my car, getting from the car to the ferry, getting it on the ferry, getting it off the ferry and into the other car  parked near the ferry on the other side, and finally getting it home. I decided to employ the skills of my son, much to his disgust. We almost lost it in the water before we even made it to the island when my son overbalanced getting onto the ferry.

We finally got it in the front door and we tripped over the dog on the way into the bedroom, sending us and the television sliding towards the floor. Fortunately the television landed on the lounge. I wasn’t so lucky and landed on the coffee table beside the lounge. My son landed on the floor, just missing the dog.

I limped into the bedroom to clear off the chest of drawers and take the television out of the box.

After much swearing, tugging, and screwing in the base, we finally got it started. I tuned it in and stuck the USB stick in.

It didn’t work.

The files were not compatible with the system. Or so it announced on the screen. I tried avi extensions, I tried mp4s, I even tried mov extensions. Nothing. The television was a dud, and I would have to take it back.

I rang the store and told them of the situation. I spoke to one salesman, who sounded surprised that it didn’t work. He asked me if I was sure.  I rattled off all of the extensions it wouldn’t play, and he shut up. I finally got to talk to the salesman that had  sold it to me. After he apologised profusely, he asked me if I wanted to buy a media player to go with the television so that it would work. I told him I already had a media player hooked up to the main television, and that this was not the object of the exercise. He asked me if I could bring it back today. I asked him if he remembered what I told him about where I lived. He said that I had a week to bring it back and replace it with another one, but he wasn’t sure which one would play from USB. He was telling me this now?

I was pissed off, that was for sure. I had gone to a lot of trouble so that my husband could enjoy his many movies simply by transferring them from his hard drive to his USB stick.

I decided to bring out the big guns and called my husband, who was in the middle of the ocean.

He called the store the next day from the ship and got me another, better television replacement at a discount price, an in-house demonstration of the movies being played from USB, plus a free 2 year warranty. He is a tough negotiator when he’s had a few weeks of rough seas and rough jobs. I was impressed.

The next day saw me and my son lugging the first television back to the store to get the second television. I took my USB stick again. The store manager asked me to bring it along to demonstrate that this other television would play my movies. He didn’t seem too worried about any ‘bugs.’

The television in question? The Sony sitting in the corner that I had wanted to buy in the first place.