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Monday, December 22, 2008

More Comcast Bombast

Two weeks ago, I had a Comcast technician come out and investigate my highspeed internet. My service had gotten really choppy... lots of lost connections and bad connection speed. The tech said that Comcast was working on new lines and that the old modems "couldn't sync up with the new preferred frequency." This sounded bogus to me. Previous experience told me that the culprit was probably a bad feed coming through my building's cable box. But he was pretty insistent that I needed a new modem... so my old box went goodbye, and now I have a new RCA modem that sits flat instead of upright and has a slightly different configuration of solid and flashing green lights.

The tech gave me his cell number and told me to call him if anything else went wrong. After a week, I tossed the paperwork because this new set up was running like a top. All was right with the world. Until yesterday afternoon.

The four happy flashing lights suddenly became two. And they somehow looked glum and listless instead. No email. No web browsing. No internet piracy.

But I'm no reactionary about this kind of stuff. I started with the basics. I unplugged and reset the modem. But it came back up with just two whimpering beady little lights. I rebooted my PC. I waited. I wondered if the snow and ice was interfering with the cable. I made sure my television signal was still okay. Eventually, I concluded that this great new frequency-syncing modem was a lemon. Sure it looked great out of the box... with blazing speeds and a funky new design. But less than a week later it had obviously fried.

So today I made the call to Comcast. The automated system sent a reboot signal to my modem. After waiting 30 seconds for that to prove fruitless, I connected to a live person. I explained the situation. I told him about the problem with the building's wiring a couple years ago. I explained the recent tech visit and the new modem. I patiently explained to him that I wasn't an idiot and knew how to reboot things... and that while rebooting may fix 90% of the customer complaints, it wasn't going to fix mine. I asked him to run a proximity health check to determine if my neighbors were having any problems. He agreed to this troubleshooting step. After a minute, he said they were fine. He asked me which of the flickering green lights were on. He then ran a remote health check, and told me that there was nothing wrong with my modem. I paused and said, "... ok..." and waited for him to tell me what his genius solution was.

He then asked me to push the button on the front of my new modem that says ON/OFF.

Comcast 1, Idiot Home user 0

BTW, this is really funny:


Monday, December 15, 2008

Auction Inaction

Last weekend I attended an auction for fifteen condos at a schwanky building on Capitol Hill. Three years after opening, this place hadn't sold all of its units yet. They were probably getting a little desperate in this economy and decided to let the market decide what these homes were worth.

Originally priced in the low to mid 400's, they were accepting opening bids in the low 200's. The rock bottom starting prices drew in the crowds. There were probably 200 people at the Grand Hyatt, waiting for the auctioneer to kick things off. Although I knew it was unlikely that any would go in my price range, I attended anyway. I was hoping for an educational, if not a participatory experience. And that's exactly what I got.

All the units quickly vaulted past my cap. They sold for around halfway between the original cost and the minimum bid (around the mid 300's.) There were quite a few obvious speculators in the room (they had different-colored bidding plaques that allowed them to bid on multiple units)... and I couldn't help despising them. Even though I was out of the bidding pretty early on every unit... there were a lot of young families obviously looking for a home and bidding nervously. They were all outbid by the big money... at least when it came to the nicer units. These buyers had an easy time of it... they could see exactly what the market was willing to pay (in the form of these young families) and then just eclipse that amount. This is a safe strategy if you are banking on the economy rebounding and the housing market coming back up in the next few years. I didn't really see two of these speculators squaring off on a property and bidding the price up beyond what an actual homeowner would pay. That aspect of the auction felt a bit like collusion to me.

Anyway, as my search for a property to invest in continues, I feel a bit disheartened. I'm now quite convinced that I won't find anything close to the size and quality of my current apartment in my price range. I'm not sure whether I should move to a different part of the state, accept a much smaller place, wait and hope that the market keeps crashing, or embrace that my apartment is a sweetheart deal in a great neighborhood and look to bury my savings into soybean futures.