This Summer's Guilty Pleasure

We spent a couple of hours watching game shows tonight. Yes, game shows. Silly game shows. Silly but entertaining train-wrecks in slow motion kind of game shows.

First up was Wipeout. Imagine running an obstacle course for best time in a field of 24, with a cash prize of US$50K for the winner. Now imagine that the course designers were nuts. Think rodeo clown nuts. And that some network suit accidentally signed off on the building plans without asking too many questions about the number of giant rubber balls, large barrels, spinning turntables, or mud pits called for. Or perhaps the suits just said "oh just get three of everything and stop bothering us with details". One of the producers (co-executive producer Scott Larsen) has been quoted as saying "I come up with most of my challenges after a few beers laying in bed, sort of half awake, half falling asleep. So I kind of dream them up."

It is hard to describe unless typical Japanese game shows are an available frame of reference...

And speaking of the high art of the wacky Japanese game show, I Survived a Japanese Game Show was next up. Here the producers recruited a bunch of gullible people from all over the US and flew them to LA to be on a reality show. When the arrived at LAX, they were swept off to the international terminal and sent straight to Japan where they discovered during a studio tour that the reality show was really a chance to appear on a Japanese game show (apparently called something translated as “You’ve Got to Be Crazy”) where TOHO studios will do their best to humiliate them all each week, sending the looser home, until the last contestant standing is handed a cool $250K. And TOHO studios are perfectly capable of humiliating the pants off a bunch of naive contestants....

Personally, I can hardly imagine deciding to go on a reality show at all, let alone let a producer talk me into leaving the country on only a few minutes warning. Since all of the contestants did just that, it is pretty clear that they start out an ant or two shy of the whole picnic...

But they are both fun to watch for the sheer spectacle of it all.


My phones don't ring

We noticed over the weekend that our phones aren't ringing as much as they used to. Then I happened to hear the dumbest phone in the house chirp. Out of curiosity I picked up the receiver to find someone waiting for me to answer.

Some investigation showed that the problem lies outside of the house. It was easy enough to unplug the house from the Network Interface (NID in phone jargon) and plug that same dumb telephone (an AT&T 210 Princess if anyone is keeping score) directly into the jack in the NID. Since that removes all my house wiring from the question and connects the phone directly to the line, a failure would exonerate my house wiring and plethora of other telephonic devices.

I called my number from a cell phone.


I repeated the experiment with a LED line tester, that shows a green LED for a live line, a red LED for reversed polarity, and flashes when the A/C ring signal is present. At the start of each normal ring in the usual ring pattern, the red LED just flickered.

Again, this is at the NID, with the whole house disconnected.

Oddly, we have dial tone, and the DSL is still as alive as it ever is.

Since I hate to wait for call centers and deal with the first tier of triage agents whose basic job is to find a reason that I don't have a problem that should be their problem, I sought out Verizon's web interface.

There seems to be a nice line problem reporting site inside the mess that is the Verizon web site, and it even walks you through a reasonable triage diagnosis. (All of which I had already done.) When that failed to turn up a novel experiment or repair the issue, it offered to collect my info and file a trouble report. I dutifully filled out the multi-page form, only to have it return an internal server error instead of moving from page 3 to page 4 of the entry.

I started over, and got to page 4 where I waited for it to run an automated line test which could take 2 minutes during which the phone must not be in use. Two minutes is a long time to watch a progress animation, but at least it did finish. With inconclusive results. So I confirmed that I wanted to report a problem, and discovered that the earliest time they would commit to having a truck rolled was 10 days later.

I filed the first trouble report the afternoon of Jun-1. At that time, their flaky web interface confirmed I had filed the trouble report, and that I was "waiting for dispatch".

More than 48 hours later (spanning two full business days) I check the status report, and it is still marked "waiting for dispatch". I have not even received a courtesy e-mail confirming that I filed a report using that e-mail address as the suggested contact (what, I should expect them to call me with no inbound ringing?).

So at 1:00 am on Jun-4 I attempted to use their web interface to make a direct complaint to their customer service. Omitting the contact info and standard form, my complaint boils down to:

I filed a line repair request and problem report on Jun-1 due to persistent problems with inbound calls that can be observed at the NID.

I am shocked that the earliest appointment offered was Jun-11, eleven days in the future. Furthermore, your web site claims the status of my report is "waiting for dispatch".

Waiting out 11 more days of intermittent inbound calling is not acceptable. Furthermore, not seeing any change in the status of the report after a full business day does not inspire confidence. Neither does the lack of even an automatic notification to the email address I provided as a contact that a report was filed.

The problem is on your side of the NID, and I am not receiving the service for which I am paying. That is not quality customer service.

I would appreciate some attention to the problem with my line, as well as some feedback about your progress with this issue.

Next to the Submit button on the form is the note "Please click submit only one time". I did. half an hour ago, and there has been no visible feedback from their web application to indicate if anything happened.

I am not holding my breath for a speedy repair.

In the meantime, if you happen to be trying to call us at home, you might need to avail yourselves of some other means than the phone number we've been answering for more than the last decade...

Update... Sometime during the evening of Jun-5 we had a phone message from their automated call center informing us that they had found and fixed an issue in the central office and that they believed our problem was fixed as a result.

Of course, as I write this, the status page at Verizon says that the "number you are reporting is part of an outage." I haven't observed a problem with the line today, and the phones do seem to ring again...