✒ ♪ ♞

A Circuitous Route

It’s funny how one thing leads to another sometimes, especially on the infinitely connected world of the Internet. A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to Top Four #5, where Marco and Tiffany Arment were discussing their favorite podcasts. Because of their recommendation, I checked out 99 Percent Invisible, which is a great podcast. On episode #178, which is a fabulous examination of the restoration of a castle in Scotland, they included bonus audio introducing me to The Allusionist, which is an amazing and addictive podcast that I can’t believe has flown under my radar for so long. Seriously, it’s wonderful. That show, in turn, brought me at last to Answer Me This, which is a delightfully weird podcast that is almost, but not quite, entirely unexplainable. (Apologies to Mr. Adams.) It’s a comedy podcast that is as hilarious as it is strange, and I love it.

Any of the above shows, including Top Four are worth checking out. I hope you find one you enjoy as much as i enjoy these.

So now I have three great new podcasts to listen to, and each led me to the next like a trail of breadcrumbs through the dark forest of the Internet.

Glorious times!

Elsewhere — Random Trek 74

I was honored to be invited on as the non-random guest for Random Trek 74, on which we discussed Star Trek in general and Voyager episode 3.23 Distant Origin in particular. It was a ton of fun, and I hope you’ll check it out. Random Trek is a gem, and if you’re a Trekkie, you should be listening.

My Verizon Nightmare

In my area, Verizon is the only wired broadband Internet provider, and the only option they offer is DSL.


The above was taken using the iOS app CheckTubes, which is the only Internet speed test application I am aware of that is accessible with VoiceOver and is reasonably accurate. If you know of others, feel free to let me know. As you can see, I’m hardly getting speeds that would’ve been acceptable with dialup, let alone any sort of broadband. This is what I’ve been dealing with for nearly three months. In comparison, I typically get between 2.5 and 3Mbps on LTE.

The first inkling of trouble was shortly after I ordered DSL service. At the time of placing the order, I was told that I could get the “Enhanced” DSL package, which would give me speeds up to 15Mbps for a higher price. A couple of weeks later, upon logging into my online account with Verizon, it said that my speeds would only be up to 3Mbps. I called and complained that I’d been told something different, but they were totally unsympathetic and I was left with no choice but to accept it, as there are no alternatives in my area for wired Internet service. Worse, Verizon charges the same premium rate whether they provide up to 3Mbps or 15Mbps, effectively ripping off some percentage of their customer base.

Our service wasn’t great for most of the next year, but I could live with it, supplementing the DSL on occasion by tethering to my iPhone. Typically, we saw speeds between 1 and 2Mbps on the DSL. Not great, especially compared to cable, but I was willing to make do.

Since July, we’ve been stuck with service like the above screenshot shows, when it works at all. Often, it doesn’t. On a good day, we might get speeds as high as 200Kbps for short bursts, and we’re usually just grateful when the connection doesn’t cut out in the middle of a large download. Updating to Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan took a disgraceful two days, and the only reason it was that fast, I believe, was due to better speeds some time in the wee hours of the morning.

On July 23rd, a Verizon customer service rep informed me that the problem was due to network congestion, and that a fix would be made in the third quarter. That would leave me without usable Internet service for the better part of three months.

When I followed up in mid-September, no one seemed to have any idea about anything, although the rep I dealt with then did verify the fact that I had been told a resolution was coming in Q3. I asked for any kind of estimate and was refused one. In fact, I was essentially told that it would, or wouldn’t, be fixed whenever they got around to it, and I should just deal with it. They claimed, at this time, to have moved my connection to “another, less active router”, but it made no substantive difference to our service, and I have serious doubts if such a thing was either possible or true.

The third quarter ended on 30/September, of course, and nothing has changed in over two and a half months. So I contacted Verizon again today. I asked for an estimate for when service would be restored and a refund on the two months worth of bills that I have paid for and not received. Tech support would not give an estimate, only telling me that the DSL Escalation department would contact me in 48 hours by phone, which is the same line I’ve gotten many times and which has never been true since this fiasco began. The agent then transferred me to billing, who told me that they have no record that I’ve been dealing with tech support (which makes no sense, since a support agent transferred me to them, even spoke to them), and that in such a case they couldn’t give me a refund until I talked, once again, to tech support. They proceeded to transfer me into oblivion.

At this point, I was far to upset at the whole situation to pursue it further tonight, and now I’m spending my Friday evening contemplating my options. I took the above screenshot and sat down to write this post, hoping that the act of writing it out would provide some clarity.

It hasn’t, but perhaps it will serve as a cautionary tale to someone else out there. Avoid Verizon for your DSL service if at all possible. It isn’t worth it, and they couldn’t care less about their customers.

As a brief aside, I really have had nothing but good things to say about Verizon Wireless, but it is my understanding that they are essentially an entirely separate company. Even still, I have misgivings about supporting this kind of corporation.

Indie Comic Publisher Offers Comics for the Visually Impaired

This is amazing, and I desperately want to see it succeed. For years, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of access to comics for those, such as myself, with visual impairments. New Worlds is seeking to change that. They already have a few comics available in audio. I’ve read both issues of Winter, and both the formula and the story itself are fantastic. Even better, they’re charging the typical comic book pricing of $3 per issue, which is, frankly, a steal. Let’s give these guys all the support we can and make it possible to have access to more titles in the future.

From ComicsEmpower.com:

Thousands of people around the world would like to read comic books and can’t! People think comics are a visual medium, so the visually impaired can’t ever enjoy the experience. We’re here to fix that!

The above is true, and it reminds me very much of the feeling toward touch screens when the iPhone first came out. Eight years later and now iOS is among the most useful and accessible computing operating systems in history for the blind and visually impaired.

Let’s make this happen!

Posts From the Recent Past …