Comcast still doesn’t have a clue

Fresh on the heels of my great experience with Verizon Wireless, Comcast provided a fantastic display of how bad they are at what they do. This is what happens when you have a localized monopoly. We’re supposed to get Verizon FIOS in three years, which is probably four plus years after we should have gotten it. I don’t know what sort of negotiations had to happen between DC and Verizon, but anything beyond, “Yes, Verizon, here’s your building permit” was probably not in the best interests of the DC residents. But that’s not the point here. The point here is that Comcast is terrible. Let’s look past the fact that they have to come out every 6-8 months and fix something because our signal strength has dropped to the point that our cable goes out. Never mind that they just keep inching the price up. No, my big complaint is the huckster who called me up this afternoon. He just caught me before I left to pick up the little gremlin from daycare. He starts off by telling me that Comcast has a great deal for me, only $10 more a month or something for Comcast Blast internet, which is super fast and awesome, and they’ll give me free Showtime, and boy are there some great shows coming out on Showtime, and if I sign up right now I can get some other fabulous prize, we can get you all upgraded within two business days, so can we set up an appointment right now? He didn’t take a breath or deviate from the script. By the halfway point, he could have offered me a couple of terabytes per second download speed for six cents a year and I would have turned him down. So, what did he do wrong that Verizon did right? He talked at me. I know, Verizon was lowering my bill, which is obviously much easier to sell, but that’s not really the point. The Comcast guy talked quickly, making sure he got everything out and asked me to sign up before I really had a chance to think about what his offer was. He didn’t really explain what the difference between what I have now and what he was offering. The Verizon guy actually had a conversation with me, clearly explaining what he was doing, how it would be different from what I had now (And he was looking at my account, so he knew what I was paying for), and why it would be better. When I told the Comcast guy I wasn’t interested, he tried to convince me. He asked why not. I stumbled for a minute, wanting to say, “Because you’re reading a script, and I hate being upsold”, but I didn’t really feel like getting into it. The Verizon guy knew my account, and knew how he could get me a better deal. The Comcast guy knew nothing about me beyond my name, and made me an offer that wasn’t terribly compelling. I hope Comcast is terrified of the arrival of Verizon FIOS. And I hope they deal with it by improving their service rather than lame attempts at upselling their customers. And Comcast? If you’re still reading and responding to unhappy blog posts about your service, make sure you read my post this time.

Contesting a parking ticket – my car is diplomatic

I got a parking ticket the other day. Around the corner from us on 15th Street is the back of the Mexican Embassy. There is some parking there reserved from 7-4 weekdays for “Diplomatic cars”. We came home after 4, couldn’t find parking, and so we parked there. I meant to move the car, but I forgot. I am, of course, contesting the ticket.

To whom it may concern: I am writing to contest a parking ticket, citation #[unimportant], which I received on August 7th, 2009, for “DISOBYNG OFFICL SIGN”. The sign reads, “Diplomatic cars only” between 7AM and 4PM. Princeton’s online WordNet defines diplomacy as “subtly skillful handling of a situation” ( It then follows that a diplomatic car would be one which displays or performs this skillful handling. As such, it is difficult to argue that my car, a 2006 Mazda 3, is not diplomatic. There are only two situations in which the car ever finds itself – parked or being driven. It takes no skill to remain parked, and therefore the definition easily applies to any car. And anyone who has ever driven a 2006 Mazda 3, especially the manual transmission, can attest that the car is very skillful. It handles very well, accelerates quickly, and gets good gas mileage. At no time does the parking sign mention the need for any sort of credentials identifying the car as diplomatic, nor does it require the owner of the car to possess credentials. Therefore, by the definition above, my car is in fact diplomatic, and not in violation of the parking restrictions. Thank you very much for your time. Me

The sign is vague. Who’s to say what “diplomatic” means? Unfortunately, in this case, it’s the soul-less, humor-less parking adjudicator who will decide. I can’t say I like my chances . . .

Columbia Heights is nothing but hipsters?

This Washington Post article has been pissing off tons of locals. It basically says that everyone in Columbia Heights sucks, we spend all our time at Target, and we’re smug because we don’t live in Mount Pleasant. I’ve been wanting to post something about it, but no matter how many times I read the article, I just can’t seem to get that worked up over it. I mean, I do go to Target a lot. I like Target. It’s a great place to buy cheap clothes for the kid, kitty litter, veggie burgers, box wine . . . But I guess the article doesn’t quite hit that close to home. I have been accused of being smug about where I live, but that was in relation to Ballston. I’m glad I don’t live in Ballston – not that it’s a bad place to live, it’s just not what we were looking for. And Mount Pleasant? I like Mount Pleasant. When we outgrow our place, that’s probably the first place we’re going to look. And Wonderland references are lost on me – I’ve been maybe a half dozen times, it’s a cool bar, but it’s not my hangout. We’re much more likely to sit out on the porch at Commonwealth and drink Twisted Thistles and order a cheese plate. The article was a little annoying, I admit. It took a small group of Columbia Heights residents and made sweeping generalizations about everyone here. It didn’t really offer any insight, and I don’t think it got the generalizations right. But I just don’t care. If the article had been about the roads around Target, that would have been a different story – whoever thought the traffic patterns around DCUSA could hold up to the volume of cars and pedestrians there are now was totally insane.

So you wanna be my friend

Are you on Facebook? If not, none of this will make sense. Anyway, it really irks me when someone sends me a friend request and then never says anything to me. I mean, it’s not necessary to write 5000 words to tell me how you’re doing or ask about my life or whatever, but a little something to say I’m not just a notch on your friend count belt is appreciated. This is the sort of Facebook app we really need. No more stupid quizzes and games – I want a friend filter app. It only permits your updates to show on my wall if you and I have had a conversation using Facebook. It can be via status message comments, wall postings, private messages, whatever, but it has to occur before I see you in my news feed. Another option is a badge for your profile that shows what percentage of your friends you’ve had a conversation with in the last month. Then a filter by percentage – if you’re percentage is below, say, 50%, you get blocked from my news feed. So, if you’re a company out there looking to make a Facebook app to help build your brand, don’t try to make one that does whatever your website does, only Facebookier. It will suck. Make one that’s actually useful, and slap your logo on it.

Get this stupid song out of my head

Since I can’t get it out of my head after inexplicably hearing it coming out of a car window on 16th Street this morning, I’d like to get The Freshman by The Verve Pipe into your head, too. That link up there? It’s the first hit for ‘annoying song freshmen’, although Google thinks I meant “freshman”. I guess I sort of did, but isn’t the word plural in the chorus? Sing it to yourself, you’ll remember. And now you feel my pain.

The boot doesn’t work

The ridiculous practice of “booting” cars with too many tickets has to stop. Either tow them or let them be. Today is street cleaning day on the main parking side of our block of Harvard. That means that there is no parking at all from 7am to 630pm. This is because Harvard is a pretty busy commuting cut-through, and it’s really helpful to have two lanes. But there aren’t two lanes today, because someone decided to boot a van on the open side of the street. I truly don’t understand the logic behind this. You are now making traffic worse. Other times people get courtesy tows, an absurd waste of time and money, but we can’t tow the van to the impound lot? I’ve said before that booting is an explicit admission that parking restrictions in DC are purely for the city’s financial gain, not an attempt to keep traffic flowing. This is absolutely infuriating. And, to make matters worse, another car, as I walked by this morning, had decided that if the van was parked there, it must be okay. And the really funny thing is that this car is likely to get towed. Ahh, DC. How I love you.

What is going on with public transportation in this city?

What in the world is wrong with the buses these days? Are people afraid of the Metro after the crash? It’s been one awful commute after another for the last week and a half. This morning, two buses passed without picking up passengers. The one we finally got on didn’t pick anyone up until U Street, passing crowded stop after crowded stop. And on the way home, I don’t even know what happened. I Street was a parking lot, so the bus actually turned right on 15th instead of 16th. I saw this, started walking, and actually beat the bus to 16th and L. It turned left on K, right on 16th, and I was at 16th and L when it arrived, and while I walk briskly, I never ran. It looked like something was blocking traffic on 17th – I imagine I could figure out what with a little Googling, but it’s not that important to me. On most weeks, I would just give up and work from home all week. But I actually have to be in the office at least tomorrow, and probably Wednesday, as well. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

The Mayor’s Conservation Corps and the DDOE are very responsive

Below is a copy of the email I sent to the Mayor’s Conservation Corps. You may have seen their flyers – they put them up on railings and doorknobs on our street today.

While I applaud the mayor and the DDOE for their efforts towards conservation and a more sustainable city, littering our streets with paper advertisements hardly seems like the way to start. I live on the 1400 block of Harvard St NW, and I just picked up two of your flyers off the sidewalk during a three block walk. Perhaps your first project could be to collect and recycle all of the trash you left on our streets.

If you have suggestions for projects or questions about the program, they’d like you to email them at or call 202-535-2325. And, before I could even finish this post, I received a reply from DDOE.

Good evening. Thanks for your note. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. We will make certain the responsible youth go back to that area tomorrow and clean-up door hangers from the street. My apologies for the inconvenience. Should the problem not be resolved or if you have any questions, please contact me at [Phone number removed]. Thank you. Melissa McKnight Program Director, Mayor’s Conservation Corps DC Department of the Environment

Who says city bureaucracy doesn’t work? My faith in government temporarily restored, I urge everyone to think about projects that could help the city. You can look at the Green DC Agenda website for more information.

The new buses suck

You’ve probably seen the fancy new buses the city is using for some of the cooler routes – the new S9 express bus on 16th Street, for example. I was all excited to ride one. They look fancy and clean and new and quiet. I got my chance today. The regular S2 was a new bus this morning, so I gleefully hopped on. Wow, do the new buses suck. Not only is it clear that the person who designed the bus has never ridden a bus before, but I’m pretty sure they actually defy various laws of physics. I don’t think these buses are very different in length, width, or height from the older buses, but they’ve somehow managed to drastically reduce the amount of usable space. Both styles of bus are basically rectangular prisms – volume equals length times width times height. So if the length, width, and height are approximately the same, the volume is approximately the same. I’m not sure where the volume went on the new buses. Perhaps they’ve somehow raised it up – there seems to be enough head room for an entire basketball team, but they better be built like Kevin Garnett, not Lebron. And don’t get me started on the painted yellow floor by the back door. It actually tells you not to stand on it. Are they insane? I mean, sure, it would be nice if no one stood there – most bus crowding problems are due to inconsiderate and clueless people who stand by the door and block everyone else from moving to the back of the bus. But who is going to obey the painted floor? The bus driver will yell at you if you leave that much space open during crowded commuting time. The other people on the bus will yell at you because they’re packed in like sardines while you leave that space open. You do have to leave some space, though, because the idiotic back doors open in. I’m going to go email WMATA right now and complain. I suggest you do the same.