Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Goodbye Comcast...Hello PBS

Over the years I've heard about Comcast's infamous reputation for horrible customer service.  For the most part, I'd been spared the hell many have endured except for one time when I thought about switching to their cable internet service.  Somehow Comcast managed to screw something up (can't remember what it was at the moment) but anyhow I ran back to Bellsouth before any permanent damage could be done.

Except for this time.  It was finally my turn to experience Comcast's utter stupidity and lack of customer service.  They were making up for all the years of somewhat normal service I had with them.  I recently moved to a townhouse.  All I needed was my cable turned on.  The outlet was there, all they had to do was climb the damn pole and cut it on.  Easy.  Or so I thought.  After fiddling around with what looked like one of those old block phones, the technician told me there was no lines from the pole to my house. Okayyyy...so what next?  He said the lines in my living room and master bedroom weren't working.  After crawling into an attic I didn't know existed, he finally found a line in the spare bedroom closet.  Yes, the spare bedroom closet because I always sit in the closet to watch TV.

Long story short (yeah I know, not possible with Comcast), the technician, after calling his supervisor, couldn't do anything.  His supervisor was supposed to come "check the lines" but never showed up, the little cable I did have in the spare bedroom closet went out two days later and I haven't had cable since.  After two more technicians came by and pretty much said the same thing the first one said (I'd need new lines installed), after the apartment complex and Comcast claimed each was responsible for installing new lines AND after writing the Better Business Bureau, I'd finally had enough.  I pulled the box, took it back to Comcast and started my new life cable free.

I'm not going to lie, the first week was kind of rough.  I was on staycation and wondering how I was going to handle not having cable after having it for the last 20 years.  It's hard to mindlessly channel surf with 11 channels, three of them PBS.  How would I live without HGTV, A&E and whatever other channel I happened upon while searching for something to watch?

Well let me tell you, three weeks later, I'm still alive and doing well with my regular TV channels.  I realize how many shows I really don't watch.  Yes, now I have to think about what I want to watch but for the most part I can still catch the shows I want to watch on the web or via Hulu or Netflix.  Comcast isn't my only option anymore and I save $65 a month.  I hadn't watched PBS seriously since I was a child.  I've been missing out on some really good programming.  They have cooking shows (bye Food Network), great documentaries (adios Discovery Channel) and lots of home improvement shows (arrivederci HGTV). I think I'll send PBS the money I've been wasting on Comcast. At least PBS would put it to good use.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reading is "Fun"damental!

54% of African American fourth graders read below grade level. – National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2007 Reading Assessment
My mother reads a lot. I think she can actually sleep in a twin bed because one-half of her queen-sized bed is always full of books, magazines and newspapers. Because I followed her example, naturally I'm a reader. There's no way I could have grown into a writer without being a good reader first. People harp on the importance of math and science, but reading and writing skills are equally important. I admit I don’t love math but I can pull out a calculator or ten fingers and get by. There’s no calculator for reading and writing.

Lack of income or education is no excuse for our children to lack basic reading skills. Slaves risked severe punishment if caught learning to read. Reading for slaves meant knowledge and freedom. Slave masters knew that a literate slave was a dangerous slave. Because too many of us lack knowledge of our history and the struggles of those before us, we take the freedom of reading for granted.
Studies of individual families show that what they do to support literacy in the home is more important to student success than family income or education (Ballen & Moles, 1994).
Today even the media are too lazy to do their own research. That’s why this fiasco between Shirley Sherrod and the United States Department of Agriculture went down. No one bothered to research whether she was guilty of the words she was accused. Journalists with years of experience and a whole lot of “should’ve known damn better because they learned this crap in Journalism 101” took the words of one and ran with it. A little research would’ve prevented this uproar.

If you bring a child into this world, you are responsible for putting the time into their development. Their success in the classroom is dependent on your efforts to teach them as much as possible in their formative years.

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the oldest and largest children's and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. For more information on how you can help your child with their reading skills, visit www.rif.org.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Still No Unemployment Extension!

Although I’m one of the lucky ones who've now rejoined the ranks of the employed as of a month ago, I still identify with the 14.6 million people (yes, that many as of June, 2010) still unemployed. I get a paycheck every two weeks and that's great but it just doesn't feel the same after spending eight months unemployed during such a dire economy.  Before I was laid off last year, I took getting a paycheck for granted.  Now every check feels like it could be the last one.  You can't understand how that feels unless you've been laid off during a recession.

I kind of understand how people who survived the Depression feel.  What I can't imagine is surviving without unemployment insurance. Right now the only thing on my mind is saving money and hunkering down for the next depression.  I call it like the government won’t call it.  Let them speak the soft talk to the camera.  When I see people out of work for over a year, middle class people forced to rely on public assistance for the first time in their lives, and people waiting scared for Congress to extend unemployment benefits for fear they'll end up on the street, it’s a damn depression to me. 

Those waiting since June 2 for the next unemployment extension to be signed by Congress will be forced to wait even longer if Congress doesn't sign the extension until after their summer recess which starts August 9.  Let's hope they're not that stupid (although nothing shocks me about Congress anymore) and decide it needs to be signed as soon as they get off their 4th of July break on July 12.  I don’t understand a country that claims to be a super power but whose government does things to contradict itself time and again.  I don't think there's anything super about law makers sitting on extended vacations while so many people who put them in office are walking around with no means of income. 

What amazes me is some of the Republican senators have resorted to blaming the unemployed for being unemployed.  That's it, blame the people at the bottom for the greed from the top.  Some companies have even decided they're not going to hire anyone for a position unless they're already employed.  That is just ridiculous to me.  Thank goodness the company I work for didn't feel that way.  I'd still be sitting at home right about now and they would've missed out on a damn good person.

A reminder: just because you have a job today does not mean you will have one tomorrow.  I believe things will get worst before they get better at the rate we're going.  There's talk that thousands of people working for state and local governments will be laid off because of budget cuts at the state level.  Stop listening to what the government tells you and start reading what's going on for yourself.  This is an election year.  They will tell you anything to get reelected.  Prepare for the unexpected.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oh, The Joys of Being Unemployed

In a couple of days I will rejoin the working world after eight months of unemployment. Some days it’s scary, others days exciting depending on which day of the week you ask. The one thing I am looking forward to is getting a real check again. South Carolina can keep their damn unemployment check. Well…they can keep it after next week.

When we first heard about possible layoffs, everyone kept telling me there was no way I’d be on the list, but I knew otherwise. As a Black woman living in a very unbalanced society, I’ve learned most times it’s better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when something good happens in the corporate world. Everyone is expendable. At the end of the day, it’s all about the bottom line. You sit and think you’re so important that you can’t be fired if you want. You’ll get your feelings hurt real fast. Let that budget be off and see how quickly they fire your ass. Oh, excuse me, lay you off. Call it what you want. Either way the checks stop coming.

Imagine having to sit at the job for a whole month after being handed your “get the fuck out” envelope. As contract workers we couldn’t receive severance pay (couldn't...wouldn't...either way were were screwed) so the company called themselves doing us a favor by giving us a month’s notice. Gee thanks. A month to be tortured by the fact that everyone sitting around us could breath a sigh of relief that they were spared while we, the laid off, were expected to continue like business as usual. I’m not bitter. Eight months later, I’m much better.

I was able to start graduate school, something I’d put off for so long. When a job pays well, it’s easy to convince yourself you’ll start school “next fall.” Yeaaaah, right. Next thing you know it’s been five years and you realize you could’ve finished the damn degree by now. The good thing is I’d already been accepted into graduate school last fall so it was just a matter of signing up for classes for the spring semester. There’s no way I could’ve taken three classes while working and make any grade above a D. Things happen for a reason.

Other benefits to being unemployed: no alarm clocks, being able to run errands while everyone else is at work, napping when I wanted, no pain in the ass coworkers to deal with, walking the bridge when I felt like it, watching television late into the night. I’m gonna miss watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force but Frylock, Shake and Meatwad aren't going to pay my bills.

It’s hard living off that fat check from unemployment. Let the Republicans tell it, I should be closing on a new house with all the damn money I’m getting from unemployment. Unless you live with your parents, there’s no way anyone can live solely off of unemployment. Rent, car note, utilities, bills. If you’re lucky, it’ll cover rent and maybe some of the utilities. Without any backup income, paying anything else is wishful thinking. Eating out and shopping become a thing of the past. Not being able to vacation sucks big time. I almost lost my mind when I was finally able to take a weekend trip to Atlanta last month. You’d have thought I won a trip to Tahiti or something.

I thank God I don’t have to play “catch up the bills.” My good credit is still in tact. It wasn't easy. Being unemployed during a recession brings with it a very deep feeling of helplessness. I never want to feel like my life is in South Carolina's unemployment office’s hands again. Next time the Democrats might not have the majority vote and I might be sitting on the curb with my belongings after my unemployment runs out after six months.

Now I save before I spend and have a little more faith that when layed off, something better is around the corner. I'm proof of that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What to Expect...

The truth.  Clear and simple.  I'm ADHD so you won't have to worry about reading any meandering soliloquies.  Short, simple, imformative and most importantly, the truth. That's all you'll get from me.  You might not always agree with what I have to say but you will respect me for saying it.  No one ever said the truth goes down smoothly. 

One thing I can guarantee is you will come away with something of value each time. Feel free to check and make sure what I say is true.  Go ahead.  You should be doing this with everything you read anyway.  Argue amongst each other even but no fighting.  Hopefully I'll be able to stop people from sending me urban legends that they've accepted as the gospel.  Wishful thinking, yes I know.  I guess I'll have to accept that some people like being stuck on stupid.  Not you, of course. :)