NOTES FROM THE FIELD: The challenge of inhaling

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: The challenge of inhaling

Rolling blackouts returned to my neighbourhood last week. I missed all the excitement, however, spending another week on the gruelling road of technology trade shows, enduring flight delays of several hours (which I blame on the rolling blackouts), and surviving on just a few hours of sleep a night.

Needless to say, I wasn't in a good mood when I saw the subject line of an e-mail in the ol' Cringe mailbox stating that my column was all wrong. (What, again?)It seems one of those Southern Californians was insulted by my characterisation of Los Angeles as smoggy. The smog is nothing compared to what it was, this reader said. When he was young, he and his friends used to dare one another to take deep breaths of the thick air and see how long they could hold them. Those who took the dare would turn blue or green.

"Customer service"?

I'm pretty sure, judging from my e-mail of recent months, that these same smog-slurping kids are now in charge of the customer service operations at telecommunications companies. Brain damage, you know.

From Verizon to @Home to MCI WorldCom, the mail is pouring in about systems problems and abysmal customer service.

How about the company that has been waiting since May of last year for a $US3000 installation credit? Every month the company calls its MCI WorldCom sales rep, and every month the rep says the people out west who handle these issues are very "slow" - maybe some more smog inhalers? The company now gets a 10-page bill with 10 $US20 finance charges. Another reader has had a similar experience with Sprint, getting billed every month for an account cancelled a year ago.

I've also heard from a couple of people who believe @Home's security may have been breached recently. The theory is based on the fact that they are getting spam at their @Home e-mail accounts - e-mail accounts that they have never used. These customers are wondering how, if @Home doesn't sell its e-mail lists, are the spammers getting their addresses?

If taxes weren't bad enough

I've gotten lots of e-mail saying that the guy who lost three hours of work on TurboTax due to a computer crash was himself to blame because he didn't save his work regularly. Please, people. Even if we all know better, have you no sympathy for a fellow human suffering tax trauma?

On the topic of Intuit's TurboTax, one reader reported that his state tax return, prepared with TurboTax, was rejected by Virginia's Department of Taxation. According to the customer service rep for the state, TurboTax-prepared returns are being rejected in large numbers. No one seems to know why. Yet Intuit, with no questions asked, is quick to credit users who e-filed with that state.

Epilogue: Microsoft versus Sun

In a hockey grudge match on March 11 between the two tech giants, Microsoft beat Sun 4-1. There were no fights.

"Inhaling smog on purpose is sick, Bobby," Randi said in disgust. "If it makes you feel better, when I was in LA, I didn't inhale," I replied.Got some antipodean gossip? Send it on to

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