Monday, August 31, 2009

My time of torment is at hand...

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate calling technical support...

I have been posting less because my Internet connection has been haphazard again. I loathe calling tech support, to the point of it giving me anxiety. I know that as soon as I get through the automated menus;

"If you are calling about ______, please say 'Yes,' if this is incorrect, please say, 'no'."

and I respond with a clear and easily understood, "No!", I will hear:

"I'm sorry, I did not understand your answer, If you are calling about ______, please say 'Yes,' if this is incorrect, please say, 'no'."

At which point, I hollar, "NO! NO! NO! NO!"

And the agony continues until the system connects me to a technician, herafter known as "Habbib," who answers in a middle eastern accent, "Hello, how may I be helping you today?"

Thankfully, Verizon seems to have notes in their system stating that I am a recurring caller, and Habbib seems to have understood that, evidenced by his actions in that he did not ask me to run any tests, ran a line test on his end, checked the connection logs for errors, and told me a technician would arrive promptly on Friday, somewhere between 8am and midnight.

Friday came and went with no technician, no confirmation call, and no reliable service.

On Sunday, I recieved a call, confirming that service was scheduled for today. Since I had to get my scooter inspected and I need to work later on today, this is not acceptable, so I called the number that it told me to call to reschedule, and after going through the intollerable menus (yet again), the system informed me: "We're sorry, but that office is closed. Please call back during normal business hours."

Well, if they don't have staff in those offices during that time, why is their automated system telling me to call those offices at that time?

This is preposterous.

This morning, I tried the call again, and this time, eventually got ahold of Habbib's cousin, hereafter known as "Achmed." I told him that I need to reschedule for Thursday, the third of September because I will be unavailable should a technician arrive today, tomorrow, or Wednesday. Achmed kindly told me to hold for about 15 minutes while he contacted the dispatcher. He finally came on the line and asked if he could call me back, at which point I acquiesced.

An hour and a half later, while I was waiting for my scooter inspection, Achmed left a message on my voicemail stating that a technician would be along on Wednesday, September third...

Can you hear my screams of anguish here in the depths of the abyss?

Hopefully he got the day wrong and the date right...

I do believe that customer service is a thing of the past and has been replaced with customer processing. If a company wants to offer true customer service, they should staff their call centers with folks who are completely fluent in the language of the customers they are serving, regardless of language. I realize that this will not happen as long as people are willing to be, or are unable to resist being, trodden upon by companies with poor customer service practices in order to receive a less expensive product. If I could afford to switch to another company (back to cable for instance), I would do so in a heartbeat.

**Disclaimer** I mean no disrespect to middle eastern folks. I'm just having a bit of fun. If you are offended, I apologize and will happily email you an enema.

August 31, inspection time

I realized yesterday that the end of the month was upon me. I purchased my People 150 in September, so the Inspection was only good until the end of August...which happens to be today.

Last night I renewed my registration online, and this morning I went for inspection. So, I scrounged up some cash, popped out the door, got to Trans-am in Lititz, and discovered that I had left my registration and insurance on the couch.

So, I went back home, got the items, noticed that my insurance card was outdated (glad I checked), popped in at my insurance agent, then popped over to Lancaster Honda since I didn't want to go all the way back to Lititz (I do a lot of popping it seems).

I waited for a while whilst playing Evony on my netbook, and when I heard the telltale sound of my scooter pulling into the garage. I periodically peeked at the technician while he fussed over the scoot. After a while, he noted a blown bulb in the light for the registration plate. In the process of fixing that, he discovered my homegrown wiring job for my LED lighting. It was funny to watch him puzzle over that. I'm sure he was thinking something akin to, "what the heck! this is a mess!" It is a Monday after all, and he finally figured out that you have to start the motor to get the plate light on.

$29 and some change later I was set to go.

So far, it's almost a year that I've had this machine. It reports over 14,000 on the Odometer (somewhere between kilometers and miles apparently), and runs like a top...except for the spinning part...not a good idea on a scooter.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lunge, parry, and riposte

Well, maybe not so dramatic, but anyway. One of my regular readers had a rather heartfelt response/dissent to my recent lament about my friend's Chinascoot.

I hope he does not mind, but I will use his letter as a jumping off point and thank him heartily for giving me something to write about.

He wrote:

" I see in your recent blog that your friend is having a problem with his scooter breaking belts. Before you arrive at a conclusion like the scooter is at fault you should read Scootdawg more. Something like that could be rubber bits lodged in the variator or the clutch and be the fault of his dealer not doing an adequate job of cleaning it or the scooter also needing new rollers. Bad engagement of the variator could be breaking the belt. Rollers are a wear item and at 4,000 miles it's not outside the realm of the possible that they could need greasing/replacing. It's why many of us replace ours with better ones from Dr. Pulley at 4-5,000 miles.
Blaming the scooter because of a bad mechanics is short sighted. You're very fortunate to have an excellent dealer who knows what he's doing. Your friend with the China scoot is not so blessed."

Sure, these points have been made, and I'm certain the issue can be fixed eventually; however, the big picture issue I have with Chinese scooters is, and has always been, that while those who have technical and mechanical know-how can certainly maintain most of these machines, those who are not so inclined or perhaps do not have the time to tinker, should avoid them as it may well be more trouble for them than it is eventually worth.

For a wrench jockey, a Chinascoot can be a lot of fun and something to tinker with. For most folks with full lives already, tinkering with a vehicle can be a big headache, or even an impossible task, depending on technical acumen.

The very things that are mentioned in this letter are the reasons I caution folks away from buying a Chinascoot if they cannot maintain it themselves or if they do not buy it from a dealer with the ability to maintain it for them. Chinascoots have a cult following of very capable, mechanically minded folks, and for them, they provide a great hobby.

On the other hand, for folks without that ability or the support of a good dealer, a chinascoot may be little more than a way to waste a thousand dollars or more.

I also contend that the better brand name machines like KYMCO, SYM, Honda, and so on, have a better chance of being problem free due to higher quality parts and construction.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Things that should not be!

Some things make absolutely no sense to me.

I love cartoons. Call me childish if you will, but I enjoy watching Cartoon Network at times, depending upon what is showing at the time.

Over the last several years, I have been more and more bothered by the fact that Cartoon Network has been showing non-animated features. To make matters worse, within the last few months, they have started to devote Wednesday nights to a completely non-animated line-up which they are calling "CN Real."

This bothers me. They are a cartoon channel. Showing cheap knock-offs of reality TV shows like Survivor and Ghost Hunters, does not compute. If they are trying to compete with Nickelodeon, I get that; but if that's the idea, they need to change their name. Of course, that would irritate me too.

I suppose I will just have to be irritated.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wildfire: seems to be spluttering...

A bit over a year ago, I originally mentioned that my best friend had purchased a Wildfire R8, 49cc motor scooter. Well, about a month ago, he was riding merrily along, had a sudden burst of power, then the scooter completely lost forward momentum. As some of my readers may have guessed already, the CVT belt had broken. With just over 3000 miles on the machine, this was not unheard of for a chinascoot.

It was easy enough for him to take the scooter to the dealer and have a new belt put in, and $40.00 later, he was back in business.

A week later, we were headed north on a back road outside Lititz when he again had a burst of speed, and suddenly there were little black rubber bits flying out of the opening on the back end of the CVT as I followed along behind him. He coasted to a stop and we locked the scoot to a nearby utility pole and I went to get my wife's car while he walked to a local mini-mart. I picked him up there and took him to get his truck, upon which we loaded the crippled scoot.

The next day, he took it back to the dealer, who was perplexed at the destruction of the brand new belt. He put another belt on and then, another week passed and the same thing happened again.

So now his scoot sits waiting for another new belt, perhaps of higher quality. The question also arizes, is it the belts, or something in the workings of the scoot itself that is shredding them. I will give more info as I have it.

At this point though, this story seems to illustrate that generic Chinese scooters and their replacement parts can be hit or miss. While it is in a higher class of engine, my People 150 has not shown any major mechanical issues, no parts have needed replacement other than the air filter and a spark plug (which wasn't 100% necessary, but I was too lazy to clean it and just popped in a new one), and aside from a few small issues, the scoot has been very reliable.

Could I have gotten a 150cc scooter for less than half the price? Sure, but would I want to? Given my observations, I think I will stick to scooters distributed by reputable companies, rather than risking the cost and agravation of messing with a faulty machine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Busy busy busy

Between work and my church's youth camp, I've been running all over the place. I've gotten a few farm photos, but I left my camera in my wife's car, so I only have the one I got on my phone on Monday.

This barn is right along the road on route 722 (old Oregon Road), in Lititz. There are usually a few sheep milling about, but I think they may have been inside to escape the heat.

I saw this bright yellow Honda Reflex today when my family was visiting McDonald's for a quick bite on the way out to the youth camp. Lately we've been avoiding eating out to save our pennies, but tonight we needed a quick fix.

I like the GIVI trunk on the back. It could hold two of my topcase easily.

Maybe when I eventually get a larger bike or scooter, I'll get a nice topcase like that one, but for now, the one I have works, rattles and all.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ridin' around on my scooter-mobile...

I didn't have to work today. Of this, I am most deeply grateful.

I spent a good portion of the day with my family. My wife needed to pick up her phone at the school where she works, so we got her phone then went to "That Fish Place/That Pet Place," a local pet store, to look at the fish and lizards. They have a touch tank there with stingrays, which my son really enjoys. They also have a huge selection of tropical and saltwater fish, coral, and other fun stuff.

We made our way home, had a light lunch, and watched a bit of TV. I had to run an errand, but later made my way to Lancaster Honda to check on the status of the forthcoming Elite 110. They didn't have any yet, but I had a nice chat with their sales manager, Kevin. It's nice to walk into a place and feel like they have time for you. Kevin accomplishes that well.

After leaving Lancaster Honda, I went back home, had supper with my family, and made some homemade marinara sauce and salsa with my wife. We had around 200 Roma tomatoes, some pablano peppers, and some bell peppers from our garden. We boiled down a bunch of the tomatoes for the tomato sauce, then made the salsa, adding some garlic and vidalia onion, as well as some sugar and kosher salt.

The sauce we are freezing until we need it, but we had some of the salsa tonight. The salsa is very good and quite mild since we used pablanos instead of more intense chili peppers.

After supper, I went for a little ride. I found yet another neat barn.

I rode a little more and saw this beautiful vista.

All in all, it was a relaxing and rejuvinating day. Just what I needed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The silence of the rain and the power of a smile

The last few days have been moderately damp for riding. I have ridden, nonetheless, and have found that there is an odd stillness when it rains which is somehow very comforting. The roads are a little more interesting to ride upon, which requires one to slow down, but that is never a bad thing anyway.

Today, I had an opportunity to do some extensive riding for work. I rode out to Ken's Educational Joys in Hinkletown, PA to buy some items for one of my clients. It was a pleasant ride through the country and I found myself smiling as I listened to praise music on my MP3 player. My wife and I had received a financial gift to help pay our mortgage, and some gift cards for a local food store, and while our financial concerns have not all been met, hope is on the horizon and our spirits have been comforted.

As I listened to the music and sang along, I felt much of my stress and anxiety melting away. It was a freeing experience for me. I felt at peace for the first time in a long while.

I kept smiling and noticed that as I did so, those I passed smiled back. Before too long, I felt my face starting to hurt I was smiling so broadly.

I know that my situation is not yet resolved, but I take comfort in the words of Psalm 27, especially the last few lines:

"I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD."

It is a great comfort to have much of scripture memorized. The words give me hope when there is little to be found.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rough patch...

As many of my readers who actually visit my blog on at least a semi-regular basis will be aware, my wife was ill for much of the winter and missed a lot of work. Her inability to work during that time has caught up to us at this point and we are truly feeling the pinch. Due to this, despite the economical nature of scooters in general, I have been limited in my ability to take joyrides. I still ride to and from work, of course, and for whatever errands I need to run, but our financial situation has taken a toll on my riding time. Because of this financial slump, I've been working about ten extra hours a week to help bring in a little more money, though that isn't terribly much since I work for a group home which pays little to begin with.

To add insult to injury, my Verizon Internet connection remains unstable and has been worse than usual over the last few weeks. I've not called them to complain since I really don't wish to talk to Habib and have him tell me to reboot my computer, etc..

Even more fun added to the pile, I had to visit the ER three times last weekend due to sudden health concerns for my wife and son. They are both O.K., but it was still disconcerting on all three occasions.

So to my loyal readers, I give my apology for being lax in my blogging.

Summer remains somewhat un-summerlike, with a rare 90+ degree day today. I was glad for the vents on the front of my helmet which let a breeze cool my sweating head while I was riding to work and listening to music on my contrived speakers. I know some of you may think I'm taking a risk, but I can hear the ambient sounds around me just fine, not to mention the wind against my helmet. Plus, I enjoy having music.

For those of you that may be interested, and since I'm not certain I've mentioned this before, my sound system is relatively simple. I have headphones that are designed for use with a Nintendo DS. My helmet has two pockets which are obviously intended to hold speakers, into which I slip the two ear pads. The trailing wire goes out the left hand side of the helmet to my MP3 player, and I can hear most songs very well up to about 35mph. After that point, the audibility of the music decreases exponentially as my speed increases.

Perhaps one day I will get better speakers, but for now, I have absolutely no extra money to spend on any frills, so I'll work with what I have and be thankful for it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Strange weather...Long workweeks...must be summer

I've had a little change at work. My role has changed, so I'm working different hours again. On a positive note, I'm no longer responsible for all of the micromanagement I used to have to keep track of. Today I trained my replacement to do the grocery shopping, so that's one little thing I no longer have to worry about.

We've also had some staff turnover, which has caused me to have to work additional hours that I would not normally have.

So, I haven't had much time to blog, but I've been riding a lot just the same. I got a short ride in this evening.

I went past Roots, which is a farmer's market not far down the road from where I live. The parking lots are empty tonight, but tomorrow, they will be full.

The Evergreen golf course is right next door, which makes parking at Roots on Tuesdays a bit of a gamble. There's nothing like a golfball through your windshield to brighten your day.

I passed a neat old barn after leaving Roots, then wandered around a bit more before heading home.

Sometime this week, I hope to make my way down to Lancaster Honda to check on whether they've gotten a new Elite in yet. If they don't have one yet, perhaps they will soon.