December 05, 2005

Annoying Computerized Voice Systems...

Don't you hate it when you have a hard time reaching a human when calling a customer service number?

This is definitely my most common technology frustration. Whether I am calling to pay my insurance, to question my verizon bill, to make an appointment with my doctor, or to solve a computer problem, it seems I am speaking with a computer on a daily basis. I usually try to hit zero several times, or just say "what" when they ask you to say your policy number, your account number, your telephone number, your zip code, or your medical record number. Then, the computer usually says, "I'm sorry. I cannot understand what you are saying. Let me transfer you to a customer representative." I figured the latter one out one day when I was calling a customer service number, and my friend kept asking me questions, so naturally I was paying attention to her and not the computer. I was saying things that the computer could not recognize. Well, after several times, the computer automatically transfers you to a human if it does not understand your request. It's amazing!

On Sunday, November 27 I came across an article from The Plain Dealer titled "Sick of automated customer service centers? Dial 0 for human." I thought this article sounded interesting because this is exactly what I was going to do for my technology frustration story. As I read the article, I found various statistics given by different people, who have the same frustration as me! One man by the name of Paul English actually created a cheat sheet on his website to reach a human. He started with the ten companies that frustrated him the most and invited people who visited his website to add to his list. The list grew to 108 companies as of Wednesday, November 30! You can find a copy of this cheat sheet at http://paulenglish.com/ivr/

Other interesting statistics include:
1) By 2010, it is estimated that self-service will account for 58% of all service interactions, up from 35% today.
2) It is estimated that an automated customer service system can handle a query at a cost of 8 to 15 cents a minute. The same query handled by a customer service representative in India or the Philippines would cost 20 to 40 cents a minute, and 65 cents to $1 a minute if handled by a U.S. agent.
3)It is estimated that 40% of the people who call a company's toll-free number immediately dial 0 looking for a live person.

Paul English's point of the article was that companies should adopt a universal standard for reaching a human, preferably by dialing 0. Wouldn't you agree?

The company is paying to have this toll-free number. Therefore, one has to wonder, as Professor Yoo mentioned in class, how long people take on average trying to figure out how to answer their questions through a computerized voice system, and some people just hang up and call again if they do not feel they are getting their question answered by the numbers they pressed. That would be an interesting statistic to see if, in reality, companies are really saving money by having an automated answering service or losing money!?

November 26, 2005

WHAT TO DO!?!?!

I am so confused right now on what I want to major in...

I came into Case and declared my major the first year as biochemistry. I feel as though I did this because my roommate was doing it, and it sounded interesting. Little did I know how much work was involved! I do not so much mind the work because I know I am capable of it. However, I am not interested in the material. I feel as if I am doing something that I do not want to do!

I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to be happy for the rest of my college career. Therefore, I looked around and started talking to various people in my classes about their major. I knew I didn't want to lose everything I have done thus far, so I wanted to major in something a little more appealing where I didn't have to start from scratch.

As I talked to more and more people and examined the 2005-2006 handbook, I decided nutrition would be quite fascinating. I met with my biochemistry advisor and spoke with her about my options. She recommended to do what I want to do because it is my life not anyone else's. I am the one who will have to live with this degree the rest of my life, so the real question is... Does it make ME happy? Then, I briefly met with a nutrition advisor to sign my change in major form.

I choose to change my major to nutrition and follow in the path of the dietitian program, and I scheduled my courses last Wednesday accordingly. I realized that I would not have to take physics 115 and 116 or chemistry 224 and 234, which were definite pluses. However, I would lose math 125 and 126, chemistry 233, and also biology 215, which is a bummer. I knew there were going to be advantages and disadvantages. If you look at it this way, I am pretty much losing a whole semester of courses, but I am gaining my happiness. Which is more important? Definitely my happiness!

Now to break the news to my parents... I told my parents on Thanksgiving, which was a huge mistake! My dad was telling me that I am trying to take the easy way out, which is not true because the courses are very similar to that required for biochemistry. My stepmom was telling me not to short change myself, which I didn't see how I was doing that!? My mom was just speechless. My oldest sister Melissa was like you are going to Case to be a nutritionist? Of course, sisters have to put you down. However, there was one person who actually encouraged me. Surprisingly, that person was my older sister Lisa. She is usually the one to criticize every aspect of my life, but she said as long as I receive a degree from Case, she is happy! Oh, I cannot forget my boyfriend, who always supports me in any decision I make.

I know how my family is though, especially my dad. They have to see it to believe it. We discussed going to law school, which is also an option for me, since as long as you pass the LSAT, you can have any degree to get into law school. That made him a little more comfortable with the idea of switching my major.

It's funny because my dream is to get married and have children immediately after I graduate. I do not want to work until the children are old enough to go to school. My degree is just going to be framed on the wall until I want to use it! My dad gets so mad when I say that, but I want a big family, and I always have. I am smart enough to know not to depend on a man and to have an education to fall back on in case things do not go as planned.

Well, whatever! We will see where the spring semester will take me. I will see if I even like nutrition. It is not like I cannot switch back. I still have time to decide.

November 18, 2005

The Wonderful World of eBay

eBay has to be my favorite past-time. It has everything... whatever you want, you can find!

I was first introduced to eBay by my boyfriend about three months ago. Since then, I have been shopping and buying like crazy! I even have my own registered name now as well as a PayPal account, even though I always use his PayPal account! :o)

The deals are incredible! For instance, my first purchase was a 4.4 cubic foot refrigerator, which goes for about $179.99 in stores. This one was from Sears and had a couple of minor dents from the stockroom. Therefore, I bought it for only $24.95. Of course, it was almost $50 for shipping, but I still saved about $100. I was so excited when I received it that I couldn't wait to open it. I went after my SAGES course, and it was too large to fit into my car. Thank God Neil Ursic was walking by at the time... He helped me bring it to my room and unpackage it. It was like Christmas for me. He was laughing at me because I was so ecstatic. You could barely notice the dents, and it was brand new! After that purchase, I couldn't wait to see what else I could find...

It wasn't long before I started bidding on things like crazy. I bought a car charger and a wall charger for my boyfriend for only $0.10 a piece. I was shopping with my roommate for a car charger and a plastic clip for hers, her brothers, and her parents' phones in the Verizon store, and the prices were ridiculous. In the Verizon store, a car charger was $30 and a clip was $20! I purchased everything on eBay for about $45 and that included shipping.

I also bought accessories for my iPod nano, which were incredibly cheap. The car FM transmitter/charger was about $75 in the Apple store, and I bought it on eBay for $20 with shipping! I also bought three skins for my nano, which came with another set of ear phones for just $0.01! In addition, I bought my boyfriend all of his birthday gifts.

There are a couple of drawbacks though. I absolutely hate waiting for the products to come in because sometimes you need the item right away like the gifts for my boyfriend's birthday. Also, I hate bidding on an item and being outbidded at the very last second. I was just informed that there is a program that does just that. It is called sniper, and it places your bid at the very last second. I think they only charge $1 or so for each item it wins, which isn't bad. I'll have to look more into that program. Usually, I just get the Buy It Now products. This way, you can be sure you get the product, and you don't have to keep checking to see if you are the highest bidder.

My boyfriend and I are so obsessed that we bring a laptop with us everywhere we go now to keep track of our bids. Yesterday, we actually pulled over to try and get wireless because he forgot his auction was about to end for a winter coat he had been bidding on! We were laughing at how addicted we have become!

I could spend all day just searching the website. The prices are amazing! It's perfect for us college students, who can't afford to pay the store costs.

November 12, 2005

PayPass?

Don't you hate it when you get those credit cards in the mail saying you've been "pre-approved" for some amount? I get those all the time, and I ordinarily just cut up the card without reading about it. However, this time was different...

I still get my mail sent to my dad's house, and when I go over there for dinner, he gives me a huge stack of mail. It is usually about 85% junk mail. The only pieces of mail that I get over there that actually matter are my bank statements. I have an account at Key Bank because my sister works there, but I rarely use it. Therefore, I just open the bank statement to see my balance, and then I shred it.

The letter I received this time from Key Bank did not appear to be a bank statement. There was a debit card in it. I thought this was extremely strange because I already have a debit card from there, and it was not a credit card!? At the top of this letter in large print, it read "Congratulations. You've been tapped," so automatically I thought it was junk mail. Despite this appearance, I decided to read the first paragraph to see what this was all about.

It stated: "We're adding a little excitement to your KeyBank Debit Card, called MasterCard PayPass. It makes your card even faster and easier to use than cash. So you can speed through lines at convenience stores, pharmacies, movie theaters, video stores, and drive-thrus. Soon, you may even be able to use it for mass transit, parking garages, and tolls."

This was a new debit card designed to make life a little easier and maybe even safer. You do not have to swipe your card anymore. "It's as simple as a tap." Therefore, your card never leaves your hand, which could make a person feel more secure. On the other hand, the letter also stated that you do not have to sign for purchases under $25 at participating locations. I do not know if that is exactly safe, since anyone can pick up your card and use it. Even though it is only $25 here and there, it adds up! The letter states that "you'll have $0 liability if your card is lost or stolen," but of course, there are restrictions! It states at the bottom in little print "when certain criteria are met." Whatever that means!

Not every place has a PayPass reader, so there is still a magnetic strip on the back. Therefore, you can still use your card as a regular debit card.

The point of this story being how fast technology is advancing! Rumors are pretty soon you will be using your fingerprint, so your identity is kept secure.

November 04, 2005

The TENS Unit...

I do not think my life could get any worse right now... Well, it probably could, but I do not even want to think about it!

I just started physical therapy again as I mentioned in a previous blog. I currently go four times a week, which occupies a lot of my time (I missed a lot of school and work this week because of this as well as strep throat)! My back and neck are in terrible condition! There is one thing that makes me feel better though, and it is the T.E.N.S. unit, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

What is it? This unit is a pain control treatment, which uses mild, safe electrical signals to help control pain. This machine has the power to work miracles.

How does it work you ask? This device lessens pain by sending painless electrical impulses through electrodes (sticky patches) placed on the skin. The electrical signals travel from the TENS unit through wires to the electrodes. The signal then passes to the nerves under the skin. These nerves take messages to the brain about what they feel, such as touch, warmth, pressure, and pain. TENS signals can replace the message of pain on these nerves with a tingling sensation. This changes your impression of the pain. The TENS signals may also increase the amount of endorphins, which are pain-relieving chemicals made naturally by your body, in your body.

When I was in physical therapy for the first time last year, my therapist actually gave me one to try out at home. It was horrible! I could not find the time to do this treatment. It was very hard for me to relax at home because I was constantly thinking of all this stuff I could be doing. It was very hard for me to find the exact pain spots where I should place the patches. Then, I always forgot to turn off the machine before I removed the sticky patches and would shock myself! It was much more relaxing just to have my therapist do it at the facility with all the proper knowledge and gear.

My therapist uses this device on me every visit. She places the sticky patches where I feel the most pain on that particular day. Then, she adjusts the control knobs making the signal either strong or weak. I usually get mine extremely strong, since I am in a lot of pain. I did not know what to think about the feeling at first, but after half an hour, the tingling really started to relax me. I usually fall asleep because it is so relaxing. After the treatment, I almost feel worse, but as the day goes on, I can tell my pain lessens.

Anyway, the point of this blog is just to explain a device I am currently using and the amazing technology that goes along with it. Who ever thought of using electrical signals to control pain? I want to thank whoever did!

October 24, 2005

Meeting with Donald Kamalsky...

Suzy, Sheila, and I are researching The Village at 115 for our final group paper. We figure we have a good variety in our group considering Suzy lives in Clark Tower, Sheila lives off campus, and I live at The Village at 115.

Last Wednesday, we had a meeting with Donald Kamalsky, Director of House and Residence Life, to discuss The Village at 115. He actually gave us very good insight into this new apartment-style housing. It was especially interesting to me due to the fact that I got a chance to get all the questions I had regarding this housing answered.

It is amazing how much technology there actually is under the surface. It was very interesting to hear about how they went about putting together their ideas. It was a little like that video clip we watched in class of that group of people writing down their ideas, then discussing them. I'll save the details for an upcoming blog after our group writes the paper. Right now, I'm still revising my other paper!

Thanks Professor Yoo for referring us to him! He was very helpful.

October 18, 2005

No More Accidents...

I don't know what it is about me and accidents, but I feel like I am always in one. It is absolutely ridiculous!

A little over a year ago, my friend and I decided we should start riding our bikes to get a little exercise. So one beautiful August afternoon, we rode our bikes through the Metro Parks like I used to do when I was a child.

Everything was going well until on our way back... this guy was obviously not yielding to pedestrians, or even paying attention for that fact. My friend and I were about to cross the street. We thought it was clear, since the little white person was displayed across the street signifying it's okay to go, and the new device the city has developed for blind people was saying, "It's okay to cross." Well, we were wrong... BAM! A car was making a right turn on red and only looking to his left for oncoming traffic. The man obviously did not look to his right for any pedestrians. I was in front of my friend, and he ran directly into me. I flipped over my handlebars, right onto the windshield and slid off.

I remember very few things, but I was filled in later by my friend and parents. I remember surrounding pedestrians and cars stopping to see if I was okay. The next thing I knew, there were fire trucks and police everywhere. I went into shock. The firemen thought my arms had tire marks all over them, but they were hives. I have never had hives in my life! My dad and stepmother came to the scene, and my stepmother rode in the ambulance with me (I remember her crying). The worse pain was having to stay so straight on the flat board that it was extremely uncomfortable!

Once I arrived at the hospital, I was examined, x-rayed and given painkillers. My stepmother had called my boyfriend, which I had just begun to date, to inform him of the situation, since I was supposed to meet up with him later that day. Worried, he rushed up to the hospital. I mean, it sounds really horrible when someone says, "Lauren is in the hospital because she got hit by a car while riding her bike." I was so embarrassed because I was kept thinking about those movies where a girl is riding her bike, and she waves to some cute guy and runs right into a parked car, even though in my case it wasn't a parked car, Thank God!

When I got home, I was so drugged up that I just fell asleep. I woke up with my boyfriend next to me. It was the strangest thing because my dad would never ever approve of boys sleeping over. He wouldn't even let a boy in my room if he was over (we slept on the futon in the basement though, he wasn't in my room). I guess he really liked my boyfriend, which is probably one reason why I am still with him today.

I had to call my attorney, make a police report, and go to therapy 3 times a week. The whole situation was chaos!

I was in so much pain; I still am. However, I just finished therapy a little while ago, and then... BAM! I got into another accident this past Saturday.

My friend picked me up, and we were going to grab some lunch in Little Italy. Well, we were turning left into a parking lot, waiting for an opening in the oncoming traffic, when BAM! This huge handicap-accessible van plowed right into us. We looked at each other and didn't know what had happened. We were stopped for a good 10 seconds, so obviously this lady was sight-seeing. I guess that's what happens when people don't see Little Italy everyday of their lives like Case students do!

We pulled into the parking lot, and my friend and I felt immediate pain. It was a good thing we both had our seatbelts on! We exchanged information with the lady, who said she was on her way to a wedding, which was weird because both my friend and I also had weddings to attend.

Anyway, I called 911, and they said if the cars were drivable, and the people in the accident could walk, then to just drive to the police station ourselves to make a report. I have never heard of such a thing! I called my dad, and half way through the conversation, I flipped out and started crying. He didn't know what to do. I just couldn't believe that I was only 20, yet I had the body of a 60-year-old. I just finished therapy and wasn't even fully recovered, and now, I have to go back!

I called my boyfriend, and he took me and my friend to the emergency room where we were examined, x-rayed, and prescribed several painkillers. After several long hours, we headed to the police station to make a report, which took a little over an hour.

The painkillers I was prescribed knocked me out. I was so drained. I called my attorney and told him about the whole situation, and he told me he would take care of everything. He said I needed to go back to therapy and take care of my body. I couldn't believe this was happening again!

I laid around all day at my mom's house on Sunday, and she catered to me. When I got home, I could not stay awake and had to write my biology professor that I didn't feel prepared for the test on Monday (the following day) due to everything. My painkillers had a side effect of drowsiness, and let me tell you... they knocked me out! My professor understood and wanted documentation like I would make something like that up. I guess you never know what people will do to get out of something! My professor told me I could take the exam on Thursday, but there would be no multiple choice; it would be all essay. Great!!

The sad thing is it's already Tuesday, and I am still not prepared. I didn't go to school or work yesterday because I could not get out of bed. I had a math test today, which I was actually able to study a little for. I stayed up with my roommate until 2:30am studying. I don't know how I did it, but I did! I could barely wake up this morning for my 8:30am biology lab, but I did. I did not go to work once again. I feel like I am pushing myself so much, and I am not going to get better!

To top it all off, I have had this sharp pain in my ovaries since Sunday. It sounds funny, but I have two friends who had the same pain, and they both ended up with ovarian cysts. Wonderful! Just another thing to add to my list. Even with the painkillers, I still woke up Sunday night in excruciating pain. It was horrible. I have an appointment scheduled on Thursday for an ultra sound to try and find out the problem. I don't know how I am going to fit in this biology exam and actually be prepared!? I am a M-E-S-S!!!

Hopefully, things will get better soon. They better!!