Sun is on the pool side of the building in the afternoon. And it's sunny today, not cloudy. So I took a writing break in the condo pool. It's on the fifth floor, and half open-air. Pool is good. Sun is good. Back to writing.
I shed two t-shirts, a pair of smartish trousers, and denim long shorts in Tokyo. I still find myself envious of all the people around me in the hostel in Kuala Lumpur with smaller backpacks than me.
On a related note, I really want all of the brightly coloured loose pants at the market.
So I'm going to try to significantly reduce my load again before I leave KL. To make it easier, I'll put something aside to rehome every day for the next nine days. To remind myself, and stay accountable, I'll update this blog post.
Update: In the end I did it all at once, a couple of days after writing this. I extracted this stuff, and shoved it under my bed. At the end of my stay in the hostel, the folks at reception said they knew someone they could give it to for charity, so I left it with them.
aka Visting a dentist as a foreigner in Tokyo, Japan, since I need a more SEO friendly header
After minor face explosion due to wisdom teeth over the weekend, I eventually decided I should go see a dentist rather than try to wait it out until after my upcoming trip to the US. I am extremely thankful to Mike and Nao for taking me to their local dentist, and translating forms and conversation for me. It's nice to have W3C family all over the world :)
We dropped by about 3.30 in the afternoon, without calling ahead, and I was seen within about five minutes, after filling in (or mostly, as it was all in Japanese, Nao filling in) a form. They estimated the prices upfront (without being asked) and to check that I was okay with it, promising for sure less than 10,000 JPY. This is about what I expected following extensive googling yesterday.
First was an xray. The xray machine played like 8bit elevator music, and I had to stop myself from laughing. Then some waiting around, and then I was seated in a dentist chair. Then more waiting around. Everything seemed to happen at a very leisurely pace, but staff were friendly and smiley and chatty (in Japanese). The dentist talked to Nao for ages while I was in the chair, and Nao periodically gave me one-sentence summaries. I was reminded of the "moar... intensity" scene in Lost in Translation, and again had to stop myself from giggling.
The xray was produced, and I got a detailed explanation of everything wrong with my wisdom teeth. My left side is infected right now, but the right side is just as at risk. The dentist noted that were she to be removing them, she'd take the top ones first. She showed me the best angle at which to clean the emerging tooth, and put some gel on it.
She produced antibiotics and very strong painkillers. Yay! And if I'm still in pain on Thursday, I'm to go back.
This came to 7,790 JPY - less than expected, though not something I had budgeted for. I'm going to see if I can claim any of that back from World Nomads. I was in there for probably just under an hour.
Every single church, school, town/village hall, community center, library, any public space you can think of, probably public toilets, are polling stations in the UK. I'd walk past ten on my way to the office. I guess the US is like really big and far apart and everything, but something just seems really badly organised.
Copypasted results from #ownYourData paper into thesis chapter 3, and edited and added to other bits already in chapter 3.
Helped transition LDN to CR and Webmention to PR.
Published two WD updates to Social Web Protocols.
Went to an Onsen.
Learnt to count to ten in Japanese whilst waiting for the bus. Only the basic numbers though. There are whole different sets of words if you're counting something specific like people or things. Obviously.
Still working on new issues being opened on LDN, mostly editorial.
W3C admin stuff to do with the LDN CR and Webmention PR.
Had a couple of not-really-get-out-of-bed days. Today is one of them, but my brain is finally coming online around 5pm.
Learnt enough kanji to start grocery shopping (soy bean, meat, fish, egg, dairy).
Explored a few areas of Tokyo, including:
Roppongi, which has lots of fancy pants art and a big park and two excellent vegan restaurants.
Shiodome, which I went to for the advertising museum, but it was closed. Wandered around some of the giant mall buildings, and stumbled into the viewing area of the 46th floor of the Caretta, which is surprisingly free. The turbo lifts are super fast. There's also wifi and power. Unfortunately there's also an steady influx of tourists, but maybe it's not a bad place to work.
Walked through the Imperial Palace grounds, just as everything was closing so I only got to go around the edge.
Decided to try actually saving money for a couple of months so I'm going to see how long I can go without doing a grocery shop and easy only stuff I have already. So mostly things I can make with flour (which is a lot actually) and lentils. Also, roommates' food with a pledge to replace next week :)
Amy wrote about phd, life, socialwg, indiewebcamp, selfcarematters, & hammock
After 7 days straight of meetings, conferences, fieldwork, I'm taking the weekend off. Napping and cleaning apartment and watching stuff and maybe a teeny tiny bit of internetting, and concentrating really hard on not feeling guilty about not leaving the hammock.
(Last night I made a checkin, and after that I was getting 'mysql crashed' so I did 'repair' on the tables, and then the homepage and /travel were blank. I imported a backup from 25th but it wouldn't import, said there was a primary key collision. So back to latest db. I couldn't get any useful errors from apache logs, or get PHP to output any. So I narrowed down the Problem blog post by changing the dates it was fetching for the homepage until I narrowed it down to 4th April. One of five posts from 4th of April threw the same error at its own URL. That post had the URL of another post as its published date. I have no idea how that happened So I deleted that post (it was a checkin) and now we're fine. Actually I guess what happened is when I did the mysql repair it screwed up some keys in the database to point the object of the published triple to the id of another post, because ARC2 has this complicated database structure to turn relational into a graph that I haven't bothered to understand properly).
This is part of an ongoing series of notes about Star Trek episodes that remind me in some way of interactions with W3C Working Groups.
On maintaining a sense of humour in dire situations
In TNG S1E7 ("Contagion") a computer virus attempts to rewrite the software of the Enterprise. Geordi: "We have two completely incompatible computer systems trying to interact!" Sound familiar? A potential consequence is complete destruction of the Enterprise, as happened to the USS Yamato shortly before. Later, during multiple systems failures and faced with imminent Romulan attack, the shields are going up and down and weapons systems are going on and off, Troi smirks: "In another time and another place this could be funny." Riker adds "In case it should become necessary to fight, do you suppose you could find me some rocks to throw at them?
This is part of an ongoing series of notes about Star Trek episodes that remind me in some way of interactions with W3C Working Groups.
On issue closing and edit wars
In TNG S1E26 ("The Neutral Zone"), a man from the late 21st century is found cryogenically frozen. He is awoken aboard the Enterprise, and soon becomes frustrated that he can't speak to the Captain (who is busy diffusing a dangerous situation with the Romulans). He uses a communications panel to call the Captain, who isn't best pleased. When reprimanded for unauthorised use of the panel, he says "If they are so important, why don't they need an 'executive key'?" to which Picard replies "Aboard a starship, that is not necessary. We are all capable of exercising self-control.
The next Internet of You smart device wakes you up in the morning and says hmm, based on current brain patterns, various external factors, and those of the other people you are likely to interact with today, your mood is on a negative trend. So I've turned off the router for 12 hours, and here are some colouring books.
Today set out to be a quiet day of working/procrastinating from home, then a flurry of last minute plans and serendipity meant I got to meet people I previously only knew of online, and have some good conversations that will lead to future exciting work and travel related things. Sweet!
At short notice, my roommate Liz invited me sailing on the Charles. When we got there there were no boats available, but some friendly strangers had space in theirs and picked us up. One of those strangers happened to be Nate, whose Microsoft Research blog posts I'd read this summer and who had been twitter-introduced to me a couple of months ago by our mutual friend Doc. I'd been meaning to follow up and find time to meet up with him. After about 15 minutes of chatting with him and his friends in their boat, I realised who I was talking to. What are the odds?! Nate's research is relevant to mine, and he recommended a seminar group I should attend; bumping into him this way was an incredible stroke of luck!
Earlier today I learned that Shane is in town for a couple of days as part of a roadtrip around the US, so I met him and Morgan for dinner, and we talked indieweb, travel and vegan food for a few hours. And I might now have exciting and exotic christmas plans as a result.
Leaving Boston at 9:00am (+01:00) on Saturday the 22nd of August 2015 and arriving in Boston at 2:00pm (+01:00) on Saturday the 22nd of August 2015
Taking mobility for granted
On Monday evening my left knee started being painful, and very gradually has got worse over the past couple of days. I now can't use stairs comfortably in either direction, and sloping ground is starting to cause problems too.
It hasn't taken much for me to realise how much I take good mobility for granted. I feel hugely guilty whenever I've stepped in a lift to travel one or two floors today, and keep forgetting and skipping at stairs like I usually would; one step is enough to remind me that that way lies only pain. I'm distressed that I'm unlikely to be able to run this week.
Other inconveniences include having to remember not to sit with my legs folded under or beside me or crossed over like I usually do, and tying my shoelaces and picking things up from the floor being more difficult.
I'm not in that much pain, and it's all pretty minor really, and it'll probably be gone soon, but even this is having an impact on going about my day. I'm really posting this to remind myself, and anyone reading, to take more time to imagine life in this ableist world for people with more severe or long term mobility issues.
Rikki and I walked from Edinburgh to North Berwick, almost 30 miles, in 11 hours. This is the longest walk I've ever done in one go, and I pushed my legs and feet to the absolute limit. Here's the GPS trace on Runkeeper.
We departed Edinburgh at 2am, and walked straight to Portobello.
From there, we just followed the coast. Next stop: Musselburgh.
The sun started to make an appearance around 5am, albeit on the other side of clouds. Looking back at where we'd come from, the distinctive shape of Arthur's Seat and the Crags:
And forward to the decommissioned power station at Port Seton:
From here, Morrison's Haven:
Murals welcomed us to Prestonpans.
Above is John Muir, whose Way we followed for most of the walk.
Undergoing deconstruction, the old power station:
And some very personalised graffiti in Port Seton:
Finally the rain let up (did I mention it had been raining for the entire first few hours?).
By now, the power station and Holyrood are recognisable silhouettes in the distance. Our feet were starting to ache slightly.
But beautiful beaches and encouraging signs awaited us.
Soon we were deep into golf course territory.
My knees were saying things like "ohai I see you've been walking for several hours now, might want to get that looked at."
So naturally we decided to take a 3 mile diversion via the Aberlady nature reserve, rather than head straight down the road to North Berwick.
This paid off with gorgeous empty beaches.
And interesting things from the sea.
Then we lost the path, scrambled through undergrowth, aggressive plantlife shredded my legs (why do I always head out in shorts?) and we emerged on a golf course. Bemused golfers advised us to get a bus, and directed us to the road. We had other plans, headed through private golf course residents land, with fancy houses.
"Look at those children, running around like they still have feet." - Rikki
We figured that if we were caught somewhere we weren't supposed to be, the worst that could happen is they'd take is to an office somewhere and... sit us down... in chairs!! Didn't seem so bad.
But we limped on, to North Berwick at last.
Except the distance between the 'welcome to North Berwick' signs and the town itself was eternal. We were both feeling a bit sick at this point, on top of all lower-body pain. But eventually we made it, and celebrated by SITTING DOWN.
We slept on the grass overlooking the beach for a couple of hours. Then limped to the train station. Some old ladies with walkers got stuck behind us in the street.
30 minutes and £4.10 later we were back in Edinburgh, via the sensible route.
The last book I finished was The Long Walk by Stephen King. That's pretty much all I could think about on this journey.
For about fourteen years I kept detailed daily journals. I couldn't sleep unless I'd written. And I couldn't just write "Went to school, Polly and Laura fell out again." I had to write every detail. Food, friends, lessons, homework, learning to make websites, gerbils, cats (those are all the things associated with being a normal teenager, right?), and all the thoughts and feelings associated with everything I'd encountered that day. It was habit, and compulsion. It was also a burden. When I went away, I had to plan to carry a notebook with me, and keep it somewhere other people wouldn't get hold of it. I had to make time before bed to write, usually for a full hour. If I had to skip a night, I had to double time the next night, and felt the pressure of holding onto the memories I hadn't manage to record for an extra day.
This continued during my undergrad. But was harder. Entries got shorter, even though more was happening. I'd pull spontaneous movie, coursework or just hanging-out all-nighters with friends who lived across town. Even if I happened to have the journal on me for some reason, ducking into another room for an hour to write would have been.. pretty weird. Sometimes I'd miss a few days, then spend a full afternoon, day or even weekend catching up. And while I was doing that... I was missing out on other things.
I have a heavy box containing dozens of notebooks. This is also a pain when I move house (as noted by people who have moved it for me). After living things, it's what I'd save in the event of a fire. It's really heavy though.
After moving to Edinburgh, I found less and less time to write. I'd do catch up spurts, but they became less frequent. It became exhausting. Eventually they seemed fruitless because I couldn't remember nearly as much detail as I wanted to. At first this was terrifying. I've read back journals from years ago, and don't remember thinking or feeling a lot of what I wrote about. If I hadn't written it down at the time... it'd be gone. So by not writing in the present, I'm depriving my future self of a lot. But eventually not-writing normalised, and the burden started to lift. When it was no longer a compulsion, it was no longer painful when I missed it.
My social media use was happening in fits and starts around then too. Posting to facebook probably helped to ease into worrying about journaling less, as I was recording my day-to-day elsewhere. But when I realised banal status updates had become a compulsion too, coupled with some people taking facebook activity far too seriously, I deleted everything from there (post by agonising post). I didn't think to export it beforehand. I was using twitter, but not for personal stuff.
We pour a lot of ourselves into digital archives, one way or another. But how do we get it out again? Why do we need to? Most of us post to silos like facebook and twitter, providing fuel for the corporate advertising machine and seeing only fleeting value for ourselves. My skepticism of this restricted how I used social media. Then I got into this decentralised social web malarkey, and my journaling addiction started to re-stir. Now I'm posting a lot again. Some of it makes it to twitter, but I post more solely on here, rhiaro.co.uk. It's not the journal, daily records material of old, but shorter, realtime, in the moment posts that in aggregate provide a record of the day (particularly as I pull in more quantified-self activity tracking type stuff).
And the burden is back.
I noticed it when I started posting less again this past month. I was tracking every single thing I ate for long enough that it became habit; tracking when I left or arrived at home, office, meetings, events, social occasions, and more. I stopped tracking both food and locations because some bugs have materialised in my code and I haven't got around to fixing them yet. It was agonising to start with. But as I still haven't made time to find out what the problems are, I realise I don't miss the stress of trying to log food or check-in on a poor mobile connection or worse, scribbling notes on paper to back-fill later when I can't do it in the moment. Once I started logging something, it didn't seem worth doing unless it was complete, unless I logged everything. Things missing made me anxious. Wtf?
Not everyone has this problem. Some people (so I've heard) post to social media because it satisfies an immediate need, and what happens to it after that doesn't matter. Many people aren't interested in the Own Your Data mantra, because this 'data' is ephemeral, not archival. Some people are totally happy to drop their thoughts and feelings into the black hole of the social media machine, never expecting to get them back. How freeing that must be.
I've never been blackout drunk and I have never understood the appeal; I'm kind of terrified of the idea that in a few years time and I want to look back over my years in Edinburgh there are going to be enormous gaps. Does that mean the memories I have retained are the only ones that were worth keeping? Or am I poorer because the things I neglected to record are gone forever?
Collectively, the Web-privileged world is recording an insane amount of unstructured personal data; so many fleeting thoughts and feelings and desires and needs. Where did this come from? Didn't we used to manage fine without? If it's a sign of progress, maybe we should be using it to progress. Whether it's stored under the originator's control or surrendered to a corporation, all together we have a detailed picture of what it is to be (certain types of) human. But nobody is using this for anything other than personalisation, recommendation, profiling... selling more crap to people. Except for the academics doing cool disaster-relief stuff with realtime twitter data: props for that.
Imagine if we could tap into the historical archive and use it to understand different perspectives, to boost empathy and tolerance. To create a concrete, collective ancestral memory that helps us build a better future for everyone.
If we're not going to do that, we should probably focus on living in the moment a bit more. I feel like that is healthier, but it goes against my impulse to (at least try to) record and permanently store everything.
Given all this, you'd think I'd have a better strategy for automatically backing up my database.
Amy wrote about life, w3c, academia, standards, & arguements
If someone had told me a year ago all this w3c stuff would involve so much arguing I might not have bothered. On a similar note, if someone had told me academia would have involved so much public speaking, I might have given that a miss too. Probably best I just keep obliviously forging ahead.
Amy wrote about travel, phd, life, productivity, & office
So I went to Heriot Watt for the SWeL meeting today. I worked on the bus on the way there, and on the way back (apparently I've completely overcome the severe travel sickness I've had my whole life over the past few weeks). But back in my office for the afternoon, I've been at my desk, but hardly done anything. So now I'm going to the pub, and I expect to pick up where I left off, and finish what I was working on there.
I guess tomorrow I might try the Forum roof. If that fails, maybe I'll try the Meadows, or the middle of Holyrood Park.
I was starting to panic about the amount of UK travel/events I have coming up over the next couple of months, but looking at this it might actually improve my productivity.
Amy wrote about http://vocab.amy.so/blog#Done, http://vocab.amy.so/blog#Done, life, quantified self, sleep, & polyphasic
Sleep deprivation definitely kicking in a bit. Finding it hard to concentrate or remember what I'm doing. Feels like Friday because I've slept so many times since Saturday. Feel pleasant, but out of it.
I've been thinking about adopting a polyphasic sleep cycle for some time. I really just want more hours in the day. In theory I like mornings, but I usually struggle to get up. When I do, it's very rewarding. Usually I'll drag myself out of bed an hour before the first thing I have to be at (meeting, seminar), which could be anywhere between 0830 and early afternoon. If I don't have anything specificially scheduled, I won't set an alarm, figuring I trust my body to wake up when it's ready. When I do this, I usually sleep a solid 10 hours and feel pretty shitty when I wake up.
Regardless of when I get up, I start to crash around 1500. By crash, I mean suddely find myself staring, zombielike, at Buzzfeed and Facebook and stuck in a constant cycle of clicking mindless linkbate and scrolling through social feeds. Ugh. If I catch myself, I'll probably call it a day and go to do something physical like make food or clean. Sometimes (usually only possible if I have some decent food in my office) instead I push through the zombie and hit a second wave of productivity in the early evening. I start to wake up, feel more alert, and can get sucked into coding or researching something until the early hours of the morning.
That feels great, but sometimes I have to make myself stop work before midnight so I can go home and get enough sleep to be awake for my first scheduled thing the next day. Sometimes I fail at stopping, only get a few hours sleep and feel like shit the next day.
Occasionally I'll find time to take a nap if I'm feeling completely out of it, but naps often overrun by many hours, and then I hate myself for 'wasting' even more time asleep.
So I want to figure something out that lets me fit in my nighttime productivity, and see the sunlight, and not oversleep or undersleep. Setting a rigid timetable for sleep and naps will help with this, I think. If I know I'm trying to be consistent, and naps are purposeful and scheduled, my willpower should kick in get me up when I need to be. In theory, anyway. I know these things look much different in the cold hard light of day[*][#cold-hard-light] than they do from a warm, comfy bed... just 5 more minutes...
I'm aware that transitioning to polyphasic is going to be a nightmare, but if I keep putting it off until I don't have anything important to do, I'll never do it. Right now, I know I'm not travelling until at least March, so I've got time to adjust on my own schedule (and figure out how to handle conferences when I come to it). I've pulled all-nighters and had remarkably productive periods of sleep deprivation before, so I figure I'll cope. Oh, to be young. I read a lot of people have problems with actually being able to fall asleep for naps, but I have this superpower whereby I can go to sleep easily on any surface, in any situation, with any background noise, so I'm not worried about that.
Turns out the reason some people can get away with fewer than eight hours is because there are different types of sleep, and not all of them are necessary to being alert when you're awake. So the 'science' is to cut out the useless sleep and train your body to fall straight into useful sleep. This is possible by paying attention to your natural circadian and ultradian rhythms, and reading websites by people who have already figured this stuff out.
Sleep cycles in 1.5 hour blocks for most people, and the useful types are SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). Knowing when and how long for these are likely to occur, over the course of a 24 hour period and in relation to each other, can help you to time your sleep sessions to maximise them.
The Everyman 3 schedule consists of 4.5 hours sleep broken into a 'core' 3.5 hours, plus three 20 minute naps at approximately 4-6 hour intervals. I read that SWS happens best around dusk, so the core sleep should be around 2100 to 0030, and naps (when you get your REM) at 0410, 0810 and 1440. This is flexible of course, and once you've forced yourself into a pattern you can adjust by listening to your body (eg. move your nap an hour earlier or later if you're consistently tired/awake at certain times). It also needs to be adapted into the schedule of daily life.
There are versions pre-planned for people with 9 to 5 jobs, but my schedule can be pretty irregular. There are certain things I have to do on certain days at different times. I think the day I'm going to have the most problem fitting around is Friday, when I have a 0930 seminar. Anyway, term hasn't started yet so most things aren't kicking off for another one to two weeks, so I have time to figure it out.
So for now, I've put the Everyman 3 schedule in my calendar, and will ease into it. I might make my core sleep longer to start with, depending on how I feel when I wake up after 3.5 hours, and maybe have 40 minute naps instead of 20. I'm probably also going to shift the schedule mentioned above later by 2 hours, as I already know I won't be able to go to bed at 2100 any night.
Diet and exercise are obviously important, and have an impact on how well one can sleep. Part of altering your sleep cycle is retraining your body to do things like digestion at different times. Sensible advice I've read so far seems to be to have a main meal at least two hours before the core sleep, and use breakfast to train your body to expect to be awake. Also not to exercise too close to core sleep, but exercising or eating right before naps is okay.
* Metaphorical cold hard light of day. Most of these decisions I've made around 4am during a Scottish winter, so I have to use my imagination.
£50 isn't a large amount of money to a massive organisation like Sky. But for
me, it's two to three weeks food, or a train ticket to visit my mother, or
about half of my Christmas shopping (yeah alright, I'm not very extravagant
with that sort of thing).
Following is an account of how a relatively small mistake on their part, which
I thought was resolved well and quickly, then led to an agonising four month
b) Broken promises
d) All of the above.
May: Attempted cancellation
I messaged through Help & Support to cancel my broadband and phone line,
because I was going away a lot over the summer and it wasn't worth keeping it
on. I was told it was sorted. I went to Australia for a month.
June: Apparently failed cancellation
I got back to Edinburgh and discovered I'd been billed. I turned on my router
to see if I'd managed to mess up the cancellation myself, and saw no sign of
broadband. So the services were cancelled, just not the billing.
18 July: Good customer service
I finally got round to contacting Sky about my bill; by this point I'd been
billed for July as well.
I spoke to a couple of people on the phone who made me feel like it was my
fault, then finally to the lovely Rachael who dug deeper, discovered a human
error had occurred as a result of (we think) the two ways of writing the first
line my address: 2F2 35 or 35/5. As a result, I had two account numbers... one
had the services I guess, and one had the bills. It was very confusing, but
once we found the two numbers Rachael properly cancelled my mysterious second
account, and very kindly applied £50 credit to make up for the overbilling. I
was told to contact again in a few weeks to initiate the refund process.
16-26 Sept: Being blown off
I tried several times to contact customer services via help tickets to ask for
the refund but got told (by a human, not an automated error message) there
'system error' with my bill, or something totally unhelpful (telling me
something I didn't ask about) in response.
29 Sept: Actually, no
I'm told the £50 credit can only be spent on Sky services, not refunded
directly to a bank account.
29 Sept: I damn well disagree!
I protested the unfairness of this, since I have moved somewhere with an
existing broadband provider and actually probably wouldn't be going back to
Sky after all this even if I had a choice...
I was told that actually they can refund it after all, and I should expect it
in 48 hours. I pointed out that I'd heard this before. I was told not to
worry, it'll be fine! I relaxed.
48 hours later... no refund.
Throughout September and October I started tweeting about the problems. I
liked to do things like compare Sky's customer service to that of Virgin
Mobile (who have done wonderful things for me from time to time). I hoped
'public shaming' might speed up a resolution. I got encouraging responses from
the social media team at Sky, who actually seemed to care (which is their job,
I suppose) but really I only ended up opening more tickets and talking to
other advisors in the end.
21 Oct: A change of tune
Following another help ticket chase up, I'm told credit was incorrectly
applied in the first place, and has been removed. I'm not exaggerating (just
paraphrasing) when I say this was done "for reasons".
21 Oct: You what?!
Oh, hey guys, how about... no? I didn't just suffer through months of torment
for you try to tell me the only competent member of staff I have spoken to was
actually incompetent after all!
So I had a very long live chat to William (I think; I've named him, because
he didn't leave a follow-up note like he was supposed to) who "carefully
reviewed my account" and agreed with the verdict that the credit was
incorrectly applied. I protested. He "carefully reviewed my account" some
more, and then said he could see that an explicit reason was left for the
application of the credit to my account in the first place... so it should
have been there after all! Yay.
He said it would be refunded to my bank account in 78 hours. I told him I'd
heard this before. He said not to worry, it'll definitely be fine this time.
31 October: It wasn't.
So far, no refund, no re-application of credit to my bill, and not even an
update to my help ticket about the conversation. It was like it never
happened. I stupidly didn't think to copy the chat as evidence, although I
assume they have a transcript of it somewhere.
1 November: Hope
I DMed the social media team a bit, and scheduled a time to live chat with
one of them, directly. While I waited, I typed out a timeline of
everything that happened so far so I could paste it straight to them.
Three quarters of an hour later, I have hope once more following a chat with
the most human member of Sky customer services I have spoken to so far.
He found actual reasons for things that had been done for "reasons". For
example, my initial refund was never successfully issued because goodwill
credit must be issued as a cheque, not a bank account transfer, so Finance
just rejected it. A silly rule, but that's the way of it. (In my case the
response was just to not issue it though, so Finance can't even follow their
own silly rules).
I'm still not entirely sure why the credit was totally removed though, or why
on my bill its removal shows up as a charge for Sky TV.
He treated me like a person by not making vague promises, or holding back
particularities of how the organisation works. He told me he believed I
should be receiving a refund based on what he knew so far, but he'd have to
talk to his manager. He talked to his manager, who agreed. But he didn't then
just tell me everything would be fine. He told me it still might get rejected
by Finance (for "reasons", I presume).
What he is doing is speaking directly to someone in Finance to get a cheque
sent out. He's manually changing my address to make sure the cheque goes to
the right place, and he's going to get in touch with me again on Wednesday
night to let me know what the progress has been.
I asked him what the next step is if Finance reject the refund request, and he
implied threats of violence. (NOTE to Sky managers who might read this: I
don't believe he meant he would really commit violence on the Finance team. He
was doing his job well and using humour to relieve me whilst promising he
would make an effor to follow up).
He also gave me permission to verbally abuse him if he doesn't get in touch on
Wednesday night. I appreciate this sentiment, though it's unlikely I'll get
into capslock territory with this guy any time soon. I would tweet a gentle
a reminder of course.
6 November: The Wednesday follow-up
I got a Twitter DM with a link to a live chat... After just under an hour of
waiting in a 'queue' for the live chat I had to leave, and DMed @SkyHelpTeam
back to ask if they'd let me know when there was someone there, so I wasn't
waisting my time refreshing a page. They responded and sent the details to my
MySky help tickets instead. And the result?
A cheque is in the post!
Please allow 28 days for it to arrive.
I sure hope that's true. And that it's coming to the right address. I might
send a letter to my old flat, just in case. So I guess I'll update in 28 days
whether or not it actually arrived. I'm hopeful, but they've promised me that
money is on its way in x amount of time before...
If your problems aren't fixed immediately, pester the social media team
(@SkyHelpTeam). Get everything in writing,
record every conversation, keep track of dates, names of customer service
people, and what you were promised. Don't give up. For every semi-competant
and sympathetic customer service person, there are four or five
lazy/useless/uncaring or possibly even malicious ones. Just keep trying, and
you'll get through eventually...
Recommendations for Sky
Following my unfortunately extensive experience with Sky help ticketing, I'd
like to make a few suggestions for its improvement.
Tickets should be marked as resolved by the customer. I have so many tickets that I don't consider to be resolved, sitting in my 'resolved' tickets column.
I should be able to reply to tickets. I post a request, I get a response that is marked as resolved that I don't agree with. I then have to follow up by opening a new ticket, which inevitably goes to a different person, and I end up going around in circles.
If I'm taking the time to type out messages to you, it probably means I don't want to talk to you on the phone. It doesn't matter why. Take the time to write messages back. (Related: telling me it's free to call customer service on a Sky line is really unhelpful when I'm trying to contact you about a recently cancelled Sky line. The fact that I never physically had a landline phone, line or no, is irrelevant here).
I had a gerbil dream this morning. They used to be commonly reoccurring, but I don't think I've had one since before I moved to the US.
They're always different, but along the same theme.
In them, either I have a bunch of gerbil tanks which I suddenly realise I haven't been feeding or cleaning, and have to check up on them all. Sometimes the tanks have water, like fish tanks, but that's fine in the dream. Often they're in disarray, stacked behind books or furniture. Usually the gerbils are okay, maybe sick or hungry. Sometimes some of them are dead.
Or I discover gerbils that I thought were dead/relocated have actually just escaped and been living in some part of my house, usually a cupboard. I try to reclaim them into a tank and start looking after them properly again.
They're always gerbils I knew. Last night I thought I had rats nesting amongst shredded paper in a cupboard, then on closer investigation Blinky, Allsort Jr and Stripey came out one by one, familiar and cuddly. Then Splodgy, who was somehow twice the size of the others, and a bit more aggressive came out, and finally came around as well. I couldn't believe I'd neglected them for so long.
I'm pretty sure all of the BHS gerbils have featured over the years.
I always wake up pretty traumatised from these dreams. And it consistently takes me a while to shake them off, and realise it didn't actually happen. Sometimes the feeling that I need to take care of a rodent takes a full day to subside.
In high school, between the ages of about 12 and 17, I was 'head gerbil monitor'. Over these years the couple we started with, Liquorice and Allsort, had 31 babies over eight litters. A non-relative who we got to keep Liquorice company in his later years was Lucifer. My 'personal' gerbils were Misty and Clove. An enormous amount of my activity at BHS was focused around the gerbils. I visited them before school, during breaktime and lunchtime, and after school if there was time. I lived in the biology lab. I got the chess club moved to the biology lab so I could be in two places at once. I took as many as I could manage home for the holidays. I diligently fetched enormous bags of paper from the shredder at the other side of school for their bedding. I watched gerbils being born, growing up, growing old, dying, and getting eaten by their siblings or maggots. I adopted a whole bunch after the biology teacher changeover led to them all getting evicted. I made my most complex website of the time all about them. My first username for everything, including my first email address was gerbilsbhs. I made gerbil graphics and games. I gained and lost friends in that biology lab. It was where I went for peace and escape, or celebration and fun. It was where I agonised over my first crush. It was where I was when I found out for the first time someone I knew my own age had died. My high school experience is inextricably entangled with gerbil drama. Those lovable rodents shaped who I am.