Thursday, January 20, 2022

Changing sides

 I'm going to switch sides.

Of the bed.

I've always slept on the left side of the bed.  Even before Gloria and I got married, in my own place, I had the room set up so that I slept on the left side of the bed.  When we got married, Gloria slept on the right side of the bed, so, that made sense.  And, over the years, in the old place, it also made sense that, being on the right side of the bed made increasing sense for Gloria, as that was the shorter and quicker route to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  (You younguns won't understand this yet, but eventually you will.  As you age, regardless of how much sleep you want or need, eventually your bladder wakes you up every few hours.)

In the new place, that arrangement *would* have made even more sense, as the trip to the bathroom is even shorter from the right side of the bed.  But, of course, being a creature of habit (as all we human beings are), I set up on the left side of the bed.  Well, I no longer need to leave the right side for Gloria.  And it makes even more sense to switch when you consider that, given my particularly back alignment, it's best if I sleep, for the most part, on my left side.  When I'm sleeping on the left side of the bed, this means I'm facing into the middle of the bed, and have to roll over in order to see the clock, on the nightstand, to figure out if it's time to get up yet.  (Most of the time, these days, the answer to that question is "no," but, as you will note from the timestamp of this posting, after half an hour or an hour, the answer, regardless of the time, is also, "well, it's pointless to stay here any longer, so I might as well get up and do something.")  Switching sides, and nightstands, also means that, if the phone rings, it's much easier and quicker to lunge for it if *I* happen to be in the bathroom.

Switching nightstands will also force me to deal with the detritus left in Gloria's nightstand, which I've been able to ignore, up until now, by the expedient of simply ignoring it.  (It may, of course be as simple as switching drawers, since the nightstands are identical.)  Switching the phone and the clock over shouldn't be too arduous, and that's it.

But it's interesting that it has taken me this long to even consider this option.  And it's interesting that I have some reluctance, even now, and even in the face of all the logic of the move.  This is one more rejection and betrayal of Gloria, and her needs and choices, now that she's dead.

So, maybe I won't switch right now, but in the morning, when there is more light to move things by ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

You must always use your unreasoning anger superpower for good, never for evil ...

 A part of dealing with grief is dealing with your anger.  For a while I turned it on Lucky/Bell/CounterParth/Alianza, but that's pretty much over.  But I've found a new target to displace my anger. 

I got a call from one of those "Windows technical department" scammers.  Up until now I've just asked "which computer?" if I didn't immediately hang up.  But this time he ended his initial spiel with "How are you today?"

So I answered, "My wife is still dead.  How should I be?"  And then I *really* let him have it over "which computer."

If he quits his job, my time on this earth has been worthwhile ...

Bereavement information pamphlet

 The social worker from the hospital gave me a bereavement information pamphlet.  Actually, she didn't give it to me, she emailed me a PDF.  I would have preferred a physical pamphlet: I always have dealt with physical reading materials better than electronic, except in very specialized situations.  So, part of the reason I haven't read it up until now is that I have to be on the computer to read it, and I have had other things to do when I'm on the computer.

I've also avoided reading it, because I figured it would be poking into raw areas.  Well, I was right.

One of the first things I learned is that Vancouver Coastal Health, or some such agency, has an "Honour a Life" memorial gathering in early December, at Van Dusen Gardens.  Normally a mass grieving situation wouldn't be my thing, but, next year, it'll be close to the one year anniversary of Gloria's death, so it seems somehow appropriate.

But, yes, as I went through the pamphlet, it prompted a lot of crying.  It points out that you shouldn't make major changes right away.  OK, *that* horse left the barn a while ago.  One of the points hit me hard: it warns about rushing into new relationships.  I can really see the temptation.  As previously noted, I'm feeling really, *really* (*REALLY*) lonely, and, basically, pretty much all my friends are being very little help in this regard.  Finding somebody, *ANYBODY* to be a friend right now is something that is really attractive, and with emotional damage, and judgment impaired, it's quite possible to get into trouble that way.  It talks about wanting to die, or lack of meaning in life: definitely can relate to that.

It talks about finding bereavement groups, which is probably a good idea.  I've been looking around.  There is a Grief Circle here in Delta.  They are going to be meeting via Zoom.  (CoVID is not making any of this any easier ...)

It warns about trouble getting rid of your loved one's belongings.  I know that there are some things (possibly seeming silly to others) that I am keeping, at least for now.  But I don't think I'll have a whole lot of trouble there.  I've already put some of Gloria's books (and books are important to me) into a box.  I haven't put her clothes into boxes, but I have gone through some of them, and I don't think that'll be an issue.  I've gone through her photo albums, and they are boxed and ready to go to K.

It says to share your memories with those who will just listen.  Well, I'm sharing with you, oh my brothers and only friends.  Whoever you are.  (Maybe you are one of those inappropriate new relationships the pamphlet is warning me about.  Hmmmm ...)

It talks about dreams and visitations.  I don't have dreams (well, everybody have dreams, but I remember very, very few), so that may not be an issue.  Then again, maybe my subconscious is just waiting until I let my guard down in order to ambush me, but good.

It also talks about writing a journal.  Hello, journal!

It also talks about sleep.  I'm already doing everything it says.  It isn't helping ...

It talks about anger.  For a while, there, I had a bit of a vent.  I could, quite legitimately, be angry at Lucky and Bell and CounterPath and Alianza, who deserve to be called out for really, really lousy customer service.  Then I didn't have to be angry at poor front line staff over all the stupid policies regarding all the administrative details I have to attend to over Gloria's death.  But, that's pretty much over.  Which leads to depression ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

O. T. C.

 OK, *that* one came out of left field.

I'm doing the accounts.  I'm getting better at it.  (At least, I *think* I am ...)  I don't break down over Always, or Gloria's drugs, or even dinners I remember.  Usually.

But this one didn't have much on it.  It was London Drugs, but all it said was O. T. C.  I figured that meant "over the counter," but I was puzzling why London Drugs, with all its scanners and barcodes, would put such a generic entry on the slip.  So then I looked at the store location, and it was Byrne.  Which reminded me that we were on the way to a last minute invite, and Gloria's stomach started acting up on the way, and she hadn't brought Buscopan, so I pulled into the London Drugs on Marine Way, and ran in and got some.  And the reason her stomach was acting up was probably to do with what killed her, if we had known it then, which we didn't--we were just blaming the IBS ...

Accounts have been delayed a bit ...

The scientific mind is not yet rested

 Gloria always thought I was intelligent, and knowledgeable, and interesting.  (Well, you can't *always* be right.)  She would often ask me, at random moments, "What are you thinking?" and she was so often intrigued at the answers, and considered me an example of the scientific mind: I was always thinking of *something*.  If this had been the other way around (and, frankly, I never expected to be doing this: I always figured that women live longer than men, and that her family lived longer than mine, so I figured that we'd be going pretty much together) she had an epitaph all picked out for me: the scientific mind is finally at rest.

(She told me that she had something for my eulogy all picked out, based on a tech geek quote I had in my email signature block quotes file:

If it's     there and you can   see it, it's real
If it's     there and you can't see it, it's transparent
If it's not there and you can   see it, it's virtual
If it's not there and you can't see it, it's *gone*

But she didn't write it out and leave it in the file, so I guess I'll never know what she wanted to do with it.)

So, I still shower in the morning, but I no longer have a tub and shower curtain: I have a shower enclosure, with a door.  And the bathroom is equipped with an automatic fan, that senses when there is moisture, and ramps up accordingly.  And I was thinking, as I got out of the shower, why does the fan always come on slightly after I get out of the shower?  After all, hot and moist air rises, and there is about a foot of opening above the shower enclosure, so why should it only be after I open the door that there is enough moist air to trigger the fan?  And then I realize that as soon as I open the door, the colder air, from outside, rushes in, and the hot, moist air in the shower enclosure rises, and that blast triggers the fan.

And who is there now to care about things like that?

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Christmas Rose

 A few years ago, K&L gave us a potted arrangement, which contained a Christmas Rose.  We've always been pretty hard on live plants: we could kill just about anything.  Most only lasted a month or so, some could stretch their existence to a few months, but I don't think we've ever had anything last even a year.

The Christmas Rose not only survived, but has bloomed, for three years in a row, just before Christmas, each year.  Gloria always loved pink, and particularly the deep pink of the Christmas Rose.  So she loved the plant.  We mistreated it, like all the others, and it froze, and dried out, and lost branchfuls of leaves, but it managed to make it through each year.

So, I was a bit busy during December this year, and checking on the plant was low on the priority.  But I did check it on the day that outside stuff was being moved, and it wasn't showing any indication of blooming.  However, we moved it anyway, figuring we could always throw it away later.

So today, after church, I checked the plant.  And, lo and behold, there are at least three buds on it.  Which is kind of like it's Gloria's favorite plant and it's now Gloria's representative.  (No, I'm not going to make a shrine out of it, or get all newage-y and think that Gloria has been reincarnated into the plant.  It's just a nicer reminder than the accounts ...)

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Ceterum censeo Lucky Mobile and Bell Mobile delendam esse

 Note to Lucky Mobile, Bell Mobility, and other communications or tech services who think they can get away with support services that do not provide any actual support: do not annoy and ignore grieving widowers.  They are already mad at the world, and they have an awful lot of time, and no restraining influences to prevent them from doing the most detailed and damaging review of your so-called services.

When Gloria died, I had this spare cellular phone.  I quickly realized that I didn't want to simply use it as is: it irked the girls, and there was too much danger of accidentally calling the grandkids, and freaking them out with calls or texts from their dead Grama.  At the same time, my baby brother, who had had a side business selling SIM cards for travellers, and knew a thing or two about the rates and services of the various mobile or cellular service providers, told me about Lucky Mobile, which you could get by buying a SIM card at Dollarama for four dollars, and signing up.  He suggested the $25 per month plan, which provides for unlimited (no long distance) voice calling across Canada, and unlimited SMS texting to the United States and around the world.  (I haven't tested the international texting part yet, but possibly by the time I've finished this review.)  So far, the Lucky Mobile cellular service seems to be working fine calling across Canada.  (They have a "refer a friend" program, so, if you want to try it out, let me know and we'll both get a discount.)

Now, my baby brother doesn't have any friends in the United States, and so he hadn't looked into the costs or capabilities of calling there.  But I *do* have lots of US contacts, so I tried to find out how much it would be to call them.  I couldn't.  Lucky seems to have a number of long distance calling plans, but they all seem to be for the Philipines, or Hong Kong, or other distant regions.  None covered the US.

When searching through the Lucky Mobile site, I saw mention of a "Lucky Community Forum," so I went on to that.  Searching for US calling found a question that mirrored my concern.  A couple of replies simply echoed that issue, but one merely contained a URL.  The URL was to an app in the Google Play Store.  The app, variously called the Lucky Wi-Fi Calling app, or Lucky Wi-Fi Talk & Text, promises, if you are in a location with wifi service, that you can place unlimited voice calls and send (and receive) SMS texts anywhere in the United States and Canada.

The process has multiple steps, but is not too terribly complicated.  You download the app from the Play Store.  Then you install it.  During installation it asks you to set various permissions, all of which seem to be reasonable.  (The only one that might cause trouble is the one that asks for permission to appear on top of other activity on the phone, which would be required for receiving calls.  When this permission is requested, you have to "back out" of the permission screen in order to continue the installation process.)  At one point in the installation process, the app asks that you provide your Lucky Mobile cell number, and they then send you a code that you enter in order to prove that, yes, you do actually have a Lucky Mobile service plan.  The system then gives you a choice of five phone numbers, which, once you have chosen one, becomes the number for your wifi calling service.  It works fairly well, and uses your contacts list on the phone.  (Although, the first time you try it, it says you have no contacts, and you then have to give it permission to read your contacts.  It might make sense to make this part of the installation process, rather than making it a separate process.)

The wifi phone, or "softphone," as it would more generally be known in the VoIP world, seems to work fine.  I've made numerous calls with it in the course of testing and retesting during the period of this review, both to Canada and to the United States.  You can call landlines, cell/mobile phones, and even other softphones.  There have not been any particular problems.  The softphone even works well with incoming calls on the smartphones own cell phone system, and you can take a call on the cell phone, deal with it quickly, and return to the softphone without any problems.  The one issue that I have noted, is that the softphone, unlike the cell phone, does not blank the screen during the call.  This means that, since the screen is *always* the biggest power draw on the smartphone device, regardless of what else is going on, Lucky's Wi-Fi Talk and Text is a real power hog, and will run your battery down quite quickly.  I estimate that about two hours of wifi calling, on my phone, will run you from 100% to dead.

Actually, the code doesn't quite prove that you have a plan with them.  I have the two phones, so I installed the app on both, and it did install on both.  When I entered the Lucky number [hmmmm] on the second phone, it "remembered" that I was registered, and so gave me the same number.  Fair enough.  As far as I can recall, when I started testing the wifi calling service, it worked fine on both phones.  But then it didn't.  And that's when the support hell started ...

First off, one phone seemed to stop working.  It suddenly starting showing that it was "Unregistered," but there was no explanation of why, or how to re-register it.  My first reaction was, fair enough.  They don't want you to have two phones using the wifi calling service if you only have the one mobile plan.  But I was interested in how to switch back and forth between the two phones, even if I could only use one at a time.

Support for Lucky Mobile seems to be limited to the various simplistic pages that they've put up on their Website, and a text chat function.  In terms of the Lucky Wi-Fi Calling app, there is one page that explains the installation process, and provides a little bit of explanation of how to use it.  That's it.

So I tried the text chat function.  This is painful.  First off, you are answered (eventually: the system seems to be pig slow, and that's probably not fair to pigs) by a bot.  It asks you, in different ways, mostly about marketing type issues: do you want to activate a new phone, do you want to upgrade your service, that type of thing.  Eventually it asks if those lists of options were helpful, and, when you tell it no, it finally offers to connect you with an agent.

Well, it *might* connect you with an agent.  Most of the time (so far I've made eight calls through the chat function) you get put on a sort of hold waiting for the next available agent.  This is an interesting exercise in trying to figure out how many agents there are, and how many customers are calling in at any given time.  The hold function seems to keep some activity going on the chat line, and sometimes tells you that X people are ahead of you in line.  But, once you are actually interacting with an agent, you get a lot of canned responses, and the agent seems to be distracted, and I wonder how many customers a given agent is interacting with at any given time.

It's actually difficult to tell when you've got a live agent, and not a bot.  The agents obviously have a script, and boilerplate responses to use in a variety of situations.  Over the number of calls I've had to make, it strains credibility that so many different agents would, in similar situations, use *exactly* the same text to tell you that, for example, they are going away to check something but that you should stay on the line, or that, "I can help you check the best option for that."

It's also an exercise in frustration.  You can wait a long time for an agent to finally acknowledge you.  But if you don't acknowledge right away when they do, they drop the call.  And it's not easy to get back into the chat when they drop the call.  You basically seem to have to sign out of the system and back in again to be able to do so.  And then you are dealing with the bot, and then you have to wait, and then ...  Of the eight calls I've made so far, three terminated at this point.  Two terminated prematurely after I started talking with an agent because of a server failure or disconnect (and, of course, nobody ever calls back).  Two finally got punted to the next level.  The next level is Bell's first line support, and two of my calls got through to that point, but were then terminated prematurely by some failure without resolving the issue (and, of course, nobody ever calls back on those, either).  At this point, the issue is still not resolved, but I have finally been punted to Bell's *second* level of support, and, supposedly, somebody is going to call me back.  (Some time in the next three days.)

Over some of the calls, the agent asked me to uninstall and reinstall the app, and to reboot my phone.  This got to be interesting.  Normally, on an Android phone, when you want to uninstall an app, you go into settings, select apps, select the app you want to uninstall, and select or click uninstall.  This doesn't work with the Lucky Wi-Fi Calling app.  If you do it that way, the app will disappear from the apps list under settings, but it is definitely still installed on your phone, and can be accessed in a variety of ways.  I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to blow the whole phone off.  However, if you look into the Google Play Store app, and access your own account, and, under "Manage your apps and devices," find the list of all your installed apps, you can then select the Lucky Wi-Fi Talk & Text app and *successfully* uninstall it that way.  (But this is definitely strange behaviour, and a *very* good reason to install the app via the Google Play Store rather than directly from Lucky.)

In the meantime, the Lucky Wi-Fi Talk and Text has gotten flakier.  Now *neither* phone will send SMS text messages.  A large red dot, with two curved white arrows on it, also now appears on the screen.  (It was also there when the first phone "unregistered," so I can't help thinking that it has something to do with the problem.  But it isn't active, and there is no indication of what it is or what it is supposed to be indicating.  I keep offering to send people screenshots of it, but Lucky's first level support and second level support [Bell's first] keep saying that they aren't allowed to receive email.)  (When I eventually started posting about this publicly on Twitter, I did have a conversation with someone at Lucky through Twitter DMs, and sent it via that.  Supposedly this has now gone to Lucky's third level support [Bell's second].)  By this time I had confirmed that at least US text messaging is available with the original Lucky Mobile cellular plan that I have (still haven't confirmed international SMS texting), so by now this is no longer about a communications requirement, and has simply become an exercise in determining just how bad Lucky and Bell's "support" actually is.

I haven't yet made contact with Bell's second (Lucky's third) level of support.  They may be trying to contact me: my home number's answering machine (I told them to call my home number, since they only wanted one number to call) recorded two blank calls while I was out on an errand yesterday morning, and another while I was out for my doctor mandated walk in the afternoon.  However, no message was left in any of those calls, so I doubt they were from Bell.

Posting a question or issue on the Lucky Community Forum seems to be a useless proposition.  I did not receive any help via that route.  Because of duplication in my replies, as I posted my query under various other queries that seemed to be related, the moderators almost instantly responded by deleting some of my posts, and moving others, but no answers or help were provided.  Because I followed up with additional details, as I found out more, the system sent me an email asking me to accept one of my followup posts as an "accepted solution," which makes no sense at all, except to a bot.  (Which seems to be what most of Lucky Mobile's support is run by.)  (The email came from an address which, of course, is used only for sending out this type of spam, and does not receive replies.)

By the way, when I posted this review to the Lucky Mobile Community Forum, it was *IMMEDIATELY* marked as "spam" (and so, presumably, made unreadable by their users).

About a day later a moderator did post a reply to one of my queries, asking if my phone software was up to date, and asking me to accept that as a solution.  I had, of course, already done this, and much more in regard to the uninstalling and re-installing of the app, and rebooting the phone, and, no, it didn't solve the problem.

At this point in the saga, there is a bit of a delay.  I don't know what was happening on the Lucky or Bell side, but, on my side, I had to get some other work done, and spent an absolutely horrible day doing accounts (which is another story).  So I was not pursuing Lucky or Bell about the problem.  I did continue testing the Lucky Mobile cellular plan that I was on, and confirmed that texts to and from US and international cellular/mobile phones and numbers did happen, and generated no extra charges.

As previously noted, I had, through dint of persistence and multiple attempts, been able to get to the third level of Lucky support, the second level of Bell's support.  I had been given an escalation number, and some contact numbers if they did not call me back.  However, my public postings on both Twitter and the Lucky Community Forum had also sparked interest.  In both cases I was contacted privately (Direct Message on Twitter, and the private message function on the Lucky Community Forum), asked for additional details on myself and my plan, and promised that the problem would be escalated to a higher level of support.  In the case of Twitter, the person contacting me was aware that I already had an escalated call open: in the case of the forum, they did not seem to be aware of this.  I have frequently found, with companies facing the retail market, that posting the details publicly is an effective way to get attention for your problem.

(I might also note, as an interesting side issue, that the base software licensed for the Lucky Community Forum is obviously the same as that licensed by (ISC)^2 for *their* Community, so the similarity in names is unsurprising.)

Another interesting side issue: When my baby brother put me onto Lucky Mobile, they had a "refer a friend" promotion, which I alluded to earlier.  It provides a discount for both the referring and referred friends.  A couple of days after I started all this hassle with Lucky's support, and started publicly posting about it, I got an email saying that my Refer-A-Friend submission was not successful, despite all the information submitted being correct and within the terms of the promotion.  (Maybe my public postings about them got them mad?)  I posted this paragraph on the Lucky Community Forum, as a separate posting (as a separate issue), and the moderators moved it to be a reply to a different posting (although on the same topic), but also editted my posting, and took out some material.

I have now had a call back from, well, someone who said he was calling from Lucky.  (Whether that is actually Lucky or Bell was not specified.)  He first called my cell, which was not the instructions I had left in regard to contact for the Bell second level people, so that seems to indicate that he is someone in Lucky, rather than the escalated call to Bell.  However, even though he left messages on both my cell and home phone (which he did call after calling my cell), he didn't provide any information that could help.  Instead, he wanted to know what the error message was that I was seeing.  Now I'd specified that many times in the "chats" I had with support, and I've now sent a screenshot (showing the error message "No account available for SMS") through two different channels.  Obviously, Lucky and Bell, even though they are in the communications business, don't talk to each other.

The next contact was via Twitter, and said, verbatim (except for Xing out the agents initials), "Hi! I just wanted to follow up and make sure your concerns have been addressed. If you still need our help, please let us know. We’re here to help you out. Thank you. > XX"

On both messages, left on both phones, the support person had said that I would be contacted again within 24 hours.  They were about six hours late on that self-imposed deadline.  But I did finally get a call (on the cell, not the home phone, as I had instructed).  Again, the support person asked for the information that I had previously given, about the error message.  This time, however, when I said that I had a screenshot, he was willing to give me an email address in order for me to send it.  I also provided the complete account, up to this point, of the support saga.  He said that this would be passed along to the Lucky Wi-Fi Calling app "team," and that I would be contacted.

After the weekend, during which absolutely nothing had been done and nobody had contacted me, I was again contacted via Twitter: "Hi! I just wanted to follow up and make sure your concerns have been addressed. If you still need our help, please let us know. We’re here to help you out. Thank you. > XX"  Apparently, this assumption that all of my problems had been solved was generated by an internal message (which, of course, had not been communicated to me) that "I called customer and escalated ticket Id #12345 to CounterPath Team."  (I note that "ticket Id #12345" had nothing to do with the escalation number which I had previously been told.)  However, this, and a little Google Foo, indicated that yet *another* party, besides Lucky Mobile and Bell, had entered the picture.

CounterPath is a Vancouver company, with offices in one of the Bentall towers, with interests in voice over IP, videoconferencing, and "unified communications technology."  They were acquired by Alianza in March of 2021, at which time their corporate blog pretty much went dark.  They have a "softphone" (Bria) that combines voice and video, developer tools (Bria and Stretto), and do "white label" softphones for companies that do not want to bother developing their own.  I haven't yet downloaded a free trial of Bria Solo, but it seems pretty clear that Lucky Mobile Wi-Fi Talk & Text is simply a branded version of Bria.  (CounterPath *does* do APIs and SDKs, but the problems I am encountering are unlikely to reside in the back end of the app, and are much more likely to be in the interface.)  So, in addition to this saga being about the support failures of Lucky and Bell, this is now also about the support failures of CounterPath and Alianza.

In the meantime, my baby brother (who sorta started all of this), has become more interested in the app.  He is having vision trouble, and has a tablet with voice recognition and other aids.  The tablet, being a tablet, doesn't make phone calls, but, since he has a Lucky account anyway, he is interested in using the Wi-Fi Calling app (*IF* we can get it to work) to place calls through the tablet.  (We have also discussed a hack: my niece is currently in Foreign Climes, and, again, *IF* we can get the app to work, she can place calls back to Canada using it.)

Meanwhile it's presumably five days since the problem was "escalated" to CounterPath, and still nothing seems to be happening ...

On the morning of January 13th, I suddenly "received" a text that someone tried to send me on January 4th.  Also, the big red dot at the bottom right of the screen has disappeared.  Trying some calls and sending some texts did seem to be successful, although the test wasn't terribly conclusive.  Trying to get the other phone to work was not successful, but, this time, resulted in an error code of #CV007.  (Very James Bond?)

On the morning of January 14th, I did receive a call from Lucky's (or Bell's) support.  The call wasn't very informative, including where the caller worked.  He simply said that some other team had said that my account had been reset.  What was the problem?  He couldn't say.  If this happened again, was it going to take another two weeks to get it fixed?  He couldn't say.  What about the problem with the app on the other phone?  That wasn't supported.  Why?  He couldn't say.

Overall, the app does seem to work.  Over the weekend I placed a call of over an hour in length, with no problems.  However, if you *do* have problems, don't expect Lucky or Bell or CounterPath or Alianza to respond in any timely way, or with any details when they do.