I held off on this post because I wanted to make sure my internet was working correctly. It’s a been almost a week, so I’m going with “yes” at this point.

After about six weeks, seven tech visits and dozens of phone calls and contacts via @comcastcares, I left work early one day last week to meet yet another ACI (Comcast’s contractor in southeastern Michigan) technician at my house. This time, though, he wasn’t there to replace the coax from the pole to my living room for what would have been the fifth time. Instead, he told me there was a Comcast tech – in an Xfinity truck, no less – down the street, working on a pole. The ACI tech had asked him what he was doing and the Comcast guy replied that he was there on a trouble ticket for my house… along with some others.

Turns out squirrels had gotten into things, as they are prone to do, and chewed up quite a bit of coax and other yummy things. This, of course, is what I suspected weeks ago. To have been proven right, and that the problem was never actually in my house at all, was somewhat satisfying, though I’d have preferred that Comcast fix it right away.

After the Comcast tech finished up, all three upstream channels are now well within acceptable power levels, and the speed test looks like this:

2016-07-27 18.09.00
That’s better.

I will say again that every tech that came out to my house was pleasant and professional. The ACI guys, to a man, knew the problem wasn’t between my house and the pole, and griped to their dispatchers when told to replace the coax again. But they never were unpleasant with me or my wife. The whole thing took too long to fix – far too long – but eventually, it’s fixed. Comcast has given me a satisfactory service credit for our troubles. I’m satisfied.

But if Comcast is serious about improving their customer service, as they say on the ads running on television right now, they need to look into how a simple problem like this one caused all that wasted time and effort and frustration. If I wasn’t sure their internet product was superior, I’d have tried AT&T or even satellite. I knew plenty of friends who have. Of course, when you’re basically a monopoly, maybe there’s not much incentive to really improve.

Still not fixed, Comcast.

Here’s an update on the Comcast Xfinity “high speed” internet issue I’ve been having for weeks now. A technician was out last Friday (June 24). I took the day off from work to be at the house. I showed him the maxed out (54 dBmV) upstream power levels and he agreed that was the most likely problem. I also explained that the exterior coax from the pole in my backyard to the house and then into the living room had been replaced within the last month by another tech.

He called a supervisor who brought a meter to test at the pole. They both were convinced the problem was not in the house (not the modem, not the existing coax). The tech called that in and was told to replace the drop on the pole. He argued a bit that that was a waste of time, but in the end they replaced the drop anyway. No change. He then told me the problem would require a “line call” and that he had set that up. It was mid-afternoon at this point, and my understanding was that that would happen yet that day.

In the evening, the upstream power levels and speed test seemed to have improved. Although no one ever came to my house for the “line call,” nor did I get any notification that they had, I thought perhaps it was done somewhere else in the neighborhood, since the readings were better:

Screenshot 2016-06-24 22.45.21
June 24th, about 10:30 p.m.
Screenshot 2016-06-24 22.43.39
This is what the speedtest results should look like, if everything’s working correctly. June 24th, about 10:30 p.m.

Unfortunately, by the next morning I was back to having two of the three upstream channels blasting away at 54 dBmV again and I couldn’t even get a song to stream without interruptions every few seconds. Video is, of course, impossible.

I had been contacted by @comcastcares after my tweet last week, and I told them the tech appointment had been scheduled. That representative said he or she would check with me via Twitter DM after the appointment, which they did. When I told them about the line call, he/she said they would check on it and I gave them my account number. Never heard anything that evening or over the weekend. Tuesday evening (June 28), four days later, another @comcastcares rep contacted me, wanting to set up another tech visit.

comcastcares conversation

I haven’t replied to that yet. I’m afraid they’ll want me to unplug my modem again, or send another tech out to replace the coax or the drop again. I don’t want to take more time off from work, especially when it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with anything in my house, and the original line call apparently was never done.

I want to make clear that everyone I’ve dealt with at Comcast over this issue has been pleasant and professional. I’m not trying to bash the company; in fact (full disclosure) I worked for Comcast for a year back in 2006. I’ve been a Comcast customer for many years. I’m generally very pleased with the service.

But this is ridiculous. At this point, I’ve been paying for “high speed” internet for several weeks that is anything but. And to add insult to injury, I have to watch commercials every night on Fox Sports Detroit  where Comcast brags about how much their customer service has improved.

Here are this morning’s upstream power levels and a speedtest that never completed because it couldn’t finish the second upload (IPv6) test. Also, the speeds are abysmal:

Upstream 6-30 820am
Friday, June 30 at 8:20 a.m. Not acceptable.
Speedtest 6-30 826am
Friday, June 30 at 8:26 a.m. Upload IPv6 froze at 50%, not that it was doing that well before that, either.

I’m going to contact @comcastcares again, both replying to the message from Tuesday and with a new tweet. I’ll update if anything happens.

Hi, Comcast. Please fix this.

UPDATE 2: 6:25 p.m.

Comcast called around 2:00 p.m. Not sure of the time, I was out riding on my bike. When I got back, there was a voicemail. I called and talked to Robert in the Central Division. Robert was very pleasant and professional. He had me disconnect the modem and reconnect the line directly, avoiding the splitter. When the modem rebooted, it immediately reset itself again. Robert could tell, however, that there was a definite signal issue. He set up an appointment for this Friday at noon. So I’ll just have to deal with it going up and down for the next five days. Fortunately, I can use my phone as a hotspot, which works for what I need the computer to do, but my wife and daughter, who watch video a lot, aren’t going to be very happy, I’m afraid.

To be consistent, here are the upstream readings and a successful speed test, done after reconnecting the splitter:

Screenshot 2016-06-19 18.21.47
Pretty much the same problem. Two channels at 54.00 dBmV. Not good.
Screenshot 2016-06-19 18.22.42
A lucky speedtest. 125 Mbps down, 23.7 up. Let’s see how long that lasts.

UPDATE: 1:35 p.m.

Thought I’d check on another potential problem area: the splitter. It was installed along with the new line a month ago, but who knows? Maybe it’s defective. So I eliminated it and connected the line coming directly into the living room into the back of the modem. Only a slight change from the upstream power levels:

Screenshot 2016-06-19 13.06.48

Then tried the speedtest. It started well, then basically gave up on the download part of the test at about 75%:

Screenshot 2016-06-19 13.36.56

ORIGINAL POST (12:45 p.m.)

I’m going to assume this is a problem. In fact, I know it is. I was on chat with a Comcast tech last night. I gave him the tech information which was similar to that shown below, but we went through the “unplug the modem/router” and “hard reset the modem/router” procedures, anyway. Restarting the modem (its the Arris TG1682G provided by Comcast for its Xfinity X1 service) generally helps for a few minutes. Then it often goes into a cycle of resets before settling down and then working reasonably correctly and then not working at all.

The issue is pretty obviously (to me, anyway) outside of the house. Something’s making it necessary for the modem to blast away at top power levels upstream (the 54.00 dBmV shown in the screenshot below), and I’m guessing that’s at the pole or beyond. A tech came out about a month ago and rewired the outside from the pole to the house and then into the house, so that’s all new. There’s one line coming from the pole, it goes into the living room directly, splits once to go to the modem and cable box. Shouldn’t need top power to send upstream, IMHO.

You can see by the Speedtest screenshot that the upstream really isn’t working at all. That was the third attempt to do a test; the first two failed on the upstream test completely. (As an aside, the download speed, while pretty cool compared to just a few years ago, isn’t what I’m supposed to be getting, either.)

Comcast was supposed to call this morning between 9:00 a.m. and noon. No call yet, it’s 12:45 p.m. Thought I’d post this here so everything’s in one place in case another Comcast tech eventually gets in touch with me.

Screenshot 2016-06-19 12.36.03
54.00 dBmV is full power on most cable modems, including this one. Shouldn’t be doing that unless something’s wrong on the line.
Screenshot 2016-06-19 12.07.03
0.28 Mbps is not good.

Dispatch from the Fortress of Solitude

24th May –

Family left yesterday. Said they were going to “Seattle” but that could have been a ruse to keep me from finding them later. I still have the dog and two cats, so I won’t lack for companionship during the difficult days ahead.

Very cold this morning. Wind from the north. Considered wearing a jacket but didn’t want to give in to desperation. Walked around without one. Wished I’d made a different decision later.

Ventured out about noon. Dropped in at my place of employ and accomplished a few desultory tasks, nothing major. Place was deserted. Wondered if they’d also gone to “Seattle.” Guess I’ll never know.

Bought a desk chair so these entries won’t continue to cause the wracking pain in my back. Writing is painful, they say. They are correct.

Also purchased provisions at the local grocery. Saw several other survivors there, and spoke to a casual acquaintance of mine. He agreed that there seemed to be an exodus from the area today, but thought it might have to do with “Memorial Day Weekend.” I scoffed and walked away.

Upon arrival at home, I was greeted by Raven, my trustworthy Labrador Retriever. She waited patiently as I put away the victuals in the larder, but later was absolutely no help when it came time to assemble the chair. Dogs!

Watched the local baseball squad defeat a team from Minnesota (which is near “Seattle,” I believe) tonight. Our pitcher, Mr. Sanchez, gave up only one hit. It made my evening complete.

Who knows what excitement tomorrow will bring?

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie

Gina Kolata‘s informative article in Monday’s New York Times about the recent study published in JAMA suggesting that a diet high in fat and protein burns more calories than one high in carbs includes this quote from Dr. Jules Hirsch, emeritus professor and emeritus physician in chief at Rockefeller University:

Perhaps the most important illusion is the belief that a calorie is not a calorie but depends on how much carbohydrates a person eats. There is an inflexible law of physics — energy taken in must exactly equal the number of calories leaving the system when fat storage is unchanged. Calories leave the system when food is used to fuel the body. To lower fat content — reduce obesity — one must reduce calories taken in, or increase the output by increasing activity, or both. This is true whether calories come from pumpkins or peanuts or pâté de foie gras.

To believe otherwise is to believe we can find a really good perpetual motion machine to solve our energy problems. It won’t work, and neither will changing the source of calories permit us to disobey the laws of science.

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. You can eat better foods, like avoiding simple sugars (because they don’t keep you full as long) and making sure all of your nutritional needs are covered (vitamins and minerals), but in the end, your body takes in calories — simply a unit of energy — and burns them off. Take in less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. Burn more by exercising or being more active and you’ll lose weight. Simple math (though not nearly as simple to actually start counting, and keep counting, right?)

Shadowing myself: Getting fit as I approach my 50th birthday

On January 7th I turned 49 years old. I weighed 325 pounds, was still recovering from knee surgery almost two years earlier, back problems a year earlier, and generally felt closer to 70 than 50.

My wife, Doreen, had been walking at lunch with some of her colleagues at work for some time, and she had decided to make some other changes to see if she could lose some weight as well. Her early success helped motivate me to make a similar decision, and that evening, I decided that I didn’t want to weigh 325 pounds when I turned 50. I decided I wanted to lose 100 pounds and weigh 225 on my 50th birthday.

I’ve lost weight before. A few times I’ve lost 30 or 40 pounds using one dieting technique or another, but eventually I grew tired or frustrated with the big changes or deprivations and went back to my old habits. I also rarely did much in the way of serious exercise in tandem with the eating changes.

Today is July 7th. Six months to go to my 50th birthday. So I got on the scale (which I do about once a week) this morning after my bike ride: 276.9! I’m down 48 pounds from January 7th! Not quite exactly halfway to 100, but damn close.

Here’s a photo from last year’s Rotary Parade in downtown Port Huron in July 2011, and a photo taken today with me wearing the same t-shirt:

I started counting calories, every meal, every day, on the day after my birthday. Doreen was using a web site called MyFitnessPal, which also has iOS and Android apps so it’s easy to track when you’re out. They have a huge database of foods, most added by MyFitnessPal users, and you can add your own as well. When I started using it, I decided to enter the foods I’d eaten on my birthday. When I was done, I discovered I’d consumed over 6,600 calories that day! (That’s not good.) And that wasn’t an aberration; it was a lot closer to a normal day for me.

The program suggested around 2100 calories a day initially. Now that I’m down almost 50 pounds, that number has dropped to 1780 per day in order to lose 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. At first, I went over the goal two or three times a week. Now that I’m quite used to the reduced calorie intake, I occasionally go over, but not more than once every couple weeks.*

Probably even more importantly, I joined the YMCA in Port Huron in February and worked out three times a week through early June. I’ve backed off the Y visits for the summer, but have started riding my bike instead. I did a lot of stationary biking at the gym so when I hit the road with my bike about three weeks ago, my legs were already in pretty decent shape. I’m riding 16 to 20 miles three times a week and enjoying it more than I ever have. I track my rides using MapMyRide, another web-based service that also has iOS and Android apps available. It uses my phone’s GPS to track my route, distance, pace and speed.

I feel great! I can run again without worrying about my knee going out or my back seizing up. I have a chin again. I’ve dropped from 44 inch waist jeans to 38s; I just bought some shirts in XL instead of the XXL I’ve been wearing for years. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been this fit. And I’ve got a long way still to go to next January.

I’ve had friends who haven’t seen me for awhile do double-takes. That’s a lot of fun!

Can I get to 225? I’m pretty sure I didn’t think so six months ago. I think so now. But I’m not competing against anyone except the guy I was on January 7, 2012. I’m still not the strongest, fastest, fittest man I can be, but I am beating the crap out of the guy on the couch I was on my birthday.

* Keep in mind, please, that I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. If you need to lose some serious weight, I recommend you see a doctor first (I did) so you can get solid medical advice. Also, while the calorie goals suggested by programs like MyFitnessPal are based on legitimate medical concepts, you also have to make sure you do eat at least a minimum number of calories each day, which varies by gender and current weight, but is usually somewhere around 1200 to 1500 calories per day. Don’t trade one eating problem for another!