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03/05/2003

Technical Glitch

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Sometimes I wonder if too much technology is a good thing.

I have a subscription with a company that provides me unlimited access to Usenet newsgroups. Some of you might be saying, "yes, but what are these things you call Usenet newsgroups?" Well let's just say that Usenet was the internet before the internet became the internet. There are newsgroups for every special interest topic you could imagine. And some you can't imagine. Usenet used to have an amazing quantity of high quality content until two things happened. AOL (and to a lesser degree - WebTV) and porn spam. AOL newbies flooded the newsgroups with junk postings. Mainly because AOL-ers didn't know how to conduct themselves in the newsgroups. And I don't have to explain about porn spammers. If you have an e-mail acccuont, you know everything you need to know about spam. Now you really have to search to find anything of value on Usenet. But there is still value there. And I still like to have access just because newsgroups were my first introduction to the internet.

The day before I was going to RI last week I decided that I wanted to burn some Howard Stern radio shows onto CD so I could listen to them while I drive. I try to log onto the news servers to access alt.howard.stern.binaries and I can't get in. It takes me awhile to figure out that me account has closed because the credit card that I used to sign up with (about 3 years ago) had expired. The account was good, the number was still the same, it was just that the expiration date was old. But when the company tried to submit a charge in January, it was declined. Fine. I figure I can just sign up again. But no that was not to be. Everytime I go to sign up with that credit card number, I get a "declined" message. After many days of waiting on hold. OK, it wasn't really "days". After being on hold, I finally got an actual human to try and help me. But she could get the transaction to go through either. So my problem gets bumped up to a supervisor. The supervisor tried all the same things that the first woman tried. Couldn't make it happen. So she does a little bit more digging. She can't find what is causing the problem but she knows that it isn't within their system. She can trace the transaction out of their billing system and it doesn't get declined until it is submitted to the credit card company. I tell her that I have used the card in other places with no problem. She tells me that sometimes things "just happen" to particular records in the credit card company's database. She doesn't know how to explain it any better than that but she has seen things like this happen before. Records act weird with no available explanation. She told me that I could call the credit card company but they may not be able to find the problem either, or I can just wait it out until whatever maintinance they do on thier database straightens it out. I wanted to be angry with that answer but just couldn't. Because too many times when I am trying to fix things on computers have I run up against things that aren't just aren't working for absolutely no reason at all. I think my real solution to this problem will be to just use another credit card.