OTS - Only The Strong

March 15th, 2006

Last weekend I met a few of my college friends from Penn out in the windy city, Chicago. It was our somewhat annual get together, where we catch-up on the past year and relive part of our younger days. This year’s trip was St. Patty’s weekend in Chi-town, where they paint the river green, color the beer green and allow an onslaught of green-costumed irish-faithful to take over the city.

The weekend started Friday night with a little pre-partying at the hotel (it’s cheaper, more convenient, and did I mention cheaper?) before we headed out to downtown to get dinner at Gino’s East, infamous for deep-dish pizza. Being a Friday during lent, I settled for the spinach pizza rather than the “oh-it-smells-so-good” sausage pizza. After hanging out in downtown awhile, we headed back to the hotel to get some zzz’s and rest up for the big Saturday festivities. Sometime around 2am, we decided to infiltrate the hotel pool, since our room key provided access even after the 11pm closing time. After sneaking in and splashing around for literally 10 seconds, the night manager runs in tells us all to leave since we’re “too loud and may wake up guests”. When we ask what time we can return to the pool, he says “5am is when the pool opens, but I’ll be nice and let you guys use the pool starting at 4am”. WHAT?!?!?!? What guest will be awoken at 2am that won’t be bothered at 4am??? We think his shift may have ended at 4am, so he didn’t care what happened after that. Either way, we just went to sleep and vowed to return to the pool later that weekend.

Saturday we were up and ready to go early. I was first awake at 7:30am. After a shower, I went downstairs for a free hotel breakfast and fired up the laptop to get a little bit of work. No matter how good it looks, avoid the Jimmy Dean Sausage-Egg-Cheese Crossiant….. nothing good comes from eating that. We left the hotel to go back downtown and watch the famous Paint the Chicago River Green ceremony. Turns out, it’s a few thousand people lining the sides of the river expecting something spectacular….. but there’s no switch that makes the river turn green, it’s a powder that they dump out of a boat that slowly changes the river green, in sections. Some folks turned to us and asked if they missed it already, since the river was kinda green. We told them that the green hadn’t spread yet and the green they saw was just natural algae. We didn’t want to wait the hours it would take to fully make the river Irish-green, so we left to start the “cultural” part of our day, the meeting of locals.

At every stop, one person was in charge of ordering something for the group, making it easy on the rest of us (and the bartenders) by not throwing 8 credit cards down at each bar. One-and-done was our motto, popping in and out of establishments, taking a lay of the land and heading off to our next adventure. Fast forward later in the afternoon…. I randomly run into one of my friends from Penn that I worked with for my Senior Design Project in Systems Engineering. Talk about small worlds. Anyways, we end the night with some dinner around 8pm before heading back to the hotel, exhausted and full of Chicago culture. This time, the pool is still open… YAY!

Sunday was the great end to the weekend. We partied at the hotel until our check-out at noon, then went across the street for White Castle lunch. Mmmm, we have to get some of these franchises in Seattle, since those little burgers sure are tasty. I haven’t had those since my days in Philly. After we all had 5-6 little cheeseburgers, we made our way to the South Chicago St Patty’s Day Parade. Here’s where it got fun… we were admiring the floats at the start of the parade and as we were walking in the street looking at more and more floats, we suddenly realized that we were now in the parade route. Apparently we looked like part of the parade, since the crowds behind the barracades were happily waving at us. We blended in with the “Tom Dart for Sheriff” crowd that was supporting the incumbent candidate, I think. Anyway, after about 10 blocks of parade waving and being in the thick of the action, we veered off and made our way back to the airport to head home.

It was surely a fun and action-packed weekend. I know people say it a lot, but I need a vacation after taking this vacation. There are tons of pics from both my camera and from my friend Adam’s camera loaded on my flickr site (just click on the pictures on the right of this site). We’re already planning next year’s trip, which will be in a different city for a different event.

BTW, #15 Penn is in the NCAA Tourney, playing #2 Texas Friday night. Although the heavy underdog…. I’m still rooting for Penn. GO QUAKERS!!!

Cingular lost my refund

March 4th, 2006

I know people hate calling customer service, and I for one understand the reasons why. Today I blocked off about an hour of my time and called Cingular’s cust service since they haven’t credited my account for a phone I returned to them back in September. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to resolve this. Back in November, I called and they said that it usually takes a few months for them to log the return, credit the account, etc… so I let it go, figuring it would clear itself in the next billing cycle. Well, I was wrong. It’s now March and I’m calling again to get my $400 back for the phone I bought and then returned a few days later. Knowing how companies prioritize their data management and billing operations, they first and foremost make sure that they are able to bill you the moment you activate your account. Sometimes, you get an email billing statement before you even get home from the store where you purchased the phone/service. A lower priority in designing a billing system is the refund/credit feature, since why would they want their customers to receive their refunds promptly??? Maybe they figure most people won’t harass them for a refund, but they obviously don’t know me…. They say they will credit my account in the next week, so hopefully that works out. What I should do is charge them a late-fee and interest, since you KNOW they would charge me random additional fees if I didn’t pay them $400 for 7 months.