part of morning was spent in trying to not get ripped off. checking my credit card statements, i saw a few items on there i didn't remember ordering, all magazine subscriptions. then it hit me: a year ago i subscribed to a few magazines for my parents' cafe, some sort of $2 per annual subscription deal. it seemed too cheap to be real and turns out it was kind of a scam. a year later, all the magazines were renewed without my permission, at much higher rates. in total there was about $100 worth of charges on my credit card. i was going to call the credit card company, but decided to go directly to the magazine dealer, who conveniently had their 1-800 number (877-856-4535) in the charge description (TWX magazines).

it took forever to navigate their automated phone tree, and the phrasing of the questions were purposely confusing (double negatives, yes when you mean no, etc.) so the customer could easily make a mistake and end up not canceling any subscriptions. i also had to listen to 2 long-winded extra savings deals trying to get me to keep my service before i could finally cancel. even then, i only managed to cancel future renewals, not the recent charges.

finally i was redirected to an actual operator after nearly 20 minutes of automated call service hell. even then i had to specifically name each magazines, even though she had that info from my account. i managed to cancel the most recent renewals, but now i'm waiting for my money to be reimbursed.

my grand uncle was having problems with his cable and my father asked me for help. one of the things was there seemed to be a $20 jump in the cable bill. i checked mine to see if it was happening to me, and although it wasn't a $20 increase, my cable bill did go up by nearly $10. i examined it more carefully and saw that comcast is now charging me $2 for each of the two digital-to-analog cable converters that they used to give me for free. it wasn't that hard a decision since i seem to watch less and less television, but i decided to return the DTA boxes. i wasn't going to let comcast bilk me for even more than what they currently charge.

arriving at the cafe, i first looked at my grand uncle's cable bill. it was exactly like mine (including the additional charges for the DTA devices), except there was an additional $10 pay-per-view charge for some movie called, "the ABC's of death." i'm pretty sure my grand uncle didn't order that, or if he did it was by mistake. then at my grand uncle's place i saw his cable issue firsthand: he could get most of the channels except for a few. there didn't seem to be any patterns, but he was missing all his sports channels. i called comcast to get them to send a reset signal but that didn't work. i also asked about the accidental pay-per-view purchase. my agent told me if i'd reported the error soon after purchase, there could've been a chance the charge could be reversed; unfortunately the bill didn't come until a month later, so by then it was too late.

i decided to ride down to the nearby comcast office and replace the cable box. i come to this sherman street comcast office at least a few times a year. either to replace malfunctioning cable equipment, or to complain about the bill. i got there right around lunch, which was the wrong time to come, since there was only one person working. i didn't mind because i was the next person in line but while i was waiting, half a dozen customers suddenly showed up behind me. i exchanged my grand uncle cable box and returned my DTA devices. so long watching cable from the comforts of my bedroom!

back at my grand uncle's place, the new cable box still didn't work. my father and i went upstairs to check the television there and that one got all the channels just fine, so we knew it was cable wire related. we isolated the problem to a bad coaxial splitter. once we removed it and spliced the cable together with a female-female adapter, all the channels came back.

by then it was almost 2:00. i hadn't had breakfast or lunch yet, and my mother gave me some roasted eel with rice to take home with me.

i ate while fiddling around with the newly-fixed HDTV. i was tinkering with it earlier, trying to rig up an antenna so i could receive over-the-airwaves HD channels. when that didn't work, i tried connecting a cable line directly into the television. that didn't work because this particular model only has an ATSC tuner (airwave), not a QAM tuner (cable).

then i saw you could create a simple antenna with a paperclip, which was what i ended up doing. it didn't show any channels while it was doing an autoscan, but after it was done, it spit out a list of found channels, including all the ones i could get locally. most of the channels i could see just fine, a few (like FOX-TV) didn't show up at all. considering i just used a paperclip as an antenna, i don't think the result was that bad.

i also found out with the television set to standard video setting (instead of vivid), it uses less power, about 100 watts less, but still hovering in the 300 watts range.

i helped my parents cancel their heating oil contract with lyons fuel. they're not exactly scam artists, but their business practice leaves something to be desired: their fuel prices are higher than others, they refill the tank way too often (last time they waited only 3 weeks; normally it'd take half the season for the tank to empty), and each time they come they've managed to spill oil all over the backyard.

i managed to consolidate at least 3 boxes of items - polo, amazon, gap - into a single box for frances. the box was to capacity, but when i returned home from the cafe, there was yet another package waiting for me on the doorstep that i somehow managed to add to the shipment. most of the items were clothes, so i could really squeeze everything together. the final box weighed 24 lb. and the shipment cost was around $90. i carried it on the bike to drop it off at the post office around 4:00.

i finished the last bits of bioshock 2. it's a pretty game, and perhaps smarter than the usual genre fare, but after the original, the sequel seemed a bit stale. i erased the game from my computer after i was done. onwards to other games!

i cooked up another batch of risotto for dinner, just because i wanted to use up the italian sausages before they spoiled. once again, david didn't get home until after 9:30 (he's one of the hardest working roommates that've ever lived at my place). i notice he usually takes a shower right after he gets home. he told me it's because he works with a lot of toxic chemicals in the lab that he wants to wash off right away.

while watching the news reports about the changing of the popes, david and i had a deep conversation about religion. like me, he's a devout atheist, which presented some problems when he was getting married at a catholic church back in december. he had a very open-minded priest though, and when he told the father that he wasn't a believer, the priest wrote down "has some doubts" on the form so he could still get married in the church.