As some of you may already know, I got a new car (finally!). It's a beautiful '99 BMW 328i. It's a silver (technically, "titanium") 4- door sedan with a black leather interior. This car is like brand new. It only had 64,000 miles on it when we bought it, which, for a car that's almost 10 years old is absolutely amazing. It runs like a dream and we love it. I'll post pictures as soon as I take some (it's been so cold out lately, I haven't been motivated to spend a lot of time outside, you know?).

Yesterday, I was feeling very clever for noticing that there was a sale at Old Navy. The clothes there don't really fit me well, but I can usually get away with buying t-shirts and that sort of thing there. Anyway, I got a henley and a long-sleeved, scoop neck tee for $15! While I was in the fitting room, trying things on and feeling proud of myself, I noticed (under their very harsh fitting room lighting) that my face was all red and patchy and blotchy and gross! My skin's been going a little crazy lately, I guess because it's been so dry, but I wasn't expecting anything like that! As we were leaving the store, I told Max I wanted to go to Clinique in the mall. He gave me the "Do we have to?" look, and I was like, "Have you seen my skin recently?!?" To which he replied, "Yeeeaaah....I just didn't want to say anything..."

Okay. I understand that he was trying to be nice and not hurt my feelings or something. But when your wife looks like she has a horrible skin-eating rash all over her face, you do not let her go out in public, and without makeup, no less! You bundle her off to the nearest skin care counter and you get her some help. Especially since I have a tendency to downplay stuff like that. Well, actually, I completely overreact to the slightest little skin problem (because I'm not used to having any), and I KNOW I overreact, so I consciously downplay it and tell myself whatever the problem is, it's really subtle and I'm the only one who notices, and I shouldn't let myself blow things out of proportion, etc... Yes, it's messed up. So am I. Get over it.

Anyway, off we went, and now I have an actual skin care routine that I'm actually trying to follow. I know most girls started in with that when they were like, 13, but I've been lucky enough to have great skin my whole life, and now that I'm having to actually do stuff with it, it's kinda freaking me out.

Wow, that was some full-disclosure there, but it's what's been going on. In other news, I finished blogging the first session of our new campaign -you can find the link to The Geek Preserve in the sidebar.


Geek Preserve Update

Some of you may have noticed that my Geek Preserve blog hasn't seen a lot of action in, oh, say about 3 years. That has recently changed. We've started a new campaign and this time, I'm blogging it from the beginning. So, if you're a big nerd, check out my game blog weekly for riveting updates! (Psst - the link's in the sidebar under "The Geek Preserve").


A 360 Nightmare

Okay, so you may remember that our Xbox 360 is broken; it failed near the end of November. Here's an update on that, may it serve as a warning to you all.

The original Xbox 360 functioned flawlessly for about a year before it was stricken with the Red Ring of Death. It was still under warranty, so we called Microsoft and began the "repair" process - and I use that "repair" term loosely. Microsoft shipped us a box with everything we needed to send our console off the the repair center in McAllen, TX - packing foam, a prepaid shipping label, a box of the appropriate size, detailed instructions, even a cut-to-length piece of packing tape. We packaged the console according to instructions and sent it off. We received our replacement console in just over a week. In all, the process was painless, prompt, and pleasant (under the circumstances), and we were satisfied customers.

Then, about 3 or 4 days after receiving the refurbished console, we started experiencing disk read errors. Upon further inspection, we noticed that the new console was actually scratching our game disk, which was probably what was causing the errors. Now a little frustrated, we called Microsoft again. After trying to explain the problem to several different foreign customer service people without much success, I was finally transferred to a manager who had better command of the English language and was able to help me. We were instructed to send this console (Console #2, for those of you playing along at home) back to the service center, along with our original power supply. A few phone calls and some finnangling later, and I managed to get them to throw in a free game, too. It should be noted, however, that the free games Microsoft is willing to give you are mostly games you don't want. I had to choose between Project Gotham Racing 3, Kameo, Viva Pinata (which is awesome, but we already own it, also, it's geared towards children), and a collection of Xbox Live Arcade games (which are free to play on Xbox Live... so what's the point of the game disk?) We picked PGR3. This time, the return process was very similar except they sent a slightly larger box (to accommodate the brick-like power supply). We packed it up, sent it off, and waited.

About a week or so later, we received yet another refurbished console from the repair center. This one also came with a power supply, since we'd sent our perfectly fine, working power supply in with the last console. However, the new "refurbished" power supply we received with Console #3 doesn't work. Without a working power supply, we don't have a working refurbished Xbox, we have a big white paper weight. Again, calls were put in to the Microsoft Service Center. At first, they insisted that we PAY to ship the power supply back to their service center. Then, after they have received it, they will send us another power supply. The process should take about 3 weeks, we're told.

Okay, no. We sent them our original working power supply AT THEIR REQUEST. They, in turn, have sent us YET ANOTHER "refurbished" product that doesn't work properly. There is no reason for us to take any liability for this. True, it'll probably cost us less than $10 to ship the power supply to them, but why should we have to pay for it? Also, why do we have to wait 3 weeks for them to ship us a working power supply, so that we can potentially find out that Console #3 is ALSO faulty? I wasn't going for it.

After several more very long phone calls, I was finally able to talk to someone who spoke enough English to deviate from the prompt a little bit. He explained that since Console #3 wasn't broken, we couldn't return it, and since we're not returning the whole console, they can't send us a box just for the power supply. In this situation, the power supply counts as an "accessory", and the policy is that they don't pay return shipping on accessories. I patiently explained to him that without the power supply, my Xbox IS broken. I have no reason to believe it works! The last one they sent me didn't work, and this one won't even turn on! Finally, he agrees to process a repair order for ALL of Console #3, including the power supply. Now, I'm waiting for the box to return it in.

During this fiasco, I have spent almost 10 hours of my life on the phone with the Customer Service Center, and most of that time has been spent on hold. I have been accused of breaking Console #2 (in under 4 days!). I have been repeatedly denied the opportunity to speak with a supervisor's superior. And worst of all, I've been subjected over and over again to conversations like this:

CSR [in a heavy, almost unintelligible Indian accent]: So, you're calling because your console is not working, correct?
Me: No, I'm calling because it's scratching my game disks.
CSR: [long pause] So, you're having trouble with your game disks?
Me: Yes, the console you sent me is scratching them.
CSR: I'm sorry ma'am, but we can only help with problems with your console. Please contact your local games retailer for issues regarding games.
Me: But the problem is with the console! The console is scratching my game disks! The scratches are causing disk read errors.
CSR: [long pause] So, you're calling because your console is not working, correct? Have you tried turning it off, and then turning it back on?
Me: YES! But I'm still getting disk read errors, because the console is scratching my game disk.
CSR: [long pause] So, you're having trouble with your game disks?
Me: Yes! The-
CSR: I'm sorry ma'am, but we can only help with problems with your console. Please contact your local games retailer for issues regarding games.
Me: [deep breath] ...Okay. May I please speak with a manager?
CSR: Please hold. [about 5 minutes later] I am sorry for the wait, ma'am. I can transfer you to my supervisor, but the estimated hold time for that is 45 minutes.

However, in the course of all these painful conversations, I have gleaned some useful information, which I will now share with you:
The customer service number, should you ever have to call it for yourself, is 1-800-4MY-XBOX.
All complaints must be directed to:
Microsoft Legal Department
Xbox Legal Group
1 Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052