eBay Listing – Kenwood 200 Disc Changer – SOLD

January 29, 2006

I’m listing a Kenwood CD-3260M 200 Disc Changer with remote. It’s used but in good condition – works great and only has slight cosmetic wear.


Front of unit
Unit with door open
Remote control
Back of unit


Gaming Update…

January 27, 2006

I’ve been pretty busy lately so gaming has been kept to a minimum, or at least to late nights, but I’ve had a shift in what I’m playing.

While I wouldn’t really call Project Entropia a “scam”, I’ve got some issues with it. It appears that the groups of folks who pump the most money into the game are the only ones gaining anything in the game and rewards are certainly not comparable to what is going into the system. I didn’t interact with any of these “ubers” except via the forums but it seemed like everyone I talked to was putting around $20-50 a month into the game just to keep their character going. OUCH!! You could pick up a smoking habit and it would be cheaper. It really snowballs too – you can only sweat so much before you get capped and then you’re forced to put money to keep playing. I just see it as becoming a big black hole for money and I’m not willing to fall into that one. However, I have to say that I met some really great folks while in game. Everyone seems to be pretty nice (I didn’t venture to the PvP arena so things may be different there) and were generally helpful but I’m grateful that I never dropped any money into it so I don’t feel bad just walking away.
It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve gotten into Battlefield 2. I’ve finally ventured on to the multi-player servers and haven’t been to bed before 1am on any night that I’ve played. While I’m certainly not Rambo yet, I’m getting better and completely addicted. (My current profile)
Lastly, I’ve been really remiss in playing UO – while I’m still technically a GM over a Montis Draconis, I’m not quite sure how I keep that job. I’ve only hopped on for a few minutes here and there and certainly not contributed near as much as I should. Although it had been rather quiet when I have been on, I’m hoping that I’ll have some time this weekend so I can get a few things done.

Heard It Thru The (Grape)Vine…

January 26, 2006

Always one to try something new, I signed up (via Randy’s invite) for Newsvine. Basically, it’s a new aggregator that allows you to “seed” links to articles as well as write your own and supposedly will share ad revenue with you at some point. Once in the system, you can bump good articles/seeds “up the vine”, post comments, and even have a live chat about them. All in all an interesting concept although I’m nervous about the direction it might take when it becomes public (currently, it’s a private beta). Check out my vine.
BTW, if you’d like an invite, just drop a comment here and I’ll get one out to you. I currently have 20.

More Customer Service Fun…

January 23, 2006

Although my recent customer service rants were about the reps, I guess that the ignorance can flow both ways.

Birthday Party…

January 21, 2006

I can’t believe how quick time flies. Makena will be 2 tomorrow so we’re having a little birthday party for her today. Just a little family and friends “get together”w so we can grill some burgers and dogs (it’s supposed to be 60° today) and wonder where all the time has gone.


Washington Mutual Strikes Again…

January 20, 2006

Washington Mutual, whom I’ve mentioned a couple of time before, currently hold the mortgage on our home and, after hopping our checking account around for various reasons, is also home to our checking account. Since we have both accounts with them, they’re kind enough to give us a “Platinum” account for free provided we allow them to rob us blind auto-deduct our monthly payment – this service normally costs $12/month. When we bought our home, we didn’t have enough to put 20% down (uh…who actually does??) and we didn’t qualify for a second mortgage at that time so we had to get PMI. A complete and total crock but necessary at the time. After saving up for some time, we were able to pay down to 80% and get the PMI removed – simple enough procedure and something that I’m sure happens all the time. So here’s where it goes sideways, we also asked about having our monthly payment reduced – basically, they just re-evaluate your loan and the payment should drop. The kind lady told my wife that she’d be sending the paperwork along and we could just fill it out and send it back at our convenience. Great! The following week the paperwork arrives and we were disturbed to discover that there was a $200 fee involved in the recalculation. No way are we paying so they can “click a button” (I know that there MAY be a little more to it than this but it still can’t be all that complicated) and start charging us a lesser amount. So, in accordance with the documents, we decide not to fill them out so our account should remain the same, right? Wrong. The next payment stub arrives with the “new” amount so we immediately call and are told that it was a mistake and will be corrected. We proceeded to pay the original amount with the directions to apply the “extra” to principal since their system would see the difference as such. This routine proceeds for the next couple of months – get payment stub, call and be reassured that everything has been corrected in their system (for real THIS time), pay the usual amount, rinse, repeat.

After the third month of this insanity, Darlene gets a phone call from Washington Mutual’s collections department. They’ve locked our account and sent it to collections for “non-payment”. Whaa?? Well, it turns out that their cashiering department decided that they would “back out” (an accounting term I swear) all our payments for the past three months thus making us “late” for the past three months. So after being harangued by this awful lady, Darlene finally hung up on her and called back to speak with someone else. Basically, they had no idea why this was done and, get this, the cashiering department doesn’t take incoming calls so we can’t even speak to someone about it. We were assured once again that everything would be corrected within a week. No luck – the payments were re-applied incorrectly. So Darlene and I figured out exactly how and where each payment should have been applied and relayed this information to the customer service rep (slowly so as not to spook the skittish creature) only to be told that it would take ANOTHER week. After speaking with a manager, I was assured that the issue would be resolved with 2 business days and would be correct. To be safe, I got the manager’s direct line and contact information in case there was any problems in the future. *sigh*
Fast forward 2 weeks and about a dozen unreturned phone messages later, since the account “magically” righted itself well enough – they actually still didn’t have it quite right but it was close enough that it wasn’t worth the effort. Oh, and my “written formal request” (per RESPA, Section 6) for an explanation and assurances that it wouldn’t happen again – IGNORED!! Basically, I’ve decided that all loans moving forward will NOT be with Washington Mutual and as soon as we’re clear of this home loan, we’ll be moving all our other accounts as well.

Customer (Dis)Service…

January 20, 2006

Why is it that getting good customer service is so “hard”?? I have been on the “other side” of those phone calls – yes, you get people who are incapable of removing their head from their anus long enough for you to assist them but I am not one of those people. I am, for the most part, a knowledgeable person – if I’m not then I get on Google and learn before I pick up the phone. I am capable of following directions, visualizing in 3 dimensions, and even willing, for the most part, to give a hunch a try if I think it might solve my problem. So why is that whenever I call “customer service” I get someone who seems to know LESS about their product/service than I do and is always less than helpful as I explain to them what they need to do in order to DO THEIR JOB?? Is it that they’re completely unprepared by their company?? While this is a possibility (a separate rant to follow), I’m afraid that the issue is too widespread for that to be the whole answer and may simply be one of apathy and stupidity. Here are examples of recent encounters with customer service folks…

We’ve had various run-ins with Washington Mutual during the course of our business with them. The most recent was a complete debacle involving them changing our mortgage without our consent, un-applying our payments because of said change and then sending our account to collections for “non-payment”, attempting to charge us for a “free” service because of our “late” status, and, generally, being morons. It took almost 4 months, countless hours on the phone with customer service reps and managers, and even an in-depth explanation of accounting practices by Darlene to get them to resolve an issue that they created (I’ll bore you with the details in another post).

Our parent company, Alt-N just rolled us (GIS2) back into the company. I won’t bore you with the details but basically, things weren’t working out with our CEO and the owners of Alt-N so they brought us back in-house. It was a good thing. Except that all the things we had as separate companies now needed to be merged – payroll, networks, offices, etc. Everything seems to have gone off quite well save one – 401K. We use Paychex for our payroll and benefits and I could not be more amazed that a company of their size could keep its doors open with such incompetence. Previously they neglected to do employer matching for almost an entire year for 2 (myself being one of the victims) employees out of the dozen or so that we had but I figured it was an isolated incident (they never could explain why). Enter 401K rollover. We were required to fill out a simple form so that they could legally rollover our accounts into Alt-N’s plan and mail it back to them. Everyone I know complied. We were a little surprised when the money “disappeared” from our GIS2 accounts and did not show back up in our Alt-N accounts. A call to Paychex informed us that this was normal and the move could take up to 7 business days for vested money and 30 days for gains/losses (not sure why there’s a difference but whatever). Imagine our surprise when a CHECK arrived at an employee’s home. Another phone call to Paychex. They claimed that the employee didn’t fill out the form correctly. This was Sharon, our accountant, who is quite meticulous in her work so we were skeptical but, again giving them the benefit of the doubt. We asked that a notation be placed on our account that NO CHECKS be issued for this moving forward and were assured that it was done. Surprise, surprise – every request processed after that had a check cut. This isn’t “rocket surgery” folks!! Oh and to top it all off, they even were kind enough to randomly select funds for me, in spite of the form that filled out.

Here’s another example as told by my brother-in-law, Brian (who REALLY needs to get a BLOG!!):

Get this. I bought a sit up bench for my apartment (like I’ll use it two weeks from now) and I was trying to put it together last night. One of the poles will not fit into the designated slot that the instructions state. The bar and the hole are same size. There is no way of this working so I call the customer service number on the instructions and start explaining to this lady what is going wrong. She asked me if the bar and the hole were the same shape! I was like “I’m sorry. I must have just hallucinated. Did you just ask me that?” I told her that I am capable of distinguishing shapes and that the round pole and round hole were the same size, thus prohibiting one fitting into the other. I even used the word “diameter” just assure the lady that I was not sniffing industrial paint solvent. She said that she would have to check with her supervisor about what to do so I am waiting for them to call back this evening. More than likely I will have to call back and start all over again because she probably forgot. ERRRRRR!!!! Sometimes, I wonder how this planet hasn’t caved in on our species and started from scratch. Maybe give Neanderthal Man a second chance.

BTW, Brian, if you read this and want a blog, let me know – I know you don’t have much “free time” but I wanted to offer.