1. Shorthand for “I am an enormous douchebag.” (Taken with Instagram)

    Shorthand for “I am an enormous douchebag.” (Taken with Instagram)

  2. Last one.  (Taken with Instagram)

    Last one. (Taken with Instagram)

  3. Dirty, dirty girl. (more #plantporn for @kaydub and @brendajos) (Taken with Instagram)

    Dirty, dirty girl. (more #plantporn for @kaydub and @brendajos) (Taken with Instagram)

  4. Too white, too bright. (Taken with Instagram)

    Too white, too bright. (Taken with Instagram)

  5. Feed me.  (Taken with Instagram)

    Feed me. (Taken with Instagram)

  6. My Statement.

    My boss, in preparation for the nationwide sales meeting next month, has mail bombed the entire salesforce and instructed us to write our “statement” of what makes for a successful salesman in our industry. Nothing big, two sentences, tops. I am sorely tempted to remind him that he once told me I couldn’t sell my virgin ass in prison for a carton of Luckies and a twenty for incentives.


    Looking up at the stars as my father carried me to the car.

  8. In which the one bright light gutters…

    This is a long post. A completely self-serving cathartic rant. If you’re into to that sort of thing, cop a squat and crack a cold one. If you have more important things to do like, oh, almost anything, feel free to wander off. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Those of you who know me know that I’m just not a Microsoft guy. I’ve used Windows and various Microsoft products over the years and I’m just not a fan. The one exception has been XBox and XBox Live. On the rare occasions that I had a problem (not counting one dead XBox and one dead XBox 360, of course. XBox hardware reliability has been pretty bad over the years, but for the purposes of this story, not relevant), I would call 1-800-4MY-XBOX and be connected with a native English speaker who, in every case I can recall, was polite, engaged and truly dedicated to helping me. I honestly believe that XBox Live customer support is generally on a par with Apple customer support, and that’s coming from Mac guy going back to System 7. I say this so you can understand my consternation and extreme disappointment with the resolution of the problem I’m about to relate to you.

    I’ve been an XBox Live user since the XBox Live Beta. I played maybe a couple of hundred games of MotoGP during the beta to help Microsoft load test their network. I really suck at MotoGP and I hate it. As I recall there was only one other Live enabled title and it was so bad, I played the game that I really suck at instead. On the bright side, I was fortunate enough to secure Wood for my gamertag. For non-gaming readers, a gamertag is your social identity on XBox Live. It’s a unique name that each gamer chooses when they sign up, just like Twitter or Tumblr or any other service that provides an online handle. After eight years, you can guess that all the short, unique names are pretty much gone.

    When Live went, well, live, I ponied up my money and I’ve continued to do so ever since, almost $500 worth of Live subscriptions across four XBoxes and eight years (what can I say, I loves me some Halo). The first few years were fantastic. I played a lot of online and had a hell of a lot of fun. Over time, I spent less time playing online. I’m very much a social gamer and, I freely admit, I kinda suck. I prefer co-op game play to competition and the influx of, let’s be blunt, screaming idiots who joined to play Halo 2 multiplayer really soured me on meeting new XBox Live friends. Maybe it’s me, but after my fourth or fifth round wherein a sugared up twelve year old zooms around shrieking “SUCK IT FAGGOT! SUCK MY COCK! DIE FUCKING HOMOS!” whilst waving a bullet hose at everything in sight, well, I kinda lose interest (Aside: XBL makes it pretty trivial to deal with these kinds of people. Unfortunately, when it comes to video games and the Internet, there seems to be a fire hydrant of idiocy out there with a busted valve handle). Still, there were the occasional private sessions with friends that kept it fun enough for me to not feel too bad about parting with $60/year. Most recently I’ve been playing Borderlands with a couple of RL friends and we’ve had terrific fun.

    Just before Memorial Day weekend, I received an email from Windows Live informing me that my Live ID had been updated per my request. Awesome! Only I never requested any such thing. As it happens, over the course of the next 48 hours, I received similar notices from Facebook—way to delete that account just like I asked, Facebook—and a couple of other sites (including, oddly, Second Life).

    It was pretty obvious what had happened here: somewhere, someone had exploited one of my online presences and douchebaggery ensued. My part of the blame lay in recycling the same two or three passwords. That was dumb, don’t do it. Fortunately this particular douchebag (or douchebags, who knows?) were none too bright and securing everything again, while tedious, was not difficult. I spent most of that weekend generating unique passwords for some 70 online presences (1Password, you fucking rock) and, for the most part, everything was quickly fixed with no great damage done.

    Except, of course, for the Microsofty bits.

    When I logged into XBox Live that weekend for some sweet, post apocalyptic mayhem, I was found that I was no longer Wood. I was now the rather non-euphonious woodguycosmo1lo. The fact that someone had also recently changed my Windows Live ID to cosmothewood@hotmail.com seemed, I don’t know, suspiciously coincidental? I immediately called XBox Live. The CSR was, as usual, engaged, courteous and as helpful as they could be at that moment. They even supplied me with a phone number to contact Windows Live support (You try to find a phone number on any Windows Live page. Go ahead. I can wait.). At the end of the day, all I could do was wait until the UA team investigated and got back to me, a process I was informed, could take up to two weeks. There is one important point to highlight here: the CSR who helped me opened two separate UA cases: one attached to my original gamertag (Wood) and one attached to the new and unwanted gamertag (woodguycosmo1lo). Remember this.

    While waiting to hear back from the XBox Live UA team, I did what digging I could. The lowlife who did this had attached a phone number to my Window Live ID, I assume so they would be notified if I tried to reset my password. In a display of real genius, however, they neglected to remove my alternate email address, so resetting my password and locking them out again was, as with my other accounts, trivial. I spent several hours that weekend running reverse lookups on the number but what information I was able to gather doesn’t appear immediately useful. At least XBox Live was uninterested every time I brought it up.

    On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I was finally able to get through to Windows Live tech support. I should probably explain, for those who don’t know this: XBox Live and Windows Live are two utterly different animals. XBox Live is for games. Windows Live is… uh… for everything else, I guess, but mainly seems to be Microsoft’s idea of a single sign-on identity. If you have an XBox Live account and you want to do anything with it on the Internet proper, you must have a Windows Live ID, no exceptions.

    If you ever need a canonical example of truly shitty technical support, call Windows Live. They will school you. My CSR sounded like the stereotypical call center jockey somewhere in India who, while exceedingly polite, was almost impossible to understand. I explained my situation and asked if I could please have the fraudulent hotmail account removed from my Windows Live ID. The CSR politely let me know that I could find the answer to my question on the Windows Live forum. I observed that if I could have solved my problem on the forum, I would have done that, but since I hadn’t, could he please help me? In response, he insisted again that the forum would answer my problem. After going back and forth for a few minutes, Mr. Call Center Jockey, in a near Olympian display of passive aggression, called up the forum page he wanted me to read and then proceeded to READ IT TO ME OVER THE PHONE. WORD. FOR. WORD. So adamant was he that I experience the wonder and glory of Microsoft’s technical support forum for Windows Live that he actually talked over me when I tried to interject, like a somewhat more jargon-laden LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA! Finally, I hung up on him.

    The real irony of this is that the forum page Mr. Call Center Jockey was so hell bent on reading to me in no way, shape or form actually addressed my problem. After much Googling, I discovered, about a day later, that once a Hotmail address is associated with a Windows Live ID it’s permanent, forever and absolutely, and cannot be changed for love, money, or threat of truly heinous violence. While this nugget of information might be on the Windows Live support forum, I never found it there, I should mention. In the end, my only recourse was to delete my Windows Live ID and create a new one from scratch. Oh, and FYI? Apparently “delete my account” means the same thing to Microsoft that it does to Facebook, because, three weeks later, I can still log in to my supposedly deleted old Windows Live ID.

    Anyway. A few more days passed and I received an email from the XBox Live UA team informing me that they had investigated my case and had found no evidence of fraud and, thus, considered the matter resolved. They didn’t exactly specify which case (remember, two were originally opened) so, concerned, I called XBox Live support again.

    The CSR I spoke with this time was, again, awfully gosh darned polite and seemed genuinely invested in my issue. He informed me that the “resolved” case was associated with the woodguycosmo1lo gamertag and that the case for my stolen gamertag was still open. In fact, he found notes appended to my case that indicated that the UA team would be calling me shortly on a particular day, at a particular time for “more information.” I thanked him and we said farewell.

    Fast forward to the day and time of the promised call back. They didn’t call back. I did, however, receive a call back almost exactly 24 hours later than promised. I wasn’t near my phone but a very nice lady left me a voice mail requesting more information and asked that I call back at 1-800-469-9269. Those of you who have the phone keypad committed to memory will realize, of course, that this is 1-800-4MY-XBOX, aka, regular, front line XBox Live tech support. I spoke to yet another very solicitous CSR who gravely listened to my tale of woe, in four part harmony, with the 48 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows on the back of each one. He wanted to help, but this latest CSR couldn’t tell me what other information was needed, as it wasn’t actually in the notes. Oh sure, he could see where the UA person had noted that she had called and had requested more information but she neglected to put exactly what it was that she needed to know.

    Well, okay, that was a little irritating, but, hey, no big deal. If he could just transfer me to that person, I was sure we could clear this up. Except that the regular XBox Live support team can’t transfer a call to the UA team. It’s not possible. Literally can’t be done. Not even by a supervisor, I was assured. They don’t even have a phone number (imagine that last bit conveyed in a conspiratorial whisper. I do).

    So now I’m dealing with Microsoft’s video game black ops division. Fantastic.

    The CSR was so apologetic that, in spite of my growing irritation, I actually felt kind of bad for him. He did inform me, though, that another follow up call had been scheduled for the next Thursday at 2:00 pm. He even went so far as to verify my time zone and include that in the notes just to be sure.

    Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, the UA didn’t call when they said they would. I did, however, get a call 24 HOURS LATER from a number unknown to caller ID. I don’t normally answer unknown numbers because, in my experience, they’re almost invariably a robocall from a carpet cleaner or a political candidate. I received another voicemail again informing me that the UA team needed more information and that if they did not hear back from me, they would consider the matter resolved. Again, they left the number for front line XBox Live support.

    By now I’m starting to get a wee bit pissy. I have to admit, I was not very nice to the poor young man who happened to pull my call. In short, it was basically a replay of my previous call, except this time I pointed out that even the fucking cable company shows up within four hours of when they say they will. Another call back was scheduled for Monday of this week.

    In Microsoft-land Monday is actually Thursday, apparently, because that’s when the UA team called back. The UA CSR politely (have I mentioned how polite they are?) informed me that they can find no evidence of fraud in my case and that the matter is resolved.

    Total. Thermonuclear. Meltdown.

    I am ashamed to admit that I kiss my wife and children with this mouth. I  give the guy full credit for not hanging up on me. I would have hung up on me. I would have hung up on me and called the police, if we’re being honest here.

    Since I haven’t figured out yet how to shoot a geyser of blood and rabid capuchin monkeys through the phone, I demanded to speak with a supervisor. “Sure, no problem sir, I’ll get one right now!” A supervisor came on shortly and reiterated that there was no evidence of fraud associated with the account. At this point, after more than three weeks, I’m basically begging this person to tell me, please, what information does he need for me to prove that I am, in fact, me? Does he want a picture of my driver’s license? Done. A picture of the credit card? Okay? At this point, I’m willing to stand in front of my XBox Live dashboard with my license taped to my forehead and a copy of today’s paper on live video. Fuck, I’ll wear a clown nose on my cock and macarena in my driveway if that’s what it takes to prove that I’m not making this up.

    Hearing this, the supervisor pauses, and then he asks some more questions relating to when I set up the account. Of course I can’t provide all that he’s asking for, like my complete address eight years ago, or the number of the credit card I used, but I get close enough that I think I convinced him. Finally he tells me that that problem here is that none of the information I’ve provided matches any of the information attached to the profile. Cue the needle scratch, I ask Marla Singer to tell me what my name is again.

    See, this is the problem that it took multiple calls and more than three weeks to make clear: all of the information I have provided to date for the XBox Live account associated with the gamertag woodguycosmo1lo is (ding! ding! ding!) correct. The information I have provided, however, does not match the profile that is now associated with the gamertag Wood. In a nutshell, because I don’t have the name, address, and credit card information for the shit sucking, baby raping, needle-dicked assclown who stole my gamertag, I am Sierra Oscar Lima, full stop, nothing follows, over.

    More incredulous, profane, shrieking on my part. The supervisor assures me in his best “put the gun down, sir” voice that yes, he does believe me and he is truly, truly, sorry, but without providing him with something that is, for practical purposes, impossible for me to know, he can’t do anything. He was nice enough to inform me that, because it looked like I really was a victim here, he would “force” a gamertag change so I could pick “anything else I want at no charge”. Except, of course, for my gamertag that I’d had for eight years, that was gone forever. Or anything else that might possibly be cool or unique after eight years and thousands of new XBox Live subscribers, but hey, at least I’m not getting charged for it, right?

    Heavy sigh. Hang in there, we’re almost to the end.

    I’ve been informed that the gamertag Wood has been “permanently locked” and will remain forever unavailable for anyone to use, ever again. However, a short while later, I was able to search for it on XBox Live and make a friend request. The bio for fake Wood says that he’s in “Cosmo, Time - Cosmo City” and his bio reads:

    Cosmo, Time
    Steve, TiTaN
    We bosses busta

    Jesus Christ on a bike, what a fucking douchebag, I wish he he could be raped to death by hygienically challenged goats. Poking around what I can see of his profile, I see that fake Wood has a friend with a similarly suspiciously short and unique gamertag (GAME) for someone with so little history (low gamer score, very few years subscribed) who also describes himself as being from “Cosmo City.” Another person in fake Wood’s friend’s list has had his gamer score reset for, lawdy lawdy lawdy, cheating. My point here is, at least to me, there’s a fairly clear pattern here (woodguycosmo1lo, cosmothewood@hotmail.com, Cosmo Time, Cosmo City) that any reasonable person could use to conclude that, yes, there is douchebaggery afoot. Unfortunately for me, it’s academic. Doesn’t matter. End of story.

    A little while back, a good friend of mine took his brand new MacBook Pro into the Apple Store for some help. He’d purchased his MacBook about a week before Apple released the new Thunderbolt MBP’s, a point which came up in conversation with his Genius. The Genius poked around my buddy’s MBP for a few minutes and asked if it would be okay if he replaced it with one of the Thunderbolt MBP’s. You know, since he was having problems, the timing kind of sucked and, geez, he just felt kinda bad for my friend.

    This is what I’m getting at: if an Apple tech support employee can, on his own initiative, upgrade a customer to a completely new machine just to make that customer happy—a customer who admitted that he really wasn’t all that unhappy, he just needed a little help—why doesn’t a Microsoft tech support employee have the personal initiative to restore a silly little name when confronted with, I think, fairly clear evidence of abuse and fraud? If nothing else, it’s an interesting way to reward eight years of paying customer loyalty. Incredible.

    If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this epic screed, you really should get out more, but I salute your perseverance. Thanks for participating in my personal catharsis. I’m now FormerWood on XBox Live. If you’re an XBox gamer, hit me up and say Hi. Tell me how I know you and maybe we can play some time.

  9. This actually happened.

    Some Unidentified Caller: “Is Mike Ritchie there?” Me: “Sorry, you have the wrong number.” SUC: “Is this 555-1212?” Me: “Yes, but I’m not the person you’re looking for.” SUC: “Could I speak with Mike Ritchie?” Me: “Look, I told you, wrong number.” SUC: “Are you sure he’s not there?” Me: “This is my cellphone, I’m not him.” SUC: “Well, do you know him?” Me: “What? Who is this?” Chase Bank: “This is Chase Bank calling for Mike Ritchie.” Me: “Right, I got that. And I told you WRONG NUMBER.” CB: “Yes, but do you know him?” Me: “Really? Are you stupid?” CB: “Just answer the question, sir” Me: “I did. This is MY cellphone. I’m NOT Mike Ritchie. I’m taking a crap and, I promise you, there’s nobody else here.” CB: “JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION SIR.” Me: “Ok, FUUUUUUUCK YOU!” CB: click

    Postscript: This douchebag called me from a caller ID blocked number. I don’t answer blocked numbers as a rule but this ass clown called me three times in about a minute before I finally took the call. So, if your first response is “You should have just hung up,” I did. Twice.

    Stay classy, Chase Bank.

  10. Here’s why Apple will own e-Books.

    1. Stanza, arguably the best e-book reader on the iPhone/iPod Touch can buy mainstream content through Fictionwise, an online e-book site.

    2. Fictionwise purchased eReader.com some time back and, while (in theory) purchases from Fictionwise and eReader can be merged into a single “bookshelf,” both sites still operate independently. AFAIK, there is no obvious way to purchase ebooks for Stanza through eReader’s website. In fact, I eReader doesn’t even include the iPhone in it’s list of supported devices.

    3. Fictionwise and eReader are both owned by Barnes & Noble, who has yet another e-book app for iPhone that purchases through their own store separately from either Fictionwise and eReader.

    4. Stanza is owned by Amazon and will read Kindle formatted content but cannot purchase Kindle e-books from the Kindle store.

    In summary: the best e-book reader on the iPhone cannot purchase from the purported largest e-book catalog despite being owned by the group who owns said catalog. Instead, the largest catalog available to said best e-book reader is owned by a competitor who, in turn, also doesn’t eat their own dog food.

    One ring to rule them all indeed.