Microsoft an awful online retailer

When I used this blog to complain about Bank of America much of the feedback I received was about how I should not expect anything better from a bank. I get that. Big banks are bad. We all agree on that.

But this next rant takes me into sensitive territory. Microsoft did so much to change computing and make incredible technology available to the lot of us who probably would have been fine feeling the height of sophistication with an electric typewriter. The company really has changed the world. In an earlier version of my life I did maintain a steady seething for the company because I worked for Novell. My complaint in this case is personal, and it’s one I could have with any retailer, such as Sears or Spencer’s Gifts, should I ever shop online with them.

Where it gets touchy for me is that I know what a difference Microsoft has made in the Seattle area in diversifying the economy and I am legitimately impressed with what Bill Gates is doing with his money now. Bravo, I say.

On Black Friday Diana went with Sascha to Wal-Mart to see if they could get one of the Xbox gaming consoles the store had on sale. Big mistake. Diana, a shopper’s shopper, a market maven, came back saying “Never again.” Sascha went to bed disappointed, though saying the same thing Diana said about Black Friday. Diana went online. She found an Xbox with the Kinect sensor for $325. That was just what Sascha wanted.

Diana tried to order it twice and received an error message. So she went to Amazon and found it for about $100 less and ordered it there without a problem. On both orders she used the debit card from our checking account. We weren’t buying this on credit. (Not that I’m anyone to preach about that. We’ll be going to Vegas more or less on plastic.) In the end she thought the only sale that had gone through was the one with Amazon.

Thehe next day I went over our checking account. Diana had made several purchases on Amazon and she told me the story, but I couldn’t remember where the breakdown was. I saw the $325 purchase from Microsoft and it didn’t register right away that it shouldn’t be there. When I told Diana about it, though, she remembered. She called Microsoft and the operator said the console had already been shipped, that we would have to send it back and then five-to-seven days later our account would be credited.

This bothered me right away. This was Microsoft’s mistake. Had this happened in a retail store it would have been nothing to walk back to the store with the product and get the refund immediately. I’m thankful we had enough cushion in the account to go without $325 for a while, but that’s not always the case. Microsoft is hanging onto money it is not entitled to while we’re forced to wait for the company to account for its mistake. The IRS would charge interest on that kind of error.

What was worse was the company did not refund the money when it promised. The console was returned to Microsoft on Dec. 12. We still don’t have our refund more than two weeks later. An operator told us the company is behind, but because we called he said he would get the money authorized sooner. So we will get money the company held onto for about a month for something we thought we hadn’t ordered.

Some of the technology Microsoft has created allows for companies to issue returns and credits quickly, yet the company doesn’t deem it important enough to implement that technology itself.

UPDATE: A few hours after posting this we received our refund. While I’m glad to have our money back, my message is the same. This took far too long.

Shedding a big guy — week 12

The hubbard squash weighs more (22.6 pounds) than the kid. Click on the photo to find the source.

I will make this quick. I heard on the radio this week that people tend to gain about a half pound during the holidays. That’s “people.”

“Fat people” gain more, like 2-5 pounds. I could be off on the numbers.

The main point was that they don’t tend to shed it, so there is this perpetual weight gain every year that seems to focus on the holidays.

I gained 0.4 pounds this week, a fact that doesn’t really bother me. I was less careful, but didn’t overdo it, except for this one time when . . . Those details are boring, right?

Suffice it to say I don’t intend to let that 0.4 pounds remain. It’s the holidays. Next week everyone goes on a diet.

Me? Look for a smaller version this time next year.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 381.4
Last week’s weight: 381
One week change: +0.4
Total weight lost: -22.6
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 5.6 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 11 percent
Plans for this week: Happy New Year!

Tears on my commute

It may be that the idea was every bit as goofy as I thought it would be. A little over a week ago KIRO-FM’s John Curley and other folks from KIRO did a live reading of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the radio. When I first heard they were doing it I thought they were goofing. I pictured the readers cracking up over their lines, like Jimmy Fallon on “Saturday Night Live,” or everyone on “The Carol Burnett Show.”

If you chance to listen to it, you’ll see that they did their best to put on a decent production, similar to what I’ve heard from the old time radio shows. No matter. I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t take time out for it. I don’t remember what I was doing, but chances are it involved work.

The next morning I was traveling into work again and the station played a small clip from the reading. It comes toward the end. I think since the movie is 65 years old I can talk about the ending without spoiling it. The main character, George Bailey, needs help from his friends and he gets it. The line played on the radio was:

“I wouldn’t have a roof over my head if it wasn’t for you, George.”

George was a building and loan guy who contrary to the stereotypes we plant on financial pros today was compassionate. When he needed that same compassion from his customers, in the end he got it.

That single line brought tears to my eyes. There is a long list of people who have been compassionate with me. It starts with my parents. My dad, whose mobility is limited to how far someone can wheel him, continues to show me compassion. Diana, my wife, sticks with me while I probably show a lack of gratitude for the blessings I have in favor of the accomplishments I want. My brothers gave up some of their youth to help raise me and still reach out to me. My kids are compassionate, too. They humor me. They accept my goofiness without too much complaint. If I embarrass them, they don’t let on. My workmates and bosses and my friends lift me. They always have.

The show, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” has always been one of my favorites. I’d love to force my kids to sit through it if I thought it would sink in, but perhaps this is where I show some compassion.

I’ve listened to more of the radio show, and they did a nice job. I can relate to George Bailey, if not in the moment of crisis, in the ending. My life, like his, has been absolutely wonderful.

“Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends.”

Shedding a big guy — week 11

Wrap this up in something and then attach it to your waist. Walk around for about a year with it, then unattach it and you'll know what it feels like to have lost the weight I have.

You have no idea how happy I am to be headed in this direction again. It was somewhat challenging to get back in the game, but not overly so. I went into it with something to prove and by the third day I could feel the difference.

The 6 pounds I lost was not that surprising. As I said last week, because of the rapid weight gain I did, this week would be like starting over for my body. It was all too happy to shed the excess I put on.

On Monday I went for a run. In just the physical sense I probably should have skipped it. Running heavier exacts an extra toll on the body and my knee was sore the rest of the week. Psychologically I needed to do it, though, and the effort was worth it. I needed to demonstrate to myself my own commitment to getting back to living healthy. So late Monday night, a bitingly cold night I would add, I drove to the Kitsap Mall parking lot and did some laps around one section for about a half hour.

The rest of the week I did other things to maintain the momentum. I went to bed at a decent hour one night when I didn’t have to, just because I didn’t want to deal with the effects of being tired. That can be a game killer on a diet. One night I did have insomnia, only getting four hours sleep. But I woke up the next day knowing I would be challenged. I was and I handled it.

So once I lose another 2.5 pounds I’ll be at my biggest weight drop. The real benefit is how much better I feel, both physically and psychologically.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 381
Last week’s weight: 387
One week change: -6
Total weight lost: -23
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 5.7 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 11.2 percent
Plans for this week:

Shedding a big guy — week 10

Still more dogs, this one lighter than the last. The caption said his name is Cooper and that he's good with kids. I could use that right now.

Last week, week 9, I called “Hell Week,” when week 10 really deserved the name. This was the worst week I’ve had so far or ever hope to have again on this journey. I lived like I was in between diets. That’s the worst place for someone like me to be, because the memory of the last diet is still fresh and the vision of the next one motivates me to eat like I’ll never eat again. I resisted little this week. And that’s how it’s possible to gain more than a pound a day.

Before going into what happened, let me commit to start the healthy process over again.

What did happen was a combo of events. It started Sunday night. I got knocked down in my job as a parent, and it hit me really hard. The kids are fine. In fact I went to bad last night very much at peace. Last week, though, something happened that made it tough for me to sleep Sunday into Monday. The weight of the events had me down all day Monday, as did the lack of sleep. You ever feel like a failure as a parent? Yeah, it was that.

My feelings about my kids got better later in the day, once I resolved to let God finally have a hand in dealing with things and when it became clear that things were perhaps not as bad as I had feared.

Still, I was very tired, which is never a good recipe for living healthy. Actually on Monday I did fine until that night, when I began a round of endless snacking. I got a good night’s sleep Monday night, but I was coming off of a week of vacation. I love the time off, but I had accomplished a lot healthwise and going back to the workplace I often feel like I’m scrambling to contribute what I should. It’s like I have to forget about everything except work. Being distracted didn’t help.

So all last week I ate like I was in crisis, which resulted in a massive weight gain, and feeling sick into the weekend, something I only began to recover from on Sunday.

The silver lining in this is that after a week of massive weight gain it’s often easy to lose most, if not all, of it quickly. So I’m back on track, or I am committed to being back on track. The half marathon is in my sights. In times past I’ve mentioned moments where it would have been tempting to quit. Often during this whole affair I’ve thought of you and it has helped motivate me to stay focused. That didn’t work last week, because in the end when times are extremely tough I have to do this for me.

So I am. I’m in this for me. I felt great a week ago. I will feel great again, even better. And now I’ve got something to prove, to the doubters, most notably myself. I can do this. I am doing it. Next week’s story will be much more fulfilling, for me.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 387
Last week’s weight: 378.8
One week change: +8.2
Total weight lost: -17
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 4.2 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 8.3 percent
Plans for this week:

Podcast update

What I had planned to be the final episode of “The Narrative Arts Podcast” is delayed indefinitely. I still plan to do it, but am waiting for a particular piece of music to be sent to me and to be authorized.

As for the podcast generally I’m still working out how I will continue with it. I don’t think I’ll be doing it on a regular basis anymore, focusing more on the regular writing and using the podcasts to support that. Plus, I may see about getting my stories told on other shows.

Later this month, at least that is how it is scheduled now, I have a historical story planned for the Kitsap Sun that may merit a larger version. That story could end up being large enough to market it in digital formats, such as for a Kindle. You’ll be able to get the short version free, but the long one will cost a few bucks. It will be so worth it, though, that you’ll wonder how you got it for so little money. (Enter semi-colon and end parenthesis.)

Shedding a big guy — week 9

I weigh one Corgi less than I did when I started. It's getting harder to find representative pictures each week, so I was glad to find this one.

Actually, I think my body improved way more than the number would indicate. The number wasn’t bad, but I was off for a week and really went hard after the extra exercise. For five days I did two hours of exercise a day, including the beginning of a training program for a half marathon.

On Aug. 4 I plan to run in the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon. Using the Galloway running method of running intervals I’m confident I can make it through it. Once I do that, I’ll have my eyes on that marathon I mentioned in the first post.

The week overall went very well, with the biggest hiccup coming late, late, late Friday night. That kind of sucks, because it’s the night before I weigh in. My mind was racing about some of my side projects, so I could not sleep. I got up and snacked. I didn’t eat so much that I derailed the entire week, but it was enough to affect the Saturday morning weigh in. Had there been a lot of fiber in the late-night snacking the weight number might have been different. Sorry if that brings up unpleasant images.

The week of intense exercise paid off in how I feel. The Galloway method I mentioned earlier is one in which you run long distances by running for a few minutes, then walking for one and repeating that cycle over and over until you’re done. I’m slow enough now, not surprisingly, that I should be running one minute, then walking one. Last week I did that at the Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale and did two miles in 32:42. Today, following a week of intense exercise, I did it in 30:25. I suspect this is the last time I’ll pick up a minute a mile in one week, but it bore testament to the effectiveness of the working out.

This week I am back to work so the mandatory workout will be down to an hour a day until Friday, when I rest before Saturday’s run. If I do anything extra it will be on the treadmill.

I hope next week’s number reflects some of the work I did this week, but if not I’m in this for the long haul. Thanks again for your support, folks. It means the world to me and as I’ve said before, it has certainly kept me motivated.

Bottom Line:
Beginning weight: 404
This week’s weight: 378.8
Last week’s weight: 381.2
One week change: -2.4
Total weight lost: -25.2
Weight loss goal: 205
Percentage body weight goal: 50.5 percent
Percentage body weight lost: 6.2 percent
Percentage of goal lost: 12.3 percent
Plans for this week: Continue running and basic workout program. Fruits and veggies.