Red Ring of Death Revisit

So our XBox 360 decided that last night was its last night.  After locking up a few times, it went kaput.  Yes, the infamous Red Ring of Death has visited us.  Again.  Argh!!

The tally so far is three years, two failed XBoxes.  The good news is that this XBox lasted just over two years (and died just outside of our Best Buy warranty period, boo!) where our last one lasted about a year.  Assuming this trend continues, we can expect four years from the refurb Microsoft sends us.  Hopefully.

This is a huge PITA for us because it means our XBox will now have to be sent into the void that is Microsoft.  The current estimate for repair time on their site is fourteen to twenty-one days.  Are you kidding me?  While this is better than the six weeks it was going to take back in 2007, it’s still crazy.

I’ve read the failure rate is something like fifty percent.  FIFTY PERCENT!  They should have this down to an art at this point.  If you include shipping time, it means we’ll be without an XBox for a month, right when we want to play Halo ODST.

It’s just so damn frustrating.  We love the XBox–the games, online play, and extras are fantastic.  However, we HATE the hardware.  Last time it was a freaking nightmare to get it setup so I could still play the games and expansions we had bought with Dustin’s account.  This time that won’t be the issue, but I’m sure something else will come up.  It’s bad enough that we’re about ready to jump ship and buy a PS3.

A picture for posterity:


Thirty Days of Genius – Day Seventeen

I watched the children run and play on the playground, thankful for the break.  It was hard to find time to play during war and most days were spent inside listening for the air raid sirens.  This morning’s advisement had said it was safe to venture out, so the children were allowed to have recess outside.

It was the first time many of them had been in the sun for nearly a month, as most took the subway tunnels to get to class.  The subway trains were long since lost, but the tunnels had turned into pedestrian thoroughfares.  The tunnel had been extended to reach the school basement once it became clear the war would not be ending anytime soon.

The school was severely understaffed, as most people, teachers included, fled the cities.  I was the only first grade teacher that remained.  It would normally be difficult for one teacher to teach an entire grade by herself, but there were only fifteen kids in my class.  Some were the children of military officials and the diplomats who were required to stay in the city; others were the children of poor families that couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.

I stayed because I could.  I didn’t have extended family that needed me and my parents were lost in the first years of the air raids.  I could’ve moved to the country, but I was needed here and so I stayed.  The few teachers that were left were allowed to stay at the school, safely hidden away in the basement.  I had abandoned my apartment after the raids became so frequent that I would have to get up almost every night to seek shelter.

As if called by my thoughts, the shrill shriek of the air raid sirens pierced the air.  We all froze momentarily in disbelief; today was supposed to be safe.

“Come on children, everyone inside!”  I shouted as I moved to make sure no one was left behind.  The distant boom of bombs hitting hastened my steps.  I looked to the other teacher who was counting the children as they entered.  All were accounted for.

I ran for the door as the bombs neared.  I flew inside and barred the door behind me as feeble protection.  The children knew the drill well and moved obediently towards the basement.  The teachers brought up the rear and checked the upstairs rooms as we passed.  All were locked as they should be since class was no longer held where the children would be at risk.

The rumble of bombs shook the building as we finally herded the children into the shelter below.  The children were allowed to play to keep their minds off of what was happening above.  If the raid didn’t end soon, classes would resume as much as we were able, though leaving the shelter for the classrooms would not be possible.

So far the school had been lucky and had not been directly hit.  All of the teachers prayed our luck would hold as the bombs neared.  We found the emergency flashlights and rations that we always stored here.  We also had an emergency beacon and radio that could be used if we were hit.

We had power from the main lines running through the subway tunnels and a backup generator hidden deep in the basement, but if both failed, the flashlights would be our only light until we were found.  Each child also carried two glow sticks at all times.

The first stick was a traditional glow stick that needed to be snapped to start the reaction.  These would glow brightly and would provide enough light to see by.  These were checked daily but some children just couldn’t resist the urge to snap them as soon as possible.  That is why the second stick was used.  It always emitted a dim glow and didn’t need to be snapped for the reaction to occur.  This allowed us to find the children even if their first glow stick failed or had already been used.

The building shook enough to make me stumble and I looked up at the dust drifting down on us.  I met the other teachers’ eyes.  Too close.

“Class, why don’t you play over here?” I asked, keeping my voice calm.  I was trying to get them to move closer to the wall and the other teachers were doing the same.

Writing prompts:  play, teach, war

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Sixteen

He was exhausted.  The latest crime spree had been going strong since well before Thanksgiving and it was nearly Christmas.  ‘No rest for the weary,’ he thought.  Tonight was his first night off in over a week and he planned to spend it by going home and crashing.

He opened the door to his apartment and blinked.  His living room was much cleaner than he remembered leaving it but that was not what had caught his attention.  No, instead it was the pair of impossibly long legs leading to the impossibly tiny shorts that had halted his thought process.  He blinked a few more times and the woman, for it must be a woman, straightened up, surprised.

“Oh!  I didn’t expect you to be home yet!  I was just trying to help you out since I know you’ve not gotten any peace for a while.  I was planning to be gone by the time you got back.  I cleaned up a bit and was going to hang some decorations and leave you dinner.  You’re doing so much for the city, I thought I could maybe help you out some,” she stuttered, embarrassed.

He finally broke out of his stupor long enough to recognize his neighbor from across the hall.  He had given her a key so she could feed his cat.  Apparently she was taking advantage of that fact, but she was trying to be nice, so he let it go.  He was just too tired to argue.

She pulled her shorts down self-consciously.  She really had meant to be gone by the time he returned.  She came up with the idea while she was cleaning her apartment.  What she was wearing, while appropriate for cleaning in her own house, was not something she would ever wear out in public.  The quick dash across the hall didn’t count as going out, but now that she had company, she was completely mortified.  ‘He probably thinks I’m trying to proposition him,’ she thought to herself.

“Well, now that you’re home, I’m going to head out.  You dinner is on the stove but it’ll need to be warmed up before you eat it.”   She edged toward the door, a difficult task since he had yet to leave the foyer.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner?” he asked reflexively.
“Ah…thanks for the invite, but I’ve already eaten.  You enjoy.  I’ll talk to you later!” she said as she escaped into the safety of the hall.  ‘Hopefully much, much later after you’ve forgotten these horrible shorts.’

He stared at the door, bemused.  He tried to match his mental image of his shy, quiet neighbor and his very vivid image of her legs in those shorts and found his brain was just too tired to process it.

Writing prompts:  crime, peace, decoration

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Fifteen

I tied the belt of my robe around my waist and contemplated the evening.  I had never once regretted moving to take over my grandfather’s ranch in rural Montana–until tonight.  I was channel surfing earlier and while I went right past the lovely volcano documentary and the nice family comedy, I stopped on the horror movie.

Not just any horror movie would suffice.  No, of course not.  I had to pick the one where the hapless female character, all alone in the middle of nowhere, was stalked and murdered by the crazy psycho.  Now every light in the house–yes, even the one in the closet–was blazing brightly, the doors and windows had been checked at least twice and I was carrying around a baseball bat.

My adrenaline was cranked so high that I wouldn’t be sleeping for a week.  I had picked up the phone no less than a dozen times, but I knew if I called my nearest neighbor I would never live it down.  He would certainly come over even though it was past midnight because he was a gentleman and I was a lady in distress.  His gallant demeanor would only last until he was certain there was no threat.  Then the ribbing would begin.  I shuddered to imagine it which is why the phone remained off.

I jumped, screamed, ducked, and generally flailed about as said device emitted a shrill shriek.  My TV narrowly avoided a disastrous collision with my bat.  I dove for the phone, wondering who was calling at such a late hour.


“Grace, is everything okay over there?  Your place is lit up like Christmas,” my neighbor’s voice came through the line.

Speak of the devil.  Though his house was a couple miles by road, it was really only a mile or so as the crow flies, across a shallow valley.  With both houses being on high ground with nothing between them, he would be able to see the lights easily if he looked out his living room windows.  I tried to see his house but instead saw my pale face reflected back at me in the light bouncing off the window.

“Grace?” he questioned again.

“Sorry, Rob, I’m a little out of it.  Yeah, everything is fine.  I’m just…err…cleaning?”  It came out more as a question than a statement and I winced.

“You’re cleaning…after midnight…with all the lights on?”  He sounded skeptical at best.

I picked up a stray soda can from the coffee table and walked into the kitchen to throw it away.  There, now I wasn’t even lying.

“Yep, cleaning.  Couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d be productive.  What about you, why are you up so late?  Spying on me?” I asked with a smirk.

Writing prompts:  rural, volcano, belt

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Fourteen

The asphalt baked in the late July heat, sending heat waves skyward.  The drought was the worst in years and even the once green fields had withered and died.  I remember racing through the corn fields as a child, coming out covered in scratches and filled with joy.

However, like all things, my childhood was short-lived.  I grew up and longed for the excitement of a city life.  I became a lawyer, top of my class, and moved away from my small town home.  My visits home became less and less frequent as my life became busier and busier.  It had been three years since my last visit.  I was only here now because of my grandmother’s unexpected death.

It caught me by surprise when my mother called to deliver the news.  My grandma, the joy of my childhood, was dead and I did not have a chance to say goodbye.  I cried that day, a river of tears I feared would not end.  I cried for my grandpa and my mom.  I cried for my brothers.  And finally, I cried for myself–all the lost opportunities and poor decisions.

So here I was, standing in the heat, watching the asphalt bake just because I couldn’t force myself into the funeral home.  My brother came up to stand beside me, shoulder to shoulder.  He looked uncomfortable, whether from the emotions or the heat I wasn’t sure.

“It’s time,” he said quietly.

I nodded.  I still wasn’t sure I could turn around and walk inside. He made the decision for me when he wrapped a comforting arm around my shoulders and urged me around.

“She knew, you know?  She was so proud of you.  She missed you, hell, we all do, but she was just so proud that you managed to follow your dream.  She would talk and talk about her grandson, the big city lawyer with the college degree.  She knew how hard the decision was for you and she never begrudged you for it.  She knew you loved her,” he said.

Tears dripped down my face.  “I know she did, I just wish I was here,” I choked out.

Writing prompts:  child, death, asphalt