Tuesday, December 20, 2016

4 Things to Do with a Broken Out-Of-Warranty Xbox 360

I love the Xbox 360. I really do. Unfortunately, it’s got its share of problems–the dreaded Red Ring of Death, for instance–and although Microsoft’s bitten the bullet and extended warranties for many of the game system’s issues, there are a number of consoles out there that break after their warranty ends, and hundreds of gamers that have no idea what to do when this happens.

Here’s a look at four steps you can take to get the most value out of a broken, out-of-warranty Xbox 360.

1. First, check to make sure that it’s really, really out of warranty. Microsoft’s support is pretty good, and if you make a good case as to why your Xbox 360 should be covered, you might get it repaired for free (or at least for cheap). Call them up, and be as polite and cordial as you can. Be firm, though.

If you’ve gotten a repair from their warranty service before, be sure to mention that. They’ll be much more likely to make an exception for you if your console’s been plagued with all sorts of problems. In any case, a call should only take a few minutes of your time, so be sure to take this step before looking at any other options.

2. Consider fixing it yourself. Depending on the issue, you might be able to fix your Xbox 360 yourself, at least temporarily. There are plenty of fixes on the Internet for the Red Ring Of Death error and the “Open Tray” error (the latter of which I’ve explained a bit here), and many of them don’t require a ton of technical know-how. If you’re handy with a soldering iron, you might even be able to permanently fix your Xbox 360. Remember, though, you’ll be voiding your warra–oh, yeah, that’s right. What are you waiting for?

3. Look into online repair shops. There are a number of online shops that charge much less than Microsoft for typical Xbox 360 problems. Look into them, and consider getting a professional fix if you’re uncomfortable working on your own console and you’ve got a bit of money. Read customer reviews before making your decision, and you’ll be gaming in no time.

4. Sell it. There are quite a few reasons that I love eBay, but right at the top is the fact that no matter how busted up your old electronics might be, someone will buy them on eBay. In fact, you’ll probably get a decent amount of money that you can put towards your next Xbox 360 (or a Playstation 3 if you’re particularly mad at Microsoft). The important thing is to be honest in your description of the device, and post a real picture.

Really. That’s it. If you explain in clear language the exact problem that your Xbox is having, one of the aforementioned online repair shops or a do-it-yourselfer will buy your Xbox 360, and you won’t have to just throw the thing away. Shipping can be annoying, so be sure to take shipping costs into consideration before setting your auction price. It’s good to budget about $20 for shipping supplies, maybe more depending on where you live.

Having a problem with your Xbox 360? Post the details in the comments section below.

Labels: 4 Things to Do with a Broken Out-Of-Warranty Xbox 360

Arizona AG Follows Through with Auto Repair Sting

It took a year but Tom Horne, Arizona’s Attorney General, has followed up on a promise he made prior to taking office. As a result one auto repairer is smarting from a consent decree signed in the aftermath of a July 13, 2011 sting operation.

According to KTAR.com Econo-Lube N’Tune, Inc. agreed to pay the state over $40,000 in civil penalties and attorney fees and institute a training program focusing on the prevention of deceptive practices. Agreeing to the consent decree is not an admission of guilt.

I covered Horne’s roll out of his plan to implement these types of investigations back in November of last year when he was the AG Elect. In an article at The Car Connection I pointed out that Horne believes that consumers are especially vulnerable to fraud in repairs of all types, since no one is an expert in the broad spectrum of consumer goods for which they might seek a fix.

At the time, he told the Verde News, “If you’re not a mechanic yourself, you really don’t know what’s wrong with your car.” He also indicated that he would not limit the sting operations to car repair shops.

In this operation, an undercover agent took a vehicle which needed an air conditioner repair, described as minor, to the Phoenix repair facility (North Seventh Street near Glendale Ave.). The result was a $650 repair estimate. The Attorney General told KTAR that this specific location was singled out due to consumer complaints.

It is interesting that Horne should take this approach at a time when some states are throwing consumers under the bus. In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s plan to deregulate a number of industries, including auto repair, was met with mixed reviews and didn’t pass legislative muster. Safety inspections in New Jersey fell victim to Governor Chris Christie’s cost cutting ax and the states of New Hampshire and Mississippi have respectively considered extending safety inspection periods or eliminating them altogether.

Within the auto repair community Horne’s consumer advocacy is probably being met with an attitude that is one part “what goes around comes around” and one part fear. The good players in the industry rarely have problems with transparency and want those that take advantage of the consumer to be exposed. On the other hand, the stakes are high anytime regulators get involved and employ “bugged” vehicles to expose cheats, because the negative media attention can take a lot of resources and time to rectify.

It is encouraging that this sting was triggered by consumer complaints thereby adding some focus to the operation and also putting other facilities on notice that Horne’s office will have an activist slant. It is the execution of the plan that he told the Verde News about a year ago, when he said , “If people know that the person walking into the shop might be from the Attorney General’s Office, they’re going to treat everybody better.”

AG’s office targets auto repair shop in ‘sting’, KTAR.com

Howard Fischer, New Arizona AG: mechanic sting operations will keep auto shops honest, Verde News

John DeCostanza, Arizona AG Plans Car Repair Stings, The Car Connection

Labels: Arizona AG Follows Through with Auto Repair Sting

Are You Entitled to British Benefits when You Move Abroad?

British citizens who travel or live abroad often lose their entitlement to British benefits. Whether or not you lose your benefits will depend on the purpose and length of your absence.

Entitlement to Benefits Abroad

Before moving abroad, you should let your local Jobcentre or Jobcentre Plus office know if your move. If the move is just a temporary one, be sure to provide the date of your return.

British citizens moving to another European Economic Area (EEA) or a country with a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK could even be entitled to extra UK-based benefits. If you do not qualify for these extra benefits, you may be entitled to apply for benefits from the country you are moving to.

National Insurance (NI) Contributions

In order to be entitled to most benefits from other countries under the reciprocal social security benefits agreement with the UK, you must show that you have paid National Insurance in the UK. Form E301 is a record of all National Insurance contributions you have made in the UK, which can help you when applying for unemployment benefits in another EU country.

Do Women Receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?

Women who work for a UK employer within the EEA are usually entitled to receive Statutory Maternity Pay under the general rules, if they qualify. But if you are working outside the EEA for a UK employer, you may still receive Statutory Maternity Pay, provided your employer is paying National Insurance contributions for you.

Is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Covered?

Employees who work for a UK-based employer in the EEA usually qualify for Statutory Sick Pay as long as they qualify for this benefit under the general rules. Those who work outside the EEA qualify if their employer is making National Insurance contributions.

Do Disability Benefits Continue?

A 2007 ruling of the European Court of Justice stated that certain UK disability benefits could still be paid to those living abroad in another EEA country, or in Switzerland. If you have been receiving Disability Living Allowance (care component only is covered), Attendance Allowance or Carer’s Allowance, you will continue to receive these benefits, provided you still qualify for these disability benefits.

If you are planning to move abroad to another EEA country, or a country with a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK, some of your British benefits will continue. These include continued entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Sick Pay, some disability benefits and others. For a more comprehensive guide to benefits that are affected, refer to the Directgov Benefits page for more details.


Directgov, Benefits.

Labels: Are You Entitled to British Benefits when You Move Abroad?

5 Websites that Jeep Owners Should Know About

If you are a jeep owner like myself then you know the thrill of possessing one of Americas last true iconic vehicles. As a jeep owner I continually find myself mulling through websites looking for other enthusiasts. Whether you own a Wrangler, a Cherokee, or god forbid a compass, there are some really good websites out there that can give you more knowledge about your jeep. Every person who drives a jeep should check out these websites for jeep owners.

Jeepforum.com the Jeep forum website is hands down the ultimate in the jeeping community. If you are looking to make modifications to your jeep, find expertise, or just find some friends to go wheeling with, then this website is for you. I have found help for the smallest of problems I encounter when working on my jeep. Jeepforum.com offers the jeep owner a sense of community. Rather you own a TJ, a CJ, a Cherokee, or the like, there is an individual forum that will put you in touch with other jeep owners.

Rusty’s Offroad. Rusty’s Offroad is the ultimate source for parts when you decide to begin wrenching on your own jeep. Jeep owners will find the customer service to be second to none. This website for jeep owners has proven to be a valuable tool. I purchased a lift kit from them and attempted to install it myself. Had it not been for their outstanding customer service I would have been completely lost.

JeepHorizons.com. Every jeep owner who finds themselves labeled an enthusiast has attempted to wrench on their own vehicle at some point in time. One of the fun things about owning a jeep is how simple they are to work on. If you are looking at doing some work on your jeep, then you are a real jeep owner and you may find you need some help. Jeephorizons.com offers a world of technical write ups for just about everything on your jeep. Whether you are installing a lift kit, or changing your brakes jeephorizons.com can help.

Offroadlands.com. One of the reasons you probably own a jeep is because you love to go wheeling. Being able to take your jeep to places other vehicles can’t go is always a thrill. Finding places to take your jeep can be a head ache. Offroadlands.com is a website every jeep owner needs to bookmark. Offroadlands.com will help you find local areas that you can ride, as well as help you find some remote areas to go off road on your next vacation.

Allthingsjeep.com. If you are a jeep owner, or if you know a jeep owner then you know the importance of having the perfect jeep accessory. Allthingsjeep.com has everything you can imagine for the jeep owner. Whether you are looking for just the right t-shirt, or a new bumper sticker for your jeep allthingsjeep.com will help you be better equipped for your next jeep owners meeting.

These websites for jeep owners are great tools for any jeep owner. As a jeep owner you are sure to get a slew of information about your jeep from these helpful websites.

Labels: 5 Websites that Jeep Owners Should Know About

A Mother's Difficult Choice: Stay-at-Home or Child Care?

I am the mother of a beautiful seven-year-old girl, who I am head-over-heels with. Her name is Brianna-Rose, she was born nearly three months early, and has been diagnosed with ADHD.

I was in Iraq in 2004 and was rushed back for emergency surgery after I was severely injured. I had emergency surgery at Camp Lejeune, NC. When I was in the recovery ward, a handsome corpsman (Navy paramedic) started flirting with me. We would have long talks when he made his rounds and it was my turn. His last round of the night, he found me under my hospital bed looking for my phone. He told me to give him my number so he could call it. He called me a week after I got out of the hospital. We got married six weeks later.

Approximately three months after we got married, we got pregnant. I was 21 years old and was approaching the end of my active service in the Marine Corps, joining when I was barely 17 (with parental signature). Before I knew I was pregnant, I was playing around with the idea that I may re-enlist and go back to Iraq. I told my command this and was vaccinated again with anthrax; I was in fact about 11 days pregnant when that happened. In turn, I had a very high-risk pregnancy and did not re-enlist. It was a very hard pregnancy, and it made it worse when my husband went back to Iraq for the third time.

He came back about a month before the baby was born. Finally Brianna-Rose made her appearance, and three days later we were told we had to move our stuff and move to Washington DC by the end of the week. We moved, and I stayed home with the baby until she was three months old. I was putting out resumes and heard from a prestigious Veteran Service Organization that was on the prime real-estate of K Street, which is about 200 yards from the White House.

The job I had required me to travel for a full week every other week. My husband was still in the Navy and was going out on field-opps regularly, and hiring a nanny was a necessity. I was making enough money to be considered high middle-class. I absolutely hated leaving my baby with another woman, who be considered a mother-like figure, and I was getting very jealous. I longed for the days that I stayed at home when I made her every meal, took her to the pool almost every day, did playgroups, and stuff of that nature.

I worked at the VSO for almost a year. The last straw happened when I was about to leave for another trip. The Philipino nanny came over and spoke in Tagullic to Brianna-Rose for her to go get her shoes, socks, and coat on, and Brianna-Rose replied back in her language. I had no problem with Brianna-Rose knowing another language, but she spoke better in Tagullic than she did in English, and her English had a severe accent. I could not handle it any more and put my two weeks notice in.

From then to when she went to Kindergarten I stayed at home, which I absolutely do not regret. Loosing the good paying job, did hurt a bit, but I was paying the nanny $1,200 a month. I started writing for some extra cash, and that is why I am writing this article right now.

If you decide to hire a nanny, it would behoove a person to hire someone who you are close to and who you have good communication with. I originally turned down a friend who offered to watch Brianna-Rose when I was gone for free, but I said no because I did not want to impose. I now wish I would have taken her up on the offer and of course paid her. I know that I would have gotten more phone calls, more pictures, and Brianna-Rose would have been happier at her house with all of her kids. Deciding on childcare is a major decision that needs to decided carefully, which I wish I would have done more of.

Labels: A Mother's Difficult Choice: Stay-at-Home or Child Care?

Analysis of "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost

A favorite poem of mine is Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice.” In just a few lines Frost is able to portray a huge meaning to his readers. Through literary devices, Frost reveals what will ultimately bring the world to an end. He provides us with two paths that will end the world which are fire and ice.

The most noticeable literary device used in Frost’s “Fire and Ice” is metaphor. The words “fire” and “ice” are compared to ways that Frost believes the world will end. Fire is compared to desire when Frost states in lines three and four:

“From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.”

Here Frost is referring to his own life and feelings of desire. By comparing fire to desire we get the sense that desire is a sin. Ice is compared to hatred in lines six through eight:

“I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great.”

Here, Frost also refers to his own experiences with hate. By comparing fire to desire and ice to hate he emphasizes their destruction. This catches the readers’ attention and helps to convey Frost’s meaning in the poem. Frost is also comparing acts of nature to acts of humans. The natural forces of fire and ice are conveyed as equally destructive as the most common acts of humans which are desire, or love, and hate. Here Frost is pointing out to his readers that we are just as destructive to our world as natural disasters.

Another literary device Frost uses is symbolism. Fire and ice are also symbols of desire and hate. Fire is a symbol for desire because fire is capable of consuming and destroying everything in its path. The same can be said for desire. Passion is able to consume people and make them become irrational. Sometimes passion is so strong it can lead people to murder. Fire is also capable of killing those in its path, which is why it helps to point out Frost’s thoughts that fire could be a destructive force that would destroy the world. However, Frost is really saying that desire and passion could be the end of the world. He does not literally mean that a fire will burn the world. Fire is just used as a symbol for desire which helps the reader see a deeper meaning in the poem. Ice is a symbol for hatred. People full of hate tend to be more rigid and cold, and it consumes them to where their lives become frozen and immobile. Here Frost is not saying that the world will literally freeze over, but that people will become so consumed with hate that they will let it “freeze” and consume their lives. This helps the reader see the deeper meaning of the true forces at work destroying our world. Frost wants the reader to see that it’s not forces of nature that will destroy us, but humans themselves will be their own destruction.

Frost’s diction in the poem helps point out meaning to his readers. Frost using the antonym words, fire and ice, makes another point to the reader. These words are complete opposites and they both represent complete opposites: love and hate. Frost says that fire will be the end of the world. He puts the chances of the world perishing in fire above the chances of it freezing over. Since fire symbolizes desire and ice symbolizes hate, Frost is putting love before hate. He conveys that love can be more destructive than hate. Fire spreads rapidly and consumes things quickly whereas ice consumes things slower. Perhaps Frost is saying that if love is used the wrong way it can result in destruction. People always see hate as destructive, but love is always viewed positively. Frost gives love a negative view which most people are not used to unless they are reading about heartbreak. He reveals its power by comparing it to fire. Another thing that stands out is that fire can destroy ice. Perhaps Frost is saying that love is so powerful it can overcome hate. That might be why he chooses to side with those who believe fire will be the end of the world. In Frost’s eyes love is so powerful it can even eliminate the other force that might end the world.

Frost also uses satire in this poem. His tone is satirical for the subject he is writing about. The end of the world is a serious subject to most people, but Frost almost turns it into a joke with his satirical tone. For example, in lines five through nine Frost completely turns from favoring fire to saying that ice would also be able to pull off destroying the world. However, he says this would happen if the world were to perish twice. It almost sounds like a joke, the first time the world perishes it will be by fire, but if it perishes again it will definitely be by ice. The world cannot end twice because once it is gone it is gone. By doing this Frost puts a lighter tone to his poem and helps the reader to think about what he is saying. If he was more serious he would not have caught the attention of the reader. By being short and witty he is able to get the readers attention on the most important aspects of the poem. Frost makes the world ending by ice, or hate, seem more as a joke which leaves the reader’s attention on fire and love and their destructive characteristics.

Through the literary devices of metaphor, symbolism, diction, and satire Robert Frost is able to help convey a deeper meaning in his poem, “Fire and Ice”, to the reader. Upon noticing these devices, the reader is able to look deeper into the poem and learn something that goes beyond just the words of the poem. In just a few lines of poetry Frost is able to warn his readers of the destructive powers of desire and hate. The themes presented in this poem can be interpreted many ways depending on who is reading the poem, but with the use of Frost’s literary devices he is able to steer his readers in a certain direction. In the end, Frost leaves his readers with a lesson to ponder about.

Labels: Analysis of "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost

An Interview Horror Story

An interview can be one of the most important opportunities in your life. Whether you are applying for your dream job or just desperate for a job, an interview is a pivotal moment that can change your life forever. However, not all interviews go as we’d hope.

Last year, in an effort to earn more money, I began responding to various advertisements for job opportunities. Because I already had a decent job, I only applied for positions that were promising an increase in wages. Surprisingly to me, in my first week of casually applying, I received a response regarding a position I thought sounded very interesting, and at a $2 pay increase per hour. I happily accepted the opportunity for an interview. I wasn’t prepared for what I’d encounter when I walked through the door.

The person who greeted me was scantily clad. I averted my eyes and waited for the owner to arrive for our interview. When another lady in a dress so short that I could see her buttcheeks when she walked, came strolling through the front door 30 minutes later, I would not have guessed that she, in her six inch stilettos, would, in fact, be the owner.

The strangest thing happened in this interview: the owner did not ask me a single question. She spoke for over an hour, making very little sense, and shook her fists angrily in the air while talking about some trucker guy who “pi$$ed her off so bad!” I am not exaggerating when I say that I did not speak one time. After her rant she said “You know, I like you, but you don’t seem like you’re very interested in the position.” Not wanting to insult her, I disagreed and told her that I was. “Great, when can you start?” She asked. I walked away feeling the most confused I’d ever felt in my life.

When I got home that evening I researched the company and found an enormity of horrible reviews from clients and past employees, and I learned my lesson. I will always research the company prior to showing up for an interview. There are two benefits of this; if you find a company you’ll love working for, you can impress the interviewee with your knowledge of the company; if you find a company you’d rather not work for, you can save yourself the stress and decline. I respectfully declined the position that night, but will never forget that bizarre interview and the lesson I learned because of it!

Labels: An Interview Horror Story

3 Ways to Use Vintage Tennis Racquets in Decor

Vintage tennis racquets are a perfect decor tool in a wide variety of living rooms and sports theme home media rooms. They are readily available at flea markets and antique stores, usually for a fairly low price. The older the racquet the better it works in decor. (For example, a racquet from the 1980s would not be as decorative as one from the 1940s.)

Ways to Use Vintage Tennis Racquets in Decor #1: Wall Decorations

The most obvious and simple way to use a vintage tennis racquet in decor is as a wall decoration. For a basic use of a vintage tennis racquet, just hang one or two directly on a wall at a slight angle. However, if you are looking for a more unique look consider painting the racquets either a solid color or a variety of colors. (Metallic paints seem to look the best for this type of project.) The trick to using painted vintage tennis racquets as wall art is in pairings, so be sure to use more than one if you choose this option.

Ways to Use Vintage Tennis Racquets in Decor #2: Lamps

A simple square wood lamp is easily dressed up by adhering a vintage tennis racquet. Rotate the racquet at a slight angle, and glue to the side of the lamp. (This should be done in a fashion that would not disturb the lampshade.) Feel free to paint the lamp base prior to adhering the racquet, or even painting the racquet to match. For a tennis theme or sports theme room, this whimsical lamp adds a ton of character.

Ways to Use Vintage Tennis Racquets in Decor #3: Headboard

For a cost effective and unique headboard idea, consider using three or more vintage tennis racquets. Align the racquets in a fan-like pattern over the head of a bed and secure to the wall. Again, this is the perfect solution for a sports theme, vintage sports theme, or tennis theme bedroom. This idea seems to work well with antique tennis racquets the best (prior to 1950s) but can be arranged with newer racquets as well.

If you are having trouble finding vintage tennis racquets in your area, try looking online. Web sites like eBay and other “junk to treasure” spots carry quite a few, which can definitely spruce up your sports theme room for only a few dollars. Does that racquet have a few popped strings? That is okay! Slight damage can easily be repaired or add to the charm of the design by being left as-is.

Labels: 3 Ways to Use Vintage Tennis Racquets in Decor

9 Ways to Help Foster Kids (Without Becoming a Foster Parent)

Foster kids have all been through traumatic situations. No matter why they are in foster care, being uprooted from everything you know would be traumatic to any child. Foster kids need stable, caring adults to help them grow into stable, caring adults themselves. There are many ways to help foster kids that don’t include actually becoming a foster parent.

Working With Foster Kids

You might not have the time or resources to bring foster kids into your home, but you can still work with them. Mentoring allows you to be a stable presence in the life of foster kids. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (http://www.bbbs.org/) matches children with mentors. Some agencies will let you specifically request to be matched with a foster kid. Simply paying games or getting ice cream would be a special treat to foster kids. They need to know they are special and worth someone’s time.

You can find a different mentoring program in your area by visiting MENTOR (http://www.mentoring.org/). Search by zip code to find mentoring programs in your area. You can click on the link to each program to find one that helps foster kids.

Orphan Foundation of America (http://orphan.org) allows you to mentor a foster kid, even from a distance. Their Academic Coach program matches volunteers with in-coming Freshmen or with foster kids who are at risk of dropping out of school. Academic Coaches don’t have to be experts; they only need to have a real desire to make a difference in the life of foster kids. Coaches receive training to help them help their foster kids receive a quality education. You can also send a care package to a former foster kid who is in college.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA, http://www.casaforchildren.org) are regular people who receive special training to be advocates for foster kids. Because foster kids are often moved from home to home, they need a stable adult in their lives who will be their voice. CASA volunteers handle only one or two cases until they are closed. This means they can often devote much more attention to their foster kids than overworked social services employees can. There are no specific education requirements to be a CASA volunteer. You only need to pass a background check and participate in CASA training.

If you can’t commit to being a full-time foster parent, you might consider becoming a respite care foster parent. Respite families take in foster kids temporarily. This could be a few hours of babysitting, a weekend, or a week. Respite care gives foster parents a short break from caring for their foster kids. Foster parents often need to “recharge their batteries” and you can help by providing their foster kids a safe and loving environment.

Donations for Foster Kids

Foster kids don’t have parents who will pay their way their college. Therefore, they must often rely on scholarships and grants. You can help foster kids succeed by donating through the National Foster Parents Association (http://www.nfpainc.org/) or the Orphan Foundation of America (http://orphan.org). By donating $2,500 or more, Orphan Foundation of America will allow you to, “name a scholarship after your family, company or a loved one”.

Give foster kids back their dignity. Foster kids often move from home to home, carrying their few possessions in garbage bags. Suitcases For Kids (http://www.suitcasesforkids.org/) helps people gather donated suitcases for foster kids so they can at least place their things in a decent suitcase instead of having to haul a garbage bag behind them to their new foster home. Suitcases For Kids was founded by 10-year-old Aubyn Burnside, who saw this tangible and emotional need.

My Stuff Bags Foundation (http://mystuffbags.org) provides a full 12×20″ duffle bags foster kids who have been removed from their home. Often, children are removed so quickly that they or their social workers have little time to gather their belongings. My Stuff Bags give foster kids something to cuddle and shows them that there are people out there who care about them. You can donate money or new items so foster kids will have something to call their own.

Foster kids did nothing to cause them to be removed from their home. They shouldn’t be punished and deprived of all the things other children have. Do your part to help foster kids in whatever way you can, whether it’s donating $25 or mentoring foster kids. There are an estimated 463,000 foster kids in the United States. They need our love and support.


US Department of Health & Human Services, http://www.childwelfare.gov/

Labels: 9 Ways to Help Foster Kids (Without Becoming a Foster Parent)

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