Monday, January 28, 2008

Aetna, You Are Dumb

This isn't a Falling Down moment or anything like that, but it's as irritating as jalapeno juice in the eye. The Boy needs to be seen by a dentist. He doesn't have visible cavities, but I'm beyond sensitive about dental care. My parents didn't have it, so we went to the dentist when our teeth hurt. Having a tooth pulled every time you go to the dentist does not instill a healthy respect for the profession. Anyway, the books all tell me that this is around the age that a kid should head to ye olde dentist for his inaugural check-up.

My preference is for the Boy to be seen by a pediatric dentist. Call me crazy, but I think the Boy is more likely to enjoy the experience if the dentist has treated many, many kids. Yeah, so I went through Aetna's directory of pediatric dentists in my area, and called the one closest to me. As someone who served as an Human Resources liaison for an office, I'm well aware that you need to call a health care provider to double check that they (a) accept the insurance, and (b) are accepting new patients. Dr. Closest-to-Me's receptionist answered. Here's our exchange:

"Hi! I'm calling to make an appointment for my son. Does your office take Aetna DMO?"

"No, I'm sorry, we don't."

"Oh. Really? Dr. Closest-to-Me is listed in Aetna's directory."

"We used to take that insurance, but we don't anymore."

"Okay, thanks."

Now, I'm all about the free and fair exchange of information. So I e-mailed Aetna through their Contact Us form to let them know that this purveyor of pediatric dentistry doesn't take their insurance, and perhaps they should pull him from the directory. I wasn't snippy or anything -- these databases are a pain to maintain, so I figured I'd help where I could.

I got an e-mail back from them stating that since Dr. Closest-to-Me is technically a specialist (pediatric dentistry is special, apparently), so he can't be listed as a Primary Care Dentist (PCD). I was aware that I'd need to get a referral to be seen by that dentist, but my point was that the office no longer takes Aetna DMO, not that they wouldn't allow me to claim them as the Boy's PCD. So, I responded and thanked them for the info, but that the dentist's office pointedly told me that they do not take Aetna DMO at all, and that it has naught to do with the PCD vs. specialist shenanigans. Their response? Dr. Closest-to-Me can't be chosen as a PCD thing.

I'm leaving it at that. I like my head, and if I try to explain the situation again, I will be smacking it against a brick wall.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Forays into Adulthood

I'm working from home today and I got a little peckish. Delighted to have a stove at my disposal, I opted to cook up a hot lunch. During my prep, I had a moment of clarity: I've officially gone to the grown-up side of nutrition. My lunch?:

  • Grilled cheese (Doesn't sound healthy, right? But I used whole wheat low-fat bread, fat-free not-really-cheese, and Smart Balance spread. Boo-yah!)
  • Baby carrots
  • V8 Fusion juice

Despite perceptions about healthier noshes, the sandwich was actually pretty tasty. I'm a little concerned that eating Frankenfoods will ultimately cause my genes to mutate. But if that mutation results in telekinesis, I'll be OK with it.

If you are familiar with my historic eating habits, you know that I would have mainlined cheese if such a thing were possible. But a scary cholesterol count once upon a time tarnished my love for all things dairy. After some effort to cut the fatty fat fat from my daily diet*, I'm hoping my next date with a needle will net better results. You know, something better than "Dear God, we've got to chisel out the artery plaque NOW!"

* I'll admit to cheating for special occasions like family visits or Flag Day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Perhaps I Should Contribute More to My Retirement Plan

Based on my current balance, this is what I am projected to receive upon my retirement:

Social Security is not factored in here, as I do not expect Social Security to exist in 2040. But if it does, CHA-ching! Don't worry, though. I have a plan*: Mega Millions, here I come.

*Really though, don't worry about it (especially if you're related to me and think I'm going to show up on your doorstep, hat in hand, when I'm in my dotage). I'm significantly upping my contributions as the Boy meanders toward school and away from full-time daycare. The cost of two kids in daycare full-time takes bite out of my income, yo.

Fascinating Only to Me

So, Super Ninja and I wended our way to the Kennedy Center on Saturday last to catch one of the final performances of the 50th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady. And now I have this whole huge post saved in my drafts about the sociological aspects of the play and its source material, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. It will remain in draft form because I realized it is exceedingly boring.

The upshot of it all was this: Eliza Doolittle, the main character, seeks to change her manner of speech so that she might be perceived as more respectable, which would in turn make it easier for her to open a flower shop. Were this play written today, doncha think that Eliza would instead use her sass and spunk to change the nation's bias toward poor elocution? Written at the dawn of the 19th century, one of the messages of the play is that the world isn't going to do us any favors, so we've got to do the best we can to achieve our personal goals.

And now, at the dawn of the 21st century, many of the messages we receive confirm that the world does in fact owe us something. And if we can't get what we want just as we are (which is perfect, of course), then we've gotta kick the system in the ass to change it to suit our needs.

Obviously, this is as it should be when it comes to the isms (sexism, racism, ageism, genderism, etc.). But it can get carried to extremes, no? Can't we still have a healthy self-esteem and acknowledge that we could probably use some improving on some front?

Who knew that a musical could be so thought provoking?

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's the Little Things

I appreciate the effort and everything, Housekeeping Crew, but I don't know that paper towel origami is all that necessary in the ladies' room:

I might focus my efforts on fixing the lock in the third stall so that we don't have women periodically trapped and bellycrawling their way to freedom.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Screw the Bright Side

WHY do people insist on pointing out the bright side to a situation that sucks IMMEDIATELY upon hearing the news? What is this pathological need to yank someone out of the blues, to even out an emotional valley? Let me wallow for, like, a minute please.

My sister is taking a job in Europe. For three years, maybe more. To put this in perspective, I am very close with my sister. She is eight years older than me, and in many ways has been a junior mother to me. She was my matron of honor, and is godmother to the Girl. She's given me buckets of guidance and advice over the years on topics ranging from family relationships to potty training. So, to say that she's a big part of my life is an understatement. We'll trade videos and e-mails and phone calls of course -- you can see I'm a fan of the written word, and verbal communication ranks almost as highly. But it's just not the same when we can't share physical space frequently. And it's especially not the same when it comes to kids. My kids and her tween boys don't really know how to talk on the phone. It's mostly grunting and awkward pauses.

I know there's a bright side, okay? I'm smart. Not like everybody dumb...I'm smart*. Here are the building blocks of the bright side:
  • I can go visit her and her family.
  • I will have a great time flouncing around Europe without having to pay for a hotel.
  • I will e-mail and call all the time, and may in fact share more than I typically would because I'm trying to make up for the fact that we aren't in the same room.
  • I can finally get a webcam.
  • This is a wonderful opportunity for her whole family, and there's nothing more valuable than stepping outside of your bubble and checking out how the other half lives.
  • Most families don't enjoy the geographical proximity that we have, so I should be grateful for the time that we've had together already. Anything more than the semi-annual visit is gravy.
But PLEASE, just let me be sad about for a little bit. I'm not veering into a depression. I'm not co-dependent with her. I'll just miss her, and I think it's okay to express that even though the emotions are kind of untidy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So, Were YOU Naked in Front of a Stranger Today?

'Cause I was. I signed up for a full body skin exam, and today was D Day. Dermatology Day. I didn't go because I'd found an oddly shaped blue mole or anything scary like that.

See, I'm so pale that my skin catches on fire if I'm in the sun for more than five minutes without 900 SPF sunblock. Thus, I've enjoyed many a sunburn. Especially when I was younger. During my childhood, the connection between prolonged exposure to the sun and skin cancer hadn't really been made. Or maybe it had been, and my parents thought it was part of a vast, left-wing agenda, and chose to ignore it as though it was a liberal scare tactic. Who knows?

All I know is that I wasn't aware of it. I was 10. All I was really aware of was Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." So, did I slather on Coppertone (or the generic knockoff equivalent) before frolicking in the pool, on the beach, or in the backyard? Heck no! The end result of all this was MCV flambé.

Cool as it was to have burned and molted two or three times a summer, I've come to recognize that all of those sunburns might have damaged my skin. And by "damaged", I mean I could have turned it into a layer of cancer.

But guess what, suckas? My skin is awesome. So porcelain perfect am I, the dermatologist said that I didn't need to come back for a screening for two years (one is the norm). See? My latter days of being a mouse potato who lurks indoors has netted some pretty sweet skin benefits*.

*Sorry if that last sentence came off as pornographic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Experiment in Gender Roles

Last night, the Boy discovered Superman. He knew about Superman. You can't grow up in the home that Super Ninja and I have made without knowing about Superman. But we are the recent recipients of some hand-me-down toys and videos, one of which is a compilation of three 1940's era* Superman cartoons. I should've known what was coming when Super Ninja was going through the videos and pulled out a stack that he wanted to watch, excitedly muttering something about "Fleischer cartoons!"

Sure enough, after the Girl was tucked away in her crib and I was doing the dishes, I heard some forties-era bombast blaring from the TV. Superman was rescuing the good people of Metropolis from some Japoteurs.* Happy to let the father/son bonding continue, I called a college friend and finished tidying up the house. Moments later, I peeked in on them again, and Super Ninja was flouncing around the living room with a blanket tied around his neck. this was especially funny to me because, in order to complete the Clark Kent/Superman transformation at the Boy's request, he had to whip off his glasses. Super Ninja is as blind as a mole without his specs, so his flouncing was replete with shin barking. But he happily took one for the team. I mean, what self-respecting geek wouldn't do the very same if his son was applauding his Superman role play?

As for the Girl...

This morning, she toddled over to me while I was putting on a tricky bracelet. She pointed to it and grunted, which usually means she wants to hold something, which is usually followed by stuffing it into her mouth. This is a sturdy bracelet, so I held it out to her and asked her if she wanted to hold it. She gave me a look that quite clearly said, "No, that's not what I want. Guess again." And she held her hand out again, but held it still. Lightbulb moment.

"Do you want to wear this?" asked I.

She smiled and applauded, so I wrapped the bracelet round her wrist. She crunched her face up so much that her eyes disappeared in her smile. Then she walked over to her father and her brother to show off her bauble. Then she circled back around to me to return it, which I thought was quite mature of her.

Yeah, so that nature vs. nurture thing? There's definitely a mix of both. We give the Girl cars and tools to play with, and we give the Boy dollies and pretend food. (Not exclusively -- we're not going all the way in the other direction.) But he wants to play superheroes, and she wants to wear pretty jewelry. Go figure.

*Japanese saboteurs. Yes, I recognize the anti-Japanese sentiment. The Boy is too young to understand that these were made at the height of World War II paranoia, but we don't want to inadvertently instill Japanophobia, so we're just calling them saboteurs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

We Have a Love/Hate Relationship, Verizon. Guess Which One I'm Feeling for You Right Now.

You and the rest of the interweb that seduce us into using your services to make our lives easier. "Do all your banking online!" you exclaim. "Park important documents online," you offer. "Manage your television picks from your PC," you tempt. Well, that's all fine and good until your DSL service craps out on me. Not just mine. Oh no. Apparently, something had infected service to many, many individuals in the 301 area code.

Friday morning, I happily settled down to the grind at my dining room table. My job is awesomely flexible about working from home, and I was taking full advantage of that flexibility on Friday. I flipped on my wireless connection and...nada. This happens from time to time, so I toddled downstairs to poke around. Flip this on, flip that off, reverse, a little Triple Lindy prestidigitation, and...still nada. Hmph.

Call Verizon tech support. Answer the questions being asked by the dulcet-toned option menu. Hear a less dulcet-toned, Stephen Hawking-ish voice tell me that there's an outage in my area code. Get transferred to a very apologetic resident of Mumbai, who explains that there is a technical problem in my area, but there is no resolution time. Hmph.

Text Little Bro, who works for a subsidiary of Verizon to see if he has any insider's scoop. He's fresh out of any good scoopage, but replies that he's heard it'll be anywhere from 2 hours to 48 hours 'til I'm back on the grid. Hmph hmph.

I do whatever work I can that does not involve e-mail, digital access to my company's servers, or internet research. That adds up to about three hours. I take advantage of the cyber snow day and run errands. When I come back, still no access. I'm in something Verizon dubs the "Walled Garden." Meaning, I can pull up their page that says I can't access the internet, but I can't go anywhere else. Hmph hmph hmph.

I'm jonesing for the 'net. At this point in the day, I've typically traded about 20 e-mails with colleagues, resolved several issues posted to my office's intranet, accessed files that need revision and resolution, and hogtied a rabid calf. Okay, that last part isn't true, but suffice it to say, I keep busy. And life without internet was leaving me feeling...phlegmatic.

The next day, I call Verizon again, just to see if there are any updates. There's nothing automated on their customer service line, and customer service is closed for the weekend, so I hang up and try Tech Support. Again, nothing automated. Oh, except they tell me that I can usually find troubleshooting info by going to Verizon's website. Which would be helpful, IF I COULD GET TO THEIR WEBSITE. I connect to tech support, and am not as soothed by the dulcet-toned option menu as I was the day before, and I speak to another apologetic resident of Mumbai, who is unable to provide me with an estimated resolution time. Hmph squared.

Sunday is a day of rest, so I let it go. The calling Verizon part, I mean. I still check the old web browser every once in awhile to confirm that I'm not able to pull up a single line of html.

Today, when I arrived at work, I checked Verizon's website. This is all the reference they make:

Posted Date: 1/11/2008 8:35:31 AM CST
Status: Resolved
Some Verizon DSL customers in the Metro Washington, DC area may be experiencing difficulties accessing the Internet at this time.
Engineers are aware of this issue and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

When was it resolved? How many people were impacted? This drives me crazy, because DSL and other internet connection services are rapidly becoming as important as telephones. Is it vital to our existence? Well, no, not like electricity. But if phone companies report how many folks are without phone service due to a weather event or some other snafu, shouldn't they also report it about internet connections?

We'll see if I've actually got service when I get home tonight.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

This Is What Those British Nannies Mean

You've gotta follow through on your punishments. I one day aspire to be this woman. Not that I aspire to have a 19-year-old who hides booze in his car. But I aspire to have enough confidence in my parenting to do this.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

So, what's a girl to do...

...when the political candidates most aligned with her viewpoint are all very, very unlikely to receive their parties nomination? I apparently match well with:

Dennis Kucinich - 83 match

Denis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, is a far-left liberal democrat. He has the most extreme proposals for nearly every issue including creating a single-payer system of universal health care; an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and replacing them with an international security force; and guaranteeing quality education with free pre-kindergarten and college. He even wants to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. Needless to say, Kucinich is a no-hope contender.

Bill Richardson - 81 match
You're looking for a moderate Democrat like Bill Richardson. Experienced in state, national, and international politics, Richardson has been a Congressman, an ambassador to the United Nations Security Council, and is now the governor of New Mexico. He is pro-choice, strongly favors rights for the LGBT population, advocates for affirmative action in government contracts, and even championed the idea that Congress should revoke the original authority it gave to go to war with Iraq. Richardson also supports the death penalty and gun ownership rights.

Mike Gravel - 75 match
Mike Gravel is your chosen candidate. He is a former senator from Alaska who is deeply left-wing and has spent his time since the Senate, which he left in 1980, in the private sector. His credited for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War and the release of the Pentagon Papers as well. He has been an outspoken proponent of direct democracy, gay rights, and even making it a felony to keep troops in Iraq. Gravel is bringing new ideas to the table but they are only attracting less than 1% of Democrats.
Take the test.

I'm frustrated that I feel like I can't have a political discussion about the candidates most likely to be nominated. I'm uninformed, I'll admit. Which is why I'm educating myself. I like to mix it up with people, but I can't stand being ignorant. So it's off I go to Wikipedia to form my opinions. Just kidding! I'll totally use more reputable sources. Like the Drudge Report.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Little Family History

Yesterday, my little nuclear family attended mass with various members of my extended family because my parents' parish offered petitions and a blessing for their forty-fifth anniversary. That's right -- my parents got hitched in January of 1963, before Kennedy was shot, before hippies, before Woodstock, before microwaves. I think they might've even hired one of those Fred Flinstone cars to take them to the church.

I find their story fascinating. I suppose all of us at one point must find our parents' union fascinating, for it ultimately resulted in us, yeah? But let me try to capture it, just a little.

In June of 1961, Mom was graduated from high school. Fresh out of school and raised in a blue collar area of suburban Baltimore, Mom needed a paycheck. The job search began. Primarily, she looked for jobs close to home, and there was a Help Wanted for an ice cream shop not too far from the row house she shared with her parents, sister, brother, and multiple cousins (several of whom, I believe, had babies).

She walked through the door of the ice cream shop, and found a handsome bespectacled fella with salt-and-pepper hair. That was my Dad. He interviewed her, and in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the chemistry, he hired her. All through the summer they worked together, and my mother apparently really, really wanted to go out with him. There was one sticking point, though. She was not yet eighteen, and Dad was thirty. Being the law-abiding citizen that he is, Dad decided it'd be best to wait 'til Mom was of legal age. I know, I know, it sounds creepy. But this is in 1961, folks, when women were accustomed to getting married straight outta high school. Luckily for both of them, Mom turned eighteen at the end of August, and they could begin their romance in earnest.

Apparently, things got serious pretty quickly. My evidence? Back in those days, in order for a Catholic's marriage to be on the up-and-up, he could only marry another Catholic. Mom was a Lutheran. She knew she wanted to marry Dad early on. She asked him to marry her, in fact (must be where I get it from). So, Mom jumped on the conversion train, which took about six months. This caused some hard feelings between Mom and her parents, and she was a little worried that they wouldn't come to the wedding.

But, come they did. Mom and Dad got hitched eighteen months after they first met, fifteen months after they started dating, a few months after Mom converted. They were slow about one thing, though. Or rather, Dad was. He decided that his jalopy wasn't spiffy enough for the big day. He was elbow deep in suds...AS HIS PARENTS LEFT FOR THE CHURCH. So, Dad was late to his own wedding.

It kind of set a pattern for life -- guess who arrived at the church just before mass began yesterday?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Same Old Same Old

Today was the annual girlie parts exam for yours truly. I don't know why I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly schedule these things for minutes after the holiday season, during which I subsist on olives, cheese, chocolate, cappuccinos, and refined sugar. I suppose it's better than last year, though, which was a flaming double-whammy of post-Christmas and post-partum (the Girl was six weeks old).

Chasing after two children over the past year has helped me shave off about fifteen pounds, though. It was delightful to step on the scale and, FOR ONCE, the physician's assistant didn't have to move the big blocky one on the bottom that goes up in ten-pound increments.

However, this did not stop my diminutive doctor from saying, "You lost a few pounds, but you need to lose more."

Since I've just been boning up on all that healthy/calorie/fat awareness in a fit of New Year's resolution-making, I responded, "Yeah, I know I need to lose another," I'm thinking fifteen or twenty pounds, so I tack on a few pounds to be safe, "twenty or thirty pounds."

"Thirty," she says firmly, and makes a note in my chart.

Gar. Thirty pounds. I mean, it's better than what she told me the last time, to be sure. But still, my daughter weighs nearly thirty pounds. And she's an armful. I grunt a little every time I scoop her up. The idea of losing the equivalent of a child from my body mass is daunting.

Well, time to go for a walk. And give up cheese and olives and refined sugar. Cappuccinos, however, are here to stay.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This is the hospital where the Girl was born. Between this and that whole George Wallace fiasco, Laurel's got quite the reputation.

Baby It's Cold Outside, But Not That Cold

This morning, it was thirty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. Chilly, yes. But I don't think that the woman waiting at the bus stop needed to dress like a Sherpa, ya know? It's Towson, not the Himalayas.